In today’s society, we’ve developed many individualistic traits especially with the rise of entrepreneurship and overall independence. We have women of all colors completing tasks that would make our grandmother’s frown and scowl in disbelief. Men of all colors are becoming more well rounded with their skills from manual labor to the youngest tech innovators but where does all this land the black community as pertains to black business equity and independence on the world stage.
I was born in The United States of America in 1992 and have seen many changes to the black community in my short 25 years here. Naturally, my origins stem from Hip Hop and being such a young genre at the time I was born, I couldn’t imagine the growth and changes that were to come the genre. Looking at the history of Hip Hop, we can see how many of the influences comes from our past like Gospel, Blues, Soul, Rock n Roll to Slave Hymns but one as a young observer of the culture I have noticed consistencies in how Black People have maintained our equity within The United States. Taking a look at creativity and innovation, in a capitalistic society, these concepts inherently are too volatile to have any true and consistent growth and this is where the first flag was raised for me as a young black boy in America.
“There’s No Money in Innovation.”
My first musical album was KRS-ONE’s “My Philosophy.” Before this album I simply listened to the radio like most children in the passenger seat of their parent’s car but this album was the first of it’s kind to me that spoke on topics that reflected the representation of who I was and how society may have viewed me. KRS-ONE spoke on the differences in how Blacks around the world were distributed resources with songs like “You Must Learn” and how those resources lead to some hasty and devilish decision making in the song “Love’s Gonna Get Ya.” At the time I hadn’t experienced many of the event’s in both songs but I soon would witness literally every aspect of those songs come to life through Hip Hop.
I’m sure you’re wondering: “Well, what does this have to do with ‘Black Equity’ on the world stage?” Well, this is really the foundation of how particularly black innovation and creativity is all the leverage the Black Community needs to take the first steps in building black equity. In The United States, our biggest and most popular commodity is entertainment, we sell records, form bands, create dances that take the world by storm. So let’s take a look at how this commodity continues to benefit The United States because as we know…”There’s no money in innovation.”
I would love to go through the history of US entertainment but I’d rather explore the management of this commodity. Let’s start with music, as I’m a musician myself I can see the value of creating something from nothing and present it to the world in hopes of making a profit but how do I measure the quality of my product. Let’s look at the scale at which we measure success for musicians in the US, many may believe that record sales are the prime way to determine if a musician’s product is going to be a flop or a top hit. Others may think popularity is the another measurement but that can be very misleading if you miss the wave. So, I like to look at phenomenon act’s like Migos for example, this group used their talents of consistency and charisma to create a sound that is unique to very few musical acts. Some may say the resemble Bone Thugs n Harmony in some ways but as for the sonics of their music, there is nothing like it. Now, this is where the steps in building equity come into play, Migos have developed or innovated sound for themselves but how can we produce this into something that can be used as a commodity they can invest in? We see them do this by working with many artists in Atlanta on beats that resemble their sound, working with producers that can emulate or sculpt their sound which in turn creates a vacuum of benefits for those closely involved.
Where Do We Go From Here?
So, let’s say you, your band or group develop a situation similar to the Migos and you begin to attract business and customers from all over because everyone see’s how successful your product is. At some point, as creators will naturally do, we will take that working product and try to build upon it, make it better or just make it unique but where does this leave you, the originator? Too much rhetoric I know, but let’s take a look at a few ways one can create a product such as music, build upon it and become the source of the innovation it brings. For example working with a team you build and set yourselves up as the primary source of your product means that anyone that wants to use your product or service must come to you or your team first, which will in turn build yourself a network of resources you can pull from. Essentially, this is how many believe business should be done but in America the commodities here aren’t always as tangible, like the ‘Milly Rock’ for example. We’ve seen gaming developers, app developers and tech companies utilize artwork and movements to build their own equity only to invest in their own resources.
Gone Are The Days of Middle Men
Today, in the Black Community we spend our time innovating and creating topics, trends, music, photos, artwork, and tech everyday but what happens to those products and whose to reap the benefits? Social media hashtags that become the hottest news network topics to our children having the entire nation jigging to our beats, we see many companies use these products to build up their own profit in the same approach we expect in a capitalistic society but the creators simply don’t. Part of the problem lies in that Black people haven’t seen the long term equity in their innovation in almost ever. We watch artists, musicians, actors and actress give someone the position to represent the product they create only to receive a percentage of the profit, this way of doing business would be frowned upon in the mind of anyone looking to build equity in the name of their business.