When I was growing up, my older brother was really into hip hop. So of course, I got really into it at a pretty young age. As I got older, I started to realise that rap is more than just rhythm, profanity, and bravado — there’s artful lyricism, there’s history, there’s economics. I don’t need to go into detail about my personal thoughts and feelings on the quality of the genre, BUT I did pick up on something I think is worth sharing:
Do you want to be an entrepreneur? Are you interested in perhaps wading into the waters of freelancing, side hustling, or full on business owning? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then you should study a rapper.
No, really. Find you a rapper, and listen to their come up story. I promise it won’t be hard. It’s all over their discography. If you want, I can even give you a list of some of my favourites that do an excellent job at describing what it’s like. You’ll have to ask for that, but in the meantime, let me show you a quick list of some sh*t rappers taught me.
1. Believe in Yourself More than Anyone Else
“They told me don’t believe the hype, but I felt like this about myself before the mic.”
“When I’m back home, I’m the best in the South. When I’m in LA, I’m the best in the West.”
The late great Nipsey Hussle once said, “They told me don’t believe the hype, but I felt like this about myself before the mic.” What he’s describing here is pretty straightforward. Once he established himself as a rap icon, especially in Los Angeles, people tried to warn him to not let the hype go to his head. Little did they know, he thought of himself as a champion well before he rose to fame, while he was still just selling CDs out of the trunk of his car. When you strike out on your own as an entrepreneur, it’s likely that it’s not going to be a walk in the park. You will inevitably take lots of punches on that kind of journey, and you’ll find plenty of reasons for why you can’t make something happen. Believing in your own capacity to succeed as an entrepreneur or freelancer is not a suggestion, it’s an imperative, and you have to believe in it even when it may not seem like there’s much reason to from the outside.
2. Goals are Good. Just not Good Enough
“I’m a hustla, baaaaby.”
“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business mannnn.”
How many rappers have you heard speak about “the grind” or “the hustle” or “the come up”? Rhetorical question, but the answer is a lot. What’s so special about that? Every aspiring rapper has dreams of making it big, being on stage, and touring the world, but only a few of them actually turn that into a reality. Among a number of other reasons, one of them is that while all of these aspiring rappers have dreams of stardom, only a few recognise that a goal on its own simply isn’t going to get the job done, and combine that recognition with a powerful work ethic. Goals and ideals are good. They’re amazing! You need them. But, as an entrepreneur, you need more than that. You need a plan. You need a strategy that comes with guidelines. You need knowledge. You need a work ethic that matches the size of your goals. And with that work ethic, you need to develop a spirit of resilience that forces you to get back up when you get knocked off the pathway to your goals.
3. Stay the Course
“Ain’t really trip on the credit. I just paid all of my dues. I just respected the game. Now my name all in the news.”
“Can’t tell you where I’m going, just know I won’t stop. Goodbye to the bottom, hello to the top!”
Is being an entrepreneur always fun? Is the pathway to achieving your goal always clear? Noooooo. Nope. No. But if you don’t stay the course, here’s what’ll happen:
Even when it’s not glamorous, and even when you have no idea what to do, you have to keep moving. Pay your dues. Respect the process. Recognise that, sometimes, good things take time and that failure is just part of the process. These are the things that can eventually provide you with some semblance of clarity. Study hard and apply until you break through. As they say, stick to the script and stay down.
4. Follow YOUR Rules and Beware of “Advice”
“Excuse me, is you saying something? Uh uh you can’t tell me NOTHIN’”
“‘Don’t ever take advice,’ that was great advice.”
The only person who truly understands what you have to go through while on your journey as a freelancer is YOU, so while advice can be helpful, it may not always apply to you. What works for other people will not necessarily work for you, but that’s okay. That means you get to develop your own set of rules by which you play, and you get to insist that other people play by your rules when they interact with your business. That can be awkward and uncomfortable at times, but consider the alternative: When you don’t insist that people play by your rules when they interact with your business, that means they get to break your rules and impose their own. They’ve become an exception in your process. At that point, you no longer have rules. You’re back to having goals and ideals. See #1.
While these aren’t the only things I’ve learned from rappers, they are some of the most transferable lessons I’ve picked up on. At least when it comes to working for yourself. Anyway, go find some super confident, hustlin’ rappers to listen to.