Ian Dunlap is known as The Master Investor, and he’s here to spread knowledge and wisdom to audiences all around the world. To date, the investor and entrepreneur boasts one of the highest win percentages and success ratios in the country — which is certainly no easy feat. 

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He’s also the founder of Red Panda Academy, a platform that teaches others how to properly invest. Dunlap actually discovered an algorithm that allows any investor to become successful, regardless if the market is up or crashing.

Growing up in East Chicago, five minutes from Gary Indiana, Dunlap comes from true humble beginnings. “These messages need to be spread,” he states. “Because I truly believe from the 1960’s through now, if this information was shared in the inner cities, the crime rate would be cut in half. The murder rate will be cut in half, we wouldn’t have as many people in jail. It was a super rough upbringing.”


Beyond his expertise in investing, Dunlap also co-hosts a weekly show called Market Mondays, alongside Troy Millings and Rashad Bilal. The series lives within the Earn Your Leisure network, and even recently transformed into a live, in-person world tour. In fact, last year in New York City, they sold out Madison Square Garden with special guests Jadakiss and Floyd Mayweather. 

This is just one example of Dunlap’s genuine desire to help others, build community, and always give back to the culture.

For Financial Literacy Month, The Source spoke with Ian Dunlap.

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75 DSC01780

First question for those who don’t know, who is Ian Dunlap? 

I’m a person that’s passionate about investing, I’m just trying to share my blueprint with others that I’ve learned over these last 15 years. Some people can win in this market while our economy is being shaken all over the world.

Growing up, what were you like as a kid? Did you have influences? 

I was a shy kid. I didn’t love school, but I did love to learn. A great influence for me was my dad. My dad was an entrepreneur, we had a construction company. But you know, Allen Iverson, Tupac, Jay Z, Nas. I started brushing my hair to get waves because of Nas. Even with what I do now, it’s an intersection between the influences of Hip-Hop, plus what I’ve learned in business and investing. 

But the thing that I hated is if we went to a conference, the conference was very boring and it wasn’t inviting to us. When I started doing the show Market Mondays, the live shows we’ve done in Toronto and Madison Square [Garden], I wanted them to feel like a rap concert, but you got information that can change your life forever. Through investing and business, and learn how to get higher returns in the market.

What does it mean to be an investment expert?

To be honest, I don’t believe there are any investment experts. There are people who get great returns, there are people who don’t. Because we’re all learning every single day. Anyone who could honestly say that they have everything figured out at one time, they’re lying. Even me, I’ll specialize in technology stocks, do pretty well in crypto, but there are some areas that I didn’t see. Anyone who says they’re an expert, I always tell everyone: they can show you their results? And most importantly, tell them to give you some advice to make you some money. First and foremost.

Did you ever think you’d be in this space you are today?

I knew I’d get here, I didn’t know if it would be through this vehicle. Let me be very honest. If I told you 10 years ago that a black guy who likes to curse, who grew up on rap and Hip-Hop would lead a financial revolution in investing, you’d say, “Bro, I don’t know what you smoking. Give it back to your friend, and go for something else.” 

2020 had a great impact from all the work I did from 2008, that definitely helped. I knew I’d get here at some point, but I definitely didn’t think it’d be from investing. I thought it’d be from something else.

Ian Dunlap Apollo Headshot
Ian Dunlap Apollo Headshot

Did you want to do stuff in music?

Yeah, I always loved the music itself. Hated the music business though. I had some friends that were writing for Bobby Valentino. I had some friends helping on the first Jeezy project. They were behind him initially, that’s a whole nother story one other day. [laughs] I was always around it, but the business part of it. Everyone I knew who was in it, after about 5 or 6 years, they said, “I hate the business of it.” So that made me stay away from it. Majority of people that I knew in the space said “hey, stay away.” 

At one point, I did want to put out a soundtrack for financial literacy. Let’s be honest, any rapper that really talks about anything positive, the music sounds terrible. Murda Beatz and I have been working on some stuff. I’ll probably put out 10-song soundtrack in the next year. But no, I’ve never had a desire to be in the music business after I found out how it was operating.

What are the best ways to invest?

I tell everyone start simply. If you’ve never invested before, Robinhood is a good app. If you can send a text, you can use the Robinhood app. Open up a brokerage account there, a brokerage account is like a checking account for stocks. #2, set the deposit amount you want. If you want to put in $500 or $1000, I always tell everyone start small. You don’t have to start out with $5K. 

Start out with $200, buy one share. What happens is you’ll see it go up from $100 to $150 in three months. You’re like “shit, I should’ve put $1,000 here and then we get to see how people are making money without having to work in exchange for the dollars. A great part is, especially if they’re a fan of Hip-Hop or they’re in our culture, we already know what brands are hot. I asked everyone: what’s the #1 phone company in the world? Everyone always says Apple. What’s the one #1 sneaker brand? Nike. #1 electronic vehicle? Tesla. What’s the #1 luxury brand? LVMH. They own Louis Vuittion, Chanel, Gucci. I’m here in Houston so every time I go to the Galleria, I’m looking to see okay, is the store still packed? Yes. Whether people have money or not, they’re buying luxury items. I want us to consume those, look good and dress fly, but it’s more important to buy those companies so we have wealth for the long-term.

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IMG 0509

And what if you don’t have enough money to invest?

You only have two options: you can get a second job or start a business. Or you can say I’m not going to invest and tell your family “Hey, I don’t believe in you or love you enough to put money away for you to be okay.” These last two years have been a prime example of inflation, war, turmoil, to draw away the power of our dollar. I noticed inflation went up 8% or 10%, but it feels like it’s up 30%. Even eggs and food being pricier, mortgage is going up. If you do not invest, you run the risk of making your entire family poor for generations.

I hear men say they don’t have the money, but they’ll have the time to blow $500 on these dates. Or trick off or buy blunts, play Playstation 5 or 2K. If you want something, you’ll find a way. It’s not my job to make someone want something that’s out of their range, but my argument is what’s the alternative? Because we’re getting to a place by 2030, they want to cut the job market in half from where it is. By 2050, they think the net worth of all African Americans will be at zero. By 2040, they want 90% of jobs to be automated?. If you’re not investing, the ability to be able to get a second or third job is even going away. What alternative does the person have?

What are your thoughts on combining finances in a relationship?

That’s tough. I’m not opposed to having a joint checking account together if the relationship is serious. But combining the finances, that can get really tricky. I don’t think it’s a wise decision until someone’s at least married. Everyone should have access and control to their own finances for protective reasons, because people are crazy. You can go through a breakup or something happens, what if they spent all of the money out of your account? And if that’s your only account, you’re screwed. You have no protection. So until you’re married, I don’t think most people should combine finances. 

But it’s really important to talk about them, every week. For me, even when I have my son, the worries his mom had will go away if I was giving her a weekly update on what I invested in. His heart, the businesses on his savings looks like a post, he was like a lot of times men would just cry it away and sell women on the grand vision and give no updates in between. And then they don’t know what’s going on. So things that I’ve done, it’s like every Friday or Saturday, I’ll have a conversation about where I am with a visionary. Here’s, here’s where we are, in terms of investing, here’s where the business is going. So there will be some security and stability there in the back of your mind.

Do you have a say on how much men should spend on women when they’re taking them out?

[laughs] You’re trying to get me in trouble. My guy Rashad says it’s $500 minimum in New York for a date. Listen, this is his argument. If you go to STK and you get parking, you get a haircut, and car wash and drinks, you Uber home, you’re going to be at $450 on accident. That’s why you have to be very selective on who you choose to go out on a date with. Because those things can add up really fast, and not be a good investment. But I don’t have a requirement. 

A lot of times, men try to overspend to impress women, because they don’t have that thing inside of them. A lot of times, men try to woo women or buy women because they don’t have the it factor. We know naturally, if they’re fucking with us or not. A lot more men shouldn’t have a dollar requirement, but just to make sure the vibe and the connection is right. If the energy is there, some of my best dates, we’ve done nothing fancy  — but had a ball because we was enjoying each other. Opposed to if I went to a dinner date or some other fancier shit, it may have been a great setting, but the setting provided the vibe, the entertainment, and not our chemistry. I tell fellas, you should make them wait at least a month before you spend a dollar on them. That’s my tip. Rashad is at one polar end, I’m at another. Everyone should do what’s best for them.

How do you tie music and culture in with finance for your brand?

For me every show, we try to have a theme song we come out to. Even in the material we’re delivering, I try to make correlations. At the Toronto show, when I asked them about crypto: Bitcoin is Cardi. Ethereum is Nicki. At one point Ethereum was hotter, but you can’t deny Cardi’s on fire. But if you’re a label, it will be best to have both. A hedge fund is nothing but a label, but opposed to trading people, they trade companies. When I said that, for the first time in a long time the audience clicked away. Because it’s not about having one or another, it’s about both. If Apple was Drake and Microsoft was Thug, they’re like “holy shit, I really get it.” I try to incorporate different lessons. 

Some of the best business lessons in history have come out of the music business, I try to translate them there as well. Even when NAPSTER first came out, they were vilified by everyone in the music business. All of a sudden, 2000 Steve Jobs starts to make his way into Interscope and Universal to be the legal version of that. Now, Apple gets 30% of all music revenue, then Spotify tries to copy. Now Universal in the music industry gets 30% of all of our revenue that comes out of Spotify. 

So the go, the music industry,  screwed over on Steve Jobs’ deal, but then they got back on the Spotify deal, which reminds me of any music business contract in the music business. If they’re re-upping, or negotiate the second one terms for better. When we do that, the audience really seems to get it and grasp it. Okay, this isn’t as hard as I thought it was. For the longest time they tried to make investing seem like it was rocket science to keep us out. By using the music and the culture, it allows us to translate the information a lot easier.

I saw you were with Floyd Mayweather. What’s his influence on you? 

I appreciate that. Being from the Midwest, I’ve been watching Floyd box for 20 years. He beat a kid from where I’m from real bad when I was in high school, so seeing his progression from then to now. Regardless of what people may think about Floyd, to not be an A talent in the early 90’s, to develop the investing prowess and the ability to generate money was amazing. When 24/7 was on back in the day, I would watch them all the time and use that as inspiration. 

What he was doing was an elevated version of what Nas was doing, to see him be able to make money and market and promote. If we can take some of those elements and put them here, in a space that’s deemed to be boring, like investing — we put some showmanship into it and create a spectacle, he can have a great impact. He’s a great investor. He owns a bunch of real estate, a bunch of businesses. He’s had ups and downs, but when we connected with him, that was the first thing he said. He said “I love that you guys are of the culture and you didn’t run away from it and try to become whitewashed. You leaned into it, and now you have an audience that most investors can’t touch.” So it made it really easy to work with him. 

The crazy part is, Floyd has a bunch of stock and knows how to trade as well. That’s really fascinating to see now, entertainers today are better business people than ever, because of all the horror stories that happened in the 80’s and 70’s. When he came on stage, he broke down some of the stuff he’s invested in. On the real estate side, what he’s been trading and that’s Bitcoin. It was great to go from the inspirational moment, a decade ago watching him, to being on stage with him.

What’s your relationship with Jadakiss?

That’s my guy. When I first came up with the idea to do a soundtrack, you know Jada. He’s like “yo, the industry’s going to curve me dawg.” I’m like, what do I need to learn? He said “everything. You’re around all the sharks. I’ma teach you some parts of the business, let me help.” He connected me with Fat Joe and a couple other people, but he was the first one to do a verse and then Styles P did a verse for me. He got me in contact with Game. 

He’s been super, super, super helpful. Learning the business, the things I need to do to be safe. How to not come off like a competitor, because I’m an outsider. He said “I want you to be deemed as you’re coming in to try and take over.” He taught me a lot about clearances. There were a lot of parts of the game I didn’t know, that he helped clarify for me.

What was the verse for?

For the soundtrack. My thing is, I want to do a really big event  called Pandamonium. But opposed to having a bunch of acts randomly, I want to curate at least a playlist of one or two hours that’s all information around investing and trading, but that’s actually fire. Most people don’t do any financial literacy content around rap, shit sounds terrible. Let me curate some music I actually want to hear. Jada knocked it out in a day, day and a half. Sent back, Styles was the same.

Do you have any goals for yourself?

Career-wise, I want to do more in the hedge fund space and again to help them, so I’m starting those conversations. I’ve been able to help people that have been getting this for free, I always argue what can be done? if I have to back it up, I’ll go in there. I’m having those conversations now.My ultimate goal is to be able to help two to three million people learn how to invest their money easily and be profitable.