Hip-Hop Preneurs

A new breed of hungry hip-hop artist are using hit records as a stepping-stone from the recording studio to the boardroom

Miller says.

“With Tenneco, I look at it as a great investment because it’s obviously something everybody needs,” says Miller. “We’re right off the interstate at a rest area, so it’s accessible. There’s less manual work involved because we have computerized pumps installed. And it’s a 24-hour operation, so it’s always making money.” Miller is projecting revenues at his Tenneco station of $1.5 million by year’s end.
The Athlete’s Foot outlet, which will be located in a mall currently under construction, is expected to be open early next year. Among the other shoes and clothing the store carries will be–you guessed it-’Bout It apparel, Miller’s own clothing line. “I feel like if you’re really an entrepreneur, you should buy a business every chance or opportunity you get,” he says. “Not to the point where you spread yourself thin, but where you can control all of your interests. That’s what helps you grow.”

Nelson George, a former Billboard editor and longtime music critic, notes the growing number of artists trying their hand at entrepreneurship. He says the movement really dates back to figures like Simmons and filmmaker Spike Lee. “They became very big entrepreneurial role models with the success of businesses like Def Jam and 40 Acres, and they both became multi-media. Spike had his books and clothing store. Russell had Def Comedy Jam and his own clothing line,” says George. “These are the people who originally took the idea of having success in one particular medium and then flowing into different arenas.”
With the storied successes, it’s still an arena laden with pitfalls. And the challenge is even greater for artists with little or no business experience. James Walker, an attorney with the Hartford, Connecticut-based entertainment law firm Robinson & Cole, says the hazard most artists face is entrusting family or friends with little business expertise to manage their affairs. “These ventures typically fail because artists often have a friend they grew up with or someone in their inner circle running things,” he says. “The key is to surround yourself with professionals who understand how business works and not entertainment groupies.”

Miami-based rapper/entrepreneur Luther Campbell knows all about that mistake. He gained a fortune and worldwide notoriety in the late ’80s as the lead bad boy of 2 Live Crew. His risque 1989 album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, sparked a national debate over censorship while lining Campbell’s pockets with millions. With his wealth, Campbell created his own production company, Luke Records, and opened several nightclubs in Hialeah and Miami Beach. He also had a construction company, Luke Development. Published reports placed Campbell’s assets at $11 million in 1989.

But by 1994, Campbell had filed for bankruptcy following a legal suit over royalties due to another artist. Campbell, however, blames most of his financial troubles on trusting the wrong individuals with his money.
“The trap I fell into was hiring all my boys and people I grew up with who I thought I could trust to handle my affairs,” Campbell says. “You get into situations

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