Throughout the last 20 years rappers have continued to reach new heights and consistently expand into new industries. From movies to television to clothing to wine and spirits. The boundaries have continued to be pushed. The beautiful thing about Hip Hop is that once one person kicks the door down we all follow suit and get a piece of the action. There’s an old saying one of my Jewish friends always tells me, “If 1 Jew makes it, 10 Jews make it.” Hip hop has lived by that collective growth ideology as well. Will Smith was the first rapper to dominate sitcoms and become a major movie star. Now you have Ice Cube, Common, Ludacris, 50 cent, Sean Combs, the list goes on and on. Master P set president when he negotiated a shoe deal with Converse, years later artists such as Baby, Jay-Z and 50 cent have had deals with shoe companies. Master P was the first rapper with a clothing line, P. Miller Clothing, though the clothing line wasn’t very successful it paved the way for Rocawear, SeanJohn and Billionaire Boy’s Club.
Today, for the first time since I’ve began following hip hop, it seems that entrepreneurship is slowing down. Particularly in my generation where it is beginning to seem as if rappers are content with just being rappers. At best, they may start a clothing line but no major ground is being broken anymore. Now to be fair, I don’t know most of these rappers personally nor have I done any research on private investments these artists may have. However, in true hip hop spirit, if they did have some successful investments going on outside of rap, I’m pretty sure they would be rapping about it or talking about it. Could it be that rappers are now content with just being rappers? Not only is it less emphasis on creating businesses, there’s less emphasis on even creating record labels and signing artists. It used to be the norm that at the least a successful rapper would start some kind of boutique label and sign some artists and generate money off of other peoples music. As an artist, I do accept the fact that it is harder than ever to be a rapper today. The money isn’t what it used to be, the competition is fierce the demand from fans to consistently create music is at an all time high. Now days you get one shot and you have to get while the going is hot. I took a look at XXL Top Freshmen 2007 cover the other day and it was amazing how fast some artists time had come and went. So in a sense I empathize with the decision to focus on music, if I were in J. Cole shoes and I’m working on my debut album with Jay-Z’s support I can’t say that I would be out in Hollywood pitching Television shows before I had an album out. There is a pressure to deliver and get it right the first time in rap today. However, on the flip side I can’t help but see opportunities for so many artists to create products. I honestly believe that if Currency and Wiz linked up with a cigar company and developed there own rolling papers and blunts and leveraged there contacts to get distribution they would make alot of money. I don’t know that they aren’t doing this but all these freshmen should be booking each other in there home towns and surronding areas. That way instead of making a performance fee of 5-10k, you get the bar and the door and probably make 35K. I think there’s a great opportunity for them in the booking/touring business. They have contacts with venues across the country why not take other upcoming artist who you feel are hot, Sign them to your booking company, have them open up for you on your tour. Get them hot, and then book a small tour for them in select cities. Then if they do blow up you have 2 years to make 10-20% off all there performances. There’s just so much out there, Boutique Ad Agencies that set up sponsored tours connecting artists and brands. I bet Microsoft would pay big money to an artist who could help make there struggling MP3 player Zune hot. If some artists came together to develop a television network that focused on hip hop based programming 24 hours a day, man I can gaurantee that it would be competing with BET and MTV within 5 years if the programming was right. I seriously wonder why we haven’t seen this type of mindset in the artists of my generation. But I suffer from it to, the more focused I’ve become on music the less entreprenurial I’ve become. But I have recommitted myself and I am currently working on developing that Boutique Agency I mentioned. But I will end with a question: Are todays rappers concerned with making money outside of music?