“Y’all Can’t Match my Hustle”: Hip Hop’s 5 Best Business Minds

Much of a hip hop artist’s content comes from their realities: past, present, and future. For many, the past includes becoming the King of the corner, and hustling their way to the top of that hierarchy. The present includes the new luxuries of their lives, an upgrade through their business savvy. As hip hop artists grow in importance, the future horizons present images of business mastery. The hustle that helped to create them back then is now helping them retain relevance. Here are 5 artists who are are navigating the business side to hip hop with ease.

Kanye Omari West
Kanye Omari West

5. Kanye West

Kanye West once rapped “You know white people; get money don’t spend it. Or maybe they, get money buy a business. I’d rather buy 80 gold chains and go ig’nant”. Apart from being some of the worst monetary advice to follow, it seems that Kanye has done just that- and it’s only made him more money. Kanye’s business savvy lies in his eccentricities and his connections. It doesn’t matter if you hate him or love him, because you can’t stop talking about him. This means that he doesn’t have to try as hard to stay relevant, because the people do it for him. And when they don’t, his wife does. West is making waves in both the fashion and music world. His Nike deal produced the stunning “Red Octobers“, and his new deal with Adidas brought us the limited edition “Yeezy Boosts“. His allegiance has certainly changed, and he’ll be the first to tell you about the new Adidas reign:

When Kanye isn’t doing clothes, he’s doing music, and is an extremely decorated artist at that. With his own record label, GOOD Music,  he has signed artists like John Legend and Big Sean. He’s not a stranger to award shows either, and his stunts have left him lauded and criticized. The more somber and happy Ye can be found by Kim Kardashian, his wife and social media queen. This partnership shows Ye in some of his most tender moments: footsies with his daughter, and actually smiling while getting an honorary Doctorate. Do you love or hate the guy?!

Curtis James Jackson
Curtis James Jackson

4. 50 Cent

He got “a mill out the deal, and [he’s] still on the grind”. 50 Cent is a true born hustler, and it has only made him a better business man. He rose to fame during the growth of gangsta rap, and released one of hip hop’s most highly praised albums, Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Taking the former route, his heavy success brought him deals on deals, such as his G-Unit clothing line collaboration with Ecko. Even as gangsta rap dwindled in popularity, 50 retained relevance through his hustle. In 2007, Coca Cola bought VitaminWater parent company Glaceau, which 50 had a 5% stake in. He made a cool 200 million, while the company was bought for 4.1 billion dollars. He now has ventures in SM Audio, and SK Energy, an energy drink company. One of his latest ventures is his promotion of Effen Vodka. The conflict of earlier days hasn’t been bred out of him, as he is constantly hash tagging #nopuffyjuice to take Diddy and Ciroc head on. 50’s only inadequacy lies in his social media use- he hashtags every brand that he promotes on every post. When you’re worth 250 million, however, people seem to look past that.

Shawn Carter
Shawn Carter

3. Jay Z

“He’s not a businessman, he’s a business, man”. Jay Z’s hustle has been long and strong, and boy has it been fruitful. From Roc Nation, to clothing lines, to a stake in the Nets, it seems as if the only place Jay Z hasn’t been is on the bottom. He currently owns Armand de Brignac, known as Ace of Spades, a premium champagne line that he acquired from Sovereign brands. His wife runs the world, making them a power couple beyond reason- Beyonce once sang “Of course sometimes some shit goes down when there’s a billion dollars on the elevator”. Coming up from success as a drug dealer, Jay Z is now dealing things like paintings instead. He makes a smooth transition from crack to carats, and has managed to strike deals with companies like HBO to demonstrate how far his tastes have come.  A deal with Samsung helped him sell 1 million albums (Magna Carta Holy Grail) before it even dropped. Both deals have helped to elevate Jay from rapper to artist to icon. The only questionable decision he’s ever made has been purchasing “Tidal”, a music streaming service, which still receives much criticism from fans of free music.

Sean Combs
Sean Combs

2. P. Diddy

From humble beginnings as Puff Daddy, to mogul status as P. Diddy, Sean Combs seems to have it all- especially the magic touch when it comes to making the right business decisions. With an estimated worth of 735 million dollars, he’s the guy you want on your team when you need to make it in the world. Just ask the creators of Ciroc, a premium vodka brand, who were selling 40,000 cases before the arrival of Diddy. Now, Diddy receives half of the brands profits, and has helped Ciroc sell over 2 million cases a year. Diddy has now taken his talents to De Leon tequila, and is on a mission to put Patron out of business. Diddy seems to have a knack for beverages, as he also markets AquaHydrate water. With the way things are going for Diddy, we may just need to change the way we mark time- BD and AD. Before Diddy, and After Diddy.

Andre Romelle Young
Andre Romelle Young

1. Dr. Dre

The one simple thing we need to consider when talking about the best business minds in hiphop is the money. The best business decisions make you exceedingly rich. That is why the number 1 spot on our list goes to none other than hip hop’s first billionaire, Dr. Dre. Dr. Dre is known for his beats- most notably those on The Chronic, and The Chronic 2001. Nowadays, he’s known for “Beats by Dre”, his line of premium headphones. When Apple purchased Beats by Dre for 3 billion dollars, Dr. Dre became the richest man in hiphop. The most interesting thing about Beats is that music experts don’t actually believe that they are impressive headphones. The sound quality is really only great for catching head shaking bass, which is what the people seem to want. Beats are also a status symbol- they can be found around the necks of youth as if they are outfit accessories rather than music accessories. As one of the greatest beat makers of our generation, Dre’s name behind the product further certifies their status as impressive headphones. Dre is straight out of Compton, and straight to the top.

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16 thoughts on ““Y’all Can’t Match my Hustle”: Hip Hop’s 5 Best Business Minds

  1. Loved the title, though I thought Tidal failed more because his marketing message wasn’t clear and what people could garner was that it was in service to a bunch of super wealthy artists “for the artists” was what I remember hearing with Kanye and Madonna speaking, as if they need our help. Don’t mind me, I found the whole thing rather annoying. Great list, definitely included all the right people.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Nick! Tidal is a bit of a tricky subject. We want to enjoy the music of specific artists, but we don’t want to pay them for it. The main idea was that money stayed with the artists, which I think does make sense. It’s hard to see why Tidal should be more beneficial for us as consumers and listeners- can we really tell the difference in sound quality?

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  2. Love the title of this post! I think this was very well written and I liked how you incorporate lines from some of their songs. You definitely nailed the top 5, there are other people who can be in the discussion but I think it would be too hard to knock anyone off of this list. There guys have all been in the game for a long time, what younger people in hip hop do you see making it onto this list one day?

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    1. The thing these rappers have going for them is their longevity- we trust them as artists because of the way they’ve grown. It also makes us more likely to purchase something with their name on it; say a Yeezy Boost instead of a shoe made by Macklemore. We know Yeezus has stuck around, but can’t say the same for Mack (the shoe is real btw).

      Two artists that I considered for the list could be major contenders in the future- Drake and Kendrick Lamar. Drake is a very well marketed act, from the way he stays relevant, to the businesses he partners with. Kendrick wants to use his celebrity for good, as noted by his “Beets don’t Kale my vibe” salad deal. As both artists grow in popularity, we might see them contending with the big guns in the future.

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    1. Funny you ask Amanda- I had a hard time not including Queen Bey on this list. In the end I chose not to because her success comes less from her being business savvy (though the secret album drop was absolutely bomb), and just being, well, Queen Bey. She’s loved because of her talent and performing ability.

      Rap is still very male dominated, which is unfortunate because there are a host of female rappers who are just as good. Nicki Minaj is entering into the game with her Myx Moscato drink as well, and coupled with her talent, may find herself at the top one day. As rap grows in diversity, we’ll see a handful of other females who might have enough stage presence to have a hustler’s presence as well.

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  3. Great post, Bhumika. I was surprised to see P Diddy (or whatever he calls himself now) still making such vast amounts of money! And my goodness, Dr Dre is a billionaire! Well you learn something new every day. And love him or hate him (I know how you feel about this one), Drake will definitely be entering the list sooner rather than later. What about Bieber??? (JOKES). Look forward to reading more of your posts!

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    1. If we all had just a bit of P. Diddy in us, we might all be in a better place. Drake will make it one day, but he’s still proving himself as a rapper, and everyone is trying to figure out if he has GOAT material. Most of the people on my list have already proved that they are well worth the respect and following that they’ve garnered through their business and music!

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  4. Love this post Bhumika!
    All these artiste have truly shown what one can do by having some business-smarts… It’s all good when the hits are pumping out but what are you doing with that money to remain relevant in the years to come. This 5 have truly done that.
    Only thing though… Where ma girls at? I think Nicki is truly holding her own in a such a male dominated space… Probably learning from those around her.

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    1. I wish I could have included dominant females on this list, but business is about money at the end of the day! No one but Beyonce was close enough to making this list, but I think her fame comes from her ability to succeed as a performer rather than her business mind. Nicki is holding it down as a great female rapper, and one day I see her making her way to the top if she can retain her fire.

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  5. Really interesting post! I’ve always found Kanye, Jay Z, and Dr. Dre to be admired not only for their undeniable musical talents but also for their strong business minds. I have to admit I still find it funny that 50 cent was behind Vitamin Water, it just doesn’t seem like a fit, does it?

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    1. Fun fact- Though his raps reference it A LOT, 50 doesn’t actually drink or do drugs. He takes a lot of care of his body, so it might actually be the PERFECT fit!

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  6. I find hip hop more than other Genre’s of music diversify their income. Clothing lines, Alcohol, Sports teams, music-backed products, etc… Other musicians do it as well but it seems more noticeable in the Hip Hop world.

    Interestingly enough most of these Hip Hop Artists you listed have been slowly shifting away from music. Dre, 50, and P. Diddy don’t seem to be making as much music as they used to.

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    1. I think they start to diversify their incomes when they leave the height of the rap game. When your rapping isn’t hot, you change your hustle. The aesthetic appeal however runs with their popularity- G-Unit clothing was popular when 50 Cent’s music was popular…now? Not so much. Hip hop has is a hot bed for luxury, so it’s easy to see how to piggy back off of success in this field.

      PS. Don’t ever tell anyone that Dre isn’t making as much music as he used too…we’re still waiting on Detox to drop. He’s probably too rich to care now anyway haha.

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