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6 entrepreneurs who shook off criminal records to dominate the business world

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1986-founded rap group N.W.A witnessed a new lease of life this year with the arrival of Straight Outta Compton, a film adaption based on the crew’s struggle of growing up in the crime-riddled Californian city.

The members, which included Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, were often caught up with police clashes as the Los Angeles area was condemned for police brutality and racial discrimination.

Of course, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube have transitioned to become huge success stories. Indeed, the former had the last laugh when his Beats Electronics business was acquired by Apple for $3bn in May 2014.

As such, we’ve looked at six other individuals who defied their shaky beginnings and run-ins with the law to become leaders in their fields, and we start by continuing on the theme of rap with…

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1. Jay-Z

Today, people around the world know Jay-Z, real name Shawn Carter, as a successful millionaire rapper and businessman in his own right – as well as the husband of the equally successful Beyonce.

However, he hasn’t always been such a law-abiding family man.

In fact, years ago, Carter was somebody you’d have wanted to avoid on a dark night.

Growing up in New York’s Brooklyn, Carter had a rough childhood and witnessed a murder at the age of nine, a father abandoning the home at 11 and at 13 he’d become a crack dealer.

Speaking to Oprah in an interview, he said of his old neighbourhood: “Navigating this place was life-or-death.” The rapper added that the streets taught him loyalty because breaking your word to someone would result in you being dealt with personally – not in a court of law.

And speaking of law, Carter’s life of crime went beyond narcotics as he admitted to stabbing a music executive in 1999 – by which time he’d already secured rap fame.

These days, Carter is much more respectable. In September 2015, Carter ranked number two on the Hip Hop Cash Kings list, having brought in $56m this year alone.

This was generated from a combination of shows with his wife, summer launch of streaming business Tidal alongside other celebrity faces, and the acquisition of premium champagne brand Armand de Brignac in late 2014.

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Read more on the crossover between celebrities and business:

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2. Bill Gates


Taking down the violence a notch, we have billionaire tech genius Bill Gates.

These days, the man responsible for Microsoft uses his presence and $79.2bn wealth to spread philanthropic wisdom across the globe.

One of the most notable moves he made this year saw him champion a new process that purifies waste into drinking water and call upon entrepreneurs to seize the opportunity.

“I think it could be a great fit in India, where there are lots of entrepreneurs who could own and operate the processors, as well as companies with the skill to manufacture many of the parts,” he said.

But back in 1975, when the businessman was aged 19, he was arrested for speeding – and driving without a licence.

Interestingly, it’s also the same year that Microsoft was founded and it’s reported that the shaggy-haired boy racer had enough to pay for his own bail at this point. 

He was arrested two years later in 1977 for a similar offence and is said to have been seen speeding around in his Porsche on a regular basis.

Fortunately for Gates, should he be caught speeding, when he isn’t busy talking about poo-based beverages, he can probably just bribe the law enforcer and speed off into the sunset.

Meanwhile, there’s a theory that suggests Gates used the outline of his mugshot for the photo outline featured on Microsoft applications.

Continue reading on the next page for the Hollywood A-lister that left his violent streak behind for Tinseltown and a growing burger empire, and a man who made it onto the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

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