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The Institute Of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship Is Here To Craft Your Hustle

The Institute Of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship Is Here To Craft Your Hustle

IHHE's Tayyib Smith & Meegan Denenberg Explain How They Groom Young Entrepreneurs To Craft Their Hustle & Empower Their Dreams.

IHHE's Tayyib Smith & Meegan Denenberg Explain How They Groom Young Entrepreneurs To Craft Their Hustle & Empower Their Dreams.

TS: Without saying names, I think that there are a lot of entrepreneurs in the hip-hop space that are popular, but they give out misinformation. Someone will talk about themselves, but they don’t talk about their team. There are a lot of people that are known as these titans of the industry but they don’t show you that they have a guy behind them that is running their marketing company. That he does that job well. They don’t discuss all of the things, that have nothing to do with music production, that it takes to establish something and help it become an international brand. Subsequently, we spend too much time talking about personality of the one person out front and their individual experience. It is almost similar to something I read years ago about what they call the Uncle Tom’s Cabin narrative. In traditional African literature, the narrative is a collective story. It’s not about an individual, it is about a village — a community. In America, the traditional African-American narrative is often one negro story. There’s one negro boy going down the river with a white boy. One instance of one individual success. I think that hip-hop, frankly, does do a poor job of reinvesting in community, reinvesting in mentorship and sharing knowledge. We learned the music industry from the previous music industry. Music never really had a template. People didn’t understand publishing. People didn’t know rights or royalty rates, but they knew how to ball out and drive nice cars. They knew how to make intellectual property but didn’t understand how to monetize intellectual property. There are generations of people who, both consciously and subconsciously, have exploited that ignorance. It is learned behavior.

MD: I don’t know that I could say that there is a lack of mentorship. I think that hip-hop culture and the entrepreneurialism within that stems from a place and from people that didn’t normally feel like they had mainstream access. People didn’t feel they had the bridges to get on the pathway to entrepreneurship or into certain careers, but the culture opened those doors for them and made space for those conversations. Very often, the new or alternative spaces that hip-hop inspired often came from a place of not having plenty. I think if you don’t have a lot, I think that helping others have more is a bit of a hard conversation to have. Given that, I don’t know if the conversation has been present all along. I do think that it has started to have a bigger footprint.

OKP: So are you interested in changing that dynamic across the industry? Similar to the each one teach one philosophy?

TS: I’m interested in doing whatever I can with my skill sets and my relationships to push the pendulum forward. Whether that’s creating a small ecosystem in Philadelphia and then scaling that to other communities or cities. Meegan and I have – whether its IHHE, our co-working space Pipeline or Little Giant – some overarching holistic mission. Though that could be hard to see from the outside. I’m not a rich man or a man of means, but I think I have a lot to offer and with that the goal is to figure out what we can do to elevate and change the conversation. That’s the biggest and most accessible goal that we can do here. Once we decided on this and did the research – looking at hip-hop programs at Penn and Duke and Harvard – I was surprised and almost insulted that none of them had ever looked at hip-hop from the business perspective. It was always from the artist’s perspective or looking at it from an archival standpoint. Its the same thing we’ve done with other genres of music. But not looking at the power, impact and influence of the culture from a business perspective is a mistake. You wouldn’t have SUV’s or certain model cars if people at street level hadn’t modified their vehicles and forced that industry to adapt. That’s directly related to hip-hop. Even film, television, and graphic arts or typeface. There’s so many people I see now that are considered high artists — whether it’s KAWS or ESPO or Shepard Fairey. I’ve talked to those guys and if you ask who they look up to, its some black or Latino person in the hood who was doing work that inspired them to get into a creative field. I can’t think of one person that comes from that lineage that is held in high regard by museums, or high art institutions. I feel our success is in being able to crack the door and have Knight Foundation invest in the concept. That’s what got the concept to CNN and other business realms. Now if you look at recent history, things like Childish Gambino’s CD sales or the score of Luke Cage, everything Ava DuVernay is doing — we’re in the midst of a cultural renaissance but I feel like no one can see it because of the amount of media bias that exists. So much of that would not exist without hip-hop. Its very black and white for me but I feel like I need to speak about it for a couple of years before people start to pay attention.

OKP: What are you most concerned with imparting to the students at IHHE?

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TS: I think literacy, the power of collaboration, lifelong learning, the power of your personal brand, having a good work ethic, a good moral compass, and being civically and socially engaged in your community are important. There are so many different examples, even in recent history, where you have men of means that don’t really realize the negative behaviors that they are bestowing upon millions of people who see them publicly refuse to collaborate or honor one another. A lot of those negative learned behaviors can be undone by providing a better example.

OKP: What are you most excited about and what are you looking forward to?

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