Amongst the popular musical genres in the world, hip hop is in its own league when it comes to age being a detriment to an artist's career. Most successful hip hop artists are in their early to mid-20's, while a handful are in their late teens. Those able to sustain a reasonably long career will notice it coming to an end the closer they get to age 30. By this time, most are either completely washed up or have become novelty acts. This is where the separation between hip hop and all other music genres takes place.
In R&B, artists like 47 year old R. Kelly are still putting out new albums and touring around the world. The same goes for rock bands such as U2. It's been 34 years since their debut album Boy was released. Currently, all four members of the group are well into their 50's, still touring and putting out new music. In hip hop this is more or less unheard of... unless, you're Jay-Z. Granted that hip hop is a relatively young genre, there's still new ground to be broken. And while breaking it, Jay-Z is simultaneously laying down new ground for future hip hop artists to walk on.
Most hip hop artists in their 40's are sitting back reminiscing on the career they once had in their 20's. At 44, Jay-Z has just finished wrapping up his On the Run stadium tour with megastar wife Beyoncé. Since entering his 40's, Jay-Z has released three albums (The Blueprint 3, Watch the Throne, Magna Carta Holy Grail) with a combined total of 5.4 million copies sold. He has also been a part of six major world and national tours, co-headlining with Eminem, Kanye West, Justin Timberlake and, most recently, Beyoncé. To complement all of his hard work, Jay-Z has also gone on to win 13 Grammy Awards while in his 40's!
In the past couple of years, a new trend has arisen in hip hop where older rappers have turned to reality television to remain relevant. On almost all of the major music channels you can find numerous hip hop themed reality shows. And on these shows you'll find your, former, favorite rapper getting into a shouting match or fight with either his girlfriend/wife or another rapper that you used to have respect for.
Fortunately for us, Jay-Z took a different route to keep his brand alive and that route is entrepreneurship. In a genre that is extremely braggadocious, the rapper with the most money is king and Jay-Z wears that crown with ease. From a business side, he has done it all from owning a clothing company to being part owner of the Brooklyn Nets. Jay-Z's business mind is the most respected in hip hop. So much so that he appeared on the cover of Forbes with Warren Buffett! To those who've been living under a rock all of your lives, 84 year old Warren Buffett is one of the richest men on the planet with a net worth of $68.3 billion according to Forbes. So understand that when Mr. Buffett agrees to be on the cover of Forbes with Jay-Z it's not because he needs the money or publicity. It's because he has respect for Jay-Z's business mind.
Jay-Z has mastered the art of remaining relevant for 16 years strong and doesn't appear to be letting up anytime soon. While this is a great personal accomplishment for Jay, this is also an amazing accomplishment for hip hop. Longevity to this degree allows younger artists, most notably Drake, the opportunity to remain commercially successful well into their latter years. From music to business, Jay-Z has created numerous path ways for future artists to remain relevant. In doing so, he is also putting hip hop in its proper light to be respected and taken seriously.