Jay-Z and Nas on ‘Sorry Not Sorry’ offers valuable lessons on financial literacy

The hip-hop legends' DJ Khaled collaboration is an artistic masterclass on entrepreneurship, overcoming adversity, and Black wealth-building

Jay Z x Nas x Sorry Not Sorry
Jay-Z, Nas and DJ Khaled in music video for “Sorry Not Sorry.” (Photo: YouTube)

The recent collaboration between Nas and Jay-Z on DJ Khaled’s new track “Sorry Not Sorry” is an artistic masterclass on entrepreneurship, overcoming adversity, and Black wealth-building that leaves behind many gems for the casual listener and serious entrepreneur alike.

The song opens up as a sarcastic ode to the naysayers and haters while simultaneously embracing the fruits of a labor once thought to be a dream. 

“Sorry, not sorry, don’t mind me

I’m livin’ the dream, 

Livin’ a dream, yea

Came from nothin’, 

Whoever thought 

That we would be

Livin’ the dream? 

Livin’ the dream, 


The opening of the song is reminiscent of the opening lines in my TED talk where I describe my one-time aspirations of being poor. Not poor in a literal sense, but without a blueprint to dream bigger or an example that points to the possibility of financial success in Black and Brown communities, the bar for realized success is set pretty low. 

This chorus speaks to a two-pronged issue of both financial illiteracy and a lack of financial empowerment; work that both I and others like me have dedicated our lives to remediating. The song continues on into a coded blueprint for entrepreneurs and wealth builders.

Here are 5 lessons on wealth building for Black entrepreneurs covered in the song.

Your network is your net worth

Nas opens up with “Hear ye, hear ye, only kings stand near me” which speaks to the principle that those you surround yourself with will ultimately dictate your success or failure. This speaks to more than what monetary value the people you surround yourself with have, however. Are they feeding your ambition? Are they holding you accountable? Are you learning or being taught together? Is there progression? Your network should be uplifting and sharing similar values with you as iron sharpens iron. 

The Time/Money relationship

Black men and women are dying at an alarming rate due to illness, injury, and execution which can all be tied back to a system of oppression that has been accepted into mainstream culture under the rallying cry of YOLO (you only live once) that rationalizes impulsive or reckless decisions on the surface, but really hides the fear and pain we endure in not feeling secure in our tomorrows.

We rush to cram a lifetime of experiences into our first 20-30 years opting often for fast money that we can blow through quickly rather than seeing the big picture over the next 20-30 years and beyond. We use GoFundMe as a life insurance policy, we push off setting up IRA’s, investing in 401k’s, and creating legal wills as we proudly proclaim that “God got me” and ask Jesus to take the wheel. The line ‘Half a century almost, sliced the green like a lawnmower’ speaks to attaining financial success beyond the first 20 years of life and that oftentimes a strategic plan and patience, not luck, are the keys to financial success. 

You need a strategic financial plan

In the verse, “Winner in life, f*ck a coin toss I’m coin-based, basically cryptocurrency Scarface,” Nas makes reference to his status as an early investor in the popular cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase that went public in mid-April of this year, in that his success was not by chance. This is an important gem dropped as many newbie investors turn to social media for insights into stock picks and gamble based on what’s buzzing on the feeds.

Bigger still is the message that not only do we need to be strategic with our finances, but that we also need to be intentional. Financial success is not the result of a coin toss or a stroke of luck, but by maintaining a discipline that delays gratification and makes informed decisions. The first part of creating a strategic plan is to stop being financially irresponsible and become financially literate. There are a ton of free and paid tools online to get you started. 

Health is wealth

This is one is pretty self-explanatory, yet many people neglect to prioritize their health in the pursuit of the dollar. Grind culture teaches us incorrectly to trade time for money instead of finding ways to put our money to work. It’s important that we make an equal or greater effort to take care of our bodies and our minds so that we can benefit from the fruits of our labor. As Jay-Z says, “It’s the white gloves for me.”

There are many paths to freedom

Personal finance is personal and your path to financial success doesn’t have to look like someone else’s. Finding and executing a strategy that fits your risk tolerance, your level of education on a particular process or investment, your budget, and the amount of work you want to put in is crucial.

A financial advisor or coach can help you get started in structuring that strategy and help you to see objectively the pros and cons of each approach. Sometimes what we see on social or traditional media, or the stories we are told or overhear are absent of the losses it took to get there. You want to look back on your work and say “I like who I’ve become” too.

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