It’s not just good for the company; it’s good for the culture

words by

Kristin Smith

December 05, 2023

culture hack

It’s not just good for the company; it’s good for the culture

Ownership and Equity in Hip Hop

When hip-hop legend Dr. Dre sold Beats Electronics to Apple for a reported $3 billion on May 28, 2014, he pocketed a reported $400 million, making Dre the wealthiest hip-hop artist in the world at the time. The title was later surpassed by Jay Z in 2019. Whether moves were made publicly or in silence, the growing business acumen of hip-hop artists has evolved into a bigger conversation surrounding ownership and equity.

When Dre sold beats, Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.I.Am said, “It’s not just good for the company; it’s good for the culture ... kids in inner cities not only dream about being athletes and musicians, but now entrepreneurs, and bringers of new, disruptive, cool lifestyle products.” As hip hop artists expand their sights beyond the genre, and build a legacy that transcends their music catalog, in what ways does it influence the way artists leverage their assets, and how does it translate into modern hip-hop culture?

Recently, hip hop producer Swizz Beatz spoke out on his and fellow producer Timabaland’s decision to sell Verzuz, their popular livestream music platform. Last year, they reached a settlement with Triller, the app’s parent company, in the amount of $28 million after suing for breach of contract. As a result, the ownership stake for participating Verzuz artists that were part of the pair’s original deal was also increased, providing 43 artists with equity, giving back to the artists that helped build their brand. Timbaland said: “Nobody’s ever done that when it comes to Black business and really teaching our culture.”

Whether artists are making a way for other artists or for their own brand beyond hip hop, it’s becoming the norm to expect more from the brands that want a piece of what you own and have created. Jay Z has said that “Hip-hop from the beginning has always been aspirational. It always broke that notion that an artist can’t think about money as well”, a lesson that is being unlearned by hip-hop artists and the culture alike. While artists navigate record deals and brand partnerships, they’re learning their value beyond the bars, and have come to expect fair compensation for their contributions to the culture. To quote Snoop Dogg “I want some equity. Give me a piece of the pie. If I can’t get no equity, [f***] you and your company.”

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