Hip-Hop Artists Give Fans 'Financial 411'


The artists share personal experience; their failures are equally as instructive as their success.

"You know everybody makes mistakes," Detroit rapper Trick Trick said. "I bought all kind of cars, rims, tires. I once had rims on a car that cost more than the car before. I made those kind of mistakes, but not no more. I learned and it's my job as somebody who's been through an experience and learned well from the experience to carry that message on to my younger brothers and sisters."

Hip-Hop Hypocrisy?

The hip-hop songs and videos that feature many of these artists are staples on MTV and BET, so aren't they part of what's fueling the materialism the summit is preaching against?

"Well, I believe it influences the youth a lot, especially in the urban areas," said Chauncey White, a 25-year-old preschool teacher and aspiring rapper. "They see the fast money. They see the cars, the rims. They see the girls in the video and they don't understand the business end of the industry."

White says the lure of bling and easy credit hooked him in college.

"When I was 18, I received a couple credit cards. I accepted all of them of course. Activated all of them," he said. "I went to trips to Toronto. I went on trips everywhere. Treating my friends. I went shopping. I didn't know that if you didn't exactly pay this on time, this is going to drop your credit score. You're going to have a problem registering your business. You're not going to get the same tax breaks."

Fresh agrees that hip-hop fuels materialism, "but you know what's funny, honestly, black people always wanted to look good. Honestly speaking. They always wanted nice new sneakers."

With so much bling present in the lives of these very artists, are the artists themselves the right people to teach the message? Simmons believes so.

"The artists are examples of the kind of materialism we have here in America," he said. "Every commercial is designed to make you want something you don't need. The artist, when you see them in person, you learn they were dedicated, focused, hardworking people or they wouldn't be there. That inspires you to be the same."

"Lots of artists have made tremendous mistakes in terms of their first checks and their first successes -- monetary success -- and how they spent the money. And had to go back and start over," he said. "And they've learned their lessons and they teach their lessons. #0133; He's someone that you respect and that you look up to, then he's the very best teacher you could have."

Changing the Hip-Hop Industry 'From the Inside Out'

Simmons has sold the music part of his business. His empire is now divided between philanthropy and sales of luxury goods.

Some see Simmons' business plan as slightly hypocritical, marketing to the very people he is telling to be fiscally responsible.

"My job is to change the industry from the inside out," said Simmons. "I don't think walking away from economic empowerment for young people is a smart choice. I think it's about inspiring young people to own their own business and build a relationship with their communities, instead of only buying products from other companies."

To Simmons, that means encouraging entrepreneurship in the black community.

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