There is power in music. It can uplift, motivate and transform lives. In some cases, it can even inspire you to create a strong financial foundation.
As was the case for personal finance expert Ash Exantus, who wrote and self-published the book, “The Wake Up Call: Financial Inspiration Learned from 4:44,” after listening to Jay-Z’s latest album “4:44.”
The book quotes financially themed lyrics from songs on Jay-Z’s album, and provides tips for how readers can implement certain strategies into their own lives. Music critics have commented on the maturity of “4:44,” with the the hip-hop mogul focusing more on his family life, businesses and life approaching 50. As Exantus listened to the lyrics of the songs like “Story of OJ,” “Family Feud” and “Legacy,” he knew there were lessons to share.
“I listened to the whole album 100 times, and every financial principle jumped out at me. I wanted to write about it,” Exantus told Yahoo Finance.
The son of a Haitian immigrant, Exantus, 36, was raised in Harlem’s St. Nicholas housing projects by his single mother. She found work in a factory, but didn’t have a good grasp on the English language, and struggled to understand the financial system in America. At the age of 8, Exantus started working by bagging groceries, and selling T-shirts and CDs on the street.
His early struggles are what inspired Exantus to study money, and at 19 he became a bank teller. By 24, he was vice president of the branch.
Exantus started listening to Jay-Z as a teen, and reveled in the rapper’s tales about drugs, women and cars. “Music raised me because I didn’t have a father figure,” he told Yahoo Finance. “Between the streets and hip hop, that’s what shaped me as a man.” As Exantus matured, so did Jay-Z, and today both men are focused on a more important goal — accumulating wealth for their families and the black community.
“African-Americans have such a history of oppression that it’s still a reality for us in our minds. We don’t walk out the door feeling victorious,” he said. “If you change your mindset and apply certain principles, you can really change the trajectory of your life.”
Exantus hopes that writing this book will make everyone, especially those in the black community, feel empowered and motivated to build strong financial foundations for future generations. Here are a few Jay-Z inspired financial tips to consider.
Pay yourself first
Jay-Z says, “F%#K living rich and dying broke,” on the song “Story of OJ.” For Exantus, this means people should save money and plan for tomorrow.
So many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, with many lacking sufficient funds to cover an unexpected expense. Instead of spending your hard-earned money right away, Exantus urges readers to pay themselves first by putting 10% of their income in a separate savings account.
“Remember, paying yourself should be your first and most important bill every month,” he writes.
In the beginning of Chapter 5, Exantus quotes Jay-Z as saying, “Please don’t die over the neighborhood that your mama rentin’, take your drug money and buy the neighborhood.” On the surface this sounds like a rapper giving advice to a drug dealer, and it is. But Exantus challenges readers to look a little deeper.
Homeownership in the black community is disproportionately low. According to a report from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, just 42% of black people owned homes in 2016, compared with 71.9% of white people.
Exantus sees Jay-Z’s lyrics as a call for members of the black community to purchase property and invest in their own neighborhoods. In the book, Exantus expands on this idea, giving readers tips for finding homes they can afford and steps for how to make purchasing property a reality. “Owning property is one of the most important things a person can do while on the road to building wealth and finding financial freedom,” he writes.
Build wealth together
There is a common belief that only one person can be on top. Exantus challenges this idea by comparing Jay-Z and P. Diddy. Both men have been successful in music and business – Diddy created Sean Jean apparel and owns 50% of Ciroc vodka, and Jay-Z is the co-founder of several businesses including Rock-a-fella records, Tidal, and Roc Nation. With these track records, both are approaching the distinction of becoming the first hip-hop billionaire. According to Forbes, Diddy is worth $820 million, while Jay-Z’s net worth hovers around $810 million.
One might think the two men would be competitive, but Exantus points to lyrics from the song “Family Feud” to prove they actually support each other. “What’s better than one billionaire? Two. ‘Specially if they’re from the same hue as you,” Jay-Z raps.
In many industries there only a few people of color at the top. For instance, there are currently only four black CEOs in the Fortune 500, and that number will drop to three in 2018 when Ken Chenault steps down as the CEO of American Express. Instead of trying to tear each other down, Exantus urges readers to support each other by working together for a greater good.
“Our purpose is to come together and our quality of life will be better,” he says.
Brittany is a writer at Yahoo Finance.