3 Financial Literacy Lessons from Jay-Z's 4:44 Album

By Charlene Fadirepo

Last week Jay-Z dropped his new album called ‘4:44’. And at first, the busy mom/entrepreneur in me shrugged it off and said who cares. Ever since I had my son, my once burning tendency to listen to hip hop and rap music has all but faded away. But I just couldn’t escape the chatter about the album on Facebook--so I decided to listen. When the first few bars of “Legacy” played and I heard Blue Ivy’s voice say “Daddy what is a will”?, I knew I was hooked. As a financial educator, I am always looking for cool and innovative teaching tools to share with students and parents. So I was absolutely delighted to discover that the 4:44 album was designed to be a modern blueprint for our financial lives On track after track, Jay-Z artfully makes a compelling case for the importance of financial education and financial independence. The jewels and lessons are endless. Here are three of my favorite takeaways.

Lesson 1: Parents should talk to their kids about money while they are still young. According to Jay-Z, the song, “Legacy” is a verbal will to his five-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy. It should be noted that on this track, Jay-Z is having a deep money conversation with his daughter who is barely out of pre-school. Let that sink in. I have always believed that financial education conversations needed to start early. This was part of the reason I decided to write my children’s book on money management, Ayo’s Money Jar. Data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, shows that children as young as five can learn to save. In the song, Jay-Z advises Blue Ivy on how to spend the financial resources her father worked so hard to build for the Carter family. He suggests that she consider starting an institute to “put poor kids in school” and that he would like to see a considerable portion of those resources go to “fund ideas from people who look like we”. There is so much here. In addition to acknowledging that Blue Ivy is well positioned to be wealthy, Jay-Z is encouraging her to use her inherited resources to help support the less fortunate and invest in entrepreneurs of color. The parental advice here is just perfect.

Lesson 2: Families should focus on building generational wealth -  Jay-Z continues to drop financial knowledge throughout “Legacy”. He talks about his intentional plan to amass significant resources for his family. He mentions the plethora of businesses he currently owns: Roc Nation, TIDAL, the champagne D’USSE’, all businesses and income streams that he plans to pass down to his children, Blue Ivy and the twins. Jay-Z goes on to say that he expects the Carter kids to pass those inherited resources on to their own children, thus creating generational wealth for the Carter lineage. In February 2017, a public policy group named Demos published a study titled “The Asset Value of Whiteness: Understanding the Racial Wealth Gap”, where they share that “white children are five times as likely as black children to receive substantial gifts and inheritances, and the sums they receive tend to be much larger.” This extra foundation of money gives those white children a head-start in wealth accumulation. This study goes onto conclude that the transfer of generational wealth is a very powerful factor in determining the long-term wealth of a family. Bloomberg Businessweek published an article about the Demos study and put it this way”…whites’ wealth advantage—and blacks’ disadvantage—gets passed down from generation to generation.” In the song, “Legacy”, Jay-Z mentioned that his parents didn’t have any resources to pass along to him –so he was tasked with the responsibility to start the generational wealth building process for his family.

Lesson 3: Financial freedom should be the ultimate goal. The song “Legacy” loops a sample from Donny Hathaway’s famous song “Someday We’ll All Be Free”. I believe Jay-Z chose to use this particular sample in order to offer financial freedom as a potential pathway to escape the injustices that many poor people and people of color experience in the United States. Jay-Z doubles down on this concept in the song, “The Story of OJ” where he says

“Financial freedom is my only hope. “[Forget]* living rich and dying broke.”

A few bars later, he drops another practical money gem.

 “You wanna know what's more important than throwin' away money at a strip club? …Credit”

(Mic Drop. This line made me giddy.) Between “Legacy” and the “Story of OJ” Jay-Z’s lyrics send a clear message to encourage his fans to think bigger than their current financial situation and start down the path to financial freedom. The path includes making wise choices with your money by investing in appreciating assets, protecting and maintaining good credit, and diversifying your streams of income.

Hov, you did it again, and I could not have taught the lessons better myself.

Writer's Note: * I substituted the word "forget", instead of Jay-Z's original word choice -given the number of young children that use my website for its financial literacy resources.