Wednesday, November 11, 2015


The Business of Hip Hop
Contributing Correspondent: Sista Afrika Porter

Diddy, Nelly and Jigga has made hundreds of millions from the business of hip hop

"When did you first fall in LOVE with Hip Hop?" I know you all remember this classic line from the award winning film starring Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Mos Def, Nicole Arie Parker, Boris Kojoe and Queen Latifah. For me, it was a Black cassette tape my older brother Joe brought home. The artist---L.L.Cool J, the song, "Candy!" I wrote Candy on all of myth folders, notebooks, pencils, you name it. That beat, the break, the drop---"I Feel Good.... about Candy!" That hook was everything to me. Soon after Candy, he brought another tape cassette home, the artist---Eric B. and Rahim, the song, "Paid In Full." I learned the whole rap instantly. That beat was so crucial to me. I was in elementary School, 11 years old, growing up in Hyde Park in Chicago. The 70's! My how things have changed from the 70's to now.

Grown out of the crime ridden neighborhood of the South Bronx NYC, very gifted teenagers creatively formed this musical genre composed of the M.C. (EMCEE) (Mistress of Ceremonies), the DJ, the break dancers, the graffiti artist and the fifth element, "KNOWLEDGE" taught to us all to well by the "Teacha" himself, KRS 1 (Chris Parker).

One of the most beautiful yet fascinating attributes of Hip Hop is it attracts all different kinds of people. Just look up a Public Enemy concert. Wu Tang Klan. Even Outlast as well as Chicago's own Common and Kanye. What was your first Hip Hop concert? What did the attendees reflect? Exactly. I remember seeing KRS 1 at the Grand Ball Room. This was in the 80's. Fans and Hip Hop heads came from all over the Midwest. It was mind blowing to see a Black man helming from the East Coast spitting straight Conscious Rap Lyrics for a multiethnic crowd all of whom knew the words and were rapping along. Hip Hop has come a very long way, from artistry to Business....

So it's no surprise in Dan Charnas book, "The Big Payback" The History of the Business of Hip Hop, that took readers from the first $15 made by a rapping Hip Hop DJ in the 1970's, to the multi-million dollars in sales made off of Russell Simmons' Phat Farm, and Jay Z's Roc-A-Wear clothing lines. Today, Hip Hop is a Billion Dollar Industry. Yes. The game is to Be SOLD. Naturally so, Hip Hop artist have an innate entrepreneurial gift and spirit. So many artist including Jay Z and Kane have taken their artistry to another level. A serious BUSINESS level. They have pushed through, pushing music out of the trunks of their cars to making multi millions off platinum records, to building successful brands and businesses. Enterprising you say? From clothing lines to VIP only clubs, we all bared witness to the film "Straight Outta Compton" - produced by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, which earned $60 Million at the box office during its opening weekend. Recorded as America's #1 movie for three consecutive weekends, making it one of the biggest ever August releases to date.

There are more and more rappers turned business men and women creating what we know as the Business of Hip Hop. It's been some years since Dr. Dre and Ice Cube have added blockbuster movie producers to their names. There once was a time when one looked up the richest people of the world and it was names like Ralph Lauren and Oprah Winfrey. Now, Hip Hop artist Rihanna, Outlast, Eminem, P. Diddy, Parnell Williams and Nelly, to name a few are making serious waves towards that list with their fashion lines, automobile and electronic companies; television shows, restaurants, liquor and water beverage brands.

I'm listening to Biggie Smalls song "Juicy" and he has a classic line where he says, "Eemember Rapping' Duke? Duh-ha, duh-ha, You never thought that Hip Hop would take it this far." Many would not have guessed all the businesses that have developed from young creative teenagers in the 1970's. At first glance, one might have found it odd that so many rappers have become entrepreneurs. I believe if one really examines it, Hip Hop artist have certain qualities often overlooked. They are extremely creative. They create words, style, fashion, swagger, and images to SELL themselves to the masses. They're experts in their fields, and experts at making SOMETHING out of absolutely NOTHING. I recall watching Hip Hop artist, actor, producer, entrepreneur Ludacris interviewed on Jimmy Kimmel Live. He told Jimmy his story and how he came up. He mentioned how he was into recycling before it was a word. He said "The Chicken grease was always reused and reused." "Milk cartons, they were used for rubber band collections, pens etch.."

We all know Chicago's very own, Kanye West, like him or love him, he's a business man. This Gemini started out as a producer turned Hip Hop artist and is now a household name owning his own record label (G.O.O.D. Music), a fashion label. He's collaborated with A.P.C., Adidas, Louis Vuitton, he's launched a women's clothing label, (D W Kanye) - he's sold over 21 Million albums and has won 21 Grammys and he is part owner of Jay Z's streaming service, Tidal, and has a 130 Million Dollar Fortune.

So, yes, there is a corporate take over of Hip Hop. It has been for decades. Hip Hop has come a long way. The infusion of the internet revolution, iTunes and social networking... constant downloads? Artist are no longer pigeon held to labels, they do business on their own terms and have investors and endorsements waiting for them to sign on the dotted line. The days of artist receiving an advancement, getting paid for concerts and merchandise are far gone. Artists are communicating with their public, fans, other artist via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many other social means, furthering their brand all the way to the bank.

From the Sugar Hill Gang, "Rappers Delight" of the 1970's, the first Big Hip Hop Song, to the top Hip Hop artist of today, I'll ask you again, "When did you first fall in love with Hip Hop?'

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