What’s the price of selling out? When is it OK to cash out on a business venture? The idea of “selling out” in the non-white community boils down to damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If you cash out, you’re doing a disservice to your people. If you don’t, you're a fool for not taking every possible dollar you can get aka doing a disservice to yourself. Support black businesses they say. Don't sell to the man they suggest. But when the subscribers to your streaming service cap out at around three million even with exclusive music videos, singles, and albums, you listen when a bigger company comes knocking. On Thursday, reports surfaced of Apple being in talks to acquire oft-slandered streaming service Tidal. And all hell broke loose.
Speculation and sulfur-infused hot takes spread across social media as if Satan himself rode one of Khaleesi's dragons into town. Most of the conversation on social media featured three topics; either the sale means Tidal is a failure (somebody failed Economics), Jay is a genius businessman (duh), or he’s a sellout who hoodwinked his black and brown fans into subscribing to the black-owned Tidal (the most head-scratching take of them all.)
When a white person sells a company they invested in and then made relevant, they are never accused of selling out. And if we’re talking about Jay Z "selling out," he "sold out" a long time ago (see: the controversy surrounding the building of the Barclays Center in his hometown of Brooklyn) and yet still does things like come out during the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival flanked by the Fruit of Islam to perform an old pro-black freestyle of his over Big Daddy Kane’s “Young, Black, and Gifted” while also donating $1.5 million to the Black Lives Matters movement.
Jay being able to make headlines and garner these kind of reactions—be it in business or music—20 years after his debut album will always be a phenomenon to me. Remember when Jay convinced the world Robinson Cano was worth 10 years, $240 million and the media scoffed at his efforts to become a legit player in pro sports? Roc Nation Sports now reps 28 athletes including the aforementioned Cano, Skylar Diggins, and Kevin Durant, to name a few. Now he might flip Tidal for more than he bought if for because, again, this is what happens in business. And if your own people don't support your streaming service, why not cash out when the right opportunity comes? Should he turn down hundreds of millions of dollars in favor of "keeping it real?"
The way we treat our own as they try to climb mountains no one of our ilk has ever climbed before is frustrating. From crack dealer to top five rapper to successful businessman to billion dollar brand, Jay represents “making it” where I come from. If you hate on Jay, you hate on yourself. He’s not O.J. Simpson trying to rub elbows with the white elite while “transcending race.” Jay is rubbing elbows with the white elite while being himself and also bringing those he came in the game with along for the ride. If you don’t feel the same way, nothing Jay does will ever satisfy you. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.