Business

Hip-Hop Stars with Investment Portfolios

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What do hip-hop stars Diddy (formerly Puff Daddy and P. Diddy), Fifty Cent, and OutKast's Big Boi have in common besides top-selling records? Investment portfolios.

ED GORDON, host:

From NPR News, this is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Ed Gordon.

From the days of Madame C.J. Walker, black entrepreneurs have struggled and succeeded in often hostile environments. In a moment, we'll be joined by the Reverend Jesse Jackson to talk about the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's Wall Street Project, which aims to bring more African-Americans into business.

But first, a look at a generation that hasn't gone the traditional route to big business. NPR's Farai Chideya takes a look at hip-hop entrepreneurs.

FARAI CHIDEYA reporting:

What do these artists have in common? 50 Cent...

(Soundbite of song)

50 CENT (Hip-hop Artist): (Rapping) I'll take you to the candy shop, I'll let you...

CHIDEYA: ...Diddy...

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. SEAN "P. DIDDY" COMBS (Hip-hop Artist): (Rapping) Yo, I'm internationally known on the microphone...

CHIDEYA: ...and Big Boi of Outkast?

(Soundbite of song)

OUTKAST: (Singing) Hey ya...

CHIDEYA: All of them are not only hip-hop artists but entrepreneurs who've invested in businesses as far-flung as sports beverages and dog kennels. New media consultant Theda Sanderford(ph) sees the number of hip-hop brands continue to grow.

Ms. THEDA SANDERFORD (Consultant): Some of the things that hip-hop artists are diversifying into include beverages such as 50 Cent's investment into vitamin water, which is something he personally drinks and he--on the road, he requests it backstage. And then of course clothing lines, Russell's very famously with Baby Phat, Diddy of course, Sean John, Nelly with Apple Bottoms, just about everyone seems to have a clothing line nowadays.

CHIDEYA: Is the point of these businesses vanity or money or both?

Ms. SANDERFORD: Both. Rather than going and branding some other brand--look at Timberland, look at Tommy Hilfiger--you can make the money from it. Some of these clothing lines can make anywhere from, you know, 90 to over 300 million a year. I mean, they're very, very lucrative.

CHIDEYA: And then there are musicians who expand their artistic repertoire and benefit commercially.

(Soundbite of song)

LUDACRIS: (Rapping) ...Going nowhere, so don't try me. My music sticks in...

CHIDEYA: Ludacris' role in the critically acclaimed movie "Crash" has helped him broaden his business options. Ludacris' label, Disturbing the Peace, is run by Shaka Zulu.

Mr. SHAKA ZULU: It gives us a different fan base, a different market, different options. He loves sports. When we go to basketball games, I work out deals with venues and basketball teams to not only promote our music but to promote our film. So we use it all, you know, in kind of like a circular way to benefit all of the ventures that we're in.

CHIDEYA: Of course there's a different model: big companies partnering with rappers. New York Times writer Jeff Leeds did a recent piece on Hewlett-Packard's hip-hop marketing with Sean "Diddy" Combs.

Mr. JEFF LEEDS (The New York Times): These companies don't have the sharpest insights into how to really reach that market through music. And on the other side, you've got these recording artists and record companies who are facing really a difficult climate.

CHIDEYA: So they team up, like in one of those prison break movies.

Mr. LEEDS: You've got the youth market spending, you know, $175 billion a year on all kinds of new products. Obviously, that's a market you just can't ignore.

CHIDEYA: Media consultant Sanderford sees a generational shift. The civil rights generation aspired to break into white corporate America. The hip-hop generation wants to run the show.

Ms. SANDERFORD: Kind of that generation of entitlement that believes that if I have a nickel, I can turn that into a dollar. It's about taking your passions, investing into it, and finding other like-minded people to buy into it as well.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: (Rapping) I feel it get meaner and meaner each time, man.

CHIDEYA: Farai Chideya, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Man: (Rapping) Feeling real good, too. What up, Uncle (unintelligible)? I'm a bulletin industry, man...

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