By Rob Markman
Jay-Z has overseen the careers of quite a few artists. From Memphis Bleek and Beanie Sigel to Rihanna and Kanye West, Hov has helped turn budding talent into musical stars. Still, let Jay-Z tell it and handling individual artists requires a special touch. Jigga actually compares his position as a label CEO to being a dad. "I think running a label is a bit like having kids," Hov told MTV News while in New York to promote two charitable Carnegie Hall concerts in February.
The Roc Nation CEO's answer came in response to criticism that he could have done more to endorse J. Cole, who dropped his debut, Cole Word: The Sideline Story, in September. "When you know someone needs more help, you help them," Jigga said. "When you see that someone can make it on their own ... you see Kanye or J. Cole, you see that sort of talent — you let that talent be. You let that talent find its way."
It's no secret that a co-sign from the God MC can help anyone's career, but in the case of J. Cole, Hov didn't believe his Roc Nation signee needed any more than what he was given. And apparently, Jay was right. With Sideline Story, Cole debuted at #1 on the Billboard albums chart, selling more than 217,000 copies in its first week of release.
To Hova's credit, he did appear on "Mr. Nice Watch," a braggadocios album cut off of Cole's debut, but the guest appearance came in the ninth inning. By August, Jay had not yet contributed to the album. During a press listening session that month it was clear that Cole was not expecting the feature. "Nobody owes me anything," he said. "Jay-Z doesn't owe me a verse because I signed to him."
Still, Jay was watching his protégé from afar, careful not to interfere with Cole's creative process. "Of course, you're not gonna let any harm befall it," Hov said of his approach to cultivating talent. "You pretty much let people find their way."
As Roc Nation enters 2012 with a roster that includes Willow Smith, Jay Electronica and vocalist Bridget Kelly, Hov has set a standard on how he intends to run his company. "I'm just really here to provide opportunity. I'm not here to do anything else," he said. "I provide the opportunity, you figure out what you want to say to the world and how you gonna do it.
"It's much more than just a [16-bar verse] and an endorsement deal; it's an opportunity to let your voice be heard. It's really about you, it's not about me."
What do you think Jay's approach to running Roc Nation? Sound off in the comments below!