In the song ‘Express Yourself’, off of the 1988 ‘Straight Outta Compton’ album, Dr. Dre said, “It’s crazy to see people be what society wants them to be, but not me”. Dr. Dre proved himself to be authentic when he spit that verse because he’s now not only made Hip-Hop history but he’s made NATIONAL history as well. Andre Young, most commonly known as Dr. Dre, has accomplished something that most entrepreneurs never accomplish: he’s sold his company for over a billion dollars. Yes, that’s nine zeroes. The sale of ‘Beats Electronics’ and ‘Beats Music’ has joined the ranks of ‘Oculus Rift’ and ‘WhatsApp’. The ‘Beats’ deal not only signals a moment in history for Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, it also signals a transformation within Hip-Hop; one that has been in effect for a while now.
The ‘Apple’ acquisition of ‘Beats Electronics’ and ‘Beats Music’ was only just finalized and formally announced on May 28th, 2014, but it has had weeks of anticipation, excitement, and commentary behind it. As soon as the rumors of this deal were leaked, there were several articles written; speculating about the terms of the deal and ownership percentages involved. Meanwhile, there were celebrations all over social media celebrating the “fact” that Dr. Dre had become Hip-Hop’s first billionaire. While, technically, Dr. Dre won’t be getting a billion dollars from the deal – I can understand the excitement over an individual from the Hip-Hop culture selling his company for over a billion dollars. Hey, when I was a college sophomore, I went to the club to celebrate Obama’s 2008 election (so I can relate). But let’s talk business for a second. The thing that made ‘Beats’ such a valuable acquisition for ‘Apple’ was the cultural impact that it has made. The “cool” factor of ‘Beats Electronics’ is undeniable. In this day and age of constant innovation, the “big boys” are constantly seeking any advantage possible in order to stay relevant and maintain their market share. This is the reason why we are seeing so many multi-million and multi-billion dollar acquisitions being made. Hip-Hop is a cultural force and the rapidly changing trends of culture, often dictated by Hip Hop, provide the perfect medium for many companies looking to stay relevant. Simply put, Hip-Hop has buying and selling power. Like Hit-Boy said, “We the Plug”!
Maybe it’s the transparency of social media, but I believe that we are witnessing a cultural shift within Hip-Hop of the likes that has never been seen. I believe we are seeing a high level shift from empty boasts and imaginations about riches to tangible and practical entrepreneurial endeavors. I believe Jay Z said it best when he compared “the truth in my verses” to other rappers’ “metaphors about what your net worth is”. We’ve all heard those metaphors, i.e. “I got so much money that I can buy the bank”. Those metaphors sound good, but uhh…do you really? That might be fun to say sometimes, it IS art and entertainment, but I believe that Hip-Hop has gotten to a point where many people, fans and artists alike, are tired of the same old thing; they want the truth and they want reality. For one, people are tired of the lies that society has sold them about a college degree and a guaranteed job; how much more from the music they listen to? People want the truth; they want the truth not only in their own lives but from their music and their culture. I believe that Dr. Dre’s deal is just another power move in the effort of Hip-Hop citizens to find their own truths. The ‘Beats’ acquisition is just another deal in a line of big deals that we have seen and will continue to see. From the expansion of Jay Z’s ‘Roc Nation’ empire into athlete representation and movie production to Doctor Combs’ ownership of a television network; we are seeing entrepreneurial endeavors that are not only significant in Hip Hop but are significant in America, period. We are seeing individuals within Hip Hop take ownership of their brands and businesses in a way that we have never seen before. We are also seeing young moguls in the making from Nipsey Hussle to Karen Civil to Lecrae Moore to Chris Zarou. For all the criticism that Hip Hop gets, there is much to be applauded and learned. We’re seeing real business minds being cultivated and business strategies employed. It is becoming common knowledge that you MUST do things differently in order to succeed and profit within the music business. Throw away those old business models, there are no rules; welcome to the Wild, Wild West (word to Will Smith).
In conclusion, I believe that Hip Hop has slowly been waking up to the fact that we’re more than just entertainers; we are human beings and children of the Most High. We can walk and chew gum at the same time; you feel me? We have more to offer the world than just music and entertainment; we have gifts, talents, abilities, and innate business acumen with which we can impact the world and affect social and industrial change. As the stars within Hip Hop wake up to this reality and begin to communicate it to their listeners, we’ll see the fans and audience take on this same mindset that “hey, I’m more than just a fan, I’m more than just a spectator; I can do big things too” and then maybe we can all get these student loans paid off. I’m out.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elijah Adefope is a law student at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, Georgia. He is also an Associate at ‘Walker and Associates’, an Entertainment Law Firm in Atlanta, Georgia. He can be found at @ElijahAdefope or www.walkerandassoc.com. You may also direct any business inquires to his email at [email protected]