The Top 8 Reasons Why Rappers Make Better Businessmen…


Think hip-hop's dead? Think again: it’s the 3rd largest genre - ahead of pop, and behind rock and country. And, it accounts for more than 1 out of every 10 dollars spent on recorded music, according to the latest S&P Media and Entertainment report (double that if you count Urban/R&B). The monetary staying power of this genre simply cannot be ignored, but why? Take a few lessons from the adolescent of major musical genres…

1. Guest Appearances Make 1+1=3…

One of rap’s best-selling albums of 2010 – Drake’s Thank Me Later – has more cameos than a Tarantino film. Guest appearances are one of the greatest positive feedback loops in music, not to mention an unparalleled artist development pathway that no other genre has fully taken advantage of.


Take a look there are no less than seven platinum-selling artists and one developing artist – Nicki Minaj – on this album. Marketing literature calls this "brand alliances," and for two well-established artists, this is an easy way to share fans and cross-sell content. For a developing act, pairing with a big rapper is arguably more effective than an expensive and risky traditional radio campaign.

2. DJs are the Ultimate Tastemakers…

DJs play several roles in the rap and hip-hop community. Most importantly, they bundle tracks and release mixtapes for free. But mixtapes don't take the place of studio albums and shouldn't be viewed as a threat to full-length albums. Instead, most people listen to mixtapes the same way people read magazines or newspapers.

And, DJs are great filters that can act as very influential tastemakers – almost the way that traditional radio jockeys did in the past (just look what DJ Khaled did for Rick Ross). Best of all, most mixtapes are viral and lead to more mixtapes. Free doesn’t hurt either.

3. Recording Processes Are Modularized…

Traditional artists pair with a producer, head to a mountain retreat, and come back with 12-15 songs. Oh, and release an album every two years. Not rappers. Lil Wayne records every night on his tour bus, and rappers can pick from a large and liquid market for instrumentals from the end of the tail (20dollarbeats.com) to rock star producers (J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League). And 12-15 songs? Rappers can spit that out in a month.

4. Hood Support Pays…

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You can hardly listen to a hip-hop song without hearing mentions of different cities, streets, and neighborhoods. But this is more than just hometown pride: active local music communities provide a basis for support and competitive musical invention, and a hyper-local connection with fans. That generates a level of fan ownership and engagement that isn’t replicated in rock or pop.

5. Greed is Good (and Encouraged)…

The willingness of fans, artists and the media to embrace the inherent materialism in rap and hip-hop has obvious benefits. Forays into brand partnerships, merchandising, miscellaneous joint ventures and sponsorships are accepted by fans and generate money to keep funding new artists and material.

6. Hip-Hop Is Oozing With Culture…

When you listen to a Drake track, you hear lines from a T.I. track that has lines from a Lil Wayne track that has lines from a Jay-Z track. No one's copying here, but the analogies and references keep the culture and body of content alive. This sort of interconnectivity goes far beyond "I can hear a Radiohead influence in Muse…" Instead, listeners feel “privy” to the idiom and part of a community.

7. Remember These Psychological Power-Levers…

A large corpus of the rap and hip-hop genre can be boiled down to a small number of very simple themes, all of which evoke emotions tied to purchase behavior. The first is the struggle to overcome poverty, often intertwined with equally powerful and romanticized themes of violence and drugs.

And, sex. In the same way that Budweiser sells beer with images of men drinking Bud and pulling gorgeous women, hip-hop promises the fulfillment of sexual desires in a manner more explicit and emotionally poignant than any Bud ad.

…and, drumroll...

8. Fans Are Continuously Engaged

Rap's level of fan engagement has never been seen before in the music industry. Hip-hop artists produce copious amounts of music that is distributed by third parties, labels, brands and online properties. Look at allhiphop.com, and the artists that release the largest number of free tracks are overwhelmingly the highest selling artists.

Lil Wayne made this statement very loudly in 2008. After an insanely productive 24 months of guest appearances and free material (he gave away an amount of material for free that traditional artists don’t typically produce in their entire career), Wayne released an album that sold over a million copies in its first week. He was first artist to reach that feat in years.

The lessons from this genre are clear, but best summarized by this last item – taking advantage of reduced production costs by releasing more material, more often has enormous benefits in this highly attention-deficit driven online world.