OPPORTUNITIES; Youths Hear Lessons in Business From Rappers
More than meets the ear, rap artists today are likely to own the
studios that produce their music, design their own clothing lines
and develop their images with restaurants and lucrative licensing
and advertising deals. Rapper Jay-Z, for example, wears many
hats as producer, fashion designer, club owner and part owner
of the New Jersey Nets basketball team. They're brands, and
kids see them as business leaders.
While older adults can't seem to get past the crude images and the
gun talk and violence in rap music, young people say they get from
these stars ideas about how to succeed in life. Young people may
be more tuned in to such messages because today's rap artists
have a higher propensity to be business owners than artists
of the past, said Pepper Miller, an ethnic marketing expert.
They're not like the old-school artists such as MC Hammer,
who went broke. "I do look up to people like P. Diddy.
He's more than a rapper. He's a businessman with a
nice bank account," said Steven Jenkins, 16, an
11th-grader at Solomon Juneau High School. "I want to be
like him one day. I want to own my own business and wear the nice
suits." In other words, it's not just about the thug life and bling-bling;
it's about wielding economic influence -- from owning real estate to
stocks to your own clothing label or record company.
But some local experts are skeptical of the message behind rap
music. I must admit that I have a hard time seeing the good in
rap music. The majority of it seems to focus on exploitation
of women and criminal activity. There's not much in the lyrics
that talks about economics and how the real world works.
"I don't see a pro-business message," said Mark Schug,
professor and director of the Center for Economic Education
at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. "You don't hear
about education, responsibility and deferred
gratification. It's just the opposite.(Excerpts)