While Jay-Z is a rapper first and foremost, he’s also one of the most successful people in the music industry. Worth roughly $460 million, it’s hard to argue with Jay-Z as a paradigm of the rags to riches saga, a prime example of the American dream. His rough and tumble rise to power is no secret, a well documented story spread across records and decades. Check out some of the best quotes from Jay-Z that relate to his road to success.

Press “next,” click the pictures, or hit shift+right to read on…

“If I can’t live by my word than I’d much rather die.”
Song: “Thank You”

Always one to uphold the oaths of his rough and tumble upbringing, Shawn Carter would rather die than betray his word and compromise his integrity. When push comes to shove, success is not much without respect, and not much of the latter can be gained without living by one’s word.

“I will not lose, for even in defeat, there’s a valuable lesson learned so that evens it up for me.”
Song: “Blueprint 2”

As any successful businessman will attest, one learns as much from failures as from successes–and often more. On the path to mogul status, Jay-Z dropped off a nugget of knowledge espoused by his prosperous forebears, a wise tidbit for any would be entrepreneurs in search of assurance that failure does not a fuck-up make.

“I’m far from God, but I work goddamn hard.”
Song: “Breathe Easy”

Along the road, you’ll make mistakes. It’s impossible not to, especially when you’re trying to accomplish something major. All you can do is credit yourself for how hard you’ve worked. Stay positive, keep at it, and know that you’re putting yourself through the work for a reason.

“He who does not feel me/ is not real to me, therefore he doesn’t exist.”
Song: “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”

Haters will always hate, but that shouldn’t prevent one from striving for success. Hardened skin can be one of the most important tools for individuals seeking to fulfill their ambitions. Like Dr. Seuss said: “those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”

“I’d rather die enormous than live dormant.”
Song: “Can I Live”

Success is no friend to the timid and the meek; it requires boldness. At times, you’ll have to take the bull by the horns even if it’s not ideal. According to Jay-Z, a short but exciting life that was lived to the fullest and took advantage of every opportunity presented is always better than a long one that’s stagnant.


“Remind yourself/ Nobody built like you, you design yourself.”
Song: “A Dream”

It’s easy to get lost in the crowd and it’s always tempting to live that cookie-cutter life because it’s simpler. But instead of subscribing to society’s mold, Hov encourages us to retain what makes us unique.

“I’m not a businessman – I’m a business, man.”
Song: “Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)”

As the saying goes, perception is reality. Like all cultural idiom, there are exceptions, but Jay’s story and rhymes often give the sense that an understanding of where one is and where one would like to be can be as integral to forward motion as hard work. And a little brazen confidence doesn’t hurt on occasion.

“How you get so fly? From not being afraid to fall out the sky.”
Song: “Beach Chair”

It’s one thing to know what you’re doing and how to do it, but it’s also important to be fearless. The reason Hova is “so fly?” He simply isn’t afraid. You can take chances, but you also need be to courageous in dealing with the consequences.

“I’m not afraid of dying. I’m afraid of not trying.”
Song: “Beach Chair”

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” said Wayne Gretzky. Shawn Carter appears to agree with The Great One; in Jigga’s eyes, there really is nothing worse than not being able to try.

“My religion is the beat, my verse is like church, my Jesus piece.”
Song: “Murder to Excellence”

Taking your work seriously is a driving factor for the sort of success exhibited by Jay’s life story. The legendary rapper’s art is as good as it is because of the fact that he treats his work like his religion.