The list of hip-hop artists who have become successful entrepreneurs seems ever-growing. Former hip-hop artists and producers have added fashion lines, liquor, electronics, and restaurant chains to their list of accolades.
Part of it is to do with the growth of social media and the huge followings that stars are able to attract; part of it goes to the heart of hip-hop culture, which immortalizes those who are able to escape their humble origins.
Something from nothing
The 2012 documentary, Something from Nothing, epitomizes the attitude that so many rap artists adopt. Hip-hop is literally about making something good of your life, even if you’ve been dealt a bad hand.
In the documentary, Ice-T describes why so many artists become business owners. He explains that since they have such a deep connection with their audience, gained from years of music promotion, it’s easy to start selling lifestyle brands and other items to the existing fan base.
Dr. Dre famously created the brand, Beats, which became an iconic household name. He went on to sell the business to Apple for $3 billion, amassing a personal wealth of around $800 million. Dre was also one half of the duo behind Straight Outta Compton, the 2015 smash hit.
The movie, produced by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, racked up $100 million in ticket sales, within 10 days of its release, and enjoyed widespread acclaim—a perfect example of the hip-hop industry diversifying and crossing boundaries.
Background and Early Hip-Hop Career
Millions of young, impressionable fans witnessed the success of Dre and his peers and caught a glimpse of the possibilities that existed in life. None more so than a young Ty Frankel. Born in Israel, 1997, to parents, Frankel showed an interest in hip-hop from the age of 13. He started off interviewing famous underground rappers like Masta Ace (Eminem’s idol) and Jon Connor (Featured in Dr. Dre’s album, Compton, the soundtrack for the NWA movie).
At 14, he was making his own hip-hop beats and a couple of years later, he was invited to be a producer for established artists like G-Herbo and Paul Wall. Frankel then made a sideways movement and founded a company that made music for TV and film: Shut Down Music.
By age 18, Frankel’s company was making music for some of the biggest names in the industry: Red Bull, the NBA, and ESPN. At age 21, Frankel was able to pull off a lucrative joint venture deal with Universal music that, in his own words, “earned [him] around $200,000 per year.”
But, despite his apparent happiness, the young entrepreneur harbored pain over three devastating events in his personal life. Frankel reveals that he was “haunted” by the 2005 death of his beloved sister.
Even though he was only 7 years old, he remembers the suffering she endured, due to her brain tumor, and the medical malpractice that prematurely ended her life. In 2008, Ty lost his Grandma and his sadness was intensified when his parents divorced in 2013.
This emotional turmoil was mirrored by Frankel’s financial ups and downs. In Spring 2018, a sudden turn in the cryptocurrency market wiped $127,000 from his portfolio. His company also had a couple of mini-failures—Shut Down Sync and Uncivilized Music—which forced Frankel to reassess his priorities.
He recalls, ‘I could have kept the business going, perhaps surviving for another few years. But I started to realize that I was never going to achieve the level of growth and reward that I dreamt of. I made the painful decision to wind the business up and move on.”
He dismantled Shut Down Music and, in its place, launched Shut Down Emails—a lead generation service for businesses.
The Power of Reinvention
Drawing inspiration from hip-hop’s many progressive entrepreneurs, Frankel continues to innovate and evolve. His latest venture ‘God Level First Lines’ is a course that teaches anyone how to write the opening line to cold emails and LinkedIn outreach. And ‘VIP Agency Lounge’ is a series of pay-per-view webinars hosted by experts who offer advice on how to promote your company, attract customers, and scale up.
However, Frankel’s story isn’t unique amongst the hip-hop fraternity. Another hip-hop artist who famously reinvented himself is Mark Wahlberg. The one-time rapper—aka Marky Mark—was initially laughed at for going into the acting profession. At that time, he was most famous for being a Calvin Klein underwear model, with impressive six-pack abs.
However, many were laughing on the other side of their faces when he gave a comprehensive performance in the 1997 movie, Boogie Nights. He went on to act in a string of hits and even found time to open his own chain of burger joints. As they say, “The best form of revenge is success.”
As hip-hop continues to inspire the current generation, who knows where the next Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, or Mark Wahlberg will emerge from? More importantly, who knows what they will achieve or what impact they will have on popular culture?