Consumer Rap

I turned on Sirius XM Channel Shade 45 which is Eminem’s station today as I was riding about town and promptly heard this exchange between two DJs and the jest of the conversation went as followed “DJ1: Jay-Z made the Forbes 400 man. That’s big. DJ2: Oh word? DJ1: Yea oh with some guy named Warren BUFFET? DJ2: No Buffett I think. DJ1: Man I thought it was like something you eat.”

Sadly they never got Mr. Buffett’s name right. Nor did they ever correct themselves about Jay-Z. The correction is that Jay-Z is not anywhere near being on the Forbes 400 list of Wealthiest Americans. The price of admission to this list is a net worth of $1 Billion (of which only Oprah Winfrey is the only African-American present). Jay-Z’s net worth as reported by Forbes is somewhere between $150 Million as reported in ’09 and $450 Million as reported in ’10. This despite Forbes reported that Jay-Z only earning $63 Million over the past 12 Months. Forbes methodology for Hip-Hop Cash Kings, which Mr. Carter was ranked number one, includes their investments and such in their earnings and is pre-tax and management fees which usually amounts to 50% of an entertainer or athlete’s earnings. So I’ll let you ponder how or why Forbes turned $31.5 Million into a gain of $300 Million. I have my hunches but alas that’s not really what this article is about because the reality of it at the end of the day Jay-Z is one of the better businessmen that Hip-Hop has ever produced and very well might become a billionaire one day unlike many of his colleagues.

Coming back to the story at hand however. It is not surprising that many everyday people don’t know who Warren Buffett is despite his cult like following of fellow financiers and investors. Considered to be by many the greatest investor of all-time if you’re not in the finance world his name means about as much to most African-Americans as Soul-Glo would mean to a bald person. The coupling of Mr. Buffett and Jay-Z (arguably the greatest rapper of all-time) and what they promote into culture of their communities could not be more polar opposite despite both being very poignant businessmen in their own realm.

Mr. Buffett has made his wealth off frugality and investment. He has also recently (to my dismay) decided to leave the bulk of his fortune upon his demise to the Gates Foundation as part of a promotion for the wealthy to give more of their fortunes to philanthropic causes for humanity. On the very opposite spectrum Mr. Carter who came of age in the bling era has been a part of new rappers that has prided itself on the ability to promote consumerism with songs like “Ballin Remix” by Jim Jones or “Make It Rain” by Fat Joe or as Rick Ross infamously points out on “Speedin” – “I’m worth $15 Million and I’m trying to SPEND it all in one week.” The ability to consume above all and frequently with no wealth is the mantra that Hip-Hop today exudes. This is not to say that rappers don’t have a philanthropic bone in their body. Mr. Carter and others were at the forefront in giving to FEMA (for better or worse) after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. However, unless you dug deep in the annals of Google would be something one would never know and these moments are few and far between.

I tweeted the other day that rappers love to tell us how to spend our very small pennies as African-Americans (we have $0.07 for every $1.00 European Americans have) but they rarely tell us how to make any. They aren’t rapping about investing in stocks, bonds, rental properties, or philanthropy. In fact the only hip-hop artist I’ve ever heard go straight to the point was an artist named NYOIL with a song called “The Investor”. Needless to say this didn’t get the airplay it deserved. Consumer rap prides itself on artist making plugs for clothing, alcohol, basically anything WE don’t own and other anti-wealth behavior for a community that is at the bottom of the wealth totem pole in this country. Given that Latinos are fairly new on the scene and have already surpassed us in wealth has me begging, crying, and screaming for us to change our behavior pattern in terms of wealth. Given that hip-hop is a way of life that way of life clearly needs a makeover and the leadership in hip-hop needs to promote that change. Unfortunately I will not hold my breathe as most artist are simply labor to a company which is predominately owned by men like Mr. Buffett. Just remember that Mr. Carter’s Net Worth is a mere 10% of Mr. Buffett at best depending on which net worth of Forbes’ you choose to use. People may say we expect too much of our athletes & entertainers to be socially conscious. The ghost of Paul Robeson just rolled over in his grave.

Mr. Foster is the Interim Executive Director of HBCU Endowment Foundation, sits on the board of directors at the Center for HBCU Media Advocacy, & CEO of Sechen Imara Solutions, LLC. A former banker & financial analyst who earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics & Finance from Virginia State University as well his master’s degree in Community Development & Urban Planning from Prairie View A&M University. Publishing research on the agriculture economics of food waste as well as writing articles for other African American media outlets.