On the 18th February 2018, a waitress at a Manhattan nightclub posted a photo of a credit card receipt on her Snapchat feed. The bill in question was the last dispatch from a night of revelry between a few close friends and colleagues — an impulsive, celebratory jaunt that had seen them zig-zag across Manhattan, shuttling between hyper-fashionable sharing plate joints, Midtown power restaurants and fashion set Mezcalerias in a motorcade of blacked out saloons. $13,000 at Zuma. $9,000 at Made in Mexico. And finally, at Playroom — a neon-lit hip hop club uptown on 10th Avenue — a casual $91,135.00 (tip included).
The picture went viral. Not because of the exorbitant sum, however — but because of the man who paid it. The bill had been signed off, it soon emerged, by Jay-Z, who was out that evening celebrating his friend and business confidante Juan ‘OG’ Perez’s 50th birthday (Perez is the president of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports company). But more interesting than the lavish spending, or the half-century milestone, or the rapper’s identity, were the itemised contents of the bill — 40 bottles of something called Ace of Spades Gold, bought at a price of $1,200 a pop. If you want to know how the alcohol market operates at its highest reaches in 2020, this little document should furnish you with some answers.
The message that evening was clear. Champagne, for centuries the preserve of the dauphin and the banker, had now officially become the plaything of the self-made hustler. But as the sole owner of the brand behind the bottles on his lengthy tab, Jay-Z wasn’t simply flaunting his wealth — he was inflating it. As the leaked bill spread around the world, the rap mogul once again flexed the ingenious mechanism that had come to characterise his business success: invest in a distinctive brand, give it free publicity in your songs and music videos, integrate it seamlessly into your everyday life (perhaps by buying it back from yourself and sharing it around an Uptown Manhattan club) — and then sit back and watch as everyone else does the same. In that moment, popping bottles had stopped becoming simply good fun — it was now good business, too.
Jay-Z has never been afraid of flashing his wealth. The rapper, business man and cultural titan has rightly celebrated his journey from the Marcy projects to CEO at every rung of the ladder. Each bauble of success gets a shout out in good time — Jay Z’s lyric sheets are punctuated with Audemars Piguet watches, Tom Ford suits and Rothko paintings. On 2013 track Picasso, Baby, in fact, the rapper sketches his plans for world-domination via the artwork on his walls:
Oh what a feeling, f**k it I want a billion
Jeff Koons balloons, I just wanna blow up
Condos in my condos, I wanna row of
Christie’s with my missy, live at the MoMA
Six years later, at the age of 49, Jay-Z achieved his dream, officially becoming a bona fide billionaire last year. He is the first hip hop artist to do so, and, perhaps more significantly, only the fifth black billionaire in the US. With 14 number one albums, 22 Grammy awards, real estate from Los Angeles to Tribeca, stakes in everything from Uber to D’Ussé cognac, and ownership of record label Roc Nation and streaming service Tidal, it’s long been clear that rap music forms just one aspect of Sean Carter’s portfolio.
But perhaps one of his most savvy investments is Armand de Brignac — the champagne brand of which Jay-Z became a 100% owner in 2014 and which, provided you don’t buy it in Uptown Manhattan nightspots, usually sells for about $300 a bottle. Dubbed ‘Ace of Spades’ after its distinctive bottle design, Jay-Z claimed on Meek Mill’s song What’s Free that the company was worth half a billion dollars. Forbes, on the other hand, estimated the champagne’s worth at $310 million — still making it the rapper’s most significant asset. (“Cash and investments” makes up the second largest slice at $220 million.)
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