Sir Richard Branson and Kendrick Lamar. There is literally no way to make these two men more dissimilar…right?
When you hear the phrase “start-up”, you might think of a colourful office in Silicon Valley, adorned with every Apple product under the sun like some sort of weird Steve Jobs shrine. And when someone mentions a new rap album, your thoughts may turn to bathtubs overflowing with “dolla bills” and Bentleys held up by ferris wheel sized rims. Two very different worlds, two very different groups of people…and yet, maybe they are not so different after all.
At Hiilite, we are very familiar with the entrepreneurial grind but more recently we have become curious about this ever-evolving world of hip-hop. Sure, if you walk into our office on a Friday afternoon you will likely be greeted by the lyrical stylings of Biggie or Tupac, but it would be fair to say we are far from hip-hop experts. Social media master and serial entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk, has recently pushed the spotlight on the urban music community and it made us realize- Virgin Airlines might be more similar to mixing a track in the studio than we first realized.
When you listen to your curiosity, great things tend to happen, so we followed our gut instincts and discovered that entrepreneurs and hip-hop artists need to start collaborating more as they are truly cut from the same cloth.
Hard Work and Hustle
If you come from the corporate environment, you would baulk at the office hours entrepreneurs and rap artists keep. Both groups are fueled by an insatiable desire to learn, grow, and build their brand. On the street, it’s often referred to as hustle and in the incubator, it might be referred to as fighting for funding or market share. Gary Vaynerchuk first gravitated to hip-hop artists because they worked just as hard as his friends in tech.
Oftentimes, the general public might see a successful business owner or rap artist and talk of their luck. They got a break and they made it- must be nice. What you don’t see are the countless years full of failures and 100 hour work weeks that eventually lead to that one moment of success.
Kendrick Lamar was born in Compton, California, to a father who was in a gang tied to the Bloods. His family lost their home, forcing them all into a hotel room. Pretty lucky right? Kendrick looked at the environment around him and knew he wanted to create change. Change for himself and change for his community. He traded in drinking and smoking for writing and mixing tapes and never looked back. Why is Mr Lamar the success he is today? It comes down to unrelenting hard work, plain and simple. Did you know that Kendrick just became the first hip-hop artist to win a Pulitzer prize? Maybe this hip-hop thing has more to offer than meets the eye.
Hip-hop artists staying up all night writing lyrics and networking with anyone who will listen to their tracks draws incredible similarities to the modern entrepreneur.
Working Hard Wasn’t Always Cool
If you are over the age of 30, you might remember a time when it wasn’t “cool” to be an entrepreneur. Sure, there were people that looked up to individuals like Bill Gates but no one was bragging about working on a side business during free evenings and weekends. The majority of our grandparents grew up looking for ways to work less. Long, hard work days were for the unlucky, those who had not figured it all out yet.
The “dream” was a to get a cushy government or corporate job with short hours, easy tasks, an impressive pension and a plethora of benefits.
In the hip-hop world, no one wanted to hear about the artist slinging copies of his mixtape in Times Square- people wanted to listen to the greats, the Biggies and the Dr Dres. If you didn’t make it big, you were a no one. The same rules applied to the oddballs that didn’t want a 9-5 job who were trying to start a company in their garage.
Today, things are a little different. The market loves the underdog. Everyone is looking for the next up and coming entrepreneur and hip-hop artist alike. Who is that new face Drake is hanging out with at the bar? Who is the mystery woman that bootstrapped her entire app that just landed meeting at Facebook? The focus has shifted for both worlds, giving power to everyone with a dream and work ethic.
Feast or Famine
It might now be “cool” to be a hustler in the start-up or hip-hop game, but it is still extremely difficult to become the next Lil Wayne or Jeff Bezos.
Biggie Smalls ate “sardines for dinner” when he was starting out and the average entrepreneur typically thrives off of a strict ramen noodle diet. So why do these groups of passionate individuals put themselves through the countless hours of work and seemingly endless train of failures?
They have a vision, an end goal, and a purpose that burns deep in their belly. When they hear the word “no” they hear, “not yet…but soon”. The young hip-hop artist with 3 followers on Soundcloud and the entrepreneur that just dropped out of university to pursue their dream of building the next Uber are in it for the legacy. They are passion driven and love what they do. It’s less about the riches for them and more about what they might create and leave behind to share with others. They are working to become one of the greatest and if they work long and hard enough, they just might get there, but there will likely be years of disappointment in between.
Market and Culture Shifts Pave the Way for Those Who Want it
Before the mass adoption of the internet, social media and personal technology, there was a mould that you had to fit into in order to succeed as a hip-hop artist or entrepreneur. In old school hip-hop, your lyrics had to be chalk full of profanity and you should be referencing gang interactions every chance you get (many people believe Will Smith never broke out as a hip-hop legend because he rapped with humour, without the use of profanity). For the entrepreneurs, you needed to be a little nerdy and have the ability to build computers from scratch in your parent’s garage.
The game has changed for both the inspiring entrepreneur and urban artist.
Now, everyone has the tools to create and succeed. Young hustlers can build content from anywhere and instantly share it with the world. At any moment, anyone can grab the attention of the masses with a single creative thought, verse, or business idea. One of the best examples here is a rapper by the name of Lil Dicky. The man behind this successful hip-hop persona is David Andrew Burd, a white Jewish man from Pennsylvania who previously enjoyed a successful career in advertising. Lil Dicky’s career would have never been possible 50 years ago and you can be sure that Tupac and Biggie are doing double-takes from the afterlife with David Burd in the hip-hop spotlight.
It no longer matters who you are, what your age is, or what you have done in the past. If there is value, passion and truth behind an offering, whether it’s a new track or business idea, loyal fans will follow.
Opportunity to Learn and Grow Together
The similarities between entrepreneurs and hip-hop artists are undeniable. Their level of passion and the willingness to outwork any obstacle that comes their way indicates that there may be room for further partnership between the two groups.
As artists, business owners or creative individuals, we need to connect with other like-minded groups and see how we can help each other grow. Your tech start-up might be able to learn a thing or two from the musician working from sunup to sundown trying to get people to listen to his mixtape and a rising hip hop star might benefit from looking at the system an established entrepreneur uses to increase social media presence.
Do you know an entrepreneur or hip-hop enthusiast that hustles harder than anyone? We want to hear from you. Let’s celebrate their drive and Hiilite them on social media.
Keep hustlin out there.