Hip-Hop Celebs Must Encourage Entrepreneurship, Says Former Obama Advisor
Hip-hop stars have the money. They have the influence. Now, can they combine them to drive entrepreneurship in the black community? Rick C. Wade, senior adviser for Obama For America, says it is their responsibility.
In an editorial for USA Today, Wade, also former Senior Adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Commerce and founder of business development firm the Wade Group, says successful hip-hop artists can flex their financial clout to the broader black community by establishing businesses, create jobs and encourage their young fans to become entrepreneurs.
Wade notes that while various rap artists such as Jay Z have rallied in support of Trayvon Martin’s family following the controversial acquittal of George Zimmerman, “helping to improve the long-term economic viability of their young black fans could have lasting and tangible impact,” he writes. This same level of influence can be used to encourage fans to better themselves financially.
“Young admirers embrace the genre, and many aspire to the rappers’ extravagant lifestyle. Fans spend millions on hip-hop fashion and buy expensive beverages promoted in songs and videos. While not necessarily an outcome to applaud, the adoption of a hip-hop sensibility indicates that rappers can also influence young blacks to move beyond being aspirational consumers to inspirational entrepreneurs,” he points out.
Wade says rappers “have to understand their nexus between the little boys in the neighborhood and the big boys on Wall Street, and make investments in their young African-American fans eager for success but clueless about how to get there. Few youngsters will become platinum-level rappers, but lots can own businesses.”
Some of these young people, says Wade, “can recite lyrics of rap songs but can’t balance a checkbook. They write rhymes but can’t write a cover letter. Education and entrepreneurship can lead to a more promising future.”
The money is there, says Wade. With hip-hop music generating more than $10 billion annually, and the top 20 rappers earning more than $271 million a year “[rappers] can invest in high-growth companies such as energy, technology and advanced manufacturing. They can support job training initiatives and programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics so that young people can be prepared for the jobs of the future,” he says.
Wade even suggests that annual awards shows such as BET’s and MTV’s should present an “Entrepreneur and Job Creator of the Year” award. “Not only would it change the way young people view rappers, it also would show that rappers are providing a return to their investors — those who buy the albums, tickets and apparel that keep them in business in the first place,” he concludes.
Do you agree with Wade?