The hip-hop industry is one that’s chock full of business-minded heads who’ve managed to transform it into a global powerhouse. A keen business sense is the secret ingredient to longevity in this industry: here are 13 hip-hop artists who’ve got that aspect down to a science.
1. Snoop DoggSource:Getty
The DO-Double-G just announced that his venture capital firm Casa Verde invested in a startup called Eaze, which is like an “Uber for weed.” But his business acumen existed long before that. Along with Casa Verde, he’s got endorsements with G Pen, TomTom Navigation, Skullcrusher headphones, and even his own line of slippers.
2. Jean GraeSource:Getty
Jean Greasy is one of the many independent artists who essentially sells herself. Along with her music, she’s released an audiobook, featured as a guest actress on the CBS sitcom ‘2 Broke Girls,’ and is currently writing, directing, and starring in her own online sitcom ‘Life With Jeanie.’
3. Russell SimmonsSource:Getty
The mogul who started it all, Simmons is one person we can thank for the existence of Def Jam. He also founded Phat Farm, Arguyleculture, and American Classics.
4. Kanye WestSource:Getty
From ‘The College Dropout’ onward, Kanye’s been pushing his brand with no limit. From founding the G.O.O.D. Music record label to breaking into fashion and even attempting to start his own airline, ‘Ye’s got business on his mind at all times.
5. Freddie GibbsSource:Getty
Gangsta Gibbs had been grinding on the mixtape game for years before breaking it big with his collaboration album ‘Piñata’ with underground producer extraordinaire Madlib. Before that, Gibbs founded his own record label, ESGN under the Empire Distribution imprint, through which he dropped his 2012 mixtape, ‘Baby Face Killa.’
“Ridin'” was one of the biggest hits of the 2000s, but it’s not the only thing the Houston-based rapper has on his plate. He founded the label Chamilitary Entertainment, the car customization company Fly Rydes, and the modeling agency Masterpiece Mind Frame. No wonder he’s been so quiet on the music front.
7. 50 CentSource:Getty
50’s hands are in many different business soups, it turns out. Aside from turning G-Unit into a successful clothing line, 50 also received a big payout as a shareholder in Vitamin Water when Coca-Cola bought the company. He a line of Magic Stick condoms (really), his own body spray, two video games and a platinum-mining business with billionaire Patrice Motsepe. No fooling.
8. Chance the RapperSource:Getty
Perhaps more than any other hip-hop artist today, Chance has turned himself into a business. The 22-year-old Chicago MC has developed a fanatical fan base, a hot and profitable line of clothing and merchandise, after-school programs in his hometown and a live band called The Social Experiment that sells out shows across the country―all without having sold a single record or signing to any label.
Jay is yet another hip-hop powerhouse who’s killing it with clothing (Rocawear), music (former president of Def Jam Recordings, co-founded Roc-A-Fella Records, launched streaming service Tidal, founded Roc Nation and The 40/40 Club), sports (former New Jersey Nets stakeholde, founder of Roc Nation sports and a certified sports agent), and alcohol (owns part of Armand de Brignac, also known as Ace of Spades).
10. Tyler, The CreatorSource:Getty
Tyler’s been selling Golf Wang for as long as he’s been around. The Odd Future frontman built his entire empire from the ground up. He founded Odd Future Records under Sony, moves merchandise like nobody’s business and just recently started his own app.
11. Nicki MinajSource:Getty
Nicki Minaj was the first woman to ever be featured in the Hip-Hop Cash Kings section of ‘Forbes.’ With various endorsements (Nokia, Pepsi, MAC Cosmetics, K-Mart, Mattel, Adidas, Beats), makeup and fragrance lines and her Tidal co-ownership (on top of her chart-topping record sales), it’s easy to see why.
12. Dr. DreSource:Getty
Dre started out producing for the World Class Wreckin’ Cru and later N.W.A., but he didn’t stop there. He’s produced for hip-hop artists across generational lines from Tupac to Eminem to Kendrick Lamar and had endorsements with Dr. Pepper, Coors Light and Chrysler. Don’t forget Beats, his line of headphones and speakers that he just recently sold to Apple for a cool $3 billion.