For the past few years, there has been one particular voice advocating responsible economics and ownership within Hip Hop culture. That sharply dressed and charismatic gentleman is real-estate tycoon Jay Morrison aka JayMrRealEstate. Part of his appeal is how much his story represents not only the “started from the bottom” mentality that riddles Hip Hop, but also the much sought after American dream.
Growing up during the early ‘80s crack epidemic in central New Jersey, Morrison describes himself as being baptized in the drug trade. “My grandmother sold drugs, my father sold drugs, my mom sold drugs and I grew up to sell drugs,” Morrison describes. Graduating to eventually having his own empire, he made his way to operating outside of the east coast; going as far out as Nebraska. According to an article in the New York Observer, he mentions yearly sales of almost $100,000.
Like many African American males caught in the drug game, the dangerous lifestyle landed him in prison a few times. “I [never] thought at 17 that I would go to jail but being forced into that environment, you realize you can adapt better than you think,” explains Morrison. “Not that jail was fun, cool, or easy, but once you get in that position, you have to figure out what you’re going to do.”
“You’re really confined to these guidelines where you work eight-hour shifts, get bossed around and make 13 cents per day doing jobs like picking up trash and mopping floors,” he says. “It puts a different perspective on life and freedom.” However, spending time at prisons like Rikers Island and Easter Correctional Institution in Maryland didn’t deter Morrison from heading back into the streets. “Every time I came home from prison, I came home to money, hustle and business as usual.”
Mid-way through his ‘20s, Morrison began questioning where his life was heading. “I was debating with myself where I would be when I turned 30,” he says. “I could only see myself dead or in jail no matter what I tried.”
Describing that moment as when he went “cold turkey,” he broke his burner (prepaid cell phone specifically used in drug dealing), gave the rest of his work to his partner and went full steam into real-estate.
While on parole for his drug offenses, Morrison worked for a mortgage company; making himself familiar with concepts of financing real-estate and how to invest. “It took me about a year to learn the real-estate business the right way and to develop professional etiquette and culture,” he says. “I didn’t have any choice but to learn and I figured out proper cadence of speech, vocabulary, and how to dress and manage in that environment.”
With the tools in place, Morrison began as a real-estate investor and bought three properties.
Utilizing lessons learned from his past in drug dealing on the streets, it wasn’t too difficult for Morrison to build a clientele. “I don’t know how my integrity would have been built otherwise, but because I was in the streets, it was like I was groomed from a teen to have honor and be a man of my word,” said Morrison says. “I took that with me in [this] business, I’m honest about what I do and I’m honest with my clients.” Morrison credits these character traits for the following and respect he enjoys today.
The art of flipping houses or buying low and selling high was learned through selling crack. “It’s the same principle of buying coke, cooking it up with baking soda and selling for more,” Morrison explains. “Those simple math and economics work the same way in real-estate.” That train of thought allowed him to create fro himself an overall net worth of more than $10 million.
Morrison began to make a name for himself with high-profile executives, entertainers and athletes, which lead to appearances on NBC’s “The Today Show” and “Open House NYC” along with radio appearances on Hot 97 and Power 105.1’s “The Breakfast Club.”
Becoming more immersed in Hip Hop culture, Morrison also became the face of Rocawear’s “I Will Not Lose” campaign, and followed with the release of his first book “Hip Hop 2 Homeowners: How WE Build Wealth in America.” The book was in response to Hip Hop trends that Morrison felt were hurting the community by way of promoting wasteful spending and a drug dealing culture. “We’re losing playing the cool card, we’re losing trying to live out rap lyrics and the real money is right here in establishing credit and building a real-estate portfolio,” said Morrison. ‘Hip Hop 2 Homeowners’ was very important to my brand because it ended up getting 30,000 book downloads online, grew my base, and allowed people to enter my mind to understand what I was trying to do for the culture.”
As Morrison’s brand began to expand, thousands from around the nation either wanted mentorship or to become his protege. “That hurt me that I couldn’t help more people, like the gangbanger in Arkansas, or the kid in Brooklyn trying to get his family out of a rough spot,” he explained. He started by hosting webinars attended by between 700-1000 people, according to the mogul. Wanting more of a consistent classroom experience without burning himself out, he began developing The Jay Morrison Academy. Through the program, Morrison educates individuals on real-estate investment. The Jay Morrison Academy, participants are offered webinars, textbooks, a full real-estate dictionary.
That’s not that is offered by the program. “I teach people how to brand themselves, groom themselves and more,” he said. For those who need what Morrison describes as a “push,” participants can also contact him every other week for questions or advice through mentorship calls.
Everything Morrison has done relates to his Another Way Out initiative. “Another Way Out was to show that besides basketball, besides rapping, entertainment or working a dead-end nine-to-five, you can live an amazing life and there’s a better way to do it,” Morrison explains.
Coming full circle, one of the first projects for the program had Morrison starting an image program on Rikers Island where he was once served time. The plan was to insure that male and female felons could find a legal way to make money when employment opportunities are incredibly slim. One supporter of the initiative is none other than popular Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy who donated $1 million in support.
According to Morrison, he was aquatinted with the Corporate Thugz Entertainment founder through Roc Nation executive and close friend of Jay-Z, Emory Jones.
“It’s like they say in the streets, real recognize real,” says Morrison of Jeezy. “We came from the same background and we all have similar stories. Most importantly, we get it.” Jeezy was a former associate of The Black Family Mafia before releasing his 2005 debut “Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101.”
“That was a very easy conversation because anyone who knows me knows I want to do better for the culture,” Morrison says. “I put it on my back; it’s not about me being flashy, the cars or the girls. Though we enjoy those things because we live life, it’s more about the community and everything else is residual.” The donation will serve to provide scholarships for The Jay Morrison Academy and boost other social programs that Morrison has in the works.
If all this wasn’t enough, Morrison is working on a school uniform collection Young Minds Can, a motivational speaking campaign, a television deal and a Spanish edition of The Jay Morrison Academy. He also plans to release the follow-up to his first book with “ Keys To Real Estate.”
“It’s 36 lessons I learned from the drug game that made me do well in real-estate,” Morrison says about the book due for release next year. “It’s more autobiographical but gives people insight into my world and where it use to be.”
While many in his position settle for simply living a lifestyle many dream of, Morrison’s dark past allows him to understand exactly how to build a brighter future. One to constantly challenges himself, his ambition extends to insure everyone can achieve success.