Is Hip Hop Killing the Black Economy?
Nov 27, 2012
Is Hip Hop Killing the Black Economy?

Currently, the Black unemployment rate is 14.3%, almost double the national unemployment rate of 7.9% as of the last release on November 2nd 2012. The unemployment rate is directly linked to the high levels of poverty found in the Black Community in America. It would appear that the only way to reduce the black unemployment rate substantially would be to increase the level of successful black businesses, since the biggest employers of blacks are black owned businesses, with the exception of the Federal government, according to Maggie Anderson, author of “Our Black Year”.



In an October 2012 interview with Stephanie Renee on 900am WURD, Dr. Bernard Anderson, a retired Economics Professor of 39 years at the Wharton School of Business, was breaking down the economic situation in the Black Community.” Cars, Clothes, and Electronics are in high demand in our community, but all of these things decrease in value over time.” Dr. Anderson went on to say, “wealth building activities are not focused on spending, but rather investing, in assets that produce income, increase in value over time or both.”

Black Enterprise magazine featured an article written by Alfred Edmond, Jr. titled “It’s Time to Escape Slavery-Debt”, in its October 2012 edition. In this article he defines Poverty and a Wealth Lifestyles:

Poverty lifestyle: Spending more money than you make—mostly on perishable goods and high-priced, low-value, depreciating assets (examples: entertainment, clothes, cars)—and borrowing, paying interest and fees (usually via credit cards) to cover the difference.

Wealth lifestyle: Spending less than you make and saving the difference, investing in sensibly priced, diversified, appreciating assets (examples: stocks, mutual funds, real estate, bonds, business ownership), earning interest, appreciation, profits and dividends in the process.


According to Dr. Anderson and Alfred Edmonds, Jr, it would appear that a large segment of the Black community is engaged in living a Poverty lifestyle.

After reviewing a study conducted by Nielsen & the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), titled, “African-American Consumers: Still Vital, Still Growing (2012)”, I discovered, that the total income of African Americans is approximately, $700 Billion annually and the average annual household income was $47,290. That’s a lot of money…


See below for more African American Spending facts for the 1st Quarter of 2012:

  • 54% own smartphones (21 million African American own cell phone)
  • $27 Billion on Automobiles ($1000 Avg  per African American)
  • $23 Billion on Fast Food ($590 Avg. per African American)
  • $22 Billion on Movies ($564 Avg.  per African American)
  • $16 Billion on Cellphone service ($410 Avg. African American)


After hearing Dr. Anderson, reading Alfred Edmonds article and reviewing the Nielson/NNPA study, I began to reflect on the thousands of Hip Hop Lyrics that I have listened to and recited over the years. While, doing this a light bulb went off - many of these lyrics reflect a poverty lifestyle.

Hip Hop which started out in the park of so called ghetto slums, in America’s Black community, is currently the soundtrack for many middle age and young African Americans. This musical art form and culture has influenced pop Culture in America and around the world.  RUN-DMC said, “My Addidas…” and everybody grabbed a pair of Shell-top Addidas.  P-Diddy has everybody drinking the once unknown Circoc vodka, which now sells out entire warehouses on a regular basis. Jay-Z told all the guys who were 30 plus to stop wearing sports jerseys and to start wearing button up dress shirts -- Guess what, all the guys are wearing button ups.  These are only a few examples of the power of Hip Hop’s spoken word…

Below I have listed a few Hip Hop verses that illustrate Hip Hop’s poverty mindset.

  • When I die bury me inside the Gucci store. When I die bury me inside the Louie store - Birthday Song (2 Chainz)

  • Money coming, money going, ain’t like you could take it with you – Pop That (Drake)

  • See my watch is like…damn, my ears beggin’ for attention/ A Quarter Mill around my neck, in case I forgot to mention

  • Young Money and you know It,  take out ya pocket, and show it, and blow it – Got Money (Lil Wayne & T-Pain)

  • You know white people get money don’t spend it, or maybe get money buy a business, I rather buy 80 gold chains and go iggnant – Clique (Kanye West)

The above lyrics reflect the Lifestyles of the Poor and Obscure.  Sadly this lifestyle perpetuates a cycle of economic disenfranchisement in the Black Community. Many of these rap songs are promoting the lifestyle that Dr. Anderson and Alfred Edmonds are warning against. Cars, Clothes and Jewelry have always been a mainstay in hip hop lyrics. Due to the conditions that are present in the Black community and the lack of financial sophistication of many in our community, these worthless trinkets are placed on pedestals.



Community Voice

Hip Hop has been the hood reporter that the world could rely on, for a blow by blow report of what’s taking place in the streets. What would happen if Rappers provided a little financial vision? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a rapper were able to talk about saving money in their retirement accounts, or in a college savings plan? Or asking why we should continue to spend money with companies that exploit the Black community?


In All fairness, Jay-z did take up an activist stance, in 2006 with his boycott of Cristal, after the Managing Director made some unfavorable remarks about its hip hop customers. This champagne is a favorite among the Rapper crowd. Jay-z has been mentioning this champagne, since his career begin, only to find out, that they didn’t really want Hip Hop/Black money in the first place. However, there are several more companies that could be boycotted, like many Pay Day Loan companies. These companies have a wider reaching impact in the community versus a company that sells $300 bottles of fermented grape juice.


If Jay-z directed his community activism energies into encouraging African Americans to avoid eating fast food and invest that $27billion into buying shares of McDonalds, it would have a positive effect on the communities, heath and financial well-being in a very short time frame.

If we slightly reduced our spending, and directly those funds into savings and investment it would make drastic positive change in the community almost immediately!


Some might say that it is not the responsibility of hip hop artist to teach the community about investing money or spending responsibly.  I say, if Hip Hop can have main stream songs that are superfiscal and self defeating , then Hip Hop can have songs that are about money and investing.