I am and always will be a huge hip-hop fan. The majority of time I’m working on something I listen to hip-hop music to motivate me to grind a little harder. Maybe it’s because I’ve always drawn so many parallels between rappers and tech entrepreneurs.
Both rappers and entrepreneurs are always challenging social norms. They are hip, cool and creative. They are the modern day’s rock stars. When they’re first starting out, they dream about signing deals — VC and record deals. They also both have a ridiculously strong hustle and work ethic.
One rapper who has an unparalleled work ethic is Aubrey Graham aka Drake. Drake is the most successful rapper out right now in terms of hits and album sales. He has the only platinum-selling album so far in 2015 and, get this, it was a mixtape.
I’ve been following Drake before he became a platinum-selling artist. Watching his progression is a lot like watching a very young startup grow into a large successful company. His drive and hustle is second to none in the industry and, truth be told, second to only a handful of entrepreneurs. Drake even references his entrepreneurial spirit on the track “6 pm in New York” with the lines “If me and Future hadn’t made it with this rappin’, / We prolly be out in Silicon tryna get our billions on.”
While watching Drake’s progression from child star actor to mega rap star, I learned a few lessons along the way that I’ve applied to my business and life.
You Don’t Need To Have A Certain Type Of Pedigree
Drake didn’t have the normal upbringing of a mega-star rapper. He was a Canadian Jewish child actor. Drake began his career playing “Wheelchair Jimmy” in the Canadian teen drama series Degrassi. When he first came out as a rapper he received a lot of negative feedback that he’d never make it due to his background. He even reflects about it in one of his recent songs: “To think labels said they had a problem marketing me.” Drake proved that you didn’t have to come from a certain background to succeed in any certain field.
Vulnerability Is Not A Weakness
Hip-hop culture has always been one that promotes being an alpha male/female and tends to shun those who come off as soft. So it’s quite a phenomenon that the most successful rapper out today has a plethora of songs where he talks about his emotions in not the most alpha manner. There are actually a ton of memes that mock how sensitive a person Drake is. The jokes are quite hilarious and Drake just laughs them off.
Drake is willing to be vulnerable and show humility in his music in a way that many other rappers are afraid to do, and it’s paid off greatly. It allows a much broader audience to relate to his music. Showing vulnerability isn’t a weakness; it’s actually a strength in getting people to relate to you.
Talk About Your Dreams Out Loud
Many of the most successful people in the world knew they would end up in that position years before. Muhammad Ali once said “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”
As mentioned earlier, I began following Drake before he blew up as a mainstream artist. In his early songs he talked about his dreams that eventually came to fruition. In Drake’s song “Successful,” he talks about everything he was going to acquire like he knew it was inevitable. Years later he even references the fact that he knew his dreams were on the way in his song “Dreams Money Can Buy” with the lyrics “Everybody yelled ‘Surprise!,’ I wasn’t surprised. That’s only cause I been waiting on it.”
Be confident when you set goals and don’t be afraid to talk about them out loud. You should always set up your goals so that if you fail, you fail publicly. When you talk about your dreams out loud, you’re much more motivated to do everything you can to make them come to fruition because you’ll have too many people to prove wrong.
One of the best things about being a Drake fan is that you can always count on new songs and features to come out each month. This is in contrast to two of my other favorite rappers J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar, who seem to space out their releases a lot more. Drake has a relentless hustle: in a time span of a little more than six months, Drake released a platinum mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (Talk about “Rich off a mixtape”) as well as a collaboration mixtape with Future, which just dropped last month.
As a writer and entrepreneur, I’ve learned firsthand: not only do you have to produce great content but you have to do it frequently to keep your audience engaged and build your following.
Drake understands the importance of timing very well. This was evident in his recent beef with Meek Mill. Minutes before midnight on July 21st, Meek Mill took shots at Drake on Twitter, accusing him of not writing his own music. Four days later, Drake released a diss track titled “Charged Up.” Although the diss track was solid, fans patiently waited to hear Meek Mill’s rebuttal. Before Meek Mill could respond Drake released a stronger diss track titled “Back to Back” four days later.
Meek Mill eventually released a diss track a couple of days later but his efforts were futile, as the public had already decided on a winner. Drake saw an opportunity and took it. Life is about opportunities; don’t wait for the perfect one to come to you because I promise you that your competition isn’t waiting.
Although Drake is my favorite artist, many hip-hop heads argue that there are more talented rappers. However, one thing that is undisputed: Drake is the most successful rapper out there, and he has the numbers to back it up.
Drake is only one of four artists, including Elvis, to have over 100 Billboard Top 100 Hits. Drake has four consecutive million-selling albums in a row. In 2012, only a couple of years into the game, Drake passed Jay-Z for the most number one songs on the R&B/Hip-hop charts. And he is one of two artists that has simultaneously occupied the chart’s top three positions.
When it comes to raising money for startups, numbers talk more than anything else. You can always question the talent of an artist or founding team but if they are able to produce the numbers that prove product-market fit, then there’s not much you can say.