By Jaylin Paschal
Rap, like the rest of the world, has long been obsessed with money. Braggadocio and grandeur are cultural traits which have allowed Hip Hop to become a sort of champion of capitalism and consumerism. And just like money, rap makes the world go 'round, as this dollar-obsessed genre has raked in an incomprehensible profit in even just the last year.
But if rap is so focused on the idea of money, why do it appear that rappers are so--generally speaking--bad with money? Financial literacy is the less glamorous side of wealth and riches that is often overlooked and undervalued in urban communities. Part of this is due to the lack of both formal and household education on money management (Read: many in these communities do not and do not ever expect to have much money to manage). But a lot of it is due to a nervy mixture of naivety, composed by feelings of invincibility and excitement.
People who come into "new money" always struggle to get their financial footing. But with Hip Hop, a young genre, there are no "old money" patrons. Meaning that a generation of artists who came from poor neighborhoods, generational trauma or bad circumstances (again, generally speaking), had to learn how to handle money they, and the rest of the world, didn't expect to earn.
Boastfulness was bound to come next for the culture. After all, everyone's favorite rapper is at least slightly cocky. An underlying tone of arrogance is fundamental in Hip Hop.
Perhaps this arrogance becomes a weakness with money, though. There's this idea of "hood richness" that may interfere with building real, lasting wealth. Rappers so focused on securing the bag, or showing off their new-found wealth, that they either don't notice or don't take the time to understand things like bad record deals or mortgage plans they can't afford. I often think about Joe Budden grilling Lil Yachty on the details of his record deal, and feel sick about how little Yachty seemed to know about it.
Master P touched on this in one of his interviews on Solange's critically-acclaimed A Seat At The Table, when he stated that he knew he was worth at least 10x whatever a white man offered him.
But is financial literacy becoming a sexy topic in Hip Hop?
Jay Z's 4:44 would suggest so. "The Story of OJ" is just one track in which Hov stresses the importance and seriousness of economic empowerment within black communities. Throughout the album, he encourages fans to be thoughtful investors and patrons of black businesses. But even this is not done without Hip Hop's trademark brag: "You on the gram holding money to your ear/ There's a disconnect/ We don't call that money over here." But I think the most important money-related sentiment of the album is Jay's abandonment of the "fuck you, pay me" spirit many rappers have. He'll write the checks now.
Diddy's money tips and mogul mindset are also igniting a fire of economic empowerment within fans, and hopefully fellows in the music industry. And Missy Elliott regularly reminds her followers not to "go broke trying to play rich."
So while there are still relatively modern remarks like "Imma spend it all before I die" from Drake. Hopefully a spirit which embodies Jay Z's lyric, "Fuck living rich and dying broke" permeates the mindsets of rappers.
We want all our faves to prosper. The lifestyle of rap is fast and glamorous, but what's more exciting is the idea of a career that could support generations and uplift communities.