We can learn a lot about personal finances from Kendrick Lamar. The Pulitzer Prize winner rhymes about the good and the bad effects of money in songs like “Vanity Slaves,” “How Much a Dollar Cost,” “Money Trees,” and “My Name Is.”
K-Dot, however, understands the power of a dollar and chooses to lead by example, developing sounder spending habits and building generational wealth. He also makes a point of keeping the Black community first, whether that’s in his music, the brand partnerships he signs, or the people with whom he surrounds himself. It’s why he headlines the annual Top Dawg Entertainment Holiday Concert for free or buys a van for a quadriplegic fan who has attended eight of his concerts. It’s also why he’s a beloved alumnus of Centennial High School, whose music program he helped revitalize and expand.
While he keeps a relatively low profile, he’s made notable moves, the ethos behind which anyone can adopt. Here, in honor of Kendrick’s 33rd birthday, are a few of them.
The power of real estate investments
“If you get your first big check and you cop a chain before you buy a house, you’re a vanity slave,” Kendrick rhymes on “Vanity Slave.” One way we can build wealth is through real estate. Kendrick has investment properties all over California. His first real estate purchase was a modest $523,500 home in 2014. Since then, he’s bought a $2.65 million, six-bedroom house in 2018 and a $9.7 million, four-bedroom in 2019. He’s also put some money into a property he’s keeping in the family with a $550,000 home he bought for his parents. He told Vibe, “I really like to buy property, whether it’s apartments, whether it’s buildings, whether it’s houses.” He added, “I like to stay in L.A. I still live in L.A., in a small little apartment condo in L.A. But I like to invest my money in different things, rather than buying things for the moment. Something that can last me a lifetime.”
Kung Fu Kenny wears his mantra on his sleeve. For a period, among the tattoos on his arms was one that that read, “Hustle like you broke.” While he’s covered it up, it was a daily reminder to stay motivated after every professional achievement. Although he’s made millions, his lifestyle—publicly, at least—doesn’t reflect as much. He told CNBC, “I look back to when I was 16 years old and thought, ‘What would I do with a million dollars? I’m gonna buy this; I’m gonna buy that. Then I thought that me doing that is actually hurting people I’m responsible for. I’m the first in my family to have this kind of success, so I took it upon myself to wisely navigate this success because I wanted them to be successful, too.”
For Black celebrities like Lamar, the “Black tax” can be salvaged if you lead by example. The meaning behind that tax is the financial obligation to support family and friends when you become the person that “makes it.” Instead of buying his sister a BMW when she graduated from high school, he gave her a Toyota Camry—a gift for which he was ridiculed. Still, the practical car reflected Kendrick’s mindset about money and goal of accruing generational wealth.
“So just to get a dollar, will I sell my soul? I look the devil in the eye and tell him, hell no.”
K-Dot is an example for anyone who is “not for sale,” and he shows it by how he partners with brands that align with what he supports and believes in. As his star rose, he signed deals with Disney, Reebok, Nike, and American Express. His work with Disney helped him curate the soundtrack for Black Panther through his piecework of the Pan-African experience; his shoe deals showcased his efforts to unify rival gangs; and American Express donated to Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles.
To Kendrick, partnerships are useful when you have full creative control. “Any kind of business outside of art and culture and hip-hop, I have to have full creative control. And having that control, I always wanted to have something that represents more than just a price tag,” he shared with Forbes. Securing the bag has more power when it comes with freedom, ownership, and creative control. The ability to launch and create ideas that align with what you stand for while being funded by a Fortune 500 company is power.
The importance of philanthropy
It's no secret that Kendrick loves his city. “I don't do it for the ’Gram, I do it for Compton,” he raps on “Element.” From his lyrics to his interviews, he has his “Hub City” in his heart. So it comes as no surprise that he’s a benefactor to the area. The TDE superstar's financial contributions to the city include a $50,000 donation to his alma mater, Centennial High School, and its music program. He even brought some of the kids from that program to experience Grammy weekend with him.
Those are just a couple of the ways he’s supported the Compton Unified School District’s music and after-school programs. In 2015, the California State Senate awarded Kendrick with the Generational Icon award for his contributions to the city and the global entertainment industry. During his acceptance speech, Kendrick shared, “I always thought how great the opportunity would be to give back to my community off what I do in music.” Being rooted in the places and people who contribute to our financial success is why many choose to give back.
Investing, hustling, having creative control, and being generous are all important takeaways from Lamar’s financial success that can set us up for future success. It’s all about setting up the intentions about our financial future.