Hip Hop x Basketball -- 5: "Let's Do This Together"

5: “Me Too!” and “Let’s Get Money Together”
     No, this is not related to any basketball players’ attempts to rap or any rappers’ attempts to show how much “like Mike” he was in the gym.  It is more related to each side recognizing the other’s validity in the arena of entertainment.  There is a possibility that this could have been taken along with the “Acknowledgment” we previously discussed, but the level that this is taken to has a life of its own, beyond simple acknowledgment.  It almost becomes necessary to point to the fact that each experienced a bit of a burst in popularity right around the mid-80s, directly in line with the spikes in the popularities of – all at once – national media outlets (broadcast and cable TV, radio, etc.), the renewal of the Lakers/Celtics rivalry and perhaps most importantly, the previously mentioned marketing juggernaut named Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

     A term born of this mutual respect and endearment from the hip hop community to that of sports stars is “balling,” which in application simply means ‘making money like a ball player’.  At the time JUST before rappers started turning over six, seven and eight-figure annual income numbers, they made what they DID make by creating tales that led the audience to believe that they did.  Considering that, at the time, only NBA and Major League Baseball players were among the only ones ACTUALLY turning over those kinds of salaries; it was only fitting that the “ballers” tagged for the term would be the ones who most often came from the same backgrounds as the rappers themselves.  Therefore, the term was more aimed at basketball players than any others.

     If we’re honest, the money that hip hop – or any musical acts, really – was still at a level FAR below that of the actual “ballers,” if only by the virtue of music money being conditional in nature based upon the popularity and ability of that artist to sell product.  In the meantime, however, the ball players simply had to earn and then sign their contract and the money promised as guaranteed – easily in that aforementioned seven-to-eight figure range for most players we might actually know the names of.  Advantage in this comparison would go to the ball players.
A response to the question “well what to do?” would be naturally to tap resources in order to line up and get money together.

     Intersecting market shares in terms of target audiences makes for a very easy cross-sell when one decides to work together.  One common bond is that, in their day jobs, athletes AND musicians are – despite being lavishly compensated – are still employees of someone else in some capacity.  One way around this limitation has been for each side to pool resources and get involved in things other than their normal day job, even if that includes combining capital in a play to become your own boss in that very day job.  With “capital” as the operative word here, we’ve seen players partner with (usually, but not exclusively) rappers to bankroll a record label effort with the understanding that he provides the money and that the chosen rapper would be the one to run the day-to-day as the music industry insider.  This way, the application of the musician’s knowledge of the industry and the capital earned by the athlete make them co-conspirators in a manner in which they are now the employers and not employees.

     Naturally, there will be multimillionaires reluctant to just up and fully enter industries partnered with someone possessing such an upper hand so as to find themselves losing money due to ignorance to the subject at hand.  To those, we have seen involvement/co-involvement in projects ranging from restaurants and nightclubs to clothing labels or sometimes even real estate or non-profit organizations.  As a “pet project” we’ve seen in recent years, sometimes a more successful entertainer will be allowed to purchase a small stake in ownership of the team itself, which in exchange exposes his own brand to otherwise oblivious fans of the team while perhaps selling some team merchandise to potentially previously uninterested fans of his music.

     Another front we have seen take the public stage is that of party promotion.  It is no secret that people with above average incomes have no qualms with enjoying the spoils of their labor (or luck).  Further, it is no secret that club owners and party promoters love to cash in on the general public’s desire to feel like their favorite celebrities by being able to party with them – or party in their general presence, as it usually goes.
Promoters in a city where a rapper is performing or a team is playing, sometimes even both at the same time, will invite them out to party for free (or in exchange for a share of the door) in hopes of upping the number of paying patrons in attendance.  Since rap careers eventually fizzle out and knees eventually deteriorate, this party life is often treated as the “retirement” of both, where instead of being the one who comes out to party, they become the one(s) selling and therefore profiting from keeping the party moving.  A career spent in that limelight, as discussed, easily grooms one monetarily and with personal connections for that life and it is a natural next step and often seen taken by members of both fraternities together.


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