From thugs to moguls

Columnist, Opinions Editor Ralph Cantave

It’s fascinating how a genre of music can help transform drug dealers and gang members to international stars and businessmen.

From its inception, hip-hop was a medium of self expression for young Black artists through rapping, dancing, and djing. It became an art form inspired by jazz, blues and other music forms that preceded it, merging with pop and taking over radio stations globally.

It’s an art form that was once looked down upon, but through the passion of disgruntled and energetic youth, is now over 30 years in existence with no signs of slowing down.

What’s interesting about hip-hop today, is the number of artists who used their talent to become entrepreneurs and investors.

While there is so much that can be said about this genre, it’s important to reflect on the life changing role it played for young men and women who grew up in dire conditions.

There are a number of artists who have stories of poverty, violence, broken families and other social ills, but through their creativity, were able to rise above the conditions they were born into.

Recently the hip-hop community celebrated Jay Z as he entered the billionaire status and it made me think that if he can do it, so can anyone.

Jay Z is a son of the Marcy Projects which he often references in his rhymes. This is a man who sold drugs, shot his own brother and grew up during the crack epidemic. Yet he isn’t defined by that. Jay Z was motivated by a mentor, Jaz-O, who took him on tour and showed him the possibilities in committing himself to music.

Master P is another artist who used hip-hop to become successful despite growing up in the ghetto of New Orleans, and witnessing multiple friends and family members getting locked up or being killed.

Those unfortunate circumstances is what he used to fuel his music career and get his Bachelor’s Degree in business. Master P historically turned down a million dollars and went back to New Orleans with a few hundred dollars in his pockets and built his independent label.

In hip-hop’s earlier days, many artists weren’t getting paid their worth. Record labels pocketed most of the funds artists made, but it was men like Damon Dash and Jay Z, Suge Knight, Master P, Russell Simmonds and Diddy who capitalized off the budding industry.

These rappers leveraged their clout to develop merchandise, endorsement deals and corporate partnerships that showed upcoming stars how to transform their lives.

Because of hip-hop, no longer was it an aspiration to simply make it in life selling drugs, but opportunities to become big in the corporate world opened up.

50 Cent is currently one of the best examples of a thug turned mogul given that he was shot nine times due to a street dispute. It cost him his record deal but before that transpired he took the time to learn from executives and managers.

Today he now holds nine shows under his belt and dominates Sunday night television with the show “Power.”

These examples show us that we shouldn’t give up or shut down our youth because of the troubled life they may live. It was talent, mentorship, discipline and knowledge that made the men listed the moguls we see today. Let’s encourage our black youth to learn about elements that make a mogul through skills and hard-work.