On March 26, 2014 The Smoking Gun reported that Wyclef Jean’s previous attorneys filed a document in court that revealed recent communication with Wyclef’s accountant in which the accountant revealed that the rapper was broke.
On March 21, 2014 Radaronline reported that Lauryn Hill was in trouble with the IRS again. Six months after she had served a prison sentence for tax evasion the IRS decided to hit Lauryn with a stack of tax liens totaling nearly $867,000.
Other rappers that have had serious money issues recently include Nas, Fat Joe, Jermaine Dupri, Lil Wayne, Tyga, DMX, and the list goes on.
What is happening with hip hop and why are more and more artists getting into financial trouble? If you listen to any radio station you can hear them bragging about the luxurious lifestyles they live and all of the property and jewelry they own. Jermaine Dupri once bragged “Money ain’t a thing” on one of his most popular records. Now his whole record company and catalog are exposed due to acquiring a loan to deal with his day to day living expenses. How can so many of them be facing financial ruin?
There’s a difference between what someone tells you and reality.
The reality of the matter is this. The majority of the hip hop artists’ financial problems can be traced back to the home. There are so many hip hop artists that come into the game without the proper teachings on responsibility and how to govern their financial lives. With the number of single parent homes on the rise, mothers and fathers are becoming more and more concerned with getting overtime and paying the bills than with what their children are learning. A lot of hip hop artists come from poor areas in which checkbook management isn’t a primary concern. Ghettos or slums present challenges that force a child to learn more about protecting themselves from physical violence or finding their next meal. Rarely do those places teach anyone about the importance of paying their taxes or making wise investment decisions.
The other problem that is rarely addressed is the way the music industry uses and abuses certain artists. While almost any good attorney can negotiate a decent contract, most artists are so happy just to have a hit record that they sign ridiculous deals that benefit the record companies and rarely benefit the artist. The record company has no interest in treating the artists as “partners” because of fear that the artist will eventually become a formidable opponent. Additionally, a wise artist might also discover all of the numerous ways that the company has nickeled and dimed him and cheated him out of funds, thus setting up lawsuits against the company. Ignorance is bliss for them.
But there is also a large amount of responsibility that can be put on the artists themselves. At what point do you stop utilizing your upbringing and your neighborhood as an excuse for misbehavior? Since life is a continuous class of learning, shouldn’t someone learn how to manage their finances after a few years?
The answer to those questions is yes. You should absolutely learn something after numerous incidents of falling on hard times. But often rappers are learning this lesson at the worst time possible; when the IRS shows up at their doors with cuffs. Uncle Sam doesn’t want to hear anything about a poor upbringing, a bad environment, or corrupt record companies. The government only wants one thing. They want their money.
So what’s the solution? One thing that I think would help artists is for their record companies to automatically have a contract that makes them attend a certain amount of financial management classes. This would definitely assist people in not only learning what to do with the money they make but it would also protect them against bad management and bad deals.
|Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
What about the government? Can’t they make it a requirement?
Nope. The government can’t even agree on protecting children from guns and you want them to think about protecting hip hop artists from financial mismanagement? Uncle Sam stands to gain so much more by letting people go into default so that they can reap that tax penalty percentage.
So who should be responsible and how can this problem change?
Once again, all roads lead to home. Mom and Dad. The hardcore truth is that if the parents don’t start their children out on a path of responsibility, it’s too late. And since more and more single family homes are being created, the truthful answer to the question is….
Nothing can be done.