It’s nearly impossible to sustain a long, successful career in Hip Hop without raw talent and a tireless work ethic among other things. But skills and hard work can only go so far, and luck has factored into the careers of many emcees. If the old cliché about luck being a mix of preparation and opportunity is true, then the following artists represent what happens when the perfect opportunity appears—or disappears. Both Game and his onetime G-Unit leader 50 Cent sustained gunshots due to having one foot in the drug game prior to launching Rap careers. Can either of them really take credit for not dying as so many other victims of gun violence did? How much does just plain old dumb luck factor in an artists success?
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we took a look at a few artists that got lucky either in their business or personal dealings. As you enjoy your green beer, pub crawls and general Irish-themed debauchery, weigh in and decide how many of the following emcees owe their success to luck, raw talent or a mixture of both.
Death Proof: Artists With Near-Fatal Experiences
DJ Whoo Kid & Kanye West: In 2002, Ludacris reportedly stopped by an LA-area recording studio on his way to LAX. Pressed for time, Luda was ready to lay down a verse, but an eager to impress Kanye West dominated the studio session in efforts to display his rhyme skills. According to DJ Whoo Kid, Ludacris was not only unimpressed, but he opted to rhyme over a Red Spyda beat instead of one of West’s tracks. Whoo Kid says he took West outside to film him freestyling in his car as a way to diffuse the situation. Ultimately, ‘Ye found out, became frustrated and drove away at around 3 am. A short while later, he was involved in the infamous car accident that led to the song “Through The Wire” and left him with multiple facial injuries and a broken jaw two weeks after officially being signed to Roc-a-fella. Ultimately, West used the accident as fuel for his debut album, and he clearly managed to eventually catch Luda’s ear.
Obie Trice: After leaving a New Year’s Eve party at Detroit’s Envy nightclub, a still-unnamed driver pulled behind Obie Trice and his girlfriend and fired six shots. The Motown emcee continued driving while bleeding profusely and clinging to consciousness. He eventually jumped a nearby curb, and his girlfriend flagged down the police so Obie could be taken to a nearby hospital. Doctors were unable to remove the bullet, due to its position near the base of his skull. If the bullet traveled less than an inch deeper, Obie wouldn’t have lived to tell the story.
Eminem: Much like countless other musicians, Marshall Mathers found himself addicted to drugs at the commercial peak of his career. He went to a rehab facility in August of 2005 during what was supposed to be the European leg of the Anger Management 3 Tour. But he relapsed, and things nearly took a fatal turn when an acquaintance introduced Eminem to methodone.
“Had I known it was methadone, I probably wouldn’t have taken it,” Em told Vibe magazine in 2009. “But as bad as I was back then, I can’t even say 100 percent for sure. My doctor told me the amount of methadone I’d taken was equivalent to shooting up four bags of heroin. Even when they told me I almost died, it didn’t click.”
A successful, second stint in rehab brought Eminem the moment of clarity he was in searching for. While he didn’t necessarily feel it was his best work, he bounced back with 2009’s Relapse, and then really hit his stride a year later on Recovery. According to Em’s longtime manager, Paul Rosenberg, he’ll be releasing a new album in 2013 after Labor Day.
Tech N9ne: Tech took 15 extacy pills during what was presumably a very wild night and miraculously survived to talk about it. He left the MDMA alone and went on to record some of what he feels is his best work.
“Once I stopped doing that Ecstasy, it opened up a whole new world,” Tech told HipHopDX in 2008. “I swear to God I almost died. I took like 15 pills in one night. Ive been clean for about a year or so. Since I stopped that, its like a whole new ballgame opened up in my brain. I have different subject matter and everything now.”
Game: The title of his 2011 project, The R.E.D. Album and his familial ties to the Bloods street gang make it safe to assume Game’s favorite color is indeed red. But a closer look into his biography has us seeing green. Prior to catching Dr. Dre’s ear, Game survived five gunshots and was in a coma for three days after being shot during a botched drug deal.
“The bullets gave me a different perspective on life,” Game told HardKnockTV in a 2011 interview. “I really didn’t care if I lived or died at that point…[after that], I just wanted to do something different.”
Game has seen his share of controversy since then—some of it has surely been self-inflicted. But the only shots fired in his direction since then have been verbal ones.
Deal Or No Deal: Artists Careers That Almost Never Happened
Jay-Z: Most would agree that lyrical skill and a sharp business mind have been the key ingredients in Shawn Carter’s run as a top-flight emcee and arbiter of all things trendy. But, as Jay himself told Forbes, things began with a bit of good luck. While Jigga was still moving street pharmaceuticals between Brooklyn and Virginia, his mentor, Capitol/EMI emcee Jaz-O invited him to London to record the Word To The Jaz album. While across the pond, Jay-Z’s crew was the target of a sting operation that sent his friend [presumably the “Emory” mentioned on Kingdom Come’s “Do U Wanna Ride”] away for a 13-year prison stint. If Jay had declined Jaz-O’s invite, he likely would be sitting in a prison cell instead of atop the charts.
MGK: Machine Gun Kelly enjoyed a number two debut with his Lace Up album in October of 2012. But he could have easily found himself among the many artists whose projects never see the light of day. Kelly’s chronic “foot in mouth” disease flared up when he called Yelawolf an “old man” in July of 2012. Additionally, a series of lawsuits and other indiscretions had MGK’s backers ready to leave him in the dust.
“I was basically about to be shelved by my label,” MGK told Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg. “My management was gonna leave because I have the worst attitude in the world. I almost got kicked off the [Hostile Takeover 2012] Tour…”
According to MGK, Tech N9ne fought to keep him on tour. He subsequently hired a security team to keep him out of skirmishes, and reaped the rewards of his anger management.
Chuck D & Rick Rubin: We can’t imagine Hip Hop without Chuck D and Public Enemy. But according to Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons, there was a strong possibility that most of the world would never hear Chuck’s signature baritone on wax.
“The thing no one knows is that Chuck D didn’t wanna make records,” Simmons offered in his biography, Life And Def. “Rick had to convince them to sign with us, not because there was a bidding war, but because Chuck really wasn’t that interested.”
Chuck, Flavor Flav and the rest of the crew haven’t stopped recording since. They have three gold and two platinum albums to their credit as well as a membership in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. Whatever Rubin said obviously worked.
Flatlinerz: It helps to have relatives in high places, and nepotism is ingrained in Hip Hop’s DNA as much as beatboxing or payola. But even having Def Jam magnate Russell Simmons as an uncle didn’t get Jamal “Redrum” Simmons and his group mates a recording contract. Simmons said he didn’t understand the short-lived subgenre of horrorcore and assumed it was a gimmick. Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay took Flatlinerz under his wing, but unlike Onyx and 50 Cent, even JMJ’s A&R magic couldn’t save the group. The debut album U.S.A. (Under Satan’s Authority) made a dent on the Hot 100 chart on the strength of the single “Live Evil.” But they were generally overshadowed by other horrorcore acts like Gravediggaz.
Cashing Out: Artists That Wisely Cashed In On Trends
50 Cent: If you think about it, 50 really deserves a few entries on this list. Aside from surviving nine gunshots at point blank range, he also made it out of an alleged stabbing from someone in Ja Rule’s entourage with his trademark smile intact. But 50 lands on this list due to a joint decision by himself, Sha Money XL and the late Chris Lighty to invest in a little-known company named Glaceau and their signature product, Vitaminwater. In May of 2007, Coca-Cola acquired the company for $4 billion. Reports vary, but 50 Cent netted no less than $60 million from the buyout, while other estimates have 50 taking home $400 million before taxes.
Sam Adams: We hadn’t heard much from Boston-area rapper Sam Adams before or after his debut album, Boston’s Boy appeared atop the iTunes digital Hip Hop album chart in 2010. Amid rumors that the emcee named after your favorite New England brewery may have been responsible for most of the 8,000 units that landed him on the charts, both Billboard and Adams himself furnished credible proof that the sales were legit. The data didnt stop fellow Beantown natives from calling Sam Adams out though. That being said, we haven’t heard from Sam Adams in close to three years.