There’s nothing like the hustle, it’s’s an action relatable regardless of social-economic status, class, or race. You can’t fake it and it’s easy to spot.
That’s why the term is prolific all throughout hip hop and in all its eras. From Rick Ross’ “Hustling” to “I’m A Hustler Baby” by Jay Z and Pharrell Williams, it's a trait that gives artists respect and integrity,
It’s also why the BET Hip Hop Awards honors the year’s most staunch go-getter every year in its “Hustler of The Year” category. Megan Thee Stallion took it home last year, after coining “Hot Girl Summer” and dropping freestyle after freestyle and Jay Z took it home in 2019 after officially becoming hip hop’s first billionaire.
So, without further ado, here’s a look at this year’s nominees for 2021 BET Hip Hop Awards “Hustler of The Year”.
Cardi B’s entire career embodies the hustle. From starring on VH1’s "Love & Hip Hop: New York to "Bodak Yellow" becoming the largest single in the country a year later — there’s a reason she won “Hustler of The Year” at her first Hip Hop Awards in 2017.
Almost five years later and $40 million richer and much is still true. One might even say she’s gotten savvier given she’s had two births since then.
Although Cardi hasn’t released an album, she’s cultivated unique partnerships with Reebok, Balenciaga, Fashion Nova, Marc Jacobs, and Tom Ford, had small acting bits in F9: The Fast Saga and Being Mary Jane and has received praise for her role in Hustlers, where she plays Diamond.
That doesn’t include Pepsi, UberEats and Rap Snacks. Although having not released an album recently, Cardi does not play and has positioned herself for another win.
Say what you want about Drake’s reign, the looks he receives and his almost untouchable pop star status, but please don’t forget to include the mastermind marketing and strategy that’s gotten him there.
Take his sixth studio album, Certified Lover Boy, which broke his record for the most-streamed album in a single day, for example.
For promotion leading up the drop, he revealed the album’s features via Billboards in the artists’ perspective cities, partnered with designer streetwear brand, Chrome Hearts, for an exclusive collab and used ESPN to announce the project’s due date.
If you’re going to hate on his winnings, at least appreciate the hustle.
Back in June of 2020, Lil Baby let his fans and peers alike know that it’s going to cost $100k for a feature, which, contrary to what you’d think, is relatively low for a rapper who had the most consumed album of 2020 in the US.
But once you consider all the features he frequents, the bill adds up a bit. And you can’t blame the buyers, as he comes with it every time. From J. Cole’s “Pride is the Devil” and DJ Khaled’s “Every Chance I Get,” to Drake’s “Girls Want Girls,” he steals the show every time.
Even Lil Durk and Quality Control’s Pierre “Pee” Thomas suggested Lil Baby should at least double his asking price.
You can't talk about the best hustlers over the past year without mentioning Houston rapper, Megan The Stallion.
Apart from releasing the albums Good News and Suga last year, the three-time Grammy-winner sued her own label, 1501 Certified Entertainment, to get out of a complicated contract.
The bossed-up move took place after Megan signed a management deal with JayZ‘s Roc Nation team and they saw her artist deal was fishy (Megan’s contract reportedly also facilitated a 60/40 split of her earnings between the label and Megan).
That’s when she successfully filed a restraining order against 1502 for trying to block her from releasing her Suga EP .
There isn’t a better hustle than getting your finances together and as the winner of this very award last year, Megan would know with the best of them.
From the Big Mac to Mac Cosmetics, Bay area rapper, Saweetie, has a keen nose for the bag. Even while still going through artist development, the “Best Friend” rapper has managed to leverage her personality, becoming a brand favorite across the board.
Aside from partnerships with women’s sunglasses line, Quay Australia, the clothing retail line, PrettyLittleThing and Beats by Dre, the “My Type” rapper teamed up with McDonald’s for her own Saweetie Meal — a personalized arrangement of the classic Big Mac.
Additionally, the Icy Girl is a brand ambassador for MAC Cosmetics.
“Saweetie is one of those people that truly does it all — musician, CEO, actress, TV show host, gamer, viral sensation, the list goes on — she is an extreme talent and is relatable. She is all of our ‘Best Friends,’” MAC’s Global Creative Director Drew Elliott commented
Young Mississippi crooner, Yung Bleu may be known for his velvet-smooth voice but make no mistake about it —he’s a hustler.
Although he’d been making waves of success early on in his career, with his 2013 buzzing single "Go Head", produced by Drumma Boy, doing well and his 2016 Bleu Da Ruler mixtape birthing the viral hit “Miss It,” he knew he wanted more for himself.
Now, with a Drake feature, his own label imprint and Billboard charting singles, one could say it paid off, but it took a hustler spirit to make that call.
(Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/WireImage)