Pharrell and Jay-Z are stressing the point that Black people shouldn’t rely on others to build African-American economic empowerment, they should chart the course of their own destiny by creating businesses.
The two artists and business owners conveyed that message in a new song called “Entrepreneur,” released on Thursday, Aug. 20. The single was released in conjunction with a special edition of Time curated by Williams titled “The New American Revolution,” which “examines America’s oppressive past and the potential for an equitable future,” according to the magazine’s description of the project.
Inside, there are interviews with Angela Davis, Tyler, the Creator, Naomi Osaka, Kenya Barris, and education activist Geoffrey Canada. Conversations center on the social and economic hurdles that Black people in America have been forced to leap over because of systemic racism.
The song “Entrepreneur,” produced by Pharrell and his Neptunes partner Chad Hugo, begins with Pharrell delivering lyrics about Black people taking calculated risks to own businesses, regardless of the uncertainty involved.
“You gotta let go If you want to fly, take the leap / You gotta risk it all or they’ll be lots of things you’ll never see / You gotta let go ’cause you never know what’s in store, mister entrepreneur,” he sings in falsetto over a catchy bass-driven track.
Jay-Z comes in at the song’s midway point and, with the same clever wordplay that he’s displayed for over 20 years, he tells Black folks to build their own businesses instead of waiting for an opportunity.
“Serial entrepreneur, we own our own / Stop sitting around waiting for folks to throw you a bone / If you can’t buy the building, at least stock the shelf / Then keep on stackin’ ’til you stockin’ for yourself,” raps Jay-Z. In another line, the Tidal executive raps, “For every one Gucci, support two FUBU’s.”
The video for “Entrepreneur” shows Black business owners all throughout, including Honey Pot owner Beatrice Dixon, who faced a white backlash after drawing a comparison between the success of her company and the success of Black girls.
The CEO of food delivery service Black and Mobile is also featured, as is Issa Rae, since she went from creating low-budget YouTube shows to forming her company Issa Rae Productions.
Pharrell also touched on Black entrepreneurship in an essay that he wrote for the special Time edition, where he addressed the slave trade in his home state of Virginia.
“I am both the promise of America and a product of its shameful past,” wrote Pharrell about Virginia. “But if we are ever to hold this nation accountable, we must force it to construct a future that offers us the same opportunities for wealth, prosperity and success as the ground-floor profiteers who built an empire with our free labor.”
Jay-Z has shared similar messages, mostly in the latter part of his career, while placing more emphasis on Black people building generational wealth. It’s a message that he communicated on the song “Legacy,” off his 2017 album “4:44.”
“Take those monies and spread ‘cross families / My sisters, Hattie and Lou, the nephews, cousins and TT / Eric, the rest to B for whatever she wants to do / She might start an institute, she might put poor kids in school / My stake in Roc Nation should go to you / Leave a piece for your siblings to give their children too,” rapped Jay-Z.