What is a hustler? Why is Hip Hop pimping this lifestyle so much?
The hustler was known as a shady stereotype who preys on weakness and cheats unsuspecting souls for their money. However, modern Hip Hop steers us into a new image for the hustler, one who uses his strengths to earn people’s trust and respect, and keeps them at all costs, so that they pay him willingly and he can keep his peace of mind. That is good business.
The hustler believes that nothing falls magically in place – you have to make it happen, somehow. They don’t believe in magic, though really they like the idea. He knows the Force is just a story, but he’s also aware that Star Wars is a brilliant business with millions of fans worldwide.
This is a generation inspired by the gospel of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli.
They don’t aspire to be criminals or bad guys, but they take lessons from them and don’t mind looking like one. Because it makes people fear them a little, so they get some respect. Each performer may differ slightly in the way they choose to live the hustle, to adopt Robert Greene’s infamous 48 laws of power, but through the lens of Hip Hop music their agenda gets clearer.
They have no fear.
Don’t have a clear picture of what thugs go through? Hip Hop visualizes it for you. Among other rappers, both Gunplay and 50 Cent’s music videos are filled with machismo. Participating in terrifying scenes like drive by shooting, revenge and armed robbery, they pull us into a surreal world of hostility and constant vigilance. Yet they themselves conduct their lives without a trace of fear, choosing to intimidate their enemies instead.
Instead they project fear.
Like in this video, 50 treats his art as a sport. For him, the most vital things are discipline, instinct and absolute focus that can help to overcome the negative effects of fear.
It’s chilling to know this man was hit with 9 bullets as an aftermath of him being in this game, something which didn’t end so well with the late rapper Tupac. But did he back down? No. He came back even stronger. He believes if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.
To him, fear is synonymous with a real prison. Now most of us probably don’t have to literally get rich or die trying, but know that you’ll have to bite a bullet of some kind before you can taste that sweet honey. If you’re lucky enough to survive, you still have a chance.
50 Cent’s book The 50th Law, written as an expansion to Robert Greene’s infamous 48 Laws Of Power, details his personal codex for success in work and life using this single maxim – fear nothing.
As quoted from Robert Greene in that book:
Understand: people will constantly attack you in life. One of their main weapons will be to instill in you doubts about yourself – your worth, your abilities, your potential. They will often disguise this as their objective opinion, but invariably it has a political purpose – they want to keep you down.
This lack of fear shouldn’t be mistaken for foolish gusto, however. 50 Cent doesn’t forget to remind us, in videos like “Get Up” and “You Don’t Know” that it helps to be clad in bulletproof armour, have some guys backing you up and bring spare machetes in a world where success attracts enemies. In other words, mastering both fast and slow thinking.
Thugs themselves aren’t supposed to be scary 24/7 either. Even as he participates in a hustler’s lifestyle, Gunplay injects creativity in videos like “White Bitch” where he parodies cocaine, a thrill ride in “Jump Out” where he chases another thug and a fun personality in a chicken wing challenge that proves gangsters are cool people that you could hang out with too.
Keyword, cool not vulnerable.
They turn themselves into a business.
How does a hustler cultivate his entrepreneurial skill? Hip Hop visualizes it for you. When it comes to being vocal about a hustler’s ambitions and 99 problems, Jay-Z codifies his music to reveal his thought process.
Adopting a corporate mentality in everything he does, he cultivates personal habits that ensure he literally profits from everything he does. Like selling water to a well, if that ever works out. Even when it comes to marriage, he chooses Beyoncé as a life partner, someone with as much influence as him. To him, this is music business and that second word is important.
Consider this quote from his former mentor:
We shouldn’t let other people make money off us, and we shouldn’t give free advertising with our lifestyle.
– Damon Dash, Entrepreneur
Bitch better have my money. The guy literally treats each piece of clothing he wears as an endorsement. Incredibly, from the business standpoint of an influencer this makes sense as whatever he’s got on is broadcast to the entire world and the brand stands to gain lots of exposure, especially if he decides to name drop the product. Heck, he even refused to be interviewed for the book below just because he doesn’t see what’s in it for him.
An unauthorized biography titled Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office gives interesting insight into Jay-Z’s life, his business philosophy, where and how he developed them and the all things that are not so rosy…
Empire State Of Mind, NYC’s business anthem. Having sold drugs on the same street, making rap music was a talent he decided to monetize since it keeps him off jail. But even as we see him firstly as a rapper, he has leveraged himself into lots of other ventures, from clothing line to champagne, real estate and music streaming service.
For entrepreneurs, every walk of life presents some kind of business opportunity, but like Jay-Z, they likely see them as “an extension of me” rather than simply a venture under their name. His love of the business lifestyle is what propels his lyrics, and that in itself is an art. This work ethic mirrors that of many modern entrepreneurs, who align their personal goals and values with the brand that they create. In short, they live and breathe their business.
The school of life. As observed from Decoded, an important factor to success are good mentors, be it teacher or friend. Indeed, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Reading good books on the arts of persuasion, negotiation and social dynamics you can actually learn, because they are life skills with practical applications in the real world.
With willingness to learn, nurturing good skills is just a matter of time. As per Stephen Hawking, intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.
Life hacks like this infographic from Entrepreneur is simple yet powerful.
How does a hustler overcome classic negativity? Hip Hop visualizes it for you. In a world where you either define or be defined, you can’t avoid the fact that people will always try to plant seeds of doubt in your head. It’s pretty depressing to hear that it’s going to be a lifelong battle, especially if you’re ambitious.
But c’est la vie. Lil Wayne shrugs it off in “Krazy” by musing “tell me something I don’t know”. French Montana tells you simply, don’t panic.
You’re not alone in this.
It’s going to happen anyway. You can’t please everyone. Life’s just too short. He’s got no time to make excuses, engage in fear or feel sorry for himself. The time spent down that rabbit hole is time he could be spending to do something more useful. Excuse my french, but why indulge in self-doubt when you can indulge in a fine glass of Bordeaux in Bordeaux?
He ain’t worried about nothing.
This doesn’t just happen at work. It can happen in school too, especially when your own intelligence and hardworking nature gets you ostracized and called “teacher’s pet”. It all about how you react.
Just roll up some, pop a bottle and enjoy the beat. French’s videos feature nice beats and lyrical hooks, and Pitbull likes to pull you inside a cruise with Spanish ad libs and gorgeous ladies. Classic sounds of modern commercial Hip Hop, or bangers as they’re called. Though less of an art, it’s still a pretty nice escape with a positive mood. This is the kind of music you indulge in at clubs and night parties alongside friends, when you’re tired of shit.
You can’t avoid the fact that your system will get burnt out from time to time, and Hip Hop’s playful tunes reminds you that work and play are both part of success. Ultimately, it’s about living life to the fullest. So don’t be afraid to cool yourself off, or others.
If you need to party just get down there, if you need to chill get a quiet spot, if you need to vent head down to the boxing gym or book an anger room. Heck, you can even follow the sage advice of Miley Cyrus, who said that “a masturbate a day keeps the haters away”.
The critics will wear down someday.
Villains are more exciting.
How does a hustler behave as a villain? Hip Hop visualizes it for you. Rapper Rick Ross here is no stranger to court, on both sides of the fence. No doubt his misogynistic attitude, his dishonesty and his provocative music has earned him quite a fair bit of backlash.
He has been criticized for lyrics glorifying rape in “U.O.E.N.O” that got him dropped from Reebok, and filming “Hold Me Back” a song celebrating his riches in a backdrop of Nigeria living in poverty. On top of that, he built a rap career hijacking the name of a drug kingpin who has reformed against the culture. Success built upon controversy is always followed by notoriety.
But the villains always come back. Rick Ross consistently creates tracks that fit perfectly into the modern Hip Hop that we all love to hate. Music videos relentlessly praising the self, association with luxury brands like cars and clothing, the exhibit of women dressed in racy outfits moving suggestively, those lyrics glorifying drug trade and violence. On top of all that, the gall to put an ad lib reminding us who it’s coming from.
He films the dark reality of men’s heinous, carnal desires without holding back. The rich and the bad of men with money are all laid bare here, much to feminist disdain. Make people think, they can choose to refuse. Make them feel, and they have to respond. When you play the villain, you grab the world’s attention. Strangely enough, that in itself is art.
To Rolling Stone, he said this on freedom of speech:
Chick-fil-A obviously took their stand. That’s their right – the same way the pro-gay people are taking their stand. I believe everybody got the right to live their own life the way they want to.
Like the devil’s advocate, the hustler’s greatest pleasure is to be able to convert enemies to supporters, haters to followers and critics to believers, by dialectic or by debate. The verbal sparring and emotional jabbing keeps art flowing, and they relish it. If these people don’t convert….then the hustler will simply live in such a way that if somebody tells something bad about him, nobody will believe it.
Rick Ross uses the Facebook effect to his advantage, online and off. He consistently highlights his best projects on social media, shares work ethics in interviews and keeps a serious schedule in performing arts with his MMG crew while keeping his controversies low key. Even as critics judge his character, they grudgingly admit that he produces quality music. The villain has them in an artistic Stockholm syndrome.
Here’s a good story, Freeway Rick Ross: The Untold Autobiography. He didn’t get the luxury of the American Dream, but in finding his own way he didn’t just survive, he thrived. However, that shadowy path was not without consequence. A genuine rags-to-riches tale.
People are still attracted to the villain, even if they don’t want to admit it. The hustler knows it.
What about the female hustler? Act like a lady, think like a boss. The fierce personality you have adopted to claim this world doesn’t come without problems. In a world where men feel that they are genetically wired to be the alpha, your intimidating aura can naturally scare a good lot. You are a lonely female at the top, but know that all these problems are not exclusive to women.
You went through the same meat grinder as those men did. You read the same books, cultivated your entrepreneurial ability, have your own 99 problems, broke rules and stereotypes to the dismay of your friends with dicks but most important of all…you still walked like a lady.
There’s a lot of females that hustle, just like men hustle.
Women hustlers have always struggled with negative labels such as “honey bunny” and “bad bitch” and still do today. However, Hip Hop’s Machiavellian prose is literally flipping these old stereotypes into a sign of respect, acknowledgement by men even, by telling us that these women are simply hunters. With a focused eye for goals and a drive to profit.
Want a cool story of how instinct, guts to break rules at the right time and a savvy bad bitch mentality allowed a girl to change her fate from dropout to business owner? Pick up Sophia’s #GIRLBOSS, a classic for the female hustler.
Sexy is an asset. As female hip hop artists gain momentum in a genre dominated by the patriarchy, they draw power from the muses to captivate their audience. Subtly noting that women, sexy and gorgeous have always been ubiquitous in men’s videos, they take the stage this time and put the same men on a leash.
Like in Nicki Minaj’s “Only” and 2NE1’s “I’m The Best”, they take control of their own sexuality and project confidence in their performance, with a grace only females can embody. This aura lingers even as they pose naked for photo shoots.
Your body makes men uneasy about theirs. Hip Hop’s always biased toward women when it comes to bodily beauty, while men hid their flab in fine suits. Men are starting to realize that simply being money rich isn’t good enough.
Having a nicely sculpted body is a little more than just looking more attractive. By accentuating women’s curves, men slowly realize that fitness is actually an important investment. That is why Rick Ross got personal trainers, went for intense gym routines and starting eating healthy. This is an ambassador deal of a lifetime, to get paid to shape up.
Timeless and imposing, statues embody the rich culture from another civilization, such as this one featuring Apollo, god of music and mentor to the muses above. From the East to the West, Hip Hop is most definitely not lacking artists with the messiah complex.
Be a light in the dark.
To that extent, symbolic imagery permeates rap lyrics and music video as Jay-Z and Kanye grapple with the core philosophy of religion itself in “No Church In The Wild”, G-Dragon aims to strike terror into the game with his visceral “Coup D’Etat”, and Jeezy preaches his own verses to bring his own “Church In These Streets”. Drawing influence from ancient philosophy to biblical tales, they write their own gospel based on their own personal revelations in life.
This is Star Wars: Darth Plagueis, a compelling tale by James Luceno (I love his writing) exploring the lives, thoughts and dark ambitions of two individuals who would eventually become the most powerful Sith lords, massacre the Jedi and rule the galaxy.
The more complex their storytelling, the more they leave their art open to interpretation. And we all know what happens from there. Accusations of artists selling their soul to the devil have been with us since Paganini, the violin virtuoso. But such speculation keeps the story compelling, and similar to the Bible, commands us to think carefully about the message.
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
With the power of music, Hip Hop’s culture paints a nice picture of what it means to be a hustler. While sometimes their their focus on self glorification is so excessive it becomes distasteful, their tough attitude turns misogynistic or their idea of what it means to be rich/the objects of luxury is grossly exaggerated, no other form of media has brought to life the rags-to-riches stories of the hustlers with the amount of visual detail and fire modern Hip Hop has, such that it has become the new American Dream.
Check out this cool playlist I put together on YouTube, if you like.