Add the stakes rapper Jay-Z has in various companies affiliated with music, fashion, media, and sports and it’s entirely possible the number you’ll get might be something close to 99. While hardly “problems,” the music mogul Shawn Carter can now also count cannabis as one of his numerous business interests.
And given Jay-Z’s track record, there’s reason to expect big things from a brand the hip-hop legend has dubbed Monogram.
“Monogram builds on Jay-Z’s growing arsenal of businesses,” writes Tatiana Cirisano of Billboard, “all of which have helped him earn the title of rap’s first billionaire. The artist who famously rapped ‘I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man’ is the owner of streaming service Tidal and entertainment company Roc Nation, which encompasses artist and athlete management, recording, publishing, touring, film and television, and has also formed partnerships with liquor brands like Armand de Brignac and D’Usse.”
Now Jay-Z will add to his portfolio with Monogram, which was teased to the world on Friday, October 23, with the launch of an official website and Instagram account. To help promote the news, the rapper also shared a new playlist to Tidal. Titled “”Monogram: Sounds From The Grow Room,” it features tracks like Fela Kuti’s “Expensive Shit” and Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It.”
Visitors to Monogram’s website will also find the following slogan featured prominently on its homepage:
“Monogram marks a new chapter in cannabis defined by dignity, care and consistency. It is a collective effort to bring you the best and a humble pursuit to discover what the best truly means. Progress is endless.’”
In recapping the news, Adam Tschorn of the L.A. Times noted that these semi-cryptic words — in addition to confirmation that, upon release, Monogram-branded cannabis will be available throughout California—”is about all reps for the San Jose-based vertically integrated cannabis company Caliva will confirm.”
While details remain scant, the announcement is actually but the latest evolution of a multiyear partnership Caliva entered into with Jay-Z in July 2019.
As Tschorn reports, the terms of the deal gave Jay-Z “the title of chief brand strategist and a role shaping (in the parlance of the announcement) ‘Caliva’s creative direction, product roadmap strategy and overall brand positioning.’”
“We’ll get a clearer picture of what that all means when additional details about Monogram emerge,” Tschorn concludes, “but in the 15 months since joining forces with Carter, Caliva has launched a career training and mentorship program focusing on diversity and fair hiring practices in the cannabis industry.”
That program, announced on October 20, is arguably a far bigger deal when it comes to actually making a difference in reshaping the cannabis industry. While Jay-Z branded flower is all well and good, the artist and businessman taking his rightful seat beside other music-affiliated cannabis entrepreneurs like Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg won’t do much to move the needle on social justice efforts.
What might actually help, however, is Caliva’s new career training and mentorship program aimed at supporting more diverse and fair hiring practices within the industry.
According to a press release, the program arrives “with unemployment amassing in the wake of a global pandemic” and is “aimed at supporting more diverse and fair hiring practices within the industry.”
“To alleviate immediate concerns exacerbated by the spread of COVID-19 in California,” the release continues, “this initiative first prioritizes assisting the inmates recently released early from the California state prison system, many of whom now find themselves displaced, without a home or source of income in the midst of an economic crisis. Long-term, Caliva will open program eligibility to all individuals struggling to find income or shelter within the L.A. and Bay Area communities, where poverty and homelessness are on the rise.”
As part of Caliva’s new program, the brand will collaborate with Chrysalis and Success Centers: two nonprofit organizations “dedicated to creating pathways to self-sufficiency for homeless and low-income individuals.”
Thus, Jay-Z is both collecting his taste of the legal weed game while also doing potential noble work to help those most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs. Naturally, a press release is a far cry from sustainable action, and the fact that the “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” spitter couldn’t even be bothered to give a pull quote for it is also far from impressive.
That said, there are ways to make money in cannabis that benefit only the stakeholders. At face value, what Jay-Z is working on with Caliva appears to be far more than just that. Could it be another master plan from the king of blueprints? We’ll soon see.