Bank Notes 

Can rappers be frugal?

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Phonte's got some advice for you on personal financeMaking good financial decisions is hard — if it was easy, everyone would do it. I’m a big believer in finding motivation and wisdom in the art I choose to consume, including music. So I’m going to start highlighting music I think has something smart or interesting to say about money.

Today’s Bank Notes highlights a song featuring rapper and R&B singer Phonte, formerly of Little Brother. It might seem a little ridiculous to take money advice from a rapper — rappers generally spend a lot of time boasting about the money they’ve blown on cars and gold chains that cost as much as your house.

But a lot of rappers are also shrewd entrepreneurs with rags-to-riches stories that would make Horatio Alger cry into his cornflakes. As a fairly obsessive hip-hop fan, every once in a while I’ll come across a rap verse that expresses a truth about personal finance in a way that really hits home.

Here’s Phonte in the song  “On the Marquee,” a collaboration he did with all-star producer Statik Selektah a few years ago.

“It’s a shame when people are seen as struggling/ Just cause you don’t n—- waste your money out in public/ Please; I don’t do this s— for the perks/ I do this rap s— for the work/ And even when them ASCAP checks is berserk/ I’m in the bank tellin’ my money ‘keep quiet’ like it’s talkin’ in church”

Phonte is on to something here: In a society as materialistic as ours, being frugal can look downright weird, but that doesn’t mean we should let that stop us. If I had a dollar for every time someone gave me a weird look for riding my bike to work down here in image-conscious South Florida, I probably wouldn’t have to bother riding a bike anymore.

Striving for a higher degree of financial independence by cutting costs and accumulating cash-flow producing assets is inherently nonconformist. We live in a culture where not leveraging yourself to the max to buy two new cars, a newly-built house in the ‘burbs and luxury-branded everything is downright strange, and people sometimes assume the worst if you choose not to play along.

In the end, though, that might actually work to your advantage. If people confuse your penny-pinching with financial hardship, they’re probably less likely to come to you for a loan.

What do you think? Do you ever get weird looks or negative comments from your peers for not maxing out your consumption? What songs do you think have smart things to say about money?

If you want to listen to the whole song, it’s below (some NSFW language):

(Photo: The Foreign Exchange Music)

{ 7 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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7 Responses to “Can rappers be frugal?”

  1. Hannah says:

    This might not be a concern to you, but I thought I’d drop a note just to mention that since you changed your RSS feed to only display a preview, I am unsubscribing.

    • Eugene says:

      It might be an inconvenience, but at the same time this site provides a service/value (a free one at that) which you have been happy to consume directly from your RSS. The least you could do is click in and have an ad served.

  2. Claes Bell says:

    Hey Hannah,

    Making sure we provide a good experience for readers always concerns us. We’re working out some bugs with the RSS feed, and at some point we hope to be able to have it display the whole article again. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  3. Karl says:

    I have been frugal for a long time so people I know are used to me. When I meet new people and subject comes up I explain why I don’t understand over consumption, how much happier you can make yourself living by your own values that help you, others and the planet. They consistently understand and the conversation shifts from fancy cars and big houses to saving money to reduce risk and ignoring pop culture. This has been the case with minimum wage people and families making 200k plus. I think people find my approach and philosphy interesting, refreshing or at least entertaining.

  4. Brandon Duncombe says:

    I think you see a lot more rappers preaching “bling” and balance.

    I remember a record awhile ago from Ludacris describing how to properly set up your own independent record label instead of blowing money frivolously — mentioning separate business accounts, signing yourself to your own label, having business checks, hiring an entertainment lawyer, trademarking your alias, it was all pretty accurate advice.

    I think the recession taught many of these guys a lesson, and ever since I’ve heard more of a mix.

    Even some of the new guys like Tyler, the Creator, talks about investing over splurging.

    Hell, I remember Jay-Z bragging that he’s “still spendin’ money from ’88” years ago. So the real “hustlers” in the game have always had this knack of holding onto their money

  5. Jacqueli says:

    Thanks for this post! I have felt like a social pariah for years because I live frugally. Every time I decline an invite to an expensive new restaurant or local hot spot because its not in the budget for the month, my peers react like I need an intervention.

  6. Claes Bell says:

    Brandon, I totally agree … I just think the songs about money and clothes and houses are the ones that tend to sell better and affect how people see the genre as a whole.

    Jacqueli, I am right there with you.

    Karl, the people close to me have definitely learned to tolerate it over the years. But it definitely takes some explaining from time to time.

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