New Generation of Wealthy Hip-Hop Artists


Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

Whenever someone is the first to reach an historic milestone in the world of finance and wealth, notable homage is usually paid to that achievement. Such is the case with Dr. Dre, hip-hop icon and entertainment industry mogul. Dr. Dre has now emerged as the first hip-hop billionaire. Apple recently announced that it is in the process of buying Beats Electronics, a headphone company owned by Dr. Dre, for $3.2 billion. According to Forbes, this acquisition by Apple is the largest buy in the company’s history.

Andre “Dr. Dre” Romelle Young was born in 1965 in the heart of Compton, California. Today, at the age of 49, Dr. Dre is one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in the African American community. As a strong innovator, creator, music producer and hip-hop cultural genius, Dr. Dre is well known for being both a hard and smart worker. Yet, Dr. Dre represents an evolving new generation of hip-hop wealth-builders and business leaders.

Too often music producers and others in the entertainment industry, and in particular within hip-hop, are respected solely for their creativity or performance qualities. But Dr. Dre, Jay Z, Sean P. Diddy Combs, 50 cent, Queen Latifa, Russell Simmons and others who have been molded inside the crucible of urban hip-hop across America are becoming increasingly viewed as effective business leaders. This generation of hip-hop millionaires and billionaires will have the opportunity to help strengthen the economic status of African Americans and others who have been kept away from the center of wealth in the United States.

Apple is one of the most financially successful companies in the world. Sources close to Dr. Dre and his business partner Jimmy Iovine say that Dre and Iovine are also set to become executives in Apple as a consequence of the purchase. The convergence of high tech companies such as Apple and hip-hop oriented companies like Beats sheds light on the future expansion of Silicon Valley companies into the music and cultural arts arena. Thus, in the future, it is likely that there will be increased mergers and acquisitions involving other hip-hop related companies and Silicon Valley.

Studies by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) with the Nielsen Company have shown that African Americans are big spenders and primarily are consumers in the U.S. economy to the annual tune of more than $1 trillion. The pivotal significance of a Dr. Dre or a Jay Z is that there are now many more opportunities for young African Americans to move from the consumer sector to the productive sector of the economy.

Hip-hop is no longer just an American phenomenon. Hip-hop is global. The hip-hop business owners, artists, producers and musicians know that the market today is international. Going forward, while an artist might not produce a hit record, there is the possibility that the artist will instead produce a hot product. Key to the development and distribution of any product is to have knowledge and understanding of your target demographics and what the market trends are for the product. We have no shortage of creativity and innovation in our communities, especially among our young women and men.

The news about Dr. Dre becoming a billionaire should serve as inspiration for others to aspire. Of course hip-hop is not without its critics. There are some who see no redeeming value to hip-hop music, lyrics and imagery. The inspirational aspect of hip-hop culture, however, is important to a generation of young people that society attempts to discard and undervalue.

I salute Dr. Dre and all those who have similar aspirations and a strong work ethic to achieve career success. We must value the creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit that is prevalent in the lives of so many of the youth who reside in our communities across the nation. Dr. Dre is the first billionaire within hip-hop culture, but he will not be the last. There are more grinding and preparing themselves to follow Dre’s example.

Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is president of Education Online Services Corporation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and can be reached at: