On his 2002 track “The Bounce,” Jay-Z namedropped the late business giant and political candidate Ross Perot. Back then, he was just beginning to collaborate with his then-girlfriend, now-wife, Beyoncé, and was 17 years shy of being recognized as a self-made billionaire by Forbes. He couldn’t have known it at the time, but when he rapped “business mind of a Ross Perot/ But never lost my soul,” he was being prophetic.
By then, Perot had become something of a rap touchstone: Tha Alkaholiks on 1995’s “DAAAM!”, E-40 on 1998’s “Ballin’ Outta Control,” A.G. on 1999’s “Muddslide.” Wealth and power are chief themes in the rap world, and Perot — who rose from a hardscrabble Texarkana, Texas, upbringing to build a data processing empire and run for president in 1992 and 1996 — became an ideal to strive for. When it comes to business acumen, game recognizes game.
On Tuesday (July 9), the world mourned the passing of Perot, who died at the age of 89 of leukemia, as stated by a family spokesman.
Perot slightly faded from pop-culture shorthand after his 1990s campaign runs, but he still pops up in recent tracks by Lil Dicky and Kanye West. In some ways, Perot’s story contains the hero’s journey intrinsic to rap; he was proof that an enterprising kid from Nowheresville could grow up to live like a king. Here are 10 hip-hop songs that referenced the business legend.
Tha Alkaholiks feat. Xzibit, “DAAAM!” (1995)
In this track by West Coast greats Tha Alkaholiks, MCs E-Swift, Tash and J-Ro namedrop sports stars — basketball center Dikembe Mutombo, center fielder Willie Mays — and boast of having more rhymes than there are miles between the earth and the sun. In one of his first major guest verses, Xzibit compares the Liks crew to their go-to billionaire tycoon: “Makin’ more Dutch than Ross Perot.”
E-40 feat. Levitti, “Ballin’ Outta Control” (1998)
This spitfire rags-to-riches tale finds E-40 bemoaning his lack of scratch, until he escapes a life of flipping burgers through the drug game. Not the route Perot took, but E-40 strikes it rich in his own way: “I’m makin’ long money like Ross Perot.” Now his lot is horse races, Vegas vacations and a 1994 Lincoln off the showroom floor.
Wu-Syndicate, “Ask Son” (1999)
The Wu-Tang Clan and Wu-Tang Records story is an ultra-tangled web worthy of an undergraduate thesis; a full list of the group’s affiliates would hover around 180 people. Wu-Syndicate, featuring Joe Mafia, Myalansky and Napoleon, is but a twig on their vast tree, but had much of the verve of its parent band. “Ask Son,” in which Mafia insists he “Polly (aka parrot) Ross Perot,” proves imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
A.G. feat. Ghetto Dwellas and Headkrack, “Muddslide” (1999)
In 1999, A.G. (or André the Giant) split from the Bronx duo Showbiz and A.G. and delivered dirty boom-bap on his solo debut The Dirty Version. On “Muddslide,” he uses the rhyming potential of “Perot” to the fullest: “I spit those awkward flows/ Drive in a Porsche real slow/ Floss the dough like Ross Perot.” Tough act to follow when it comes to Perot-centric bars.
Afroman, “Basehead Boogie” (2000)
Compared with other MCs, the goofy weed-centric rapper Afroman has a different take on Perot. He’s less envious of Perot’s mountains of wealth than his freedom to finance his own political campaigns: “Let me floss my flow, let me floss my ho/ Run my own campaign like Ross Perot,” he raps on “Basehead Boogie.” For once, one of the least subtle rappers of all time buried the lede.
Jay-Z feat. Kanye West, “The Bounce” (2002)
Brought up in Brooklyn’s Marcy Houses by a single mother, Jay-Z, like Perot, pulled himself up by the bootstraps and became globally known. “The Bounce,” a track from The Blueprint 2 featuring a still-green Kanye West, is a Perot-evoking tribute to Hova’s hunger and initiative (the aforementioned “Business mind of a Ross Perot, but never lost my soul” lyric).
Magic, “Never Slippin’” (2003)
The late New Orleans rapper Magic wasn’t as titillated by money or power: “Listen/ I wouldn’t give a f— if I get Ross Perot rich,” he snaps at the top of “Never Slippin’,” a song about keeping your nose clean in a life of crime. Perot isn’t shorthand for fame or glory; instead, Magic warns that can’t take your money to the grave. “No matter the money or the power, you could be touched/ Ashes to ashes, n—a, dust to dust.”
Obie Trice feat. Busta Rhymes, “Oh!” (2003)
Not the most innovative evocation of Perot, just a throwaway line about “getting money” like him. Obie Trice’s framing device is interesting, though: “Who says you can’t grow from mildew and mold?/ I’m often told a coffin’s the routes I go.” In the music world, think Kurt Cobain hailing from the sleepy town of Aberdeen, Washington, Bob Dylan from snowbound Hibbing, Minnesota or Arthur Russell from the cornfields of Iowa. Great figures can grow anywhere.
Kanye West, “Power (Unreleased SNL Verse)” (2010)
In his song “Power,” Kanye West rapped a biting verse aimed at 30 Rockefeller Plaza: “F— SNL and the whole cast/ Tell them Yeezy said they can kiss my whole ass.” When it came time to perform it on Saturday Night Live, obviously, the verse underwent a change. In this unreleased verse, Ye praises his own “machine gun flow/ made of ghetto Ross Perot.”
Brain feat. Lil Dicky, “Cocaine” (2017)
Released under the character of “Brain” (literally, a cartoon version of his brain), Lil Dicky swears on “Cocaine” that he’s never done the drug. Over, and over and over. At the end, there’s a laundry list of people, fictitious or not, who also haven’t indulged. Joan of Arc. Betty Boop. And yes, Ross Perot. Perot didn’t take the rough roads often mythologized in hip-hop, but the rap world still coronated him as a true self-starter.