Last Thursday, I moderated a panel called “The Business Lessons in Hip-Hop.” The panelists were:
- Mahbod Moghadam, Founder of Rap Genius
- Shawn Setaro, Editor-in-Chief of Rap Genius
- Corentin Villemeur, New Media Director for G-Unit Records & General Manager of Thisis50.com
- James Lopez, Co-Founder of The Phat Startup
- Anthony Frasier, Co-Founder of The Phat Startup & Founder of TheKoalition.com
The event was dope as hell. We got a huge turnout, with 85+ people, including ~25 people from outside of Columbia, including Mick Boogie, the famous mixtape DJ. All the panelists previously knew each other, and I knew all of them personally as well (James and Shawn in-person, Mahbod and Anthony from the Internet, and Corentin from a Rap Genius party the week before), so there was really good chemistry between everyone involved.
The theme of the night was the business and life lessons found in rap music, and each panelist brought something different to the discussion. James and Anthony talked about how coming from bad circumstances themselves, they could relate to rappers’ stories. James specifically quoted a Kanye line about how he didn’t play the cards he was dealt, instead he changed them. Mahbod was really funny and entertaining, and he did give some good advice, including the tip not to deal drugs if you go to an Ivy League school. Shawn, a huge fan of Jay-Z, brought a really intellectual standpoint to the table. Corentin, as somebody who’s in constant contact with 50 Cent, was able to give us an insight about how that man works and thinks.
What stood out to me the most that night was something Shawn said. He said there were two kinds of really successful people: the Diddys and the Jay-Zs. Diddy was someone who became successful purely because of how hard he worked. He had been grinding his ass off since he was young, and you’re either born that way or you’re not. But then you have the Jay-Zs, the people who are able to become successful because they take the time to really evaluate and understand every situation they’re in. This is how Jay-Z, in the cultural eye, has really never made a business mistake. He’s smart about every decision he makes. This is something that anyone can aspire to become. This hit home hard, because I wasn’t really raised with a work ethic inbred into me, so I had to acquire one. Some of my most successful friends have been hard workers since day one, and props to them, but either approach ultimately works.
Corentin also said something he personally heard from 50 cent, which was “who you know gets you there, what you know keeps you there.” And because the game has changed so much, and you can get anyone’s email within a couple hours nowadays, it’s not really a problem of knowing people anymore. It’s a problem of actually being able to offer something of value to them.
But everyone took away different things from the panel. If you’re interested more in the topic, I would check out The Phat Startup—this is what they’re all about, teaching entrepreneurship through hip-hop. You can also check out the event photo album here. Thanks to CORE (Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs) and CUSH (Columbia University Society of Hip-Hop) for co-sponsoring the event. And thanks to everyone who came out and enjoyed the event!
This entry is cross-posted from the blog of one of our board members, Zach Schwartz (CC’16). You can read it as originally published on his site, here.