Dominion of New York


October 3, 2012

Live in Concert: Jay-Z, The Real Estate Developer

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Written by: Christina Lewis Halpern

million net worth look like chump change. His stake in the arena gives him and any of his associates a guaranteed concert venue. And it gives him a relationship with a rarified group of businessmen–ones that a hip-hop star wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to get to know.

So, this week of concerts is the debut of yet another identity for Jay-Z, and not just “eight shows H.O,” the moniker he gave himself at the opening of the concert. He is now a real estate development marketer, a front man for Forest City Ratner, (“What’s up, Bruce?” Jay-Z said from the stage.) The race and class vectors are complicated, here. The typical stereotypes are upended when a wealthy Jewish real estate developer partners with a formerly poor African-American entertainer against a largely white middle-class opposition. Is this one of the new lines of tension in the Age of Obama?

Either way, Jay-Z’s new closest role model is no longer P. Diddy, or even Oprah, but perhaps Donald Trump, the obnoxious but extremely canny marketing genius who has made a fortune by leveraging his real estate company into a television show. Owning land and property is the traditional way great wealth was made and secured. H.O.V.A. makes no secret of his grand ambitions and he has continually stretched the boundaries of how people think of entertainers.

Many, especially in the black community, have criticized Jay-Z for joining the Barclays Center team and thus lending the arena his local-boy-made-good sheen. People claim that he has done nothing for the African-American community. He is a sellout, or worse, a chump for doing so much work in exchange for only 0.002% of the arena. A friend of mine likened Jay-Z to an overly eager employee gratified when they get a quarter raise and are moved up to working the register.

I say stop drinking the haterade. Jay-Z is a phenomenon. He is a rapper, a record executive, a New York Times bestselling author, an aspiring hotel developer, a nightlife impresario, a celebrity brand, one half of one of the world’s greatest power couples, and now, a real estate insider. Don’t be disappointed. His fans should be used to this by now. Shawn Carter wears 99 hats and musician is just one.


About the Author

Christina Lewis Halpern
Christina Lewis Halpern
Christina Lewis Halpern lives in Greenwich Village with her husband, baby and dog. A former staff writer for the Wall Street Journal, she is the author of "Lonely At The Top," a short memoir published as an Amazon Kindle Single. She grew up in Paris and New York and loves cooking, jogging and sharing her many, many opinions.


Ellen Grossman Jay-Z