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Urban Legends

As entrepreneurs, hip-hop artists seem unstoppable. What's their edge?

This story appears in the May 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Though music is what gave them fame, hip-hop artists have grabbed hold of mega-entrepreneur status with the same swiftness and style in which they bust lyrics on the mic. These savvy artists have built massive business enterprises, cashing in on their household-name status to launch everything from restaurants and clothing lines to beverage companies. Once negatively associated with violence, profanity and a culture that scared Middle America, hip-hop now reaches a receptive mainstream audience eager to embrace their diverse offerings outside of just music.

Do these artists have inherent common qualities that make it more conducive for them to start businesses? "The nature of hip-hop and the dynamic that spawned hip-hop is innately entrepreneurial," says Marc Ecko, founder of urban clothing and lifestyle label Ecko Unlimited, based in New York City. "It's something made from nothing."

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