By Charles Glover, Jr.
Hip Hop is a global phenomenon that has become profitable in a myriad of ways to give an example of how monumental the culture really is. While Hip Hop music continues to be dissected and scrutinized for its content and imagery, remnants of Hip Hop can be recognized in more places than ever. Moguls like Puffy, 50 Cent, and Jay-Z deserve praise for the business mode and financial growth they show. As Hip Hop celebrates 40 years of existence, it is clear that the momentum generated by the genre’s pioneers is sustained by those who continue to embrace and expand on their vision.
In terms of Hip Hop pioneers, Russell Simmons stands out because his vision to spread Hip Hop to multiple audiences established a model that is still in use today. Simmons had the foresight to create the movie Krush Groove which showed what he went through in establishing his record label, Def Jam while developing opportunities for his brother, Rev Run of Run DMC. Simmons also helped with the explosion of black comedy on television with his Def Comedy Jam series.
Simmons’ exploits became a blueprint for others within Hip Hop to recognize that the music was just the beginning of the connection Hip Hop would make to audiences around the world. Simmons started his own clothing line, Phat Farm, as he continued to grow his empire. Simmons, who is also an author, said n a recent interview, “When you have a voice, you use it, if you can…So, as a person who runs a company, I’ve been to the Congress to promote a law, you know?”
As Hip Hop culture spread to the big and small screen, so did its artists. LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Ice Cube, MC Lyte, Busta Rhymes, Lauryn Hill, Eminem, Rza, Method Man and Redman were among some of the many Hip Hop artists that had acting roles throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s. With varying levels of excellence, they showed that the ability to connect to an audience extended beyond having a microphone in their hands. In fact, Ice-T and Will Smith became so accomplished as actors that some forget about their contributions to Hip Hop music.
The growth of Hip Hop culture has been beneficial to many within the music industry throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s. As the music began to be accepted in more places, the producers of the music began to rise to prominence. There were a number of producers who started music labels and grew their own brand. The appreciation for the music created opportunities for many associated with Hip Hop to develop a better business sense to protect their work, names, and brand.
Puffy formed Bad Boy Records, Jermaine Dupri formed So-So Def, Master P formed No Limit Records, and Birdman formed Cash Money Records. These were just a few of the lucrative labels that were responsible for some of the biggest Hip Hop hits in the 90’s and 2000’s. The success these entrepreneurs had allowed for them to have more control of their rights within the music industry and have control over who would work with them. The aforementioned label owners signed and promote local artists who might not have been accepted at other record labels.
In addition to starting labels, it also became common for producers to become recording artists. Pharrell Williams, Missy Elliott, and Kanye West are three of the most successful producers to make the transition to artist. They acknowledge the challenge that comes with their success. Their success laid the ground work for current artists to recognize the broad range a person can have within the music industry. Current artists have adapted and used current technology to produce music and videos as they have learned the value of having as much control over their careers as possible.
“When I create something, it’s gotta be special and it can’t just be to throw something out there because I feel like I’m Missy…I gotta feel like what I’m giving the fans is 100 percent and that it’s game-changing,” Elliott said in an interview.
With Hip Hop becoming such a profitable brand, other genres of music were willing to blend with it. R&B became the most frequent collaborator with Hip Hop as producers like Teddy Riley and Dr. Dre helped lead a R&B/Hip Hop blend of music that ascended to the top of the charts throughout the 90’s and 00’s. Some of the top-selling R&B artists of the 90’s like Brandy, Monica, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly, Usher and TLC, openly embraced Hip Hop and became forever associated with the genre.
Today, Hip Hop stars have learned from their predecessors and are recognized for multiple achievements. Hip Hop moguls created clothing lines such as Sean “Puffy” Combs’ Sean John’, Jay-Z’s Roc-a-wear, Wu-Tang Clan’s Wu-Wear, and 50 Cent’s G-Unit Clothing. Drake was known as an actor before becoming a top-selling artist. Nicki Minaj became a judge on the popular music talent show, American Idol, while continuing her music career. Other artists have used YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms to grow their audiences and maintain viability in a complicated music industry.
“All we’re really doing is continuing to sell the idea that you [fans] can liberate yourself. You don’t have to follow someone else’s blueprint to be successful,” Williams said.
Dr. Dre’s recent $3.2 billion deal with Apple to sell his Beats By Dre brand of headphones and speakers is a sign of the continued influence of Hip Hop. The music will always be scrutinized as it continues to be the prevailing vehicle for musicians to express their thoughts about observations that are not always fun to deal with. Positive and negative images and messages within the music are no different in this genre than what is seen on television or in the movies. However, Hip Hop culture has grown in immeasurable ways, making multi-millionaires out of numerous young men and women who were just trying to find a way to express themselves.
Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Puffy, and Simmons are among the biggest names in American History because of their influence on business and entertainment, not just Hip Hop. They have set an example for others to learn from in terms of building on artistic talent to expand into business ventures. As President Barack Obama eloquently stated, “Hip Hop is not just a mirror of what is, it should also be a reflection of what can be.” –OnPointPress.net–
Charles Glover, Jr. is a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.