The 90’s era was magic.

Who doesn’t remember Diddy remakes, TLC and Destiny’s Child ruling the charts, and Jay-Z creating some of the most bop worthy songs ever created. Can I Get A, Hard Knock Life, and Can’t Knock the Hustle were just some of the songs that introduced me at an early age to hip hop and the legend that is Jay-Z.

Even as a kid I knew Jay-Z was special. His delivery and his message always struck a chord with me. Song Cry got me through my first heartbreak when my then boyfriend didn’t appreciate me and Dead Presidents solidified him as a rap God in my eyes.

Growing up in the South Bronx, I attended KIPP Academy. One of the biggest life lessons I ever learned as a KIPPster was the company you keep can be your benefit or your downfall. I grew up watching Roc-A-Fella become a dynasty and one day, somewhere in 2005, I watched that dynasty collapse.

In many ways, it wasn’t just about the music. I watched Jay-Z closely, and I still do. He is so much more than a rapper. He’s the walking, living, breathing personification of a mogul and he’s also become a benchmark of success in a business world that doesn’t exactly look like him.

One could only wonder why Dame Dash couldn’t see it coming. It almost feels like a bad joke watching Dame Dash in old videos yelling, cursing, and living ignorance in all its bliss. He didn’t have the foresight then but surely sees now that him and Jay-z aren’t the same. Imagine if Jay stayed with Dame. He would still be making movies like Belly and rapping about women, drug dealing and being a boss.

Don’t get me wrong. Dame is impressive. He made moves, opened doors and pushed the culture forward. But Jay-Z broke a glass ceiling that Dame could never. Once Jay-Z upgraded his lifestyle, the money and success followed.

Can you imagine the agony and anxiety Jay must have felt severing the friendship of one of his most dedicated, loyal, long-term business partners and confidantes?Some would say Dame was double-crossed and outsmarted by Jay-Z and never recovered. I would argue the true mark of a boss is someone who can build a foundation with the bricks that were thrown at them. Was Jay-Z supposed to stay in a relationship he wanted no part of because of loyalty?

Some people stay in bad relationships, business, personal or otherwise, because they are afraid to let go. If you ever wonder who is the better businessman, look at how far Jay-Z has come and look how far Dame Dash hasn’t. With a net worth of 2 million, it couldn’t be clearer that Jay-Z made the right choice.

Fortune doesn’t last forever. Sometimes you have to step back and be a strategic thinker when it comes to your life. Whether it is a business partner or a romantic one, it is important to surround yourself with like-minded people who can stretch you or inspire you into becoming a better person.

Be careful never to remain mentally stagnant and always challenge yourself to grow and challenge your circle to evolve too. Realize that not everyone is meant to grow and celebrate with you. Never be afraid to adjust your circle according to the life you want to live.

Every time you level up, think about Jay-Z and Dame. Think about which side of the spectrum you fall on and move accordingly.  

Don’t be like Dame.

Don’t let a good thing pass you because you lack the maturity to evolve.

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