FROM POVERTY TO A US$16B INDUSTRY . . . Fifty amazing years of hip hop

NEW YORK. Signs of the influence of hip hop are everywhere from Pharrell Williams, who became creative director of menswear at Louis Vuitton to multi-million dollar brands like hearing aids Beats by Dr. Dre.

Then, there is Sean John of diddy and Rocawear from Jay Z.

Everything was very different at the beginning.

The musical genre germinated 50 years ago as an escape from poverty and violence in one of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in New York, the Bronx, where few wanted to invest in their businesses or their people. 

Out of that adversity blossomed an authentic style of expression, connecting with the city’s underserved Black and Latino teens and young adults, seeping into graffiti, dance and fashion.

As hip hop spread through New York, so did its culture. 

“Hip hop is about more than just the music,” said C. Keith Harrison, professor and founding director of the University of Central Florida’s Hip Hop Business, Innovation and Creative Industries Certification Programme. 

“Hip hop always knew, as Nipsey Hussle would say, how to get things done, so it always had to have innovative business models.”

That spirit of innovation has helped propel hip hop past initial resistance from big business to align with the genre and become the most popular music form in America since 2017. 

The impact of hip hop on the music industry in US$16 billion and beyond is so widespread now that experts say it becomes hard to quantify.

Author Zack O’Malley Greenberg estimates that the five richest artists in hip hop were worth almost four billion dollars in 2022 by themselves. 

It wasn’t an idle boast when Jay-Z rapped on DJ Khaled’s hit from last year God Did, “How many billionaires can come from the cradle of Hov? I count three: Me, Ye and Rih, Bron is a Roc boy, so four, technically.”

 Jay-Z aka Hov, Rihanna and NBA star LeBron James are all on the world’s list of billionaires Forbes of 2023, though Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, was dropped from the list after his controversial split from Adidas.

Hip hop artists have achieved that level of success because they are so much more than their music. 

They are taste-makers and trendsetters in lifestyle-defining products, from fashion to high-end champagne. AP.

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