The 10 Best Rappers to Go Into Business With

Rappers and business suits haven’t always gone together, but to make it in the hip-hop world today you definitely need to have a certain business sense.

Some artists are far ahead of the pack. Who would be the best rapper to have by your side when it comes time to negotiate a contract? From established vets to groundbreaking newcomers, here are ten rappers we’d gladly go into business with.

Jay Z

The man that famously said, “I’m not a businessman I’m a business, man,” is far and away hip-hop’s biggest name when it comes to outside ventures. From street hustles as a youngster, Jay Z’s now better known as the suited-up power investor behind famous brands like Roc Nation, Rocawear, the New Jersey Nets, and more, as well as reclaiming the masters from the early part of his career. There’s only one rapper who’s sat down with multi-billionaire Warren Buffet, and his name is Shawn Carter.

Business Lesson: Don’t be intimidated. If you know your business and you’re serious about it, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have an Ivy League degree and membership to the country club.

Chance The Rapper

At 22, Chance is already proving to be one of the smartest business minds in the industry, CEO of Chance The Rapper LLC. He refused to sign with a label, making money off touring and merchandise sales instead, all fueled by giving music out for free. Collaborations this year with Saturday Night Live and Apple prove he can play with the big boys as well.

Business Lesson: Just because a major company approaches you doesn’t mean it’s right for you. If you think you can do it better yourself, you might be right.

Nicki Minaj

Alongside her three number one albums, the NYC native has a long list of endorsement deals that include make up, soda, headphones, and more. With one of the most polished images in hip-hop, Minaj also commands over $250,000 per show.

Business Lesson: Be bold. No one ever made millions without taking risks. Speak up, step out and capture the public’s attention and the business opportunities will follow.

Master P

The life of New Orleans legend and CEO of No Limit Records is Empire played out in real life. One of the biggest names in hip-hop throughout the ‘90s and beyond, Master P negotiated a revolutionary distribution deal that allowed him to retain full ownership of his music while still tapping into major label resources—that meant that he made twice as much money off every album sale as nearly every other artist at the time.

Business Lesson: Have long term vision. Master P chose to pass on an immediate higher advance in favor of keeping a higher percentage of his album sales, making him at his peak the highest paid rapper in the world. Don’t sell out for short money.

Tech N9ne

Founder of Strange Music, Tech N9ne has been a leader for the independent music scene for over two decades now. Holding control of all of his music and merchandising has paid off well for the Kansas City emcee: his worth was listed at around $16 million at the time of writing, good enough to earn him a spot on Forbes’ list.

Business Lesson:
Cut out the middleman. Instead of paying a factory to make his shirts, Tech bought his own machines; instead of paying to have those shirts shipped, Tech bought his own trucks.

Mac Miller:

An early purveyor of the independent movement when he arrived on Rostrum Records back in 2009, Miller laid groundwork for making money off the mixtape movement through incessant touring, merchandise sales, and more. Don’t get it twisted: Mac earns as much for a show as some of the biggest rappers in the game.

Business Lesson: Keep your friends close. History’s littered with stories of managers, supposed friends and hangers-on who took advantage of an artist’s generosity. By keeping his circle small and confined to long time friends, Mac’s assured that those around him truly have his best interests in mind.

Yo Gotti

The head of music label CMG and a chart-topping rapper to boot, Yo Gotti’s built a Southern empire all his own. In addition to his career, he watches others’ as well, with Snootie Wild and Wave Chappelle signed to his imprint, among others. One of the more charismatic faces to emerge from the South lately, Gotti is well known around the industry as someone who makes shrewd business deals.

Business Lesson: Find your niche. Instead of watering down his music for a national audience and leaving Memphis for LA or NYC, Gotti built his empire from his hometown. Find your customers, never forget them, and you’ll be backstroking through cash.

Drake

Aside from being one of the biggest contemporary artists in any genre, the 6ix God has made some smart moves in the business world as well. Most recently, he invested in the app Omni, which has backing from the likes of Justin Bieber and David Lee. He’s also garnered plenty of endorsements, placements and is also the global ambassador for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors. Not a bad portfolio indeed.

Business Lesson: Build your brand. Every move from Drake is coordinated, from the music he releases to the shirts he wears, everything he does is purposefully aimed at enforcing his burgeoning OVO brand.

Queen Latifah

In some ways the most successful artist on this list, alongside her own perfume, Queen Latifah has her hands in just about everything and rebranded herself as an actress and rom-com star from the badass rapper when she was younger.

Business Lesson: Don’t be afraid to change. There’s a difference between being persistent and stubborn. Latifah’s always stayed true but hasn’t been afraid to reinvent herself, in the processing keeping her bank account as fresh as her image.

Pitbull

When it comes to business, Pitbull is killing it in just about every category. An endorsement king able to cross ethnic and language boundaries, the Miami native has worked with everyone from camera companies to huge national chain stores like Wal-Mart, with name recognition the world over.

Business Lesson: Find customers no one else is reaching. Although the Latin population is exploding, many major companies didn’t know how to reach the demographic. By serving as a bridge between worlds, Pitbull has made himself indispensable to companies, and profited richly in the process.

image: DuanePlanes

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