Conclusive Culture Chapter 1: Michael Jordan & Jay-Z

By:Lamonte Thomas

Headline Photo from: Vibe

Every now and then a figure in entertainment emerges to shift the culture, and society as we know it. Sports and music have the ability to unify the masses, and both industries unveil a passion that is unattainable by another source. Throughout history athletes and musicians alike contribute similar, life-altering influence on the way we perceive, engage and experience life’s moments. Modern-day artist Aubrey Graham (A.K.A Drake to the music industry) put it best by saying, “I swear sports and music are so synonymous/cause we wanna be them, and they wanna be us”. From someone who succeeds in the business on both sides, the lines from the record Thank me Now alludes to the timeless cultural access levied by the chosen few. As the influence from music and sports on culture is undoubtedly special, when paired together these eminent entertainers relate to each other’s social contributions. This measurement of cultural influence pairs music artists and athletes by persona and their methods of impact.




Within both industries of entertainment, competition and respect run parallel in the athletic and music artist community. To consistently be referenced as the G.O.A.T.- Greatest of All Time- while your career is still being written is a rare, yet foretelling validity both men were able to yield from their work. To exemplify a Jay-Z/Michael Jordan performance or status is to demonstrate “the best” work in relative nature of said genre. Bar none, these two are the gold standard for influence and black excellence in the sports and music entertainment industries.


Drafted into the NBA third overall by the Chicago Bulls in 1984, Jordan exploded on the scene with his graceful, athletic play. He won the rookie of the year award in his first season, along with 2nd-team All-NBA recognition. And then the 90’s happened. Michael Jordan owned the 1990’s era in many ways, first by dominating the NBA. As his Chicago Bulls won 6 of the 10 NBA titles during that span, Jordan was awarded “Most Valuable Player” every time. To describe his performance as dominant would be an understatement; being that he never lost a NBA finals series. His seemingly “could not lose” reputation drew an admiration from millions of people, even beyond spectators of sport. Next, “MJ” flew over the cultural barrier as he did so many times on the court; in America “His Airness” had everyone sporting bald heads and hoop earrings; throughout the world his commercial ads by Gatorade had everyone singing “I want to be like Mike.” The iconic status Michael Jordan achieved heightened the NBA’s marketing reach to a global scale like never before, in addition to unlocking his own brand’s global consciousness. The Jordan clothing and sneaker brand is still one of the highest-selling brands today; 30 years after its creation. His “competitive problem” which was described by James Jordan (Michael’s father) as his relentless will to win poured into his loving craft of basketball; ultimately creating a formula that made him a successful phenomenon.


Shawn Carter, also known as artist Jay-Z, released his debut album Reasonable Doubt in 1996 under his own Roc-A-Fella record label, along with Damon Dash and Kareem Burke. His vision for promoting his music was just the beginning to his legendary journey in the entertainment industry. In 1998 Jay-Z changed rap/hip-hop forever by encouraging a lineup on his “Hard Knock Life” tour that consisted of all rap artists. Marketing experts encouraged ‘Jigga’ to choose an R&B artist to make the tour more appealing; Instead, the tour allowed rap to excel as a stand-alone genre in the global market, which proved its pop-culture worthiness. Jay-Z has the most number one albums as a solo artist (Only the Beatles have more no. 1 albums overall), and his work has warranted 21 Grammy awards. In 2004 he became the President and CEO of Def Jam Records, one of the single most successful brands in the history of hip-hop. His deal with Live Nation in 2008 was a “blueprint” to shift the power from mainstream labels to the artists themselves; as it gave the global entertainment company rights to his recordings, merchandise and access to his outside business endeavors. ‘Hov’ also paved the way for others, signing Kanye West and Rihanna, two of the most influential artists today. To sum it up Jay raps on the intro to American Gangster “But I’m just a hustler disguised as a rapper, in fact you can’t fit this hustler inside of a rapper!

Jay-Z’s take on rap music and its effect on racial relations


The man, the myth, the legend. The G.O.A.T. Whether you’re talking Michael Jordan in basketball or Jay-Z in hip-hop, an astronomical level of respect is surely due. Both men expanded their crafts to the furthest point beyond one’s fathomable imagination. Jay frequently illustrates his rap career as parallel to Jordan’s legacy, and rightfully so. Undoubtedly S.Carter’s Black Album spoke about the gift and the curse to retire at pinnacle performance; something Michael knows far too well. Jordan retired before the 1993-1994 NBA season, only to return in 1995 to win three additional championships. On the black album Jay proclaims

“When I come back like Jordan wearing the 4-5/ It ain’t to play games with you, it’s to aim at you.” His debut album entitled “Reasonable Doubt” was released in 1996, the year Jordan bared the burden of proof that he was still the best player in the NBA post-retirement. Both legends are major executives/owners in their respective industries, once simultaneously holding ownership of two different NBA teams. If the 90’s wrote in the American black history archives it would scribe, “Jordan is Culture. Jay-Z is Culture. Long may they reign.”

LaMonte Thomas

Video Credit: Jordan Gatorade Commercial: bigwayne84

Video Credit: Jay Z interview with Oprah

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Picture Credit: Cover Picture (Michael Jordan with Jay Z)