Although we often don’t think of it as such, hip hop is a business. CUSH and CORE organized an event last Friday to invite us to think of it as such. We were intrigued, so we sent our hippest hopper, Eric Wimer, to check it out. Here’s his report:
It’s not often enough that you can sit down at a panel of business professionals and ask them about Talib Kweli, Curren$y, or Kendrick Lamar, but if you listened to the one at Lerner on Friday, you may have left thinking that it should be more common. I was at a panel on Business and Hip Hop, strategies to succeed from A-Money to Jay-Z. Zach Schwartz, a CC’16 editor for Rap Genius, organized the panel, which was co-sponsored by CUSH and CORE, and as moderator he asked them to describe what they had learned about business from hip-hop. James Lopez, a cofounder of venture company Phat Startup, pointed to “that hustle mentality” and the practice of blowing up your accomplishments. “Jay-Z owned less than 1% of the Nets, but with the way he acted you would have thought that he owned over 50%.”
Lopez, raised in the Bronx, described how he “didn’t play the hand he was dealt,” to quote his favorite Kanye verse. Growing up he saw “dealers driving Rolls-Royces and decided that I wanted their money, so I took out my books and started studying.” He met Anthony Fraiser, a Newark native and co-founder of the gaming site TheKoalition.com, and the two founded Phat Startup. Fraiser was a big fan of artist Joe Button, a one hit wonder who aggressively produced mix tapes and built on his reputation through a strong social media presence.