Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Babson Entrepreneurs

Allowing Pre-Determined Values and Aesthetic Standards Cloud Objectivity


Kendrick Lamar – “Best Rapper Under 25”


^ Click on that Kendrick lamar link. Just listen to it.


Now, I am willing to guess – and I’m not claiming I am necessarily correct or that this has been informed by research – from intuition alone that most business professionals would dismiss this as representative and belonging to a lower class of society. When put in such explicit terms, you (the reader) may be inclined to reject this claim either from the basis that I stated that this is unbacked by empirical evidence, that such a dismissal would be a preposterous and socially unjust reaction (in other words, you are willfully being blinded by certain established power structures), or some combination of the two. However, neither objection is of interest to me as they do not pertain to my intended audience: The individual, psychological defense mechanisms aside, who knows that they or those among their peers would not voluntarily publicly display their admiration for such talent.

Note that this is not a discussion about personal music tastes or preferences; rather, this is about an observation of objectively discernible talent. This is, from a business perspective, knowing what consumers want, desire, and pursue…and capitalizing upon that fact.

The artist in question, Kendrick Lamar, has recently released a debut album which debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 resulting in the best-selling debut from a male artist in all of 2012. It stands to reason that any decent hard-working A&R executive from a major record label should have been able to detect such talent in the 7 years that he had been active. However, he wasn’t discovered by a Simon Cowell – he was discovered by Dr. Dre who himself had similar upbringings as a rapper before he turned towards the production side of music and founded his own record label.

This now brings me to another interesting point: So many rappers from extremely humble upbringings were able to found record labels…and not just record labels, but successful record labels. How is this possible? I would contend (reasonably I hope), that the booming recording industry of the 90’s and early 2000’s wouldn’t allow just any random rapper on the street become successful purely because the top A&R executives were already in place and they had all the resources at their disposal to identify new and top-selling talent. However, even today, this is not the case.

Look at some of the top record labels for hip-hop artists and who they were founded by:

YMCMB – (Founded by Lil’ Wayne)

Maybach Music Group – (Founded by Rick Ross)

Shady Records – (Founded by Eminem)

G.O.O.D. Music – (Founded by Kanye West)

Aftermath Entertainment – (Founded by Dr. Dre)

How were these rappers, turned entrepreneurs, able to found these record labels? I argue, because they discovered a gaping hole in the recording industry: They realized that there were tons of talented people that were going undiscovered, yet were potentially worth millions in record sales. Why was there all this abundance in undiscovered talent that these rapper-entrepreneurs were able to capitalize on?  I argue that it is because of the pre-determined values and aesthetic standards held by the vast majority of business professionals; those who hold the reigns of the established power structured. They let these standards cloud their ability to objectively interpret potential mega-successes, and it is a bane on their business acumen.

This simple concept can extend beyond just music to all domains of business. You must consciously, consistantly, and constantly work towards freeing your mind and perceptive ability of any and all biases in order to realize success in either creating a product, delivering a product, and discovering a product in which to invest. This mindset must be fundamentally ingrained into the foundations of your thought processes, and I strongly believe that the failure to do so is an extremely underestimated reason for which so many business endeavors fail.