3 Key business lessons from rapper Lil Wayne

Wait a minute. Let me finish. I know everyone’s first thought is to brand rappers as simple thugs- lucky dudes who made it out of the ghetto by parlaying their dirty money into record deals and peddling their cds to the youth. But many a rapper is a supreme business specimen molded by different environments yet, navigating some of the same obstacles and jungles as a mainstream business man, and often with the same motivations and aspirations as anyone desiring success.

Can we deny the business acumen of Jay-z, Sean Combs, Dr. Dre or 50 cent ? Can we dismiss their success because of their beginnings? Can we deny the depth of their reach as they create “a” model of what a new businessman looks like? These men have built empires based on what their audience wanted, needed, and was willing to pay for. Is this not what business people do?

It’s no secret, I’m from Louisiana, and a huge fan of Lil Wayne, but it’s not just his music that inspires and motivates me. He’s a genius, has the patience of Job, and the persistence of Lincoln. Don’t think you have anything to learn from him? Don’t think his name should be mentioned in any respectable business book or article? I’d beg to differ and offer you 3 Key Business Lessons I learned from Rapper Lil Wayne.


Lesson 1: It can take 10 years to become an overnight success…..
When I first heard Lil Wayne, he was more of backup member- a part of the group, but a kid no less. His voice could be heard mostly at the end of songs, or vocalizing the hook. He was a part of a very hot and successful group, but definitely not a headliner.
This could have discouraged the average person-could have made them quit, but no. This young man decided he’d work harder. He’d spend his time in the background to develop his unique gifts. He’d perfect his talents until they were no longer hidden……. then simply reappear, better, Stronger, BIGGER, FASTER!
When mainstream media really became aware of Lil Wayne, he’d been in the business for more than 10 years and was far from an overnight success. But had he quit, he never would’ve been a success at all.

Your Takeaway: Don’t worry about your current competiton. Don’t worry if you’re not the headliner. Perfect your craft. Hone in on your unique skills. Don’t give up on the things you love. In the words of Maya Angelou, “ Pursue the things you love doing and do them so well that no one can take their eyes off you”. And we haven’t taken our eyes off Lil Wayne yet.


Lesson 2: You MUST invest in yourself, your business and your craft.
“ I got the key to the boat. I got the key to the jet. I got the key to success-get money, then invest. Re-up with the rest”
Catchy verse, but look deeper. This lesson is important, yet quite simple. Take your profits, invest some of it back in your business, then buy more products. This is how you will be a success.
Here’s a recognizable article about re-investing profits back into your business. Same lesson- Lil Wayne just said it in a rap song.

Your Takeaway: After months of being broke and now flush with cash, it can be tempting to splurge before investing in your continued business education, research and development for new products and services, or hiring new top talent for your company. Don’t make that mistake. Made a profit, then make a strategic plan on how to grow your company, pad your reserves for hard times and quietly accumulate new tools and talents to take your business over the next unforeseen hump.


Lesson 3: Diversify, create streams of income, and form powerful collaborations.
You’re great alone, but we’re a force when we’re together…… Lil Wayne has now expanded his reach, influence, business, and maintained fresh relevance by:

  • Finding, growing, and creating the image of some of the most Powerful, Popular new lyricists and proteges currently in the industry. The collaborations along with his individual work will definitely solidify his place in rap history.
  • Lil Wayne didn’t rest with being the best in a particular genre, he diversified. He expanded. He went into rock-n-roll -No MATTER WHAT anyone thought of the outcome. He didn’t stay stagnant or do what was expected of him. When everyone thought he should rest atop his accomplishments, awards and money-when everyone expected he’d go left-he went right, and hasn’t suffered a minute for it.
  • Rapper, Producer and Vice President are not the only names that describe this young man anymore. He is also now a business owner, a mogul, and the creator of a new line of hot clothes and headphones that are no doubt capturing the youth and capitalizing on his ever growing popularity.

Your Takeaway: No matter what you or your business has accomplished, you can definitely stand to step it up. While you’re resting on your laurels, while you sleep, your competition is awake–awake and hungry. Your competition is no longer the business down the street, it’s the company in China, in Brazil, in Nigeria. Your competition is an outsider. They haven’t made it, and they live on the edge of every hot new trend, tool, and product. The only way to continue your rise to the top, your only way to surpass the one person who won’t sleep until they beat you- is to continue to create. No matter what business you chose, there is no way to experience continued growth without collaborating, without diversifying your business or growing strong streams of income.

I told you to let me finish. Maybe you didn’t think you had anything to learn from this tattooed artist whose simple songs and lyrics seem nothing more than catchy filth. But it goes deeper. This artist, like many before him and surely many after, have carved out their own paths, have walked their own concrete jungles, experienced forceful mergers and acquisitions, broken contracts, have developed a tough skin and are definitely left with scar tissue.

What you see as a thug or entertainment, I see as business inspiration on how to not only survive, but to build from nothing and thrive. These are businessmen in their own right and subtly hide powerful and painful lessons, business or otherwise, neatly under the guise of entertainment. We can’t plan where our inspiration will come from, we can only hope we can see it when it’s near.

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