Cash rules everything around me. My mind on my money and my money on my mind. Money and Rap music have always gone hand in hand.
I could make reference to thousands of Rap songs where the subject matter is the almighty dollar and make just as many about rappers who claim to truly stack paper. So why does it seem like so many rappers can’t seem to hold on to all that revenue they allegedly accumulate? It genuinely hurt to hear about the big homie Young Buck and Beanie Sigel recently coming under fire from the IRS. And they don’t even scratch the surface of all of the artists who have dealt with financial woes in this country’s economic downturn of the last four years.
I can remember my dad telling me when I was six or seven that “cash is king.” It wasn’t soon after that I was buying my own shoes and clothes in elementary school and it continued that way for the rest of my life. I hustled both legally and illegally to put myself through college and provide for my music all the way up until I won the White Rapper Show on Vh1. If it makes a dollar, I’ve done it. But I knew that with the visibility of being on Vh1, the illegal stuff needed to stop. Luckily I brought home a $100,000 check from the show that set me straight for a few years and laid a foundation for my Rap career since then.
Now I might not have made the most money in the game since 2007, but I’ve done alright for myself and entered in a new tax bracket permanently. With that in mind, I wanted to share some money management tips for the HipHopDX community and anybody getting in the game. Some of this might be elementary to a few out there, but some of it might be a wake-up call:
Embrace Scrutiny & Quickly Address It
Winning The White Rapper Show prize also brought some unwanted scrutiny from the IRS. As much as rappers crave notoriety and fame, just know that Uncle Sam is watching when you very publicly earn a large amount of revenue. I sought out some advice from some of the best financial experts in the music industry and I listened.
The first thing I did was set up my LLC and have the Vh1 check made out to the LLC instead of in my name. The first check I wrote was to the Smile Train, a nonprofit organization that specializes in repairing the birth defects I was born with, a cleft lip and palate. Charitable donations do provide a tax break, but I wrote that check as my tithing and offering. The second check I wrote was to the state of New York in the form of estimated taxes since I earned that Vh1 check in New York. By paying estimated taxes, I made it clear to the IRS from the beginning that I wasn’t trying to avoid paying my taxes. By setting up the LLC, I made it much easier to make business purchases and legally claim them at the end of the year.
That was basically how I aimed to avoid the scenario of Richard Hatch from Survivor who became the first reality show winner to do jail time for tax evasion.
Diversify Your Income
Since 2007, I’ve continued earning money in the music industry through my own music projects, concerts, guest verses and writing for others. But I’ve been stacking outside of the Rap game to. My exposure on TV and accomplishments in music combined with my Journalism degree also helped me land some jobs as a creative consultant to different brands and organizations. I’ve been brought in to work with celebs and television personalities and create dialogue for different projects. I’ve been hired to create original themes/commercials. I also been hired to work with various nonprofits and help develop the language of their brand and mission statements. I’ve been in many board meetings where I’m the only person under 30 years old and covered in tattoos, but at the end of the day, companies will pay for talented people with good ideas and who are creative with words.
My friend Julio Espaillat is a Managing Partner of The Avengerz Production Team & Studio as well as Managing Partner of Lift Off Management who recently helped their artist Caskey score a major deal with YMCM/Cash Money Records. I met Julio when he was 22 and still in college, yet he was already running a high-end studio in Orlando, Florida. Now at only 24, managing the studio, The Avengerz production team, and Caskey’s career have become a full-time job. I shot him an email while he was at the MTV Video Music Awards with Caskey and Birdman asking for some advice on my column and here’s what he had to say:
“If one believes music is their work, then there are plenty ways one can make money. Whether you are an artist, producer, photographer, or videographer, you have to start from the ground up. In the beginning you may not make a lot of money. It's all about managing and budgeting your finances within the income you currently have.
Artists need to learn to live within their means and stop trying to keep up with the Jones's. Any money spent should be towards the betterment of your career. Image is key in the entertainment industry; however a $300 for a pair of shoes is not a requirement. If you don't create a plan, you cannot budget yourself efficiently.
Running the studio helped in the push to get Caskey signed. It allowed us to stay organized because everything was kept in house. Also it allowed us to have a lot more quality control. Being organized is just as important as managing your finances! Don't be scared to make music your job instead of your hobby. With careful planning and efficient execution you can make living off of music a reality.”
I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
Your Network Is Your Net Worth:
Nobody likes someone that always wants everything for free. Make sure that you break bread with folks to foster both a business and a personal relationship. You will need to hire people for many different aspects of your career whether it’s production, recording, mixing, mastering, graphic work, photo shoots, mixtape deejays, publicists, email blasts, promotions and the list goes on. When you conduct good business with folks, along with throwing them new business when appropriate and making sure to publicize their work, you will be amazed at the good karma that can return your way. When people see you working hard on your end and know your character, you never know who might swoop in and assist you when you didn’t even ask for it. And at the end of the day, you should take pride in paying someone for their hard work and putting money into someone else’s pocket who is working hard to make you look great. That’s the type of stuff bosses are made of.
While I think about it, here’s a list of names to Google that have become a part of my network and truly helped me increase my net worth: Patrick Lanshaw, Rashard Partee, Wes Phillips, Jeff Phillips, Blake Franklin, DJ Bay, DJ Ritz, Robert Polay, Scott Sanders, Wayne Elsey, Doug McLoed, Shoeb, Julio Espaillat, Kyle Denmead, JP Botero, Crazy Mike Foster, Koopa Bloodline, Kendrell Watkins, Haze, Greg Mays, Edison Dinac and this doesn’t even scratch the surface. All I can say is come correct and don’t be a cheapskate- And tell em $ham sent you.
In conclusion, I want everyone to get their money mane. But I want you to hold onto it to. Don’t work years for your dream and reach it, only to have it snatched from you. Keep pushing and handle your biz properly. Should you need more Money Green advice, my brand new second retail project Money Green is now available in Best Buy, FYE, and on iTunes. I wouldn’t be a true hustler if I didn’t plug my project.
God bless and get money,
$hamrock a/k/a Yung Irish
$hamrock is an Atlanta, Georgia native who won ego trip’s White Rapper Show on Vh1 in 2007. He recently released his sophomore album Money Green on Wyte Music Records/Select-O-Hits. He has a Journalism degree from the University of Georgia. You can follow $hamrock on Twitter @ShamrockMusic.