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

of $500,000 are being made for 1998.

“We’ve been very fortunate with our longevity. And in the rap industry where there’s a lot of money, we have the opportunities to open businesses and do things with our money, and not just flash and buy cars,” says Deidra. “It should be about putting some money away and starting something of your own, so you won’t be dependent on other people.”

So what does Russell Simmons think of the movement he’s helped to create? Ironically, he’s skeptical of artists attempting to move too far away from their core music business to focus heavily on business enterprises. “It’s hard for any artist to be more than an artist and be very successful,” says Simmons. “If you want to put your artistry on the back seat, that’s one thing, but you can find someone better than you to run your clothing company. You can’t find someone to do your music.”

Says Vernon Slaughter, an entertainment attorney with Atlanta-based Katz, Smith & Cohen: “The number one task for these artists is having a basic understanding of business principles. Although a lot of these kids are often very smart, they are still inexperienced in basic business principles.”

Slaughter, whose firm represents a host of hip-hop artists including Bobby Brown and Michael Bivins, TLC’s Lisa Lopez and Tionne Watkins, and rappers Too Short and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, says artists venturing into entrepreneurship should reach out to experienced business figures. “You really have to learn how to build a team around you of qualified individuals. And the qualifications have to be more than they share the same last name as you or because that’s your boy,” he says. “That’s not a dilemma that’s specific to hip-hop or even race specific. It’s a dilemma all small businesses have to deal with.”

Adds Slaughter: “The most successful of these ventures will be the ones that marry the enthusiasm and creativity of hip-hop with the wisdom and experience of those that understand the business sector.”

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