I’ve been thinking about money a lot lately, probably because I have none. I know it’s bad form to talk about how broke you are until you’ve made your paper [1], but sometimes I like hearing from rappers when they’re going through it—as opposed to looking at it in the rearview.[2] Misery loves company and all. So I figured maybe the same principle would apply here. I’m sure the c-boys will let me know either way. [3] 

Plus, I read Jimmy Izrael’s interview with author (and Okayplayer cofounder) Angela Nissel a few weeks back and I picked up her book The Broke Diaries from the library. [4] Nissel reveals all the gory details of day-to-day poverty and manages to transform them into comedy. Without romanticizing being poor. (Only a bunch of people who have never been strapped a day in their lives would think there’s anything remotely cool about it. Indie rock hipsters: there’s nothing sexy about being broke, you dummies. Which is why everyone in hip-hop that’s broke fronts like they’re not.) [5]

I also noticed that the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network is kicking off a financial empowerment tour called Get Your Money Right tomorrow in Atlanta. [6] Apparently a whole slew of artists and entrepreneurs—including Russell Simmons, Jermaine Dupri, Ludacris, Paul Wall, Young Jeezy and DJ Drama—as well as some financial experts from Chrysler (the event sponsor), are going to drop knowledge on money management. There’s going to be info on banking, home ownership, repairing bad credit and understanding credit scores, entrepreneurship and vehicle financing.

I’m not going to knock the forum, cause I think money management is really important. [7] Most people that grew up broke aren’t taught how to spend their money wisely (i.e. you can’t teach your kids what you don’t know yourself). But it’s also important to recognize that the issue is much bigger than a simple set of skills. For one, smart money management often involves delayed gratification—and if you’ve been super broke for an extended period of time, delaying your gratification is the last thing on your mind when you get your pay check. There’s also the debt factor. Since poor people often don’t have the same family safety net that middle class people have, they tend to incur debt when they get in a pinch. Or they incur debt to go to school to try to get ahead. Either way, debt is really, really hard to get out from under.

There’s also another big issue at play here. HHSAN can teach people how to manage their money, but can they teach folks how to make more? After all, you can be a wiz at money management and still be crazy broke if you make low wages.

There are systemic factors to consider. A lot of poverty comes down to lack of opportunity. (Jobs passed through networks of contacts that are hard to break into, jobs requiring education that is too expensive to obtain, jobs given to interns who can afford to work for free for months at a time, etc.)

And then there’s an even more illusive issue to overcome, and that’s psychological. I’ve heard lots of successful people talk about that hurdle in interviews. If you grew up broke, you see yourself as broke. You have to be able to envision yourself as wealthy before you can become wealthy. It sounds pretty simple, but sometimes it’s a hard mental leap to make.

Someone should write a book on all this for the hip-hop generation. I’d read it.


[1] Crybaby rule. Also, people hate talking about class issues. It makes poor people feel embarrassed and rich people feel guilty.

[2] If you grew up with holes in your Zapatos, you’d celebrate the minute you was having dough, and what not.

[3] C-boys = comment section boys. (A nicer term for fruit flies.)

[4] I told you I was broke. (Sorry Transi, this is Kweli week up in here.)

[5] With one and a half pairs of pants you ain’t cool, and what not.

[6] I noticed there’s a Toronto date. I might have to go.

[7] I’ve spent years reading financial empowerment books, trying to teach myself. Holler if you want some recommended reading.