Mo’ Money, Mo Investments
Too legit to quit
When MC Hammer danced his way into pop culture in the early 90s, no one could have predicted the tumultuous rise and fall his career would take. Declaring bankruptcy in 1996 was a powerful opportunity for Hammer to harness his knowledge of the inner workings of the music industry and parlay that into successful tech entrepreneurship. MC Hammer was an early investor in Square and was the first celebrity to comprehend the true power of Twitter’s burgeoning platform in the 00s.
MC Hammer walked so others could run. Plenty of huge names in sports and music have since pivoted into investing, oftentimes out of necessity or interest. Snoop Dogg is a bonafide venture capitalist with his own firm, Casa Verde Capital, and he has a lucrative stake in Reddit. His mobile app was reportedly bringing in a weekly paycheck of $30,000.
Snoop is in good company, joining the likes of 50 Cent, Nas, Jay-Z and Kanye West (to name a few), who are also dynamic investors in the startup tech scene.
Drop it like it’s hot
Like many people starting out in the out of touch music industry, early aughts rapper, Mims, signed a bad contract which secured him only $30,000 from his hit song that earned the record label $18 million. Yikes! But in true ‘ride-or-die’ fashion, Mims refocused his effort and attention on the tech world, which turned out to be much more lucrative than just his hit song. Someone also familiar with switching careers away from music and towards investing is Chamillionaire, the rapper who had the summer smash hit of 2005.
In fact, Chamillionaire stated: “I started going to tech conferences when everybody else was chasing checks as rappers, trying to get on stage…I was thinking, what happens if I break my leg today? What can I do to prevent me going back to the place of being poor? It led me to the world of venture capitalism.” This explains how he’s been able to make millions off of Lyft and Makers Studio, which was acquired by Disney for $500 million in 2014. Not bad for a single Series A investment in 2010!
The world is yours
One of the most prolific investors to emerge from the rap game is undoubtedly Nas. His investment philosophy is well defined and thoughtful: “I love to bet on great people that inspire me and make me think or see things differently.” This attitude is a refreshing twist on the usual venture capital modus operandi of funding interchangeable white guys with mediocre ideas that won’t set the world on fire. One interesting point made by Nas is that successful investments take “time and energy”, more than simply a large check. Nothing happens overnight, especially not successful rap careers and investment portfolios. He understands the profound effect intangibles like “experience, grit, life and motivation” can have on an opportunity and propel it far beyond just a lucrative payday. The true value of investing lies within the realm of impacting the lives and opportunities of others, paying it forward. This impact investing philosophy is paramount to Nas and the team at QueensBridge Venture Partners.
Can’t touch this
The swath of rappers turned tech entrepreneurs offer some crucial insight into how new ideas can flourish when they’re matched with fresh perspectives. MC Hammer saw the distribution potential of Twitter with regards to releasing music and engaging with fans, years before many professional investors could even fathom the possibility. Snoop Dogg’s venture capital firm has investments in the cannabis ecosystem; an industry in which he’s highly recognized!
Not surprisingly, rappers approach investing differently than their traditional VC counterparts and tend to see opportunities in more places. As such, by having the freedom to invest as they choose, rappers have been able to fund startups that inspire them and ultimately make a difference.
However, one important take-away here is that everyone must keep an eye on the future of what’s going to propel them forward financially, as their careers wind down or the world changes around them. Successful investing and lucrative music careers don’t happen overnight; they’re cultivated over many years. But remember, you don’t have to have been an entertainer to be an investor; nor do you have to wait until you’re rich to invest. Start now.