Welcome to Rap Business School

I’d like to make a bold statement: Notorious B.I.G. was the original business coach. He was Tony Robbins before Tony Robbins was “not our guru.” Biggie taught us “mo’ money mo’ problems,” and if you’ve just done your taxes like I have, you know this statement is truer than you’d like it to be.

Hip hop is an unlikely source of inspiration, but not an unfound one. Rappers and hip-hop artists are the business strategists of a new era. Across varying demographics, listeners relate the hunger of the hustle. The desire to rise above your circumstances. The need to tower over your critics. That success is the sweetest revenge.

Three major themes of rap music are the same you’d find in a business coaches’ workshop, but I’ll save you the trouble of having to go to a sad budget hotel ballroom:

  • How to make money
  • How to handle critics
  • How to overcome obstacles

In a multi-part blog series I’ve dubbed “Rap Business School, I’d like to focus on the lessons of  being “not a businessman, but a business, man.” Consider the following an MBA in keeping it real.

Lesson 1: Get Money

Can you please come to my office and do this? Name your price, Rick Ross.


Wu Tang Clan was right: Cash rules everything around me, or rather, the collective “us.”

If we don’t have it, we want it.

If we do have it, we have to painstakingly figure out a way to stay on top. (AKA, Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.)

Whether you’re hustlin’ to escape abject poverty or to prove to your Dad that Art History majors can be successful, money is the motive.

Money equals power. Money not only guarantees survival and security, but also garners respect and acceptance among friends, family, and community. This is true whether you’re Rick Ross presiding over a drug empire, or Oprah reigning queen over a media conglomerate.

Central to making money is the art of the hustle. The game is constantly changing and what works today may not work tomorrow.

Let’s get down to what separates the Snoop Doggs from the second-rate playa haters: the product.

At the end of the day, if you have a product or service that isn’t making money, it’s time to direct your hustle elsewhere.

In digital marketing, there’s an ongoing discussion regarding key performance indicators, and which ones actually gauge success, such as, followers, user numbers, reach, open rates, click-through rates, views, etc.

We seem to keep forgetting that the bottom line is REVENUE, or more importantly, your net revenue after you account for your business expenses such as payroll. At the end of the day, cash is king and a direct indicator of the health of your business. You’re going to need cash if you want to scale and keep the lights on.

Take a hard look at the programs and products that are making your company money. It’s OK to have a pet project here and there, but pet projects need to be offset by revenue-drivers. Look at your products and services, see which ones are making you money, and if they’re not, it’s time to cut your losses and focus your product offerings.

Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does encourage opportunity and freedom. Freedom from poverty. Freedom from being someone else’s lapdog in a nine-to-five that you hate. Freedom to be the master and commander of your own life.

That, and it’s more comfortable to cry in a Mercedes while drinking Cristal.

Whether you’re hustlin’ to support three baby mommas or to pay off crippling college loans, get that paper, boo.

Next up in Rap Business School Lesson #2: How to brush your shoulders off when haters gonna hate.