Recently, a teenager’s run-in with the law made news. Hmmm, that sounds sort of typical but it happens to be stranger than it sounds because the teen was not only “black” but happened to purchase the item he was accused of stealing. It seems that in April of 2013, the 19-year-old purchased a $349 Ferragamo brand belt from an upscale clothing boutique, Barney’s in NYC. Although the teen saved for weeks to upgrade his social status with the frivolous item, and spent his own money, a suspicious store clerk called police. Soon after he left the store, the teen Trayon Christian, was approached by undercover officers who detained him at the police station for at least two-hours before confirming the purchase was legitimate. Upon being released, the boy returned the belt and sometime later sought the aide of a lawyer to point out the offensive practice.
The story has come to light in recent days possibly because there was another incident reported by Kayla Phillips who is also of African-American descent and received the same treatment after she purchased a $2500 handbag. The other reason may be that noted rapper Shawn Carter bka Jay-Z is currently working on a clothing line deal with Barney’s. Fans have called for Jay-Z to pull out of the deal to show solidarity with the urban community Barney’s clearly offended with the practice. An on-line petition was started and no more than two-days later, Shawn Carter had a response. It was admittedly an awkward and whiny response that seems to make Carter into a victim of the whole incident. The statement is signed Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, possibly as a new move to separate himself from the Jay-Z brand in some way.
In the beginning of a statement released on his website (lifeandtimes.com) Carter vehemently denies receiving millions off the Christmas-time collaboration with Barney’s. He says, “The Shawn Carter Foundation is the beneficiary and the foundation is receiving 25% of all sales from the collaboration, 10% of all sales generated in the store on November 20th and an additional donation from Barneys.” This obviously adds up to 100% of the profits he mentioned, when it’s all said and done… I guess. Still, Jay-Z goes on to ask “Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately?” Jigga’s rationale is stated as, “I move and speak based on facts and not emotion. I haven’t made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys.” This reactive approach to public relations is becoming typical of the clumsy responses the Jay-Z brand seems to put out, not unlike the Harry Belafonte situation. Without a notion about how statements like this could be perceived, such an awkward response only helped to inflame public opinions against him in several newspapers, comment sections and Twitter.
In this incident, Carter almost brags, “Making a decision prematurely to pull out of this project, wouldn’t hurt Barneys or Shawn Carter, but all the people that stand a chance at higher education.” Comments like that only seemed to make him appear more jaded to the average observer. Intangible assets like brand loyalty, social status and good feelings are heavily influenced by public opinion. The disintegration of that asset would, in the long-run, affect Shawn Carter, if not financially, at least aesthetically. For it is only now, that Jay-Z’s brand seems to be taking a significant loss in credibility. Some comments on FB, Twitter and various blogs claim Carter is out of touch since he’s become so wealthy. Others say that he always displayed a selfish demeanor since his days as a Brooklyn NY, drug-dealing street thug, who reportedly shot his older brother for stealing from him when Carter was 12 years old. The older brother Eric, a crack-head at the time, never pressed charges and Shawn was never prosecuted.
Shawn Carter is not quite what he seems on many levels. He may not be the adept philanthropist he’s trying sound like yet, and he may not be the self-centered, greedy capitalist others may think he is either. You find with some simple research on YouTube, that Shawn Carter does have an understanding of why people with means should come back and help those in disadvantaged situations. He does understand the power and importance of his actions and his words. Just watching a YouTube piece called, Jay-Z’s Wisdom, shows a clear-minded, introspective, intelligent man that is not unaware of his surroundings.
P.S. Even though the first interview is me (Kurt Nice) and Jay-Z from 1996, I had no knowledge of its existence until I did research for this piece. And no they didn’t pay me for it. lol
In actuality, the Jay-Z brand is suffering from a PR problem. Like I mentioned in the article, Jay-Z as the shareholder model, Shawn Carter’s problem is reactive PR, that is not well-informed about the scope of public opinion. In this case, Jay-Z, the business should hire an outside firm to help with these problems. Internally, there may be too many yes men who don’t have enough influence on public relations decisions for the brand, not to mention the fact that there needs to be more Hip Hop Kulture oriented PR firms who can clearly understand a situation like this as well. If Shawn Carter drafted this clumsy response himself, which is what it looks like, he needs to leave such decisions to a capable PR team. A professional response or the lack of one could affect his brand in the long-term.
I move and speak based on facts and not emotion. I haven’t made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys. Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately? The negligent, erroneous reports and attacks on my character, intentions, and the spirit of this collaboration have forced me into a statement I didn’t want to make without the full facts. Making a decision prematurely to pull out of this project, wouldn’t hurt Barneys or Shawn Carter, but all the people that stand a chance at higher education. I have been working with my team ever since the situation was brought to my attention to get to the bottom of these incidents and at the same time find a solution that doesn’t harm all those that stand to benefit from this collaboration.I am against discrimination of any kind, but if I make snap judgements, no matter who it’s towards, aren’t I committing the same sin as someone who profiles? I am no stranger to being profiled and I truly empathize with anyone that has been put in that position. Hopefully this brings forth a dialogue to effect real change. – Shawn “JAY Z” Carter
Jay-Z on shooting his older brother, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1331585/Jay-Z-shooting-older-brother-age-12.html