The unique gift Jay Z shared with family and close friends to mark his fiftieth birthday could hardly be more on brand. The rap mogul and entrepreneur presented bottles of a rare, unique edition premium single barrel cognac to his inner circle. The D’usse’ 1969 Grand Champagne Cognac has been nestled away in a cellar in France for decades, quietly maturing into some of the most delicate tasting liquor ever to pass human lips. Jay Z, who owns the D’usse’ brand in partnership with Bacardi, worked with his cellar master and discovered the cognac some time ago, and decided to hold on to it and release it as part of his birthday celebration.

After distributing the first 50 specially numbered limited edition bottles, the rest of the limited stock of just 150 – 200 bottles are sold in exclusive venues in New York, Los Angeles, London, and Paris. They make a fantastic stocking stuffer at just $5000 a bottle (Santa, are you listening?)

It takes moxie to discover and distribute your own rare, high-quality cognac and sell the rest to an exclusive, high-end audience, and Jay Z has it. Here’s how:

Moxie hustles.

Jay Z didn’t grow up poking around the cellars of French estates. Instead, he grew up in the Marcy House projects of Brooklyn, New York. Raised by a single mother struggling on a single income in a time when Brooklyn was far from the haven for hipsters it has now become, young Shawn Corey Carter dabbled as a drug dealer as crack was taking hold of entire communities. But Jazzy, as he was known to family and friends, was also banging out beats on his mother’s kitchen table and freestyling under the mentorship of Jaz-O.

Despite his talent, no record label would take him seriously. So, with no traditional avenues before him, Jay Z joined forces with several other friends and formed his label, Roc-A-Fella Records. The label launched Jay Z into superstardom and became an incubator for many acts to follow.

Jay Z knew that opportunities were extremely limited for a young man of color growing up in housing projects. So he didn’t wait for a chance to come to him; he made the opportunity happen.

It’s easy to look askance at the origins of Jay-Z’s empire. It’s likely rooted in his early days as a street hustler selling illegal drugs. But it’s hard to overlook the fact that some of the most prestigious fortunes in our nation are built at least in part on exploitation. Of course, that doesn’t excuse nefarious activity, but it does highlight the need for more excellent opportunities.

Moxie makes visions reality.

Jay Z was a leading voice in a style of rap that gloried in excess and markers of fame and fortune. But while others only rapped about amassing fortunes, Jay Z was actually about the business of doing it.

He has an uncanny ability to see around corners and spot trends. As a result, he became rap’s first billionaire businessman, with real estate, management, and more stakes. His first step towards that goal was launching the wildly successful Rocawear line in the early 2000s, as he was reaching his height as an artist and label owner. The savvy move capitalized and monetized the success of his music, diversifying his portfolio and extending his reach further into his fans’ lives.

Moxie tells its own story on its terms.

Jay Z has achieved his success because, at his very core, he understands and believes deeply in his worth. He knows what is most valuable to him, and he treats it accordingly. As a result, he maintains control over his life and career.

His personal life is a prime example. He began collaborating with superstar Beyonce in 2003, and the two married privately in 2008. Their relationship has always been held extremely privately, and updates about their family are carefully managed. For example, the announcement of their pregnancy with their first child, daughter Blue Ivy, was made at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. Blue Ivy’s first cries were recorded and included in Jay-Z’s song released two days after her birth.

One could argue that the family is still being commodified, but carefully and strategically. It’s a far cry from selling family photos to a tabloid.

The Carters leverage the story for their benefit and channel all interest in projects that build their brand. You won’t hear Beyonce give an interview about her feelings over a dalliance by Jay Z, but you will listen to her sing about it, and you’ll pay for the privilege.

Given Jay Z’s fame and prominence, it would be impossible for him to keep all family business private. So instead of selling it off cheaply, he’s limited access and set the value high. Sounds a lot like his birthday cognac.

Brand Partners