(Hi Francesco, another interesting blog about the relationship between rap music, branding and luxury! I removed a few grammar mistakes. I would suggest you change the top, and the headline, going with something more direct about rap singers, product lifecycles, and brand extensions, somehow tying it to luxury. Something like, “For a lesson on brand extensions, rap music leads the way” or something. … )
Have you ever thought of being a worldwide known rapper? Have you ever asked yourself what could be done after your music career?
Well, this is a one-million-dollar question.
The answer, of course, is not unique.
Many of them have just vanished into the dark and progressively lost their fan base, others have found a way to relaunch themselves in a way, if possible, is even more profitable.
The lifecycle of a singer, in this case a rapper, has just the same lifecycle of a product.
In the very first part of their lifetime they have to struggle a lot trying to get famous. Someone make it. Some others not. The Introduction.
As soon as they get some positive feedback they start to be known in their cities and they can try to go to the next step. The Growth.
At a certain point of their career, if they are lucky enough, they reach the peak of it. The Maturity.
This point seems to be the best point ever and many of them think that this moment will last forever. Nothing worse.
The best moment of a career is the exact moment in which starts the last part of it. The Decline.
At this point they all have a chance but a decision has to be taken immediately.
They can either decide to keep doing what they are doing thinking that they have already a solid business launched or they can decide to diversify their portfolio. The Product Extension.
Which decision would you take?
The answer is not that obvious but, of course, the smartest one is the second one. Diversify the portfolio!
I don’t really know why rappers did more than what other singers did but probably it is linked to the path they have followed to reach success.
In fact, most of the rappers have a sort of innate capability of being able to do business. Either legal or not.
In the following part of this blog post I will present you few examples of rappers that have been able to reinvent themselves and to avoid the decline step of their career and to relaunch their bank account jumping into other businesses.
I would like to sort these examples using a growing pyramid starting from the one with the smallest estimated patrimony to the biggest.
Probably you don’t even know that few of them have started their careers rapping or are still rapping.
Will Smith (estimated personal fortune $200 million)
William Carrol Smith Jr. was born in 1968 in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania, US) and started his brilliant career as a rapper under the name of “The Fresh Prince” singing in the Hip Hop duo called “DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince” in 1985. His career was going pretty good and their songs “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and “Summertime” were played around the country. They reached the peak of their music career with the winning of the Grammy Award in the “Rap” category in 1988. Thanks to this award Will Smith gained a lot of notoriety and earned a lot of money. In 1988 and 1989 he spent a lot of money purchasing cars, houses and shiny products but underpaid his income taxes. For this reason US Internal Revenue Service assessed a $2.8 million tax debt against him, took many of his possessions and garnished his income.
He was nearly going on bankrupt when the turning point of his life appeared.
In 1990 the television network NBC signed him and built the sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” around him.
This sitcom was so successful that is considered the starting point of his acting career.
After this, he started acting and became what he is today and so one of the most important actors on the movie scene.
He is more famous as an actor than as a rapper and in his filmography we can see a lot of cult movies such as “Bad Boys” (1995), “Men in Black” (1997), “Ali” (2001), “I, Robot” (2004), “The pursuit of Happiness” (2006), “I Am Legend” (2007).
Did you know he was a rapper?
Jay Z (estimated personal fortune $610 million)
Shawn Corey Carter, mainly known by his stage name Jay Z, was born in Brooklyn (New York, US) in 1969. He is still a rapper and, even more, he has been able to sell more than 100 million records making him one of the best-selling musicians of all time. He has won during his career, which started in 1986, 21 Grammy Awards and has been ranked by MTV the “Greatest MC of all time” in 2006.
Even if his career is not over yet he has been smart enough to have started building his post-music career many years ago diversifying his portfolio in many and different activities.
One he stated:
“…my brands are an extension of me. They’re close to me. It’s not like running GM, where there’s no emotional attachment.”
The very first business activity launched by Mr. Carter was the foundation of his label “Roc-A-Fella Records” in 1995 for which he has released his first album “Reasonable Doubt” (1996).
In 1999, three years after the release of his first album, he decided to launch his clothing line called “Rocawear” in order to be present in the Hip Hop lifestyle scenario of those days. In 2007 the brand Rocawear has been sold for $204 millions.
In 2002 Jay Z jumped into the beauty and cosmetics field investing $10 million into a brand called “Carol’s Daughter” which was a company in trouble but which now grosses $40-50 million a year and provides him a very good amount of money yearly.
In 2003 he decided to launch together with a partner a sports bar named “The 40/40 Club” in New York aiming to reach a wealthy part of the population and not the Average Joe. This club provides American food, live music, celebrity patrons, 5 VIP lounges and plenty of sports memorabilia.
After being one of the biggest endorsers of the champagne “Armand de Brignac”, also known as “Ace Of Spades”, he decided to buy the brand in 2014.
Among all these activities he has also launched several collaborations in different fields with brands such as Reebok, Nokia, Cohiba, GMC, NBA and many more.
For this reasons, probably, once he said:
“I am not a businessman,
I am a business, man!”
More than this I can clearly say that one of his best investments is for sure the marriage with the worldwide music icon Beyoncè in 2008.
Dr. Dre (estimated personal fortune $710 million)
Andre Romelle Young, better known as Dr. Dre, was born in Compton (California, US) in 1965 and started his career as a rapper and producer back in 1984 and he is still performing very well.
Talking about his entrepreneurial mind-set we can say that he started as a co-founder of the famous “Death Row Records” being one of the artists of it and producing albums for many well-known artists such as 2Pac and Snoop Dogg.
He started as a member of the crew “N.W.A.” (Niggaz Wit Attitude) together with Eazy-E, Ice Cube, MC Ren and DJ Yella. His debut solo album “The Chronic” (1992) is still today one of the Hip Hop biggest masterpieces and thanks to the single “Let Me Ride” he won a Grammy Award in 1993.
Being the co-founder of this label was not enough for him, and for this reason he decided to leave “Death Row Records” and to found his own new label, “Aftermath”, in 1996.
With his new label he signed artists such as Eminem and 50 Cent and produced their album and for that he has won 6 Grammy Award including “Producer of the Year”.
All these wonderful awards were not enough for him and decided to make the real money into a business very related to music but without having nothing to do with singing or producing.
In fact in 2008 he released his first brand of headphones, “Beats by Dr. Dre”. He said that being one of the best producers in his field would have helped the development of a pair of headphones in a way that everyone could have to chance of recording and producing in a professional way at a good price.
The company, thanks to the quality of the product and to the marketing campaigns used by Dre, became so popular that Apple decided to buy the brand in 2014 for the incredible price of $3 billions.
So far the best deal made by Mr. Dre.
Puff Daddy (estimated personal fortune $750 million)
Sean John Combs, better known as Puff Daddy, Puffy, P. Diddy or Diddy, was born in Harlem (New York, US) in 1969 and started his career in 1997. Before this moment he has worked as a talent director at “Uptown Records” and then founded his own label “Bad Boy Entertainment” in 1993. His debut album “No Way Out” (1997) has been certified 7 times platinum. He has won during his career 3 Grammy Awards and 2 MTV Video Music Awards.
He has reached his fortune with many non-music-related activities.
In 1998 he has launched his own clothing line called “Sean John” and for this reason he was nominated for the “Council of Fashion Designers of Marica” (CFDA) award for Menswear Designer of the Year in 2000 and won in 2004.
More than this he owned 2 restaurants called “Justin’s”, named after his son. Now they are closed.
He is also the official designer of the Dallas Mavericks alternate jersey.
By the way, his biggest deal has been made in 2007 when Diddy entered the spirit’s business with the purchasing of half of the shares of “Cîroc” vodka which is a luxury brand of vodka that turned out to be very profitable.
He has purchased the clothing line “Enyce” from Liz Claiborne for $20 million in 2008.
He possesses a majority equity stake in “Revolt Tv”, a television network that has also a film production branch. It began broadcasting in 2014.
In 2015 Diddy teamed up with actor Mark Wahlberg and businessman Ronald Burkle to purchase a majority holding in “Aquahydrate”, a calorie-free beverage for athletes.
Due to all these activities, Mr. Puff Daddy is recognized as the richest rapper alive with an estimated personal fortune of $750 million.
These are just some examples of rappers that were really able to avoid the decline of their careers jumping into businesses that probably they would have never thought of being involved into.
Have a dream, follow it, reach it, squeeze it.
Then take the smart decision of finding an alternative path for your life.
Avoid the decline.
Reinvent yourself. Everyday.