All Articles Tagged "hip-hop business"
While the rest of us were battling crowds for last minute holiday gifts, some of our favorite rappers were gift-wrapping subliminal shots at their rivals. Common released a track titled “Sweet” that takes aim at rappers who sing. Days later, Nicki Minaj debuted the buzz track “Stupid Hoe” targeting unnamed promiscuous women with sub-standard intelligence.
The two fiery tracks barely made a ripple in pop culture. Common’s attacks were largely written off as the cries of a broken-heart, given gossip of singer/rapper Drake getting cozy with his ex-fling, Serena Williams. People have surmised that Nicki is beating a dead horse to death, namely Lil’ Kim’s career.
The lackluster response reflects the overall decline of beef – or rivalries – in hip-hop. The genre has played host to legendary battles. But in recent years, rappers have largely stayed to themselves. There has been a diss record here, a subliminal shot there, but nothing that has come close to the battles of yore. Since the tragic conclusion of the East Coat-West Coast feud of the 1990s, you could even say it has been discouraged. However, beef is a hip-hop tradition for a reason. Healthy competition allows rappers to generate buzz while demonstrating their lyrical prowess. As 50 Cent proves, it can even launch a career. When done correctly, beef can be good for business, any business.
Brands were beefing long before hip-hop got into the game. Competition can serve to improve a product, as is the case with the Ferrari vs. Lamborghini rivalry. Ferrucchio Lamborghini was a successful tractor engineer who enjoyed cruising in Ferraris, but felt the cars had design issues that his tractor expertise could remedy. Lamborghini once claimed that Ferrari (the man) told him he would never be able to handle a Ferrari (the car) properly. That was before Lamborghini produced cars that many consider comparable, if not better than Ferrari’s, initiating an over 50-year rivalry.
(Newsweek) — Here’s a musician who’s swiftly becoming the darling of high-end labels (Lanvin, Cole Haan, to name a few). But unlike Kanye West and Lady Gaga, who became famous before they were style stars, Theophilus London (pronounced “Thee-off-illis”), who’s known for his retro-beats that blend hip-hop and New Wave, captured all this buzz even before releasing his first album. This progeny of mass-marketed stars, who is inspired by artists such as Morrissey, Prince, Marvin Gaye, and Michael Jackson, is pioneering a new path for music. London is cultivating his image first and, after several luxury brands have jumped aboard, building his musical reputation later. London may be young, but he runs like a well-oiled machine when it comes to selling himself. The 23-year-old, who was born in Trinidad and raised in Brooklyn, briefly studied marketing in college and told Newsweek that through his work with Mountain Dew and other corporate entities, he has learned “how to push a brand.” The first step: striking a careful balance between fame and oversaturation.
(HipHopDX) — More than a year after signing with Sean “Diddy” Combs and James Cruz as managers, Nicki Minaj is no longer associated with the business moguls. According toXXLMag.com, the Harajuku Barbie is now being managed by Gee Roberson and Kyambo “HipHop” Joshua from Hip-Hop Since 1978, which also manages Lil Wayne, Drake and more.
(Atlanta Business Chronicle) — The latest talk swirling around the financially ailing Atlanta Thrashers has the team possibly staying in Atlanta courtesy of – wait for it – Atlanta hip hop artist and producer Lil’ Jon and big-time film and TV producer Jerry Bruckheimer, reports Atlanta Business Chronicle broadcast partner WXIA-TV. Might sound a little out there, but Bruckheimer has pockets deep enough to buy the team and several others, and Lil Jon, a big success in hip hop, and who has made many new fans courtesy of his run on the most recent installment of “The Apprentice” television show, has loved Atlanta hockey for years going back to the Atlanta Flames.
by R. Asmerom
Lil Wayne is everywhere. By many counts, he’s the hottest rapper in the game and it’s clear he’s not reserving any of that talent exclusively for himself and his Cash Money crew. The best-selling artist spreads his lyrics far and wide, to the point that you’d be hard pressed to find an R&B crooner or rapper who hasn’t worked with him in the past two years. His ubiquity is unquestionable but his commercial strategy does beg the question: is he spreading himself too thin?
We can assume that Young Jeezy, Kelly Rowland and J.Lo paid big bucks to have Weezy do a guest verse on their new singles but how much will Lil Wayne’s appearances on those tracks really boost the popularity of those singles, considering getting Weezy doesn’t appear to be a hard feat.
“By definition, Lil Wayne is overexposed,” said Mic Sean, lawyer and CEO of artist management firm Soul Rebel NYC. “But in hip-hop and the music industry in general, you’re perceived based on your most recent successes. For Lil Wayne, having recently been released from Rikers Island, it was necessary for him to re-establish himself as the hitmaker that he is.”
He certainly has established himself as the hardest working rapper in the business but definitely not the most selective. His counterparts, like Jay-Z for example, appear less frequently on tracks, which may very well help feed their demand.
(Forbes) — Neither the birth of Rocawear nor its nine-figure sale would have occurred if it weren’t for Jay-Z’s sharp entrepreneurial instincts—in particular, his reluctance toward giving away advertising to products other than his own. The latter is one of Jay-Z’s many business commandments that I’ve observed while writing a business-focused biography of the rapper over the past year, and one of the main reasons he has amassed a net worth of $450 million while serving as an inspiration to countless entrepreneurs and musicians. (Full Coverage: The Forbes Five — Hip-Hop’s Wealthiest Artists )
“Jay-Z’s business influence has been momentous, along with all his other great achievements in terms of music, style and mastery of his craft,” says Fred “Fab 5 Freddy” Braitwaite, the artist and hip-hop pioneer who served as longtime host of Yo! MTV Raps. “He really understands how the corporate structure works.”
(The Network Journal) — Despite all the recent bad news for Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, what with his flagship NYC clothing store on Manhattan’s tony Fifth Avenue closing, the hip-hop entrepreneur just received some great news. His company, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group has ranked the third “Largest Minority Owned Business,” according to Crain’s New York Business. On top of this, Diddy actually runs the third largest minority owned business in all of New York City. ”Diddy’s brand has endured – in spite of his very public failures…the restaurant, store closing, poor record sales of his artists, etc – because he has the ability to make or break people and he has powerful connection,” notes hip-hop business expert Saideh Browne, president of Impact Agency NY and author of 99 Tips to Transform Your Business Today (March 2011, GS Publishing Group).
Circa 2007, 50 Cent was holding a bottle of Vitamin Water in one hand and a DVD of the underground hip-hop movie “Hot Ice” in the other. He was pushing a beverage which netted him a multi-million dollar endorsement deal while simultaneously bragging about stealing a rapper’s chain in his gritty hood video.
He’s one of several hip-hop artists who’s either abandoned the idea of street cred altogether or is attempting to maintain bases of support in divergent communities. It’s quite a tightrope to walk. It’s also a tough act to commit to and, if you’re an aspiring rapper, an even tougher act to follow. What we don’t yet know is whether hip-hop’s unquenchable desire for affluence will eventually result in a ghetto version of black flight. One where rappers make their money in the hood and then flee (money in hand) far away from the hood; never to look back or give back.
One could argue that Diddy was the first hip-hop artist to go bubble gum since the shiny suit man was among the first to launch spin-off companies and brand himself as more suburban than urban. Diddy paved the way for artists like 50 Cent to play both ends of the demographic and socioeconomic spectrum in hopes that the two ends would never meet in the middle.
Today, Diddy has appointed himself the king of all celebration. Meanwhile, Jay-Z is being interviewed by Oprah for her network’s Master Class series and standing side by side with Warren Buffet on the cover of Forbes.
50 Cent may still be playing it safe and offering up drivel to his fans in order to satisfy his street cred quota, but many hip-hop artists have abandoned that notion altogether.
The proxy for a hip-hop artist’s credibility – once the urban street – is now Wall Street. It used to be that true G’s on the block were a rapper’s judge and jury and if, according to the true gangsters, a rapper wasn’t “keepin’ it real”, the rapper’s career was dead. Now these same gangsters are quickly dismissed as haters if they challenge an artist’s bona fides.
This is a pivotal crossroads for the hip-hop genre: On the one hand, rappers can enjoy more freedom now that their album sales aren’t predominately dependent on the consent of backward urban dwellers whose primary focus is on brandishing luxury items and satisfying primal impulses – the demonstration of which is stuntin’ and womanizing. Conversely, acceptance amongst more mainstream listeners expands the artistic license and entrepreneurial marketplace of an artist. In other words, crossover has its privileges.
On the other hand, if hip-hop artists aren’t accountable to the poor communities which inspired their lyrics, then who are they accountable to? And if artists don’t give a voice to the poor, then who will?
What is the consequence of hip-hop being saturated with 21st century rappers who came from the streets, but aren’t accountable to the streets? Today, hip-hop artists belong to their brand, not their fans. And their brands are beholden to the fluctuations of the market, not the ghetto.
To me, this is a scary proposition which affords hip-hop artists carte blanche over the genre and leaves fans out in the cold. And I say this not because I’m a fan of many of the “keep it real” bobble heads who’ve appointed themselves the true arbiters of hip-hop. It’s just that I don’t like the new owners. I would gladly take bobble heads over Manhattan marketing executives any day. It was the aloof and detached brand executives who disappointed us with the Pepsi Superbowl commercial which portrayed black women as angry and in dire need of medication.
It would be more beneficial for the hip-hop community as a whole to allow for a more accommodating definition of street cred than to abandon the notion altogether. This is because there is a danger and a contradiction in allowing hip-hop, which has for so long been the voice of the oppressed, to be completely managed from a corporate perspective.
Authenticity has value. And that value was once the currency on which hip-hop artists and fans traded. But, if we allow artists to forgo their commitment to street cred, then we are blessing their future betrayals. And no matter how you paint it, that’s not a good look.
Yvette Carnell is a former Capitol Hill Staffer turned political blogger. She currently publishes two blogs, Spatterblog.com and GoGirlGuide.com.
We are all quite aware of President Obama’s call for greater U.S. innovation and entrepreneurship as demonstrated in his recent State Of The Union Address. And it was certainly not lost on the hip hop generation that President Obama’s “we do big things”, when referring to American ingenuity, was a direct sample from the everyday language used by urban millennials.
But while the President’s use of that term may be familiar, the steps to actually becoming one of these business innovators that Obama would so much like to see, may not be quite so accessible. In fact, I get the feeling that much of Black GenY demographic is still shaking their heads in terms of figuring out just how the President expects today’s young people of color to take the entrepreneurial bull by the horns, particularly when it comes to an area where there is so much potential opportunity: the digital industry.
While many writers and critics have chided young, digitally savvy Blacks for partaking too little in the “creator” realm rather than remaining quietly in “consumer” role, I’m not sure it’s just that cut-and-dry. In fact, I believe there are a number of potential innovators in this area who are poised to “do big things” provided they could get a bit of insight and move through some statistical hurdle jumping.
But no one ever seems to provide consistent dialogue and support in any meaningful, pedestrian way that could touch and economically empower tens of thousands of us. So let me break down a few elements, at least a bit.
If you look at the game as it currently stands, there are some really interesting dynamics to play with today. First, we completely out-index in terms of mobile phone monthly expenditures, mobile phone feature usage, smartphone ownership and social media frequency over the mainstream. Tech savvy, at least on the user-end, is all ours.
On the entrepreneurial end, the U.S. Census Bureau just released stats this week that show that from 2002 to 2007, the number of black-owned businesses actually increased by 60.5 percent to 1.9 million, more than triple the national rate of 18.0 percent. These businesses are not just businesses in name; they’re making money too. Over the same period, receipts generated by black-owned businesses increased 55.1 percent to $137.5 billion.
But somehow there seems to be a disconnect, to date, about actually starting businesses in the digital arena. For those who do/have tried to step out, stats show that it may not be that easy even with the technical prowess. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that private investment research firm CB Insights recently reported that only African-Americans represent only 1% of venture backed founders nationally (an absolutely horrible figure), and I’m just not sure how many youths of color have an Eduardo Saverin to their Mark Zuckerberg: a peer with chips to fund and believe in your idea, a la “The Social Network” if you can’t go the venture route.
But we do know that hip hop is, at its core, entrepreneurial in nature; so this may lead to more significant movement in the years ahead. The ability to take nothing and making something out of it has been demonstrated by Black people time in time again. In fact, there is already the interesting though not terribly innovative on-line video business models cropping up. Low-cost in nature to launch, these businesses simply serve as YouTube filters, with the occasional exclusive video footage, that speaks to a younger, edgier demo. There are a few other interesting digital business ventures bubbling up as well, but I think we’ve barely scratched the surface in regard to combining our culture, tech savvy and entrepreneurial paydays.
Hip-hop artists continue to break records when it comes to business dealings. Although it’s no longer a rare occurrence to see a rapper land a multi-million dollar endorsement deal, it’s still fascinating to see how well these brandmakers have infiltrated the mainstream and have become the go-to sources to help hawk and sell products. Not to mention, rappers have become an inspiration for African-American entrepreneurship, having become owners of their music and business offshoots like fashion labels. Here’s a list of some of the biggest deals that have helped to enrich the bank accounts of the biggest names in the rap game.
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson boldly thanked Vitamin Water during a televised performance a few years ago. That’s probably because his deal with the company turned into one of the biggest in hip hop history. In May 2007, Coca-Cola bought Vitamin Water for $4.1 billion. Timing is everything, as 50 cent had recently bought into the bottled water company. After the sale, business experts estimated his take from that sale, after taxes, was about $100 million.