Cinematic Saturday: Jay-z’s ‘A Genius Leaves the Hood’

Before we begin, let us start with the facts. Sean Carter, known to most as Jay-Z was born December 4th, 1969 in Brooklyn, NY. Growing up in Marcy Projects, Jay-Z would go from a (very profitable) drug dealer to an iconic rapper and businessman with a career now spanning over 20 years. 66 Grammy nominations and 21 wins, over 50 million albums sold, and a net worth of $810 million dollars. What may be arguable is if H.O.V. holds the title of best rapper alive or something like if he won the beef between him and Nas – although lyrically Jay may have some of the best verses in rap history to date. What is not in any way arguable is what you can learn from the rap legend’s career. As we still revel in the glory of his 13th studio album, and are now being enchanted by the visuals Footnotes for 4:44, we can attest that Jay-Z has allowed himself to be more vulnerable than he ever has in the past. Thus making it the perfect time to watch A Genius Leaves the Hood: The Unauthorized story of Jay-Z, an outsider’s take on the rapper’s career.

Directed by Marion L. Grant, A Genius Leaves the Hood tells the story of Jay-Z’s life from illegal businessman to rap mogul. You’ll hear stories from those who held relationships with him personally like Jaz-O, Jay-Z early mentor and producer who speaks on the early and raw talent. Then there are those who studied and admired (or were indifferent to) Jay’s career, from the former editor-in-chief of The Source Mag Kim Osorio to journalist Bill Adler. What makes this documentary one to watch is that the various perspectives on the choices Jay made throughout his career aren’t all positive.

It makes you think and it makes you question what does it really take to position yourself as such a powerful force in the music industry? How does one with no formal education, the tool we are conditioned into believing will offer the only path to certain financial successes, surpass those with degrees in business? Just like there aren’t any easy answers to questions like these, from the perspective of this film, Jay faced some tough decisions. By the end of the film, you are left with nonetheless giving credit to the mastery of a rags to riches story that is unprecedented by any others of this century. Check out a dicussion clip from the film below.


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