What if that’s what it takes?

In the 1990s, Jay Jenkins started his first record label. He had signed artists to record, but they weren’t following through on their commitments. Things were falling apart. When his friend told him, “You might as well do it yourself,” Jay’s first thought was, “I’m not a rapper, I’m a hustler.”

In his book, Adversity for Sale, Jay says that he’d always set out to make it as a CEO. He didn’t know anything about rapping. He writes, “I never wanted to be a rapper. I just wanted to make it.” 

Jay’s train of thought didn’t stop there though. He asked himself, “What if what it takes for me to make it is for me to try to become a star?”

This is one of those ordinary moments that changes his life. Jay saw that other artists weren’t as reliable. Even though they were more passionate and skilled, he decided he would need to do it himself. He writes, “For me, doing the work was never a problem. Once my mind is made up, I’m going all in. My discipline is unmatched. When it came to my music, the only real questions were: Would all of that hard work pay off? And if so, when?” 

As 50 Cent writes in Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter, “There is no version of hustling harder or smarter that involves relying on the assumption that someone is going to do anything for you. You must accept that it’s all on you.”

Even though Jay never wanted to become an artist, he decided that’s what it took to get where he wanted to go, and he ran with it. It wasn’t an easy journey. He independently started recording with the nickname he’d grown up with, Lil’ J.  In the summer of 2001, he pressed 20,000 copies of his debut album, Thuggin’ Under the Influence. He sold 500 copies. 

It would be four more long years until Jay signed his mainstream record deals with Def Jam as a solo artist Young Jeezy, and Bad Boy as part of a rap group Boyz n da Hood. In between all of that, Jay was learning and making more music. He was improving at his craft, slowly and steadily. He learned to build his brand, and to better promote his music.

That’s what it takes.

It takes a special type of humility to fail at something you didn’t even want to do, and yet for those four years, Jeezy did it. He believed this is what it took to get where he wanted to go, so he followed through.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *