Tag Archives: hip-hop

Bun B Advises African America To Get A Larger Worldview When It Comes To Wealth

”Investing should be more like watching paint dry or watching grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas.” – Paul Samuelson

The Walton Family, most notably known as the “owners” or dominant shareholders of Wal-Mart. As of March 31, 2022 they are worth an estimated $234.2 billion or 20 percent of African America’s $1.1 trillion buying power.

In an interview with Brandon Hightower, who is better known as B High and a journalist in Atlanta, on his YouTube channel BHighTV, Bernard Freeman, better known as hip-hop legend Bun B, lays down an immense amount of financial wisdom that he has accumulated over the years. Primarily speaking to up and coming hip-hop artists, the conversation could apply to any room in African America. According to an economic study done by McKinsey, African America continues to be the poorest racial group in America with a median net worth of only $24,000 and yet its financial behavior according to Mr. Freeman reflects anything but that.

Mr. Freeman immediately addresses the issue of ownership versus labor that many may have overlooked in the conversation. Asked about how to navigate the issues of artist feeling like they are being robbed by their labels Freeman says, “Don’t sign to a label. I mean that’s just it. Don’t sign to a label and take the slow road.” When pressed by Hightower of people not wanting to take the slow road, Freeman counters with, “Take the fast and get robbed then. Do you want to be famous or do you want to be rich? Because there is a likeliness that you might not be able to be both in this game. At a certain point you have to decide, do you want to be seen and known and look like you got bread and have everybody assume you got bread? Or do you really want to have bread and have people just assume you broke and not really getting it?” The slow road being an independent label that you own and own the masters and all rights to your music or going with a major label who owns the rights to everything you produce in exchange for a small royalty. Do you want to be the owner or do you want to be the labor? This is a question that is consistently overlooked in our community and institutions. HBCUs love to discuss how many of their students have gotten jobs, but when is the last time you saw an HBCU produce an entrepreneurship report detailing how many of their students started companies, hired other HBCU graduates, brought jobs to their community, wealth creation, and overall economic impact in the community? You do not because we do not have a focus there. Our community too often prides itself on finding a “good” job. Despite this push, our unemployment rate always remains twice the national average. Why? Because there is not nearly enough ownership within the community and therefore the ability to dictate employment, wages, and wealth in our community are always at the hands of others.

After a brief exchange on how the African American community seems to not believe that you can be famous and not be rich and be rich and not be famous, Mr. Freeman ask Mr. Hightower if he knows what the Walton Family (pictured above) looks like to which the latter replies no idea. The irony that members of the Walton family could walk into many Wal-Marts around the country and not be recognized, while controlling one of the world’s largest corporations and being one of the wealthiest families on Earth is not to be lost in this age of social media influencer and the like that more and more see as a path to riches. Again, associating being known with being financially successful. And while a few people listed on the Bloomberg Billionaires’ Index maybe well known, such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, 99 percent of that list could walk into many households and be absolutely unknown. However, one thing they all have in common? 100 percent of them are owners.

Mr. Freeman then says in response to Mr. Hightower asking how do we get kids to see beyond the drug dealers, ballplayers, and rap stars, “You have to give them a broader worldview so they can see what real money look like. Because I tell young people all the time everybody that you looking on TV and on the internet that’s rich, with the exception of a hand full of people, maybe ten people, somebody pay them.” He even goes on to discuss Shaquille O’Neal, who he believes either is close to or already a billionaire, but also states that a large portion of O’Neal’s wealth comes from people paying him, but who they themselves were already billionaires and O’Neal had no idea what they looked like before getting paid by them. We often hear of athlete’s salaries, but rarely if ever think about what the owner’s of these teams make. The NFL for instance, which is one of the worst paying professional sports leagues for players based on salaries and career expectancy, is also the most profitable sports league for owners. It is no coincidence that those two things go hand in hand. As of this article, Deshaun Watson, quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, recently signed to become the highest paid player in NFL history at 5 years, $230 million or $46 million per year. Compare that with Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who last year took home $280.4 million or six times what Deshaun Watson’s contract is. Even more so, Jerry Jones does not have to take one hit owning the team, can own it longer than any player can play, and then can pass it onto his children (as of this article the Dallas Cowboys are valued at $6.5 billion according to Forbes). Deshaun Watson can claim none of those things. Again, labor versus ownership.

This is not to say that Mr. Freeman is against having fun and enjoying your money as he points out discussing the trend of people who count money on the internet as a form of showing off. But he also follows it with, “Jay-Z is getting richer and richer and he is wearing less and less s**t that looks rich. And you keep going into these rooms with these people trying to look like money. No, you have to sound like money, think like money.” He points out that you will do little to impress Jeff Bezos or Warren Buffett walking into a meeting with them wearing a $4-5 million watch, number 2 and 5 on Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index and worth a combined $400 billion or 36 percent of African America’s buying power. One could argue that you may even turn them off by spending so lavishly. Spending $5 million on a watch versus leveraging that $5 million into $25 million worth of real estate and $2.5 million in annual income from that real estate looks like someone who is not really interested in building generational wealth. Especially for African America when every single dollar is going to count for families, communities, and institutions. In 2019, African Americans accounted for 13.2 percent of the population, but a heartbreaking 23.8 percent of poverty according to the U.S. Census.

“Wealthy does not have to prove to anybody that they are wealthy”, says Mr. Freeman in closing out the show’s segment. And to that point, the lack of wealth in our community and institutions continues to induce behavior that screams of lack. Unfortunately, wealth is not going to be generated by a job or even by starting a business per se. Wealth and power is generated by the building of an institutional ecosystem that is connected and circulates intellectual, social, economic, and political capital within it. African American banks having enough deposits to lend to an HBCU who wants to build a new research facility. An African American venture capital fund setting up and office at an HBCU to fund the next great idea in renewable energy. An HBCU alumni association putting money into an African American community to help ensure the K-12 system is providing the best education with the latest technology. Then all of those moments working together in unison. That is when we will see wealth and then power become not a scarcity in our community but a norm.

To watch the full interview segment, click below or go to http://www.bhightv.com.

Hip-Hop, Philanthropy, & HBCUs – An Interview With Mississippi’s Own Young Malice & CHMA’s Jarrett Carter

It is often talked about the close relationship of HBCUs and hip-hop in the past. During the late 80s and 90s it was not uncommon to see hip-hop artist sporting HBCU gear. However, that time period seems like a distant memory and with the donation by Dr. Dre to the University of Southern California coupled with an editorial response by Dr. Walter Kimbrough of Dillard University essentially pointing out that if the $35 million he donated had been evenly spread across all 100 plus HBCUs it would have made a prodigious institutional impact. So what is the relationship of HBCUs and African American hip-hop artist today? Can a relationship be forged to raise much-needed funds and awareness? We sat down with two influential minds of hip-hop and philanthropy to get their thoughts on creating a more mutually beneficial relationship for HBCUs: Young Malice, a Jackson, Mississippi native, hip-hop artist, entrepreneur, and avid HBCU supporter. Jarrett Carter, executive director of the Center for HBCU Media Advocacy and owner of Carter Media Enterprises. We probed their thoughts on where we go from here.

We are sure both of you in some way or another heard, read, or talked about the Dr. Dre donation to the University of Southern California, which many in the HBCU community were not happy with it. What were your thoughts on the donation?

Young Malice: I heard about the donation and I think that a man’s earnings and what he chooses to do with them are HIS/HER business. He obviously had a reason, whatever that reason maybe and why he chose to give such a large amount to an institute, which is already one of the wealthier in the nation. There’s more to it than what meets the eye though, I can guarantee THAT. Headphone sales must be going well for Dre huh?! *laughs*

Jarrett Carter: It was disappointing, but not because he gave the money to a predominantly white college near where he grew up and lives; but disappointing in that we thought Dr. Dre somehow betrayed the HBCU community. I don’t know how many development officers have reached out to Dr. Dre or other rappers, athletes or actors, but the truth is that we have to reach out to young wealthy African Americans as our first and best targets for financial support. Many of these individuals have some connection to an HBCU – a relative or a friend, chances are, have been at or graduated from an HBCU. Being black is no longer a qualifier for attending or supporting an HBCU, and we would be wise to recognize this reality, expeditiously.

Do you believe there is disconnect between African American hip-hop artist and HBCUs? If there is disconnect, what could be done to fix it? If not, what could be done to strengthen the relationship? 

Young Malice: Well, there’s definitely a disconnect but like most problems in life we encounter it can be FIXED. As an artist, I’m forced to be capable of placing myself in another’s shoes and seeing ALL angles and not just my own view on things. With this being the case, I can understand why this “disconnect” between HBCUs and hip hop artists exists. I think that the HBCUs within our nation have worked so hard to shed this negative image, which has plagued us as black people for SO LONG that when anything or anyone does not conform to the standards that have been implemented they tend to be shunned. It’s deeply rooted and it will take a lot of work to understand and meet at a “common ground”.

Jarrett Carter: Absolutely. I think somewhere between controversial lyrics and the typical Ivory Tower arrogance mixed with the cultural obligation to “show others how to do better,” we totally ignored and ostracized hip-hop from HBCU culture. Which is particularly weird, since we have no problem inviting some of the more profane and controversial artists to campus to help sell homecoming concert tickets. The quickest way to build relationships with hip-hop is by genuinely drawing upon their skills and interests within the campus environment. How do you standout from others in the effort to be signed? (Career development) How do you market a product to vastly different audiences? (Personal branding) How do you stay grounded while financing so many people to manage your career? (Community empowerment) There are so many lessons to be learned from young sisters and brothers in the hip-hop community, if only we didn’t see ourselves as better or more enlightened then they are.

Some believe that hip-hop artist love HBCUs from a distance because the majority of the fans that buy the music are not African American and therefore do not want to alienate them. Do you believe this to be the case? Or misunderstanding?

Young Malice: Maybe some artists feel like they won’t be accepted by HBCUs and then again, maybe some desire no acceptance at all. I can recall many instances that shows that were booked at predominantly black colleges were canceled at the last minute mysteriously. It’s because certain artists represent EVERYTHING that the HBCUs are AGAINST…and that’s just the truth of the matter…period. It’s deeper than records sales and fans. End of the day, you just ARE who you ARE. I love my HBCUs from up close, never at a distance…but the relationships need work.

As someone who grew up in Mississippi you have a ground view of the history between HBCUs and TWIs in the state. The discrepancy between Alcorn State, Jackson State, and Mississippi Valley State (combined endowments of $23 million) versus Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Southern Mississippi (combined endowments of $876 million) is overwhelming. It is hard to imagine institutional reparations being given by the Mississippi legislature but do you believe it is worth pursuing to even the field? Or do you see other ways HBCUs could even the resource playing field allowing them to effectively compete?

Young Malice: There won’t be any reparations. I have no complaints about growing up in Mississippi, because this place taught me so much. People will do whatever you LET them do and that’s my view on it. The HBCUs here have withstood the test of time, kept their dignity and class…even in the midst of blatant underfunding and being overlooked time and time again. Each one of those historically black colleges you named previously has something VERY special about them! I’ve visited them all and each has it’s own unique feel. You can feel the LOVE…and that’s something that money CAN’T buy. We know why the bigger colleges get the bigger funding. It’s not a hidden injustice, especially in Mississippi. The agenda is CLEAR and in your face. Time to come together – HBCUs and the hip-hop community…it’s bigger than US!

There are some who would say that because some of the negativity in the mainstream media about the images of hip-hop at times as violent and misogynistic that HBCU leaderships tend to prefer to not view these artist as potential donors or partners despite the potential impact it could have institutionally. Would you say that is an accurate statement?

Jarrett Carter: I think that is accurate, but if it is accurate, have HBCUs as the hubs of academic and cultural development reached out to these artists to give them new perspective on their artistry? Have we given them opportunities to travel, exposure to scholarly works and cultural information that helps them to grow?

Aside from the obvious financial support what are some ways that you believe hip-hop artist and the genre could best serve HBCUs philanthropically?

Jarrett Carter: I believe that before money, hip-hop artists could be some of our greatest and most influential brand ambassadors. By just wearing hats and t-shirts, or namedropping campuses in their songs, or consistently promoting their time spent on HBCU campuses, we could engage a totally new generation of HBCU enthusiasts across racial and economic lines.

What advice would you give to hip-hop donors new to the world of philanthropy?

Jarrett Carter: I would encourage hip-hop artists and executives to be open to hearing from HBCUs about opportunities for visiting lecture, specific opportunities to fund programmatic projects and initiatives, and to avail themselves to students working to enter fields of study in the performing arts – theater, opera, jazz, etc – thereby making themselves benefactors of historic and culturally important Black art forms.

In 2012, Forbes reported the top 20 earners in hip-hop pulled in an estimated $415 million in earnings and possibly hundreds of millions more by artist who choose to keep their earnings more private. All 100 plus HBCU endowments combined have combined endowments of only an estimated $2 billion with some HBCUs having no endowment at all. What do you envision being a win-win relationship between hip-hop and HBCUs that could see some of these earnings finding their way to HBCUs?

 Young Malice: I would say EMBRACE the hip-hop community or just try to embrace the elements of the culture that you are most comfortable with. Some artists tend to be a bit more extreme than others but then again so are some actors. If you wouldn’t turn Denzel Washington or Samuel L. Jackson away from your doors, then try to understand that most artists are just attempting to paint a picture…just so happens to be that it’s through your stereo. If the MONEY is good enough to be embraced, then the individual should be also. In my opinion – EMBRACE the hip-hop community with open arms – don’t be so quick to “judge”.

Jarrett Carter: In my mind, a mutually beneficial opportunity for HBCUs and hip-hop is if rappers are recording and publishing music from HBCU campuses with shared publishing and distribution rights. That students are involved in every step of a produced project – from A&R, to production, to marketing, to distribution. This ensures that the artist can build individual wealth, and that the schools can build endowments and scholarship opportunities.

In closing, both of you grew up as the rise of hip-hop was taking place. What was your favorite hip-hop memory as it related to an HBCU?

Young Malice: My favorite moments will be when I rock the HBCU crowds around the nation!

Jarrett Carter: The legend of Jay Z being scheduled to perform at Morgan’s homecoming concert in 1996, showing up late, and upon arriving, saying into the microphone, “I’m not coming out until ya’ll pay me my f*cking money.”

Thank you to Mr. Young Malice and Mr. Jarrett Carter for participating in this interview.