Rappers shelling out cash on shiny, expensive items is as old as hip-hop itself. Whether it’s buying a fleet of luxury vehicles, a fancy mink coat or spending boatloads on enhancing their appearance, the marriage between rappers and their pricey possessions is as rock solid as their diamonds. It seems like that first major purchase for an entertainer is a celebration of sorts, a self-indulgent way to acknowledge industry success and that stardom could be around the bend.
Sometimes, a rapper’s first big purchase is also their last, as it is common for the checks to suddenly stop; there are very few places in the world where the term “here today, gone tomorrow” applies more than the ever-finicky music business. For other rappers, however, that initial check is just the first drop in an overflow of payments since they’re able to maintain success and relevance. Either way, we’ve listed some of the very first items that rappers bought when big-time money arrived. Some of these artists have regretted their purchases and others not so much.
NBA YoungBoy likes his cats exotic
The music business has often been called one of the most cutthroat industries out there, being compared to a jungle for the crafty ways artists have to navigate for survival. But Louisiana rapper NBA YoungBoy, otherwise known as YoungBoy Never Broke Again, has taken that jungle comparison to extremes by actually buying a tiger cub. As Complex reported, it was rumored that he signed a five-record contract with Atlantic Records for a cool $2 million.
What’d he buy, you ask? Well, in 2017, he shared a now-deleted clip of himself holding a baby tiger, at first with one hand, then by the scruff of its neck. The tiny animal can be heard squealing as YoungBoy shows it to the camera and walks around a massive driveway. The tiger can also be seen taking a dip in a swimming pool, while a small black dog trails behind, seemingly competing for the rapper’s attention.
There are currently no federal laws that prevent one from owning an exotic animal, as laws are determined by individual states. But it’s illegal to own such a creature in Louisiana. (In 2018, there were reports that a white tiger was seized in Louisiana; outlets speculated it might’ve been the big cat that Youngboy purchased, but that hasn’t been confirmed.) As for the price of a tiger, according to Florida wildlife sanctuary Big Cat Rescue, a wildlife sanctuary in Tampa, Florida, a cub can cost $7,500.
Donald Glover made up for lost time with candy
Despite all of the headaches that come with adulthood, like having to pay bills and doing taxes, one could say that being over 18 has its privileges. For starters, that curfew that’s probably been looming overhead since they were living with their folks? Gone. And when it comes to choosing what to snack on, regardless of the time of day or dietary drawbacks? An adult can feasibly chow down on whatever confections they want. One could even dare to do what most parents consider to be a mortal sin: ruin their appetite.
Donald Glover, also known as rapper Childish Gambino, took full advantage of being an adult after he began getting checks as a writer on NBC’s 30 Rock while still attending New York University Tisch School of the Arts. During a 2019 stop at Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Glover said he used some of his first paychecks to buy Fruit Gushers, and gave what many might consider a stellar reason. “I wasn’t allowed to have candy as a kid, so I was like, ‘I’m ballin”” he told Kimmel.
Glover gave further insight into his sugarless upbringing in his 2011 stand-up special Weirdo and said the only breakfast cereals he and his brother were allowed to eat were Cheerios, which he described as “cardboard doo-doo,” and Kix. Needless to say, he certainly did not consider those cereals to be sweet morning treats. It seems that Glover going haywire on Gushers makes complete sense.
A teenage Lil Wayne headed straight to the dealership
With rap’s edgy nature, it’s rare for a child rapper to become successful but there have been a few who’ve made it, Lil Wayne being one of them. At the age of 14, he became a member of the New Orleans rap group Hot Boys with members Juvenile, B.G. and Turk. On a 2015 interview with ESPNU’s Power Hour, Wayne said that his first check was for $6,500, but instead of buying something age-appropriate like a bicycle, he went for a faster means of transportation.
The Tha Carter V creator said he took that money and “went straight to Nissan and bought a Pathfinder.” The purchase doesn’t seem strange at first glance, right? Well, remember: Wanye bought the car two years before he was legally able to drive it. Heck, he wasn’t even allowed to participate in his home state’s driver education course in Louisiana, because in 1996 one had to be at least 15 years old to enroll.
The Southern-raised wordsmith mentioned that Nissan in his song “Russian Roulette,” off his Funeral (Deluxe) album, released on Jan. 31, 2020. “I was servin’ it, like Anna Kournikova/From a Nissan Pathfinder, now I have to find a chauffeur,” he rapped. Seems like a nice problem to have, doesn’t it?
50 Cent bought drugs so he could keep on dealing
After getting his first big check, 50 Cent took his career into his own hands. Hand-to-hand drug dealing, that is. The rap star, who dealt drugs before making music, signed a deal with Columbia records in 1999. And as most new signees do, he received an advance on future record sales. But instead of using that money as inspiration to fully immerse himself in music, he relaunched his drug operation.
In an interview with German journalist Falk Schacht, the G-Unit rapper explained that he came to that decision because out of the $65,000, $50,000 went to Jam Master Jay, Run D.M.C’s late DJ. 50 was signed to Jay’s label JMJ Records and needed to be released before taking the Columbia deal. From there, $10,000 of the advance went to the lawyer who drew up 50’s contracts. 50 was then left with $5,000. “How else would I provide for myself and then be on call and able to be in the studio whenever the company called me?” he asked. However, tragedy struck shortly after he was signed to Columbia.
On May 24, 2000, 50 Cent was shot nine times in Queens, NY. He survived the attack, and there is still a lot of speculation regarding the motive and who was involved. In 2005, The Guardian reported that court documents claimed it was an “assassination plot … allegedly hatched by a convicted drugs trader in revenge for some of the rapper’s lyrics.”
Shaquille O'Neal spent $1 million in a single day
Shaquille O’Neal has become an NBA legend by putting together some impressive statistics. But none of those numbers compare to the total he racked up in charges after going on a wild spending spree. The retired center — who released four rap albums in his career — told Business Insider in 2017 that he bought three Mercedes Benz vehicles, diamonds, rings and earrings in a single day, spending a whopping $1 million. He made the purchases after signing an endorsement deal with a trading card company.
The year was 1992, and O’Neal was just 20 years old. The spending spree began after his agent broke the news to him about his seven figure payday. O’Neal first spent $150,000 on one Benz, then showed it to his dad who said, “That’s nice. Where’s mine at?” So he went right back to the dealership and bought the same car for his father. When he returned, his mother said that she wanted the “smaller version” of the vehicle, so he spent another $100,000 on her. The jewelry purchases, O’Neal said, was to “do what all the homeboys do.”
But what the Hall of Famer didn’t realize is that even though $1 million sounds like an endless chunk of change, it can actually dry up faster than a puddle in the sun. O’Neal said that he was suddenly around “$60,000 in the hole,” so he decided to get a business manager for himself. Smart move.
Eve was ready for Sesame Street in her dream coat
Eve has been a co-host on The Talk in 2017, but back in the late ’90s, she delivered fierce raps as an artist signed to the New York-based record label Ruff Ryders. So what was the Philadelphia rapper’s first big purchase? She answered that question in 2018 during an interview with InStyle.
“I always knew that when I got my first big, and I mean big check, I wanted to take care of my family and get a colorful mink,” Eve explained. “I was about 21 when that finally happened, and after I took care of the people at home, I bought [it]. It made me look like Big Bird, but I didn’t give a f**k. My initials were embroidered inside and I loved it.”
But buying that mink wasn’t the first time that Eve splurged after coming into new money. She also explained during her interview that she “100 percent blew” her paychecks when working retail as a youngster, often treating people to a good time. As for the coat, there is a photo of Eve wearing a yellow mink at the Yigal Azrouel fall fashion show in New York City in 2000, but it’s not clear if that’s the infamous Big Bird mink. However, from a distance, those puffy sleeves may resemble feather-covered wings instead of fur. Flock on.
The Game bought bunch of weed for a financial backup
It looks like The Game read the 50 Cent handbook on how to keep one foot in the music industry and the other in the underworld. That’s because just like 50, he used $4,500 of his record label advance to keep his illegal drug business afloat.
This was back in 2003 when Game’s home state of California and other states didn’t have the same lenient laws surrounding the sticky green stuff that they do today. The Aftermath signee told Complex in 2012 that he was “still hustling” when he received his first big hip-hop check and bought six pounds of “chronic,” the slang term used for high potency marijuana. Game said that he had no idea if his rap career would workout when he was first signed, so he used the cannabis as a financial safety net.
Another sign that Game didn’t count on music to make him rich was the fact that he didn’t leave his Compton, California neighborhood immediately signing with Aftermath. In 2005 he told XXL that his label “begged” him to move but he refused. But the rapper eventually started using his money in a way that would increase his chances of staying out of the pokey. “I still live in Compton, except now I own the block — three houses, one of which serves as a business office, recording studio and a liquor store. Everything is legit now,” he explained.
Cardi B wanted a new smile
While many rappers have plunked down a considerable amount on gold teeth to keep up with the hip-hop Joneses, Cardi B went the more traditional route by shelling out for a brand new set of pearly whites with her first big earnings. She brought up the huge purchase on 2017’s “Bodak Yellow,” a song that would bring her from a reality TV personality to one of the biggest rap stars on earth. “Got a bag and fixed my teeth, hope you h**s know it ain’t cheap,” Cardi rapped on the single.
The New York-raised artist explained to The Breakfast Club in 2017 that she decided to get her teeth fixed because people were bullying her about them. “I’m a Libra, I like to be like ‘Ah-ha! What you gon’ say ’bout me now?'” she told the hosts. “And it’s like, what can people say about me now?”
Cardi’s teeth were done by Dr. Catrise Austin of The Smilist Dental in New York City, who’s done work on other rap stars like A$AP Rocky. According to BET.com, Austin charges $2,000 for each veneer in 2017, so if one needs 20 veneers for their top and bottom row, they will have to spend over $40,000. Oh, and that does not include whitening, which goes for around $500. Ouch! And that’s for the cost, not the procedure.
One car just wouldn't do it for LL Cool J
There’s nothing abnormal about a rapper, or anyone else for that matter, purchasing a fancy new ride when that person’s career starts to ascend. But buying an entire fleet of luxury vehicles when the money starts rolling in isn’t something you hear about every day.
LL Cool J is one person who took his early rap dollars and went all out, because, as he recalled to Metro in 2015 (via The Arizona Republic), he not only bought his mother a house, but went and purchased 10 or 12 cars, including Porsches, Benzes and BMWs. Must be nice, huh?
And if the fleet of fancy cars aren’t enough to prove that Cool J loves his pricey vehicles, a story about a visit to Maryland should do the trick. “I remember riding down the street in Baltimore one day and saw a BMW and went straight in and bought it the same day and drove it off the lot,” he told Rolling Stone in 2019. “It was impulsive, like going to get gum.” Yeah, if a stick of gum was $30,000.
Rae Sremmurd's Slim Jxmmi had 'fun' with his first check
All throughout this list, rappers admitted to blowing wads of cash, but at least they have something to show for it. Cardi B, for example, is still flashing her expensive smile, and who’s to say that Eve still doesn’t have that yellow mink hanging up somewhere. But Slim Jxmmi from the rap duo Rae Sremmurd said that he planned to fork over his first check on nothing of significance and didn’t want to have anything to show for his spending. He talked about that decision in 2015 on 247HH.com, stating that because he never had much, the goal was to make up for lost time.
“I had a great f***ing time, because you know what I realized? It’s people that make millions of dollars that spend whatever I got on my first check for fun,” he explained. As he put it, he wanted to “start practicing” being a person who is so rich that they regularly shell out money willy-nilly. “You know how they say, you had all that money and ain’t spend it on nothing?” he asked. “That’s exactly what I did and I’m proud.”
The rapper then said he blew his first check because he knew there would be others coming. Evidently, he predicted correctly, because in 2019 his mother Bernadette Walker thanked him for buying her a spacious new home. Now that’s a good way to spend some money.
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