Jay-Z is featured on the cover of this month's Forbes magazine with billionaire Warren Buffet, not because he is listed as one of the 400 richest people in America by Forbes, as Buffet is. No, Jay-Z is included on the Forbes cover because someday, he hopes he will be included on the list of the 400 richest people in America. And Jay-Z just might be, if over the latter half of his life the rap mogul can double his wealth, as Gawker writer Hamilton Nolan observes:
[I]t's clear that Forbes is trying to drum up some public interest in a fairly cynical way: Not only did they put Jay-Z on the cover, but they also include a story on a sit-down chat between he and Buffett, a video, and another separate story on Jay-Z, all on the alleged premise that Jay-Z "will earn a spot on the Forbes 400" one day-as soon as he doubles his wealth.
The real premise: Jay-Z's face on the cover sells magazines. If there's one thing the Forbes 400 is not, it's hip hop.
Please read the rest at Gawker.com.
Of course, if one takes a closer look at Forbes' list of the 400 richest people in America, you will find exactly one black person: Oprah Winfrey. While that is no surprise, perhaps putting Oprah on the cover would not provide the needed boost of attention that Forbes is going for. I also can't imagine Oprah submitting to the condescending "little sibling" role that Jay is treated with by the editors of Forbes in pairing the successful rapper with the ancient investor. In addition to brazening using Jay-Z to sell magazines, what this does is two things:
1. It avoids a critical examination of what it takes to build massive wealth in this country, and who has access to that capital. If you look at the list of the 400 richest people in America, you will see that many of the richest are women and men who have inherited wealth from extremely successful family members. And of course, you will see mostly white people, and very few women. By putting a "cool black guy" on the cover who isn't even on the list, Forbes seems to be trying to make America turn a blind eye to who is actually rich, how they get that way and how they stay that way. And forget about who is consistently kept out. Sorry, Forbes, but we at Black Voices aren't distracted.
2. Jay-Z, who typically has a strong black male image, is made to seem submissive and needy. It has been widely reported that corporate America prefers black men who are "baby-faced," thus not threatening in appearance or demeanor to the mostly white men who run everything. This preference for docile-looking black men has of course made it difficult for African American men who do not fit this mold to get ahead in a corporate environment, even if their hard work and education make them deserving of promotion. By casting Warren Buffet as the big kind Dad who can teach little Jay-Z to be a billionaire like him someday if he tries, not only is Forbes trying to get us to ignore all the many real barriers to wealth creation that most people face, "trying" aside (see point one). Corporate leaders who prefer their blacks submissive also get to eat up this kindler, gentler Jay like so much cream pie, thus reinforcing their preference for baby-faced black men. The magazine is also taking away one of the amazing things about Jay-Z's image that the African American community loves -- his inspiring masculine energy of self-determination. Say it ain't so, Hove!
I can very much understand why Jay-Z would participate in such emasculation. In business, as in life, it's all about who you know. And knowing Warren Buffet will probably help one of Forbes' 2010 Hip Hop Cash Kings get even richer. Jay-Z knows how to play the game, and plays it well. It is that inherent prowess that enabled Jay-Z to use his wits and talents to get out of the ghetto and amass wealth on a level that is astounding, despite the barriers to wealth creation that African Americans face. Still, I want Forbes magazine to know: We see you. We know what you are doing, and just like Jay, we understand the nature of the game. Even if you are using Jay-Z's image to try to get those on the other side of wealth to turn a blind eye to reality, we are here to hip astute readers to the game.