Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and Sean Combs flex hip-hop's financial muscle

Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness once made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke educates readers on hip-hoponomics.

This month, Oprah Winfrey launched her own network – OWN – and she's pushing boundaries. By debuting with Jay-Z, she is acknowledging she needs rappers to generate interest and revenue for her new media venture. I'm happy to see that after spending so many years bashing rap music, Oprah has come to her senses. She's realized she can't have a network that appeals to just vanilla audiences. For her to debut a show called Master Class with Jay-Z, whose lyrics are controversial and explicit, says a whole lot about the direction in which OWN is going.

But it's not just Oprah who is realizing that hip-hop's financial power goes beyond selling records. Last year, journalist Dan Charnas released his book, The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop, which documents the music's influence on corporate America. It delves deeply into how cats such as Russell Simmons and Sean Combs were able to expand their empires beyond the recording studio into fashion and spirits, among other industries. Hell, these days, liquor brands will do anything to have a product placed in a rap video.

Any time a new bottle of booze is mentioned in a rap record, it becomes an instant hot seller. A bottle that cost $70 becomes a $250 bottle. When corporations hire athletes or actors as spokespeople, it doesn't necessarily mean consumers will go out and buy a product. But when rappers speak, people immediately buy things.

Hip-hop is beginning to influence even Wall Street. Two weeks ago, 50 Cent urged his 3.8 million Twitter followers to buy stock in TV Goods Inc., a subsidiary of H&H Imports, a Clearwater, Florida, company. He owns 7.5 million shares of the stock, which jumped 290 percent following the tweets. Once he stopped hyping the stock, its price fell from 39 cents a share to 10 cents a share.

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