By Sibrena Stowe de Fernandez with Photos Provided by Berk Communications

Shawn Carter, most famously known as Jay Z, is the man of the millennium who has marveled marketing gurus and scholars alike. It’s almost incomprehensible how a 40-something African American man from the Marcy Projects of Brooklyn, New York has been able to rein in all things related to entertainment. His potential is endless and his brand abilities can only be defined as genius. As you check the numbers, he has reminded us in his rap lyrics that, “men lie, women lie [but] numbers don’t lie.”

His numbers add up and if what financial analysts contend is true, he will become a billionaire if he continues this steady pace of successful business acumen. That’s what fascinates Millennium Magazine executives. Everyone who is anyone wants to fully understand his drive, his vision and how he set out to conquer not just New York, but also the world. It seems as if he has it all not to mention, he’s also married to one of the most beautiful, successful entertainers of all time, Mrs. Beyoncé Gisele Knowles Carter.

Research shows, he didn’t just become the king of entertainment overnight. Jay Z has been honing his talents and expanding his empire since the late 90’s. After his break up with music partner Damon Dash, he took a brief hiatus to restructure his organization.  Although he and Dash remained partners through their company Roc-A-Fella Records, Jay Z stayed behind the scenes and focused on being a rapper. It often seemed that Jay Z was not at the helm of the label, but more of a silent partner. He formed a powerful “dream team” with individuals who were just as savvy in business and branding as he is. In 2003 he partnered with Juan Perez, the former owner of baseline Recording Studios, to create a 4,500 square foot state-of-the-art music production facility cleverly called, Roc The Mic.

The Midas touch seemed to rub off and he decided to become a restaurateur, again partnering with Juan, to open a chain of luxury sports bars and lounges named 40/40 (a term from Major League Baseball referring to an exclusive group of players who have achieved the rare feat of 40 stolen bases and 40 home runs in one season).  

Last year, Jay Z spent $10 million on renovating the restaurant’s flagship location in New York City. He also hired acclaimed architect designer Jeffrey Beers to take on the challenge of redesigning the venue to highlight and showcase the luxury space and memorabilia.  I was welcomed to talk to Jay Z’s former chef and partner about working with him. I soon discovered that the dream team was aligned with the total vision.

During our talk, designer Jeffrey detailed his design input along with he and Jay Z’s vision for the club.

“Inspiration was taken from classic NYC architecture, which seemed fitting as the club is situated right off of Madison Square Park,” said Jeffrey. “The interior space highlights the grandeur and luxury that we envisioned, which plays nicely against the lively social atmosphere of the club. The intent was to bring more of a mansion residential feel to a sports club lounge.  He continued: “40/40 represents a fusion of the music and sports industries, finding the balance between the two without compromising the 40/40 brand was very important to both Jay Z & Juan.”

When asked how he created a design that complimented the brand and Jay Z’s empire, Jeffrey noted, “Perhaps one of our greatest responsibilities in terms of design was to make the club something visually distinct that truly spoke to the Jay ZEmpire. This isn’t a cookie-cutter nightclub; it has a very distinct image. In turn, Jay Z is a living legend with his own unique and highly recognizable persona. Therefore, creating a bridge between the two was perhaps one of our greatest accomplishments. The new design has elevated the 40/40 brand to an entirely different level that better represents the effortless cool and urban luxury of the Jay Z brand. Finally, our goal for the patrons was to give them a level of comfort on par with watching a game at someone’s house, albeit a very posh house. In the end, the JBI vision for 40/40 was very well received and appreciated by JayZ and Juan. It was a nice collaboration.”

Executive Chef Mike Shand created a menu that complimented the owner’s tastes.

“The 40/40 Club has paved the way for luxury sports watching venues and I wanted to take the menu in the same direction,” said Mike, formerly with the venue. “I wanted to introduce the new dining menu by taking typical sports bar dining options like wings and tacos to the next level.  Our menu carries a diversity of dishes, including our widely popular 40/40 signature wings baked with my secret seasoning that I have spent years perfecting, braised beef short ribs and an extensive slider selection executive King Crab, BBQ pulled turkey etc.”

After recently dining at the club I asked what was Jay Z’s and his partner Juan’s most recommended dessert. The Warm Pineapple Upside Down Cake came highly recommended. I can personally vouch for that BBQ pulled turkey dish, which was delightful.

Franchises are also in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and a new location recently opened inside the Barclay Center (the arena that hosts the Brooklyn Nets NBA team in which Jay Z was previously a minority owner). This summer Jay Z celebrated his 10th year as a restaurant owner.

In 2008 he partnered with the entertainment company, Live Nation to form the mega brand Roc Nation, a recording label operated under Sony Music and distributed by Universal Music Group. The label is the home to Jay Z and artists including pop sensation Rita Ora and other award-winning singers. That same year, he formed Star Roc, a record label and music publishing company housed at his recording studio in Manhattan. In April 2013, he was able to renegotiate the company’s deal with Universal and signed a multi-year deal to distribute all future Roc Nation albums.

One of the most lucrative entities of Roc Nation is the music management division. It has signed internationally-renowned singers and songwriters like Shakira, Rihanna, Wale and others. Jay Z released Magna Carta Holy Grail in July. He also inked a deal with cell phone company Samsung, which allowed the cell company to buy one million albums, which was sold as an app prior to the actual release date. Samsung customers could download the album before its release date. He made history in music and forced the Recording Industry Association of America to change its rules on counting albums. That deal skyrocketed Jay Z’s album to platinum for selling more than a million copies.  Social media has been hash tagging his new moniker #NewRules since the new rules took effect.

Jay Z became a minority shareholder of the former New Jersey Nets and was the poster child for the campaign to relocate the team to his hometown of Brooklyn. The name was later changed to the Brooklyn Nets and celebrities and wealthy counterparts bought season tickets and sold out box seating (clearly a top goal for any successful basketball franchise).

In spring 2013, after deciding on a Roc Nation Sports division, Jay Z strategically sold off his minority shares of the Brooklyn Nets, and became one of the most controversial and influential sports agents in sports in recent history. The agency will assist its clients with global marketing, brand strategies, endorsement deals, media relations and charitable tie-ins. The sports agency courted and landed top NBA, NFL, WNBA and NHL players and, again, was quite successful in securing New York Yankee and second base man Robinson Cano.  Shortly therafter, second round draft pick, quarterback Geno Smith of the New York Jets, Giants Wide Receiver, Victor Cruz and WNBA player Skylar Diggins were scooped up.  Not bad for a new sports agency.

After going in depth with the “dream team,” I was allotted another pivotal question to the mogul (via text email since he’d been preparing to hit the road to promote Magna Carta Holy Grail).  I inquired about how important his image and brand is to him. Jay Z’s response was quite insightful, “Nobody is built like you, you design yourself. I craft my brands to reflect the level of excellence I strive for. Image is more than just an idea, it’s a cluster of fused ideas endowed with energy. Image means a lot to my brands because it shows the importance of hard work and attention to detail.”

I think soon there will be a class on the study of Jay Z at an Ivy League. He is undeniably one of the brightest men of our time. Stay tuned. I’d bet money that there is much more to come!