Image courtesy of GQ Magazine

Everyone wants to be a rapper, I get it. At this point being a “rapper from Portland, Oregon” is cliché. So, if you’re gonna do it, you gotta stand out! Be unique in your sound, and a cut-above in your business practice.


10 THINGS: Successful Rappers Do…


1. Distribute their music beyond their fan base

Sharing your new tracks with your friends should be done for fun and support, but not done as part of your business model. Unless your friend is an A&R, who do you think you’re kidding? Albert Einstein said, “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” You won’t reach anyone new by reaching out to the same people.

2. Hire a PR agency

One way to reach new people is to pay people who have broader networks than you do. Hiring a PR agency will help you with a few things: refining your message, getting your message and music out to mass audiences, presenting your image as a “successful” and not “wack” rapper.

3. Have a manager

Another key to good rap business is having a manager. Managers work closely with publicists to establish image, and get it to market. They work more on forward-facing projects than behind-the-scenes; for example, a manager helps book tours, a publicist helps promote tours to media. Each can stand alone, and even a booking agency can help, but successful rappers let the experts do what they do best.

4. Go to college

Go to college! Did you know that… Rick Ross, Cam’Ron, Master P, Plies, Lil’ Romeo (what’s he going by now?), Wale, J-Cole, Talib Kweli, Kanye West, Ludacris, Ryan Leslie, David Banner, Diddy (pretty sure that’s what he’s going by…), Common, Lil’ Wayne, Paul Wall, and even 2 Chainz …went to college?

5. Have an income

Successful rappers make money off their music. If you aren’t making money off your music, that’s fine, but make money somehow! And try to keep it (legal and) in the industry, so you can still network. Pick up a job bouncing or bartending at a club, deejay, work at a record store, work for a music company or label, start a music blog and sell ad space, the list goes on…

6. Pay their bills

This is not rocket science. You MUST have an income to pay your bills. Successful rappers might have debt, but they sure as Hell aren’t getting sent to collection agencies. I doubt they have baby mamas chasing them down for child support either. Get a job, so you can do your job!

7. Use social media effectively

Tweet, upload to Instagram, and update on Facebook. And don’t just use social media to post about 1) weed or 2) your music. Use your social networks to build your brand and expand your network. Engage with new people. Use hashtags to hop into conversations about #music, #rap, or #np. ‘Like’ brands on Facebook and follow their conversations. Follow strangers on Instagram and gain new fans. And be positive, like Diddy.

8. Dress GQ

Successful rappers don’t wear baggy clothes. You don’t have to dress preppy or dapper to still dress GQ. French Montana is GQ, A$AP Rocky is GQ. Kanye West is GQ.

9. Arrive on time

Known to dabble in rap myself, I know all about “rapper time.” I also know when to be on time. Investor meetings, label meetings, work, shows, gigs, shoots…be on time. Parties, pre-funks, Friday nights, BBQs, fashion shows…be on rapper time.

10. Stay away from drama

Portland rappers loooooove drama. They’re the only ones, though. Successful rappers stay outta it! Take Jay-Z or Eminem, for example… How often do you see them in the news? You don’t.


BONUS: For shits and giggles, and there may be some overlap, here are 10 THINGS: Wack Rappers Do…

1. Chain smoke…and don’t brush their teeth

2. Eat Hot Cheetos and Takis as meals instead of munchies

3. Spam their friends with ‘music videos’ and ‘hot new tracks’

4. Tag 20 people in an event flyer on Facebook

5. Wear baggie clothes…still

6. Keep their “real jobs” secret…and that’s if they even have a real job

7. Watch a lot of TV

8. Cuss ‘n shit at inappropriate times

9. Live at home with their parents

10. Don’t pay child support