After watching an hour of urban music videos, you might think to yourself “these folks are the richest people on the planet” with the amount of bling and flashiness that gets excessively thrown around by every artist with a record deal. It’s a classic story – a person goes from rags to riches, starts acting like a billionaire, and goes right back to rags.
Many urban music stars come from impoverished backgrounds, so it’s difficult to suddenly become a great money manager when you run into wealth. Plus, when you go your whole life without being able to buy the things you want, it makes sense that you might be an extravagant spender when your budget allows for it. Unfortunately, the word “budget” wasn’t in the vocabulary of many of these urban music stars as they climbed into the millionaire’s club and right back out of it during the course of their careers:
1. Damon Dash
The once esteemed music executive apparently fell behind on rent so bad that he owed the building where he was staying more than $160,000. He was delinquent for a year and half before filing for bankruptcy – sounds like he might be in need of some no credit financing.
Benzino was forced out of being a co-owner of The Source magazine in 2005. He later tried to start a restaurant called Benzino’s Crab Trap, which failed within the first year of business. Some attribute his downfall to his feud with Eminem.
3. Aaron Carter
While not the urbanest of urban music stars, it is often forgotten that this Bieber predecessor rapped the song How I Beat Shaq. He also filed for bankruptcy in 2013 after owing $3.5 million to the IRS.
Ma$e had been out of the lime light for a while by the time the state of Florida issued a report stating that he owed more than $124,000 in back taxes.
5. Luther Campbell
This might come as old, nay ancient news to some, but the former manager of 2 Live Crew had to file for bankruptcy back in 1995.
6. Swizz Beats
While he did get to leave his career with Alicia Keys as a trophy, the globally recognized producer seems to have had a problem paying his taxes, as he reportedly owed $1 million to the IRS.
7. Jermaine Dupri
While it’s possible that Dupri might have bounced back by now, he wasn’t doing so well in 2002 when the IRS seized his property for owing $2 million in back taxes.
8. Trick Daddy
Despite being the driving force of Slip N Slide records during the label’s golden era, the Thug Holiday rapper has had his fair share of financial and legal issues, with his home being foreclosed on in 2010 while he reportedly owed around $150,000 in back taxes.
9. Young Buck
Despite being a founding member of G-Unit, one of the most heralded hip-hop groups of the 2000s, Young Buck was forced to auction off his belongings to pay off the money he owed in back taxes in 2010.
10. Bow Wow
The not-so-little yet still small-statured Bow Wow has run into his fair share of social and financial issues. In 2012, he stated as part of his child support defense that he only had $1,500 in his checking account and he was only making $4,000/month.
11. Beanie Sigel
Beanie Sigel wasn’t the biggest rapper of his time, but he failed to report more than $1 million in earnings and was found guilty of tax evasion in 2010.
12. MC Hammer
MC Hammer – the poster child for hip-hop debt problems – had some of the biggest hits of the 1990s, yet somehow managed to leave the game with $13 million in debt.
13. Ja Rule
Ja Rule’s career struggles are no secret, but it might surprise you to know that he reportedly owed $1.1 million to the IRS as of 2011.
14. Lisa Lopes
Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and TLC had a horrible original recording contract that only paid them each 20 cent for every record they sold. As a result, the group was said to have $3.5 million in debt by the mid-90’s.
15. Fat Joe
Fat Joe has been active in the game for a very long time, yet like many other established artists on this list, he had an aversion to paying his taxes. The Lean Back rapper pled guilty to tax evasion in 2012 after allegedly owing $3 million to the IRS.
The Pimp My Ride host and well-known West Coast rapper reportedly owed almost $1 million in back taxes as of mid-2010. As a result, he attempted to file for bankruptcy in 2009 and then again in 2010.
17. Method Man
As a member of the infamous Wu Tang Clan, Method Man has been active in the music and film industries since the 1990s, with culturally iconic hits like How High under his belt. Yet, sadly in 2010, he pled guilty to tax evasion and had to pay more than $100,000 in fines.
18. Lil’ Kim
Lil’ Kim ran into problems in 2008 when her former label sued her for $2.8 million. Four years later, she faced legal issues when she was accused of owing $1 million in back taxes.
Common’s face has become so commonplace in movies and TV shows, many people don’t even directly associate him with urban music any more. Yet, in 2012 he had a bit of difficulty and faced foreclosure on his condo in Chicago. Whether or not he was actually “broke” at that time is questionable.
Nas reached a low point in his career in 2009 when his pay was garnished to cover more than $6 million in back taxes. He was ordered to pay $300,000 to his baby mama Kelis and claimed that doing so would literally bankrupt him.
21. Lauryn Hill
While Lauryn Hill had most of her success back in the 90’s, she was nabbed for tax evasion in 2012 and had to serve 30 days in prison, which seems kind of harsh compared to the punishment for other offenders on this list. The only person who fared worse was Fat Joe.
Who’s to Blame for their Downfall?
One could argue that the record labels’ exploitation of artists through penny-pinching contracts puts them in a vulnerable financial situation. However, you could just as easily counter that the artists were adults who were capable of managing their finances like anyone else. Fortunately, most of the people on this list didn’t wind up completely homeless and in shambles, and most of them are probably living fairly comfortably today.