Musicians have been known to have some of the strongest voices in the way of change. Hip-hop artists in particular are putting their money where their mouth is. With a small amount of research we discovered a whole world of investments, businesses and brands rappers have stored in their pockets.
The average hip-hop artist earns anywhere from $70,000 to $9,000,000 per year (performlife, 2021), and with that said the uncertainty of the industry leads to plan B’s, C’s and even D’s. The constant call out culture means that any artist can lose all they have in a flash and rappers have learnt their lesson from the likes of 50 Cent and Trick Daddy. Legal battles, debts and overspending are the main cause of musicians ‘falling off’..’ In a split second all can be lost but with the help of several investments, businesses and brands hip-hop artists have evolved into gaining certainty and stability.
Most artists' main source of income is from shows, label deals and royalties off their music. Over the last 20 years this has changed dramatically, we’ve seen more industry heroes investing their courtesy cash in currencies and companies.
Despite hip-hops stereotyped troubled history of violence and corruption, most make it out financially alive. 50 Cent’s well publicised story of $3.5million worth of depth and bankruptcy came to no surprise but his grind and build-up were a little shocking. He blamed his troubled and dishonest past and the rapper built new foundations, investments and partnerships. His current share in Vitamin Water is now worth over $30million. However, some didn’t revive as well as 50 cent. 90s rapper Trick Daddy is famous for his constant filing for bankruptcy. His three times going broke has ultimately killed his career and he’s fallen towards the bottom of the food chain with a small net-worth of only $100,000. Small losses like this are just a minor ripple within the industry.
Well known names like Rick Ross are broadening profits. In January 2021 the Maybach Music founder expanded his investment portfolio from fast food establishments to health and fitness business including Florida based startup Jetdot. And according to Forbes, his $1million investment was in consequence of his own health. He explained that “the fact that I’ve had a seizure — And I’ve woken up from being unconscious on the toilet before. And I never even spoke on this before, but, I suffered from seizures for a long time.” Personally, benefiting investments are a common pattern for hip-hop artists.
Yet it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Most start selling mix-tapes on the streets and much like Jay-Z - the economical skills started there. According to Forbes, the rapper is now worth well into the billions and Jay-Z's investments started with his music. Now his portfolio is extensive, from clothing to food there’s not much the popular hip-hop star doesn’t have his hands on. His motivation is the future. His investments are impactful not only on a personal level but for generations and communities. The foundations and opportunities he creates are the reason he invests. His investments are particularly passionate towards black communities and those in need. His music even speaks direct issues of homlessness and battling financial restraint. “The Story of O.J,” discusses being black, broke and bound, and Jay-Z's music advises on investments in art, property and local economies. And without a doubt his influence alone has already embedded deep foundations for following generations and current communities.
One of the first hip-hop artists to invest beyond music was the iconic Dr. Dre. His ideas were his investments in Beats By Dre and undoubtedly it paid off, he’s now one of the richest men in Hip-hop and has an empire worth over $770 million alongside a vast property portfolio. Dre proved to the industry that there is a gap for music and musicians to make profit aside from easy merch, record labels and royalties. Yet this idea that musicians are only worth what they make is completely outdated. Yeezy and Kanye West are model examples of hip-hop breaking financial boundaries. Yes Kanye had to fight, intern and prove himself into the fashion industry but he proved that music and income has little to no boundaries.
His partnership with Adidas is rumored to be worth around $1.3billion. But for Kanye, money wasn’t his motivation. He recalls doodling his dream shoes as an escape into the world of fashion. Despite Yeezy’s hypebeast reputation, Kanye’s end goal is to make the shoe affordable, accessible and available to all. He wants the shoe to be a staple in the industry not for its style but for its regularity and honesty with the customer. His motivation is giving back rather than getting. This is partially why Yeezy took a loss in sales during 2018, the supply overwhelmed the demand much like Kanye wanted and the shoe was on the shelf readily available at retail price. His motivation comes after a childhood of inequality and struggle living in Chicago's South Side.
Kanye’s giving back attitude has spread across the globe. UK rapper Stormzy gave back to the local community and fueled opportunities. His £500,000 scholarships are open to students from BAME backgrounds and aim to aid more disadvantaged young children into further education. This not only has ensured equality in higher ranked universities but opened possibilities to students with talent who would’ve otherwise struggled with the financial requirements of higher education.
And he’s not the only UK rapper to give back to the community. Krept and Konan opened Crepes and Cones, a Croydon based ice-cream and dessert shop. This ultimately gave locals jobs as well as a safe space to enjoy. Not only was this a smart diversifying investment but it also created job opportunities in the local area, keeping the younger generations away from the streets.
Diversifying cash flow is a smart move for hip-hop but why this sudden pattern in the industry's finances? Many want to ensure that if/when their music becomes irrelevant and there’s no longer a basis cash flow that they have several back up plans. 50 Cent’s ambitions and focus on diversifying his financial and investment portfolio rather than his no longer mainstream music is almost the perfect mold for hip-hop artists to follow in order to gain a future of financial security. On the other hand Jay-Z has a clearly spoken ambition that his personal wealth will create generational wealth. He aims to give back and leave room for opportunities. Some hip-hop artists are using their money to build the foundations industries didn’t provide when they were starting their career, in hopes that these foundations will make generational strength. A huge ambition and change for just one industry to be materialising. Hip-hops intentions are pure and without a doubt welcoming investments are creating more opportunities than ever. Whether Stormzys education opportunities or Jay-Z’s future foundations, music's wide influence is seen for miles. Diversifying cash flow is an extremely smart move. Whether artists are investing in crypto currency, opening stores or embracing brand deals the music industry goes beyond singles and albums. The change has caused ripples throughout many industries from fashion to banking and this new era is the basis for artists to come.