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business for rappers

I’ve written a few times recently – here, here and here – about the notion of business for punks propounded by the founder of BrewDog. This extract from loc 89 of The Hard Thing About Hard Things conveys something similar in terms of hip hop:

I’ve also been inspired by many friends, advisers, and family members who have helped me throughout my career and also by hip-hop/rap music. Because hip-hop artists aspire to be both great and successful and see themselves as entrepreneurs, many of the themes—competing, making money, being misunderstood—provide insight into the hard things.

I’m really interested in the role that these identifications can play in furnishing a cultural identity as somehow doing business counter-culturally.

Underlying all this I think is a sense of the drama of being a corporate founder: something which Horowitz conveys as “the struggle to build something out of nothing”. Perhaps they’re seeking to frame this experience in terms that are more subjectively amenable than the traditional vocabulary of enterprise? They’re cultural resources being drawn upon to dramatise what Horowitz calls The Struggle. From pg 60:

Every entrepreneur starts her company with a clear vision for success. You will create an amazing environment and hire the smartest people to join you. Together you will build a beautiful product that delights customers and makes the world just a little bit better. It’s going to be absolutely awesome. 

Then, after working night and day to make your vision a reality, you wake up to find that things did not go as planned. Your company did not unfold like the Jack Dorsey keynote that you listened to when you started. Your product has issues that will be very hard to fix. The market isn’t quite where it was supposed to be. Your employees are losing confidence and some of them have quit. Some of the ones who quit were quite smart and have the remaining ones wondering if staying makes sense. You are running low on cash and your venture capitalist tells you that it will be difficult to raise money given the impending European economic catastrophe. You lose a competitive battle. You lose a loyal customer. You lose a great employee. The walls start closing in. Where did you go wrong? Why didn’t your company perform as envisioned? Are you good enough to do this? As your dreams turn into nightmares, you find yourself in the Struggle

As he goes on to define The Struggle, it’s hard not to image theme music and potentially a Rocky-esque training montage. Life contracts during it and reality becomes little more than the intensity of challenge one is subject to. In this  sense, it sounds weirdly spiritual. Particularly at the end: “the struggle is where greatness comes from“.

The Struggle is when you are having a conversation with someone and you can’t hear a word that they are saying because all you can hear is the Struggle. 

The Struggle is when you want the pain to stop.

The Struggle is unhappiness. 

The Struggle is when you go on vacation to feel better and you feel worse. 

The Struggle is when you are surrounded by people and you are all alone. 

The Struggle has no mercy. 

Categories: Corporate Culture, Elites and Their Self-Understandings

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Mark