A few weeks ago, XXL broke down a list of six rappers with unusual side-hustles, including Kanye West's Fatburger chain and Lil Kim's beauty salons. While it's fairly common to see a MC break out into other business ventures through rap, it got us thinking about the opposite situation: what did rappers do to pay the bills before rap? While the notion that rappers "hustled" before hip-hop applies to many artists, there are a few acts that might surprise you.
Check out XXL's list of six rappers who work unusual odd jobs.
Job: Bill Collector
Although Cole is known for having attended St. John's University, the North Carolina MC also held down a particularly odd part time gig. In an interview with NBC 4 New York from 2010, the Roc Nation rapper revealed that he spent time working as a bill collector in Long Island. He explained that he took the job during his college years as a means to fund his then-budding rap career. Cole recalled that he began to really focus on his music in the final two years of school, forcing him to divine alternative sources of income to fund his studio time.
"I was making beats in college, but way before that in high school I was making beats and rapping and recording my own songs," he recalled. "The first two years [at St. John's] I kind of got caught up being a college student and being in New York trying to get my foot in in the city, but then I got refocused...just to kind of stay afloat and pay the rent, I worked at the Queens Courier newspaper in Queens doing ad sales and telemarketing. Then, I needed more hours, so I moved to a job in Long Island bill collecting. Everyday I was calling people about their late payments, knowing that I was one of them."
[via NBC 4 New York]
Job: Correctional Officer
Perhaps one of the most notorious day jobs in hip-hop history is Rick Ross' previous career as a correctional officer. In 2008, TheSmokingGun leaked photos of a young William Leonord Roberts-Rozay's government name-working as a C.O. Although he initially denied the reports, accusing hackers of Photoshopping his face on another person's body, Ross eventually admitted that he worked in a prison. However, he insinuated that his vocation afforded him ties to more illicit means of money. "The Bawse did it all to get money," he told Big Boy's Neighborhood in 2009. "If Rick Ross did work at one of these places, it wasn't for obvious reasons...the truth is far more sinister."
Rozay later expanded on his statement to Rolling Stone, revealing that part of the reason he began working as a correctional officer as a means to "wash his hands" after his best friend was indicted in drug trafficking charges. "This was my best friend, who I ate peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches with, and pork and beans with, my buddy, my partner, my number-one dude," he explained. "Suddenly I'm talking to him over federal phone calls. Hearing the way it was building, I knew I couldn't take nothing for granted. My homie's father was a huge influence on my life, too...he was the one who was like, 'Yo, go get a job somewhere, man. Go be a fireman. Or go be a fucking corrections officer. Just go sit down somewhere.'"
[via Rolling Stone]
Job: Security Guard
Although Fat Joe gained a significant amount of clout in hip-hop as a promoter early on his career, the Fat Gangsta held another job that he considers "the worst job I had." Joey crack explained that he worked as a security guard at a Bronx sneaker store. Although he counts his blessings for not having to actually deal with customers' feet, he was required to chase down shoplifters-a duty for which he utilized his personal experience with boosting. However, the gig was short-lived-Fat Joe says it was only two days-as a chance viewing of Big Daddy Kane's "Smooth Operator" video inspired him to hit the road and pursue rap.
"I worked at Flavor Shoes, on Fordham Road in the Bronx," he recalled. "It was the worst job I had. I wasn't dealing with peoples' smelly feet-I was more or less security. I was a big guy, so they made me a little security guard. I always caught kids, cause I used to boost myself so I already knew how to catch 'em. I'd look for certain moves, like this guy's really not gonna buy this $100 pair of sneakers...I only worked there for two days. I told my moms I was going to change my life and be a good guy, but then I was watching the videos they was playing in the store and the Big Daddy Kane video where he's shooting the pool, 'Smooth Operator,' came on. I saw that, quit my job, and went to hustle, took it to the streets."
[via Village Voice]
Job: Taxi Driver
Cappadonna's day job as a cab driver in Baltimore marks one of the rare instances on this list in which a rapper took up a 9-to-5 after finding success in the rap game. In 2003, MTV made headlines when it revealed that Cappa-a longtime affiliate and then-newly minted official member of the Wu-Tang Clan-had relocated to Maryland and had been working as a cab driver. Cappa revealed that he and his wife were having marital problems at the time, and he decided to move out and live on the streets. Eventually, the two reconciled and moved to Baltimore, where Cap found work as a cab driver to supplement his income.
"I was actually living in the street," he indicated. "It was by choice. But it was more of my way of rebelling against the materialistic world...[being a cab driver is] not only a good way for me to get a little bit of extra money, it makes me one with the people. I hear a lot of different stories in the cab. I done had a lady and her daughter trying to get at me. Some kids come in there and try to jump out my cab. I don't have no boundaries. I'm not dealing with pride and selfishness and other things that limit us from accomplishing what we want to accomplish in life. I go for the gusto. They've got the expression, 'Be all you can be' in the Army. I'mma be all I can be in the world. I'm a master of anything."
Job: Fat Beats Clerk
Long before he became one of Hot 97′s biggest radio personalities alongside Peter Rosenberg and K. Foxx on The Morning Show, Cipha Sounds worked at the legendary Fat Beats record store in Lower Manhattan. At the closing day of Fat Beats' store in 2009, Cipha recalled beginning his career at "The 406," courtesy of DJ Riz, who introduced him to the team in 1996. His work at Fat Beats eventually led him to securing a gig as Lil Kim's tour DJ, a first for him. He recalled that he began splitting his time between working at the store during the weekdays, and travelling with the Queen Bee on the weekend. However, his new role at Kim's official DJ was met with some friendly ribbing from his co-workers, underground rappers Ill Bill and Q-Unique of the group the Arsonists.
"I started working here when I was about-maybe in '96?" he revealed. "I met DJ Riz at WBAU radio-I was an intern answering phones-and I was like, 'Can I hang out with you sometime?' He didn't have a car at the time...and I lived in Long Island, so I used to drive to Brooklyn, pick him up and take him to gigs in the city where he was DJing at, and it was the greatest time of my fuckin' life...I love music, I love DJing, and I didn't want to work in an office and wear a suit and do it on the weekends, so I asked if I could work at Fat Beats...at the time, I got the chance to DJ for Lil Kim. I'm a real hip-hop DJ, an underground hip-hop DJ. My manager-who was Flex's manager at the time-got me a gig working for Lil Kim. At first, I didn't want to do it at all, like, 'Man, fuck that commercial shit...' I would go away on the weekends with Lil Kim, and then come work [at Fat Beats] during the week, and everybody that worked here like Ill Bill and Q-Unique from the Arsonists would be like, 'You drinking champagne? What's Biggie doing, you sell-out? You got a fuckin' yellow leather suit on like The Chris Rock Show, you faggot [laughs].'"
Job: College Professor
Although best known as the author of the critically acclaimed tell-all Root For The Villain: Rap, Bullshit And A Celebration of Failure, New York rhymer J-Zone translated his music career into a college class. In a 2008 interview with HipHopDX, the Pimps Don't Pay Taxes rapper/producer revealed that he he'd taken up a job as an associate professor at his old alma mater, SUNY Purchase in its Conservatory Of Music. Although it wasn't his first teaching gig-he also taught a number of high school courses in his time off from rap-J recalled that his class had built up a big following among members of the student body.
"I'm teaching part-time at the old college I went to," he explained. "I went there as a music major about 10 years ago. I always maintained ties with that school. My first album [Music For Tu Madre] was my senior project for graduation from that school and that's a well known fact in all my bios. So, I have a public connection to the school...this is my first time really teaching, so I'm in the process of developing my course. Every year, it's getting stronger. My enrollment is growing. I'm getting more kids every year. I'm taking it slow because teaching is great but it's also tough. It's something I'm not used to doing so Im trying to learn as I go along. College is a little easier than high school, because at least in college, most of the people want to be there."