Jay-Z has spent his career rapping about the hustling he did on the streets of New York and the hustling he did to become one of the first rap billionaires. According to Dyson, the type of hustling Jay-Z engages in currently is bright hustling. Within his music and interviews, Jay-Z has spoken about his goal of creating black generational wealth and giving back to the black community from whence he came. Yet, even as many bright hustlers have found their way out of poverty, there are many who have not been able to escape the cycle poverty and violence.
When asked about this discrepancy, Michael E. Dyson stated that aiding the black community cannot rest solely on the shoulders of rappers, but instead people should bloom where they are planted. While Dyson likely meant that we cannot expect problems to be solved by a singular group of figures, some may see Dyson’s words as akin to the phrase “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. This phrase is often paired with a tone insinuating that impoverished people are lazy and don’t want to do their own work. There are many people who may try to bloom yet are unable to due to the toxicity in their soil.
Jay-Z’s raps about his hustle mentality and helps make complex socio-economic ideas palatable, which allows a broader audience to understand different political issues. Authors such as James Baldwin and Toni Morrison have similarly explored the plight of Black Americans within their writing. The work of these authors combined with the work of artists, scholars, and musicians help to push the conversation regarding issues Black American’s face into policy and legal action. The act of an individual is not going to fix systemic issues, however, as Jay-Z mentions we as a collective can towards our goals.