In 2001, Bob Johnson became the first Black-American billionaire after selling Black Entertainment Television (BET) to Viacom for $3 billion. Now, 13 years later, Dr. Dre has joined the short list of billionaires in the Black community. Dr. Dre is now the first billionaire of hip-hop and with this abundance of wealth comes criticism and social responsibility.
“The first billionaire in hip-hop, right here from the motherf---ing West Coast,” proclaimed Dr. Dre (Andre Young) when celebrating with a group of West Coast homies. Those in attendance included R&B singer Tyrese Gibson and director F. Gary Grey.
A Compton native, Dr. Dre began his claim to fame as a member of World Class Wreckin’ Cru and the controversial gangsta group, N.W.A. Presently, Dr. Dre and music mogul Jimmy Iovine are the innovators behind Beats Electronics. The company primarily provides innovative, quality sound for headphones and speakers, but earlier this year Beats Music, a streaming service app, was launched. However, Beats products are not what caught Apple’s attention.
Rather than focus on acquiring new technology, Apple is interested in hiring the talented masterminds. “They want Jimmy and they want Dre,” an unnamed source reported. “He’s got fashion and culture completely locked up.”
On May 8, Apple began a 3.2 billion negotiation deal for Beats Electronics, the biggest acquisition in Apple’s history. Owning 15% of the company, Dr. Dre will not only be the first billionaire of hip-hop, but also the largest Black contributor to higher education.
Last year, Dr. Dre, along with business partner Jimmy Iovine, gave $70 million to create an interdisciplinary degree at USC. The 4-year program, Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation, surprised and unsettled some.
Dillard University president Walter M. Kimbrough questioned the reason giving to a school with a $3.5 billion endowment and with a Black student enrollment rate below 5%. Why not a Historically Black College-University where donations and scholarships are vastly needed?
“A hip-hop icon is now the new black higher-ed philanthropy king…but as the president of a black college, it pains me as well. I can’t help but wish that Dre’s wealth, generated as it was by his largely black hip-hop fans, was coming back to support that community,” says Kimbrough.
Compton Mayor Aja Brown recently offered Dr. Dre a key to the city. She hopes he can revitalize the community with sponsorship of performing arts and music programs. There is still no response from Dr. Dre regarding this invitation.
As Tyrese exclaims, “The Forbes list has changed.” Does this mean the Black community has too? The Apple-Beats deal comes at the start of the summer as Dr. Dre heats things up on the West Coast.