Can Rap Lyrics Teach Us About Business?

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Date: Thursday – February 23, 2012

Hip hop artists love flaunting their money – but can they teach us anything about how to make it?

Ben Horowitz, a leading Silicon Valley venture capitalist, certainly thinks so. He told the BBC World Service how listening to rap music had helped him to make critical business decisions.

“It’s mostly what I listen to, but it also turns out to be very relevant to business, in terms of the issues that come up.

“A lot of it is about business and about competition. A lot of it is about feelings, about how something might make you feel.”

Mr Horowitz, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, which has made a fortune from investments in firms such as Groupon and Skype, said that when it came to big strategic decisions feeling can be more important than logical thought.

“For me to have a whole class of music that really helped me articulate all that in my mind, and then articulate in my writing, as well has been a big deal,” he said.

Adam Bradley, associate professor of African American literature at the University of Colorado, also believes rap contains lessons in charismatic leadership they don’t teach in business school.

“Rap presents an immediate test. If you get up on the stage and your are whack, you are going to get booed off. You have to present yourself in the moment and you have to move the crowd. I think there is a lesson there in leadership because it’s about creating pathways of connection,” he says.

Conspicuous consumption is part of hip-hop culture
“It’s not only to do with what you want them to do, but what they want to do but may not know it yet.”

Rap also offers lessons in “self-presentation” for the aspiring business mogul, argues Bradley, who advises major corporations on black culture and music.

So what are the set texts from the hip hop business school – and what can they teach us?

It’s All About The Deal

I take quarter water sold it in bottles for two bucks, Coca-Cola came and bought it for billions, what the [expletive] ? – I Get Money, 50 Cent

Curtis “50 cent” Jackson is known as one of hip hop’s sharpest business operators. In I Get Money, from his second album, he boasts about a deal with Coca-Cola, who paid $4.1bn for Glaceau, a vitamin water company he had taken a 10% stake in through an investment vehicle.

The deal is said to have landed Jackson between $60m and $100m, putting his net worth at close to $0.5bn. “Quarter water” is a reference to the small plastic bottles of flavoured water Jackson and his friends used buy for 25 cents when they were children in the New York ghetto.

The rapper, whose debut album was entitled Get Rich Or Die Trying, is currently at the the centre of controversy over a share tip he gave to his 3.8 million followers on Twitter, in a company in which he is an investor and shareholder.

Work Hard And What Your Costs

Get your money right, be an international player, don’t be scared to catch those red-eye flights / You better get your money right, ’cause when you out there on the streets, you gotta get it – get it – Get Your Money Right, Dr Dre

Another noted hip hop entrepreneur, Andre “Dr Dre” Young, is third in Forbes magazines list of wealthiest rappers, with an estimated net worth of $250m. He added an estimated $175m to his fortune in 2011 with the sale of a 50% stake in headphone company Beats Electronic.

In 2007′s Get Your Money Right, Dr Dre joins forces with Jay-Z, whose $450m empire includes restaurants, fashion, music and a share in the New Jersey Nets basketball team, to give what amounts to a seminar in how to start a small business (once you have stripped out the expletives and drug references).

“Don’t be worried ’bout the next man – make sure your business tight,” the pair advise, before adding, in a crucial lesson for all would-be entrepreneurs: “If you ain’t in it for the money then get out the game.”

Be Your Own Boss

I can’t let life get the best of me, I gotta take, take control of my own destiny / Control what I hold and of course be the boss of myself / No-one else will bring my wealth – A Job Ain’t Nothing But Work, Big Daddy Kane

“When hip hop was born, it was born with that sense of being ‘on the hustle’ or ‘on the grind,’” says Bradley, author of Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop.

“Part of it comes from an underworld parlance, an underground parlance, of criminal enterprises, selling drugs.

“You could be working a block selling drugs, but extrapolate it and it means working hard. It means labour, a commitment to a work ethic, and that sense of struggle.”

Founders Make Better Chief Executives

You’re just a rent-a-rapper, your rhymes are Minute Maid / I’ll be here when it fade to watch you flip like a renegade – Follow the Leader, Rakim

“The interesting thing about Rakim, in addition to being the first great rapper, he was kind of a founder of rap music,” says Ben Horowitz.

“When rap music started it was kind of like a start-up music genre and it wasn’t clear at all that it was going to succeed.”

Rakim’s message to those who were jumping on the rap bandwagon, but did not really believe it had a future, struck a chord with the venture capitalist.

“It was like that’s the difference between the founding CEO and the professional CEO. The professional is often just there to make money but he is not there for the movement, he is not there for the mission… in the way that the founder is and you see that in business all the time.”

Never Show Weakness

I’m runnin’ the buildin’, don’t make me run in the buildin’ / No this ain’t the first time I had my gun in the buildin’ – Scream On Em, The Game

“If you just want pure, unadulterated swagger to come pouring out of you, there is no better soundtrack than hip hop – whether you are going out on to the sporting field, or going into the boardroom,” says Adam Bradley.

“Hip hop is a soundtrack for aggression. It is music created mostly by young men and consumed mostly by young men.”

Ben Horowitz told the New York Times he sent the “superaggressive” lyrics of Scream on Em, by The Game, to an executive he felt was being too deferential and needed to show more strength.

Scott Storch Arrested for Coke

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Date: Friday – February 17, 2012



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Scott Storch tried to hide a baggie of cocaine in a trash can at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Vegas before cops arrived … this according to the police report, obtained by TMZ.

In the report, the arresting officer says cops fished out the baggie after receiving a tip from hotel security … and discovered it contained 2.7 grams of blow.

Hip-hop producer Scott Storch — a recovering drug addict — was arrested in Vegas earlier this month for possession of cocaine … TMZ has learned.

According to law enforcement, Storch was arrested at a Vegas hotel around 8:30 AM on Feb. 4.

Sources tell us … the arrest went down after an employee called police to complain that Storch wouldn’t pay for his room.

When cops arrived to the scene, we’re told officers discovered Storch was in possession of cocaine. Storch was hauled to a nearby police station … where he was released on $5k bond.

Storch — who has worked with stars like Beyoncé, 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, Snoop, Pink and more — famously blew a $30 million fortune after getting hooked on drugs back in 2006. He eventually checked into rehab and has been working on his recovery ever since.

Rap Wins But Not At The Grammy

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Date: Saturday, January 28, 2012



Since its beginnings in the 1970s, rap music has transformed from an underground, street-based sound to a definitive part of pop culture, transcending race and becoming one of the strongest — and most prolific — voices of today’s generation. But at the Grammy Awards, rap has had a long-lasting losing streak in the top categories.

The hip-hop sound — first recognized at the 1989 Grammys — has garnered numerous prestigious nominations over the years, and for 10 of the last 14 years, rap acts have either led or tied for most Grammy nominations. But rarely will a hip-hop act win one of the show’s top four honors — album, song and record of the year, along with best new artist. Instead, rap acts tend to win rap awards.

50 Cent, who won his first and only Grammy two years ago, believes Grammy voters are out-of-touch and need a fresh outlook on what’s going on in contemporary music.

“I think that the board is a lot older and they’re conservative, so some of the content in the music is offensive on some level,” said 50 Cent, who famously interrupted Evanescence’s best new artist speech by walking onstage when he lost to the rock group in 2004. “There’s a lot of people that don’t accept that hip-hop culture is now pop culture.”

This year, hip-hop leads the Grammys in nominations again, with Kanye West earning seven; it’s his third year as the show’s top-nominated act, and his fourth overall (he tied Mariah Carey and John Legend for most nominations at the 2006 Grammys). While his song “All of the Lights” is up for song of the year, his critically revered fifth album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” didn’t score an album of the year nomination, a shock to many. Even Jimmy Jam — the chair emeritus of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences — was surprised by West’s snub.

“I think he’s one of the genius artists, and I’m saying this as a person who’s worked with Michael Jackson and Prince, so I don’t throw that word around lightly,” Jam said. “So, yes, I was surprised.”

West’s album with Jay-Z, “Watch the Throne,” was also left out of the top album category; both CDs are nominated for best rap album.

Jay-Z, who once boycotted the Grammys because of the show’s lack of love for hip-hop, says Grammy nominations are “cool,” but he doesn’t use the accolades as a barometer of his success.

“The Grammys and all of those other things, they’re fine and it’s a good way for everyone to get together amongst their peers and collect some trophies at the end of the night, but my whole thing is for the people, as long as the people accept it — that’s my real Grammy,” Jay-Z said. “As long as it connects with an audience in a way.”

But Steve Stoute, the former record executive who accused the Grammys of being irrelevant last year in a full-page advertisement in The New York Times after Eminem and Justin Bieber lost top awards, says there is a bigger problem. Stoute believes The Recording Academy doesn’t have board members who understand hip-hop as a true art form.

“If (The Recording Academy) understood that, then (rappers) would be scoring technical points,” he said. “They don’t get the technical points.”

In Grammy history, 14 hip-hop albums have received nominations for album of the year. Lauryn Hill has the distinction of being the first hip-hop artist to win album of the year for “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” in 1999, but the album, while featuring rap, was heavy on R&B. Hill also won best new artist that year, the second time a rap-based act had done so following Arrested Development’s win in 1993. A rapper hasn’t won the award since.

OutKast, the alternative, genre-bending hip-hop duo, followed in Hill’s footsteps with an album of the year win in 2004 for the double disc “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.” It, too, was not strictly hip-hop, as Andre 3000 blended rock and even jazz for his half of the project.


But while there have been high-profile wins, what stands out more are the losses. No rapper has ever won record or song of the year, and both Eminem and West, each nominated three times, have failed to win the album of the year trophy in years where they appeared to be critical favorites.

At last year’s Grammys, three of the five songs nominated for record of the year were rap smashes. Lady Antebellum’s crossover hit, “Need You Now,” ended up taking away the record and song of the year honors.

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, the leader and drummer of The Roots, says the hip-hop community shares some of the blame for its losing streak. He says those in the genre aren’t involved enough with The Recording Academy, its community and its events.

“We’re not active members of (The Recording Academy) and I promise to take a more active role in that,” said Questlove, who has won three Grammys. “I should definitely come and be more involved in that. It’s taxing time-wise, but you know, I can either sit and complain … or do something about it.”

Jam says rap’s losses are also a reflection of the Grammy membership, which he said is “traditionally very heavy” with members of the country, jazz and classical music worlds.

“We’re a membership organization and the members vote. So, if the numbers of members who consider themselves of the hip-hop genre … if those numbers are lower, then the results probably point to that fact,” Jam said.

But Stoute, who is the author of “The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy,” had harsh words for Jam, a founding member of funk-soul band The Time and best known for producing multiple hits for Janet Jackson, Usher, Boyz II Men and more with partner . Stoute and Jam had a conversation after last year’s awards, and Stoute was upset that Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” wasn’t up for song of the year: At the Grammys, a track is not eligible for that award if it contains a sample or if it’s not an original piece of work; that disqualifies much of rap, which relies heavily on sampling (“Empire State of Mind” samples The Moments’ “Love on a Two-Way Street”).

Stoute said Jam should be helping hip-hop, and blasted the renowned producer.

“What he’s doing is not right,” Stoute said of Jam. “And if he’s supposed to be the guy who understands urban music because of his famed career as a producer … (and) if he’s not going to be sensitive to the creativity around hip-hop, I am sorry, we’re in trouble.”

Jam, who was The Recording Academy’s chairman from 2005 to 2009, says his goal was to diversify the Grammy community, and if people have an issue with traditional Grammy rules, they should demand a change.

“You can write a proposal,” Jam said. “I hope … people step up to the challenge rather than dismiss it, which is the easy thing to do.’”

Jam also said he helped bring forth the best rap song award at the 2004 Grammys, which honors rap tracks that contain samples. Jam also implemented a new rule in 2009 that allowed anyone nominated for a Grammy to bypass the regular application process and automatically be made a member for a year. He said he did it so that nominated acts would easily be involved in the organization the following year.

“If hip-hop is the most nominated, then they should be the best represented according to what I did,” Jam said.

Why Do Rap Artists Love Suicide Doors?

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Date: Monday, January 9, 2012



Suicide doors—often referred to by automobile manufacturers as “coach doors” and “freestyle doors”—are car doors that are hinged on the side closer to the trunk rather than at the front. Sometimes rear-hinged rear doors are combined with front-hinged front doors (as in the photo above) to create a yawning effect when both doors are open. Popular in the early 20th century, suicide doors were largely abandoned by car manufacturers after the 1960s. They began reappearing sporadically, however, on new models in the late 1990s and early 2000s, around the same time they began appearing in rap lyrics.

Why did suicide doors fall out of fashion after WWII? It may have something to do with the fact that they’re not terribly practical. By some accounts, getting into and out of cars with front-hinged front doors and rear suicide doors requires careful maneuvering, since—if there’s no pillar between the doors—the front door must be opened before the back door can open. But the alternative, a rear suicide door that’s not secured by a conventional front door, can be dangerous: If the suicide door becomes unlatched while the car is in motion, the air flow will throw it open, making it very difficult to close. One automobile journalist has suggested that suicide doors may have been a murder weapon of choice among 1930s gangsters (and that the very name “suicide doors” may be gangster innuendo)—if you want to throw someone out of a car, it’s much easier to get his door open if it’s hinged at the rear than at the front. And suicide doors have been associated with 1930s outlaws in the popular imagination; consider the titular characters’ car in Bonnie and Clyde, or gangster-movie icon James Cagney in this photo.

This association might go part of the way toward explaining why suicide doors are so popular in hip hop lyrics, which often draw on gangster imagery. Songs like Jay-Z and R. Kelly’s “The Return” and 50 Cent’s “Gunz Come Out” place the term “suicide doors” in close proximity to allusions to gun violence. Suicide doors evoke an Al Capone-era vibe that jibes with the threatening demeanor rappers often cultivate.

More commonly, though, suicide doors are presented in hip-hop as luxury items. Relatively unusual on contemporary cars, suicide doors are a marker of an old or rare automobile—or one owned by someone wealthy enough to make complicated aftermarket modifications to his vehicle. Tity Boi mentions that his suicide doors are on a Bentley (“Call Tiesha”), while Wigs of Theodore Unit boasts that his suicide doors are on his “0-5 Benz” with “lazy-eye lights and the apple suede floors” (“It’s the Unit”). Gorilla Zoe’s “Take Ya Shoes Off” is an ode to a car that has not only suicide doors but also “mink seats bucket” and “suede on the roof”—a car so opulent that Gorilla exhorts everyone wishing to enter it to remove his or her footwear first.

Some romantically minded lyricists have used suicide doors’ capacity to open wide as a metaphor for sex. In “69,” T-Pain invites the object of his desire—for whom he has “been doin’ tongue exercises”—to exchange oral sex “in the back of my Lincoln with the suicide doors.” Juelz Santana’s analogy in “New Star in Town” is less subtle: “Let me open up your legs like suicide doors,” he pleads.

This request may not be a persuasive one, but Santana’s simile works (recall the yawning effect), and it highlights the symbolic richness of suicide doors: They can credibly evoke death, money, and sex—a lyricist’s trifecta.

The Most Anticipated Hip Hop Albums Of 2012

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The staff at Gutta World highlights 10 releases this year that we are personally excited about. And no, we’re not counting on “Detox” either.

After so many colorful releases in 2011, Hip Hop fans have a lot to look forward to in 2012. No, we’re not actually basing our hopes on Dr. Dre’s Detox or Jay Electronica’s elusive debut, the mythical merger of Nas and DJ Premier or the long-delayed complete reunion of Goodie Mob. Like any fan, we would love if any or all of those released before we purchased new calendars, but there are a plethora of albums already underway that have a ton of promise in making this year musical.

Younger artists who had powerful impact in ’11 as well as some “golden era” alumni keeping the hardcore alive are slated to make bold statements with their music this year, and the Gutta World staff sat down and compiled 10 releases that we can count on, and why we think they’ll make 2012 all the more exciting.

The Ecology by Fashawn


Few debut albums in recent memory were as potent and honest as Fashawn’s 2009 debut Boy Meets World. The independent release, produced entirely by Exile, helped rush the forefront of a West Coast renaissance of music coming from young emcees with wisdom well beyond their years. Late this summer, when the Fresno DXnext alum announced that he was going to uphold the formula with Ex on the boards, the Gutta World staff rejoiced. Expect colorful sample-driven sounds and common-man themes as the Young Santiago helps expand his legacy as one of the more resonant voices of this time. As Common, Talib Kweli and Mos Def all began as independent artists in the ’90s before reaching mainstream stature, Fash is another poised to have that kind of impact.

Trouble Man by T.I.


2010′s No Mercy felt like a rushed T.I. album, as the Grand Hustle founder was quickly recording as a free man before serving for his latest (and hopefully last) felonious brush with the law. Given Tip’s track record for every-other-album being outstanding (see Paper Trail and King), the album sharing a name with the Marvin Gaye hit sounds audiobiographical and brutally honest before it even nears roll-out. Hopefully the man who made Atlantic Records relevant to Rap music can go in and delicately walk that line with a mainstream-friendly album that still carries plenty of trappings.

The Kolexion by Bumpy Knuckles & DJ Premier


Dating back to O.C.’s Jewelz, Bumpy Knuckles and DJ Premier share a musical chemistry that reflects their strong personal bonds. Two “kings of the underground sound,” these masons of the East Coast Hip Hop sound have teamed up for a March album that’s fully collaborative. Whereas 2000′s Industry Shakedown was a mosiac from the likes of Pete Rock, Diamond D and The Alchemist, The Kolexion is a project the fans have been asking for and brings Premier back to one of the fiercest emcees of the Gang Starr Foundation glory years. We anticipate a mosaic of wisdom and aggression.

Live From The Underground by Big K.R.I.T.


Few artists have the ability to appeal to the streets and the college campuses as well as Meridian, Mississippi’s Big K.R.I.T. With two mixtapes that easily could have been albums held in the highest regard, the Cinematic/Def Jam emcee, like J. Cole has the ability to make an album entirely by himself that could change the face of Hip Hop. Given K.R.I.T.’s history of working with icons that influenced him such as 8Ball & MJG, Devin The Dude and Ludacris, even if that’s not the case, the expectations for this are high. Plus, with Sha Money XL (who made classic albums with 50 Cent and Game as G-Unit Records’ former President) having a strong hand in the project, this is an album that could prove to be another Def Jam southern game-changer in the line of debuts from Ludacris, Young Jeezy and Rick Ross.

Good Kid In A Mad City by Kendrick Lamar


After making the “album of 2011″ (according to us, anyway), Compton, California’s Kendrick Lamar is expected to go right back and drop another one. Good Kid In A Mad City, as its known now anyway, finds Jay Rock’s lil’ homie dealing with rumors of an Aftermath deal, Tech N9ne, Game, and Drake working with him, as well as a whole different place than he was in just a year ago. We hope the supporting cast is as obscure as they were last time (GLC, RZA, J. Cole, Terrace Martin), but that one of the smartest 24 year-olds you’ll ever meet has more anthems that carry Hip Hop out of its stupor.


God Forgives, I Don’t by Rick Ross


Few superstars have the ear for beats that Ricky Rozay possesses. Just as Teflon Don was one of the best-produced albums in recent years, we expect a refreshed (hopefully healthier) Rawss to make another gem. With the Maybach Music Group compilation and Wale’s sophomore LP being winners of 2011, this seems in the cards to one of the biggest voices and personalities in Rap since the 1980s. Moreover, like Drake and Lil Wayne, Rick’s guest-lists usually pack surprises that change lives, just ask Styles P.

R.A.P. Music by Killer Mike & El-P


Ten years ago, this collaboration would have sounded like a clunky April Fool’s joke. However, Company Flow-meets-Dungeon Family next year, as Brooklyn-meets-Adamsville. Mike Bigga and El-Producto have been at work on this album for years, and two of the smartest guys in Hip Hop music are expected to make joints that sound informed as well as experimental. Hopefully it puts each talent in front of audiences previously not exposed to their greatness. El-P’s track record with producing others’ albums (see Cage’s Hell’s Winter and Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein) is of the highest level. We are trying to get subs back in the trunk before this rolls out.

Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded by Nicki Minaj


The emcee with 2010′s “Verse of The Year” has proved herself to be one of Rap’s most animated lyricists since Busta Rhymes. While her debut, Pink Friday may have been guilty of trying to do too much, after strong appearances with Lil Wayne, Drake and Big Sean, Oneka is the one to watch in ’12. Mainstream Hip Hop fans should tune in to see this 2008 DXnext alum step in and give Lil Wayne a run for his millions as YMCM’s sharpest spitter.

The Make Believe Album by David Banner


2005 belonged to Houston. 2008 belonged to Detroit. 2012 may belong to Mississippi. The Magnolia State’s Hip Hop pioneer David Banner, along with K.R.I.T. may shake things up with brutal honesty over-top self-produced beats. After making ethery commentary on 2011′s “Swag” (an inclusion on The Make Believe Album), expect D.B. to come out vocally swinging. In late ’10, David brought out one of his strongest works to date in Death of A Pop Star. Now removed from the controls of SRC Records, this Rap veteran may do for ’12 what Killer Mike did for ’08.

Godfathers by Kool G. Rap & Necro


For years, Necro’s rhyme delivery has been compared to Kool G. Rap, and the Psycho Logical Records’ founder will proudly admit that the Juice Crew spitter is a deep influence. As not all G Rap works have sounded cohesive since Roots of Evil, hardcore Hip Hop fans can count on this merging of the musicians to sound grimier than New York in the 1970s. Meanwhile, this is a perfect vehicle for Necro to bring his brand of “Death Rap” and amazing sources for sounds back into the ears of common Hip Hop fans. As Riches, Royalty and Respect went under the radars of most, this is a perfect collaboration for two cult followed icons.

What albums are you most looking forward to in 2012?

Young Buck Is Selling His Name

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Young Buck faces an obstacle that most rappers never want to come across during their music career. The Tennessee native and former G-Unit signee may have to sell his rap moniker as a result of his current bankruptcy case.

The Tennessean newspaper reports that the trustee administering the 30-year-old rapper’s estate plans to sell his trademarked “Young Buck” name along with other assets. Buck filed for bankruptcy in 2010, and Judge George C. Paine II recently signed an order converting the case from Chapter 11 reorganization to Chapter 7 liquidation.

“My name, Young Buck, has been with me since I was 12, 13 years old,” Buck stated. “At the end of the day, it’s ridiculous. My name wasn’t given to me by G-Unit Records. They didn’t name me Young Buck. My mother calls me Young Buck.”

The conversion of his case does little to help Young Buck, born David Darnell Brown, who was close to signing with Birdman’s Cash Money label. The deal would have helped move the ‘Straight Outta Cashville’ rhymer out of debt slowly, being able to pay back child support he owes as well as the more than $10 million he reportedly owes 50 Cent and G-Unit Records.

Buck has been locked in a bitter legal dispute with the record label since 2008, which prevents him from recording any new material.


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