Hustle and hype: the truth about the influencer economy

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More and more young people are enticed by the glittering promises of a career as an influencer – but it’s usually someone else getting rich

I was a 14-year-old schoolboy when the rapper 50 Cent released Get Rich or Die Tryin’. The most precocious kids in class declared the debut hip-hop album an instant classic and hailed the rapper’s legend: “He’s been shot nine times, you know?” The failed attempt on 50 Cent’s life was at the centre of his sales pitch as the bulletproof king of gangsta rap. My friends and I were easily sold. His debut was the bestselling album of 2003, selling 12m copies worldwide. Curtis Jackson may have been born black and poor in New York, but as 50 Cent, he was now worth $30m.

There are few things we find more compelling than a fable of overcoming the odds and achieving self-made success. Everyone loves an outsider, because deep down most of us believe we are one, and each generation has its own version for inspiration. For me, it was the constant reinvention of the hustler made good in hip-hop that stuck.

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