By: Christian Carranza-Walter
Ever since I was in middle school, I have loved Jay-Z. Loved Jay-Z. I still remember the day I got have my hands on a copy of The Blueprint. I remember bumping that album for hours, son! I had every lyric to every song memorized down pat after only a week, from Takeover, to Heart of the City, to Girls, Girls, Girls (I got a chick from Peru, that sniff Peru, she got a cousin at customs that get shit through…I’m Peruvian so hearing that as a kid got me so amped), Renegade (a song which hip hop heads to this day still have the infamous who out-rapped who debate: Eminem or Jigga…personally I give it to Eminem, but again, just the fact that he left that legacy in hip hop history is significant). That album was immaculate. The array of accolades it received is proof of it: #5 in Rolling Stone’s “Top 10 of 2001,”#2 in Pitchfork Media’s “The Top 100 Albums of 2000-04,” one of fifteen albums to (originally) receive 5 Mics by The Source, one of only eight albums to (initially) receive a “XXL” rating by XXL Magazine. Now all of these publications may have their creative differences, but they all agreed on one thing: Jay-Z was onto something. Just about every Jay-Z album after that had the same effect on me, they were my jams, they were my therapy, they were my life.
I also came from humble beginnings: low-income immigrant household in a “wrong side of the tracks” neighborhood in Akron, OH (yes, Lebron James hometown…but lets not talk about that for now OK?). Nowhere near the hardship Jay-Z saw in the Marcy Projects of Brooklyn but a background humble enough that Jigga’s music and come up story always held a special place in my heart. Suffice to say, when I heard he was throwing this Made in America music festival I had to go. Had to. By any means necessary. Although, I have always been a huge Jay-Z fan, I have actually never seen him live, so I took this as a sign, Christian, you have to go. So, I took a day off from my 9-5, redeemed all my credit card points I’ve been saving since I was an undergrad at BC and got a last minute flight and hotel down to Philly.
The entire week up to the Made in America festival, I was beyond excited. I felt like a kid waiting for Christmas Morning; as I blasted Jay-Z on repeat on my Spotify all week long. When the time came, and I finally arrived on the plane, a funny thing happened on the flight from Boston to Detroit before a layover to Philadelphia. I sat next to a random man named Dave for the flight, a pharmaceutical rep from Wisconsin. Dave and I started shooting the shit and he could tell how excited I was for this festival. I kept gushing over Jay-Z and how much I loved him, his music, his business model, and his entrepreneurial spirit – just non-stop Jigga talk. A theme that I kept bringing up was that Jay-Z was a man that made the impossible possible, who went from the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn to international superstar and mogul. A self-made man akin to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby. He offered me a challenge: “So you say Jay-Z made the impossible possible, eh? Why don’t you do the same, give yourself the ‘impossible’ goal of meeting Jay-Z this weekend, using what little resources you have. After all, Jay-Z was able achieve his present state of success using just what he had; he adjusted and adapted to whatever hardship was set before him. Why don’t you do the same? You’re a bright young man, BC grad, have a knowledge of social media, and natural charisma. Try to be like Jay-Z, and use what you have to make the impossible possible this weekend.” I told him two words: Challenge accepted.