Ten years ago Damon Dash was an upcoming mega mogul. His artist Jay-Z had just dropped the album, Hard Knock life, which would go on to sell 4 million records. He would organize the Hard Knock Life tour which would become one of the biggest grossing Hip Hop tours of all time and launch Roc-A-Wear clothing, which would become one of the hottest fashion labels. The sky was the limit.
Dash would come to represent the unapologetic materialism of Hip Hop, epitomized by the video for Big Pimpin where he poured Chrystal on bikini clad models on a yacht to Trinidad. Dash and Jay-Z would bring materialism to a new level, gold chains were no longer good enough, now you needed platinum, it wasn’t cool to drink Hennesy anymore, now you needed Chrystal, Polo clothes? Nope you needed Versace now, that 50,00 dollar Mercedes you had, not poppin, you needed a Bentley.
Hip Hop had become a vessel for arrogant opulence, a way for people who had grown up with nothing to show off their hard earned wares. Hip Hop became influenced by the flossy gangstas such as Frank Lucas, AZ and Alpo who had to spend their dirty money someway and decided on using it to turn themselves into walking billboards for expensive European clothing companies.
Today Dash is being evicted from his house because he owes 7.3 million dollars in mortgage payments, which begs the question; where did all the money go? He can’t even make the $700 payments. According to the Daily News, A bank wants his Tribeca condos, the city is seizing his SUV and his lawyer dropped him for not paying his legal bills. As recently as 2004, Dash was claiming that he was earning 200 million annually.
Hip Hop has never been financially responsible. In 1990, Will Smith declared bankruptcy and wound up owing the IRS 2.8 million dollars. MC Hammer also managed to squander 30 million dollars he made and wound up being 14 million dollars in debt.
What lead to Smith and Hammer’s debt? Outlandish vacations, huge houses and large entourages. Luckily, after his bankruptcy Will Smith was offered a role in a new NBC sitcom and was able to vastly out earn the money he made as a rapper by turning into a movie star. Hammer was not as lucky and had to fight bankruptcy for years before joining the cast of the “Surreal Life.”
In 1995, TLC also claimed bankruptcy despite selling over 10 million records that year. Jermaine Dupri was another rapper known for his arrogant opulence, who would eventually file for bankruptcy.
These days the number of rappers in debt is at an all time high. Despite selling millions of records in the Nineties, Suge Knight and Death Row records would go bankrupt. Master P’s No Limit Label would also file for bankruptcy. Even today’s top selling, hottest rapper, Lil Wayne owes almost a million in taxes and owes 80,000 for a Bentley he bought. Young Buck had to have 50 Cent pay off his taxes, turning himself into 50’s indentured servant.
Hip Hop’s materialism and lack of fiscal responsibility does not only affect black rappers. Despite negative stereotypes about Jewish people and money, producer Scott Storch has also been a victim of Hip Hop’s lack of regard for taxes or bills. Storch owes half a million dollars in Florida property taxes and has had artwork and his Rolls Royce repossessed.
Why are rappers so bad with money? Is Hip Hop that materialistic where people can buy unnecessary luxury items without worrying about the IRS, their children or their futures?
It’s embarrassing how much money hip hop has wasted in the past 10 years. None of the money was reinvested in the community and most of it went to European luxury goods, cars, clothes and mansions. Fast cars, fast women, lavish houses, entourages and expensive liquor were the death of Hip Hop. Rappers also set a bad example for kids who were trying to be like them, outspending their means.
Record labels need to have mandatory Finance classes for rappers,. It’s a shame how much money hip hop has wasted. Money that could’ve bought real estate, businesses and been used to rebuild communities.
I guess it’s cool to have a Bentley, Rolex, and Italian luxury clothes but it’s not cool to pay your taxes and bills. It’s cooler to show something off than to actually own it. The bling bling era is over. Try watching an old episode of MTV Cribs, I bet you that rapper doesn’t live there anymore.