Rapper Stic.man was a 20-year-old in Brooklyn trying to get a record deal, deep in what his wife calls the original hip-hop lifestyle: burgers, blunts and booze.
“I had picked up some bad habits, smoking herb all the time, drinking every day in the urban obstacle course,” says Stic.man, a.k.a. Khnum Muata Ibomu but born Clayton Gavin. “I woke up one morning and my ankle was gigantically swollen, and I found out I had gout. That was my wake-up call. It was a blessing that revealed my path.”
Stic, one-half of the political duo Dead Prez, has been a vegan for two decades since then. Like several of hip-hop’s titans — think Jay-Z and members of Wu-Tang Clan — Stic has parlayed his passion into a business that allows him to preach the lifestyle benefits of going meatless, and make a little extra green on the side.
It seems to be working. A 2016 Pew Research Center survey found 3 percent of American adults overall identified as vegan and only 1 percent of Hispanic Americans. That number jumps to a startling 8 percent among African American adults. In Gallup’s latest findings on consumers’ meat-eating changes, which will be published Monday, whites reported eating 10 percent less meat in the past 12 months while people of color reported eating 31 percent less.
The interweaving of African American performers and veganism is tight and intricate, with threads running through lifestyle choices and business decisions of some of music’s titans. Eight out of 10 of the Wu-Tang Clan identify as vegan or vegetarian. Jay-Z and Beyoncé offered free tickets to fans if they went vegan. Rapper Jaden Smith, son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, launched a vegan food truck for the homeless; rapper Cardi B started a vegan fashion line. A$AP Rocky rapped about veganism on his recent single “Babushka Boi.”
Jay-Z was listed as hip-hop’s first billionaire by Forbes in 2019. Much of his portfolio is glamorous food and beverage businesses that add luster to his brand. A purported $310 million of his fortune comes from Armand de Brignac Champagne and another $100 million from D’Ussé cognac.
But the star also has begun investing in companies that align with his enthusiasm for a meatless lifestyle. In 2015 he and Beyoncé partnered with her trainer Marco Borges to launch 22 Days Nutrition, a high-end vegan meal planning and delivery service with an estimated annual revenue of $2.7 million.
And last year Jay-Z’s venture capital firm Marcy Venture Partners invested $1 million in Partake Foods, a black-owned start-up that makes allergen-free vegan cookies. He’s also invested in Impossible Foods, the company responsible for the popular plant-based Impossible Burger.
Jay-Z joined fellow celebrities Katy Perry, Serena Williams, Jaden Smith, Trevor Noah and Zedd in a $300 million investment round that brought the company past $750 million in funding. Jay-Z did not respond for requests for comment.
RZA, Ghostface Killah and GZA of Wu-Tang Clan have promoted Impossible Sliders at White Castle. Snoop Dogg is an ambassador for Beyond Meat.
Of course, the investment from such hip-hop legends is a drop in the bucket: Investors have poured more than $16 billion into American plant-based and cell-based meat companies in the past 10 years, $13 billion of that just in 2017 and 2018.
But it looks increasingly like major hip-hop figures are using their influence to inspire healthy choices.
During an impromptu appearance at Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s On the Run II Tour in Foxborough, Mass., music executive DJ Khaled had one question for the crowd: “Do we have any vegans in the house?”
The question was answered with a roar from the crowd of 40,000.
Hip-hop legends also are turning to plant-based ventures as career Plan B’s that allow for high visibility as they give back to their communities.
Source: Washington Post