Lessons on Innovation and Evolution From 3 Top Hip-Hop Artists

Many of the best hip-hop artists have managed to survive and thrive over decades of changing music, economic storms and technology shifts.

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By Matthew Toren

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P Diddy

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Some of today's hottest hip-hop artists also happen to be incredibly accomplished entrepreneurs. Many of the best hip-hop artists have managed to survive and thrive over decades of changing music, economic storms and technology shifts.

Here are three mega-success lessons from some of today's top hip-hop artists.

1. Diversify your product offerings.

One of the first things most successful artists learn is that you don't get wealthy by sticking to one thing. Each artist mastered the billboard charts, then they parlayed that success into diversified revenue streams. When you have multiple avenues of income, you're able to catapult your success across industries and are never at the mercy of one particular part of your business.

Related: 50 Cent: What They Don't Teach in Business School

Take, for example, Sean Combs, aka P Diddy, who has managed to expand his successful music career earnings into multiple product offerings, including several clothing lines, a record label and even a 50 percent profit split deal with Ciroc vodka. All that diversification means Combs is never at the mercy of one single endeavor.

When you utilize your earnings into reinvesting in yourself and opening up new channels of revenue, you can watch your success skyrocket over time. P Diddy has been diversifying since founding Bad Boys Records in 1993. He's living proof that a diversification plan and lots of patience can equal big results.

2. Listen to your fans and they'll do the marketing.

There's a saying in retail that the customer is always right. In a sense that's the exact attitude many hip-hop artists have taken as they approached their music and listened to the input of their fans.

Dr. Dre, along with Beats Electronics co-founder Jimmy Iovene, wanted to deliver the excitement and quality of the recording studio with regular consumer product headphones. Ear buds were all the rage when Beats Headphones first hit the market, but the fans of hip-hop who understood the experience of the music studio demanded more. The Beats brand quickly flourished. From its founding in 2006, totally going against what was popular at the time, Dr. Dre and Iovene saw the explosive growth of their empire, driven by fan demand, until they eventually sold the brand to Apple in 2014.

Related: Entrepreneurs and Hustlers Are 2 Tracks on the Same Record

Listen to your fans and create a product that will go viral, spurred on by customer enthusiasm and loyalty.

3. Innovate and iterate.

Many entrepreneurs who are starting out equate success with a certain destination, but the hottest hip-hop entrepreneurs of today know that there is never really an end destination -- you have to innovate. When you embrace a spirit of constant iteration, you change and adapt with the times to stay relevant year after year.

Usher Raymond rose to fame when the release of his second album, My Way, exploded in the late 1990s. Yet Raymond has remained relevant over the past decade and a half by consistently adapting to change. During the time he was releasing his first albums, he was simultaneously pursuing acting and starred in several films and television shows.

He went on to create Raymond Braun Media Group with Scooter Braun, and the label has signed and produced multiple artists, including teen heartthrob Justin Beiber. Raymond also co-owns an interest in the Cleveland Cavaliers and has multiple other side projects and businesses, including his mainstay, partnering with some of the hottest musical talent to continuously release new music. Not one to rest on his laurels, his spirit of continual reinvention keeps Usher relevant, busy and incredibly successful.

Never stop learning and always keep your eye to innovation.

Related: What Biggie Smalls's Accountant Taught Me About Life

Matthew Toren

Serial Entrepreneur, Mentor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.

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