Beats, Bass, and Leadership

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A few days ago I tweeted a New York Times story about a Silicon Valley investor who uses rap lyrics to teach basic lessons of business. His name is Ben Horowitz and his blog has completely fascinated me for the last week. Two things that are not supposed to go together, the white-collar world and the street life verbalized in the often profanity-laden lyrics of rap music, are combined to teach principles of Ethics, Entrepreneurship, Strategy and last but not least: Leadership!

Yes, it’s true. I did say leadership. It may sound crazy, but consider this quote from Adam Bradley, associate professor of African American literature at the University of Colorado cited in a BBC article about Horowitz:

“Rap presents an immediate test. If you get up on the stage and you are whack, you are going to get booed off. You have to present yourself in the moment and you have to move the crowd. I think there is a lesson there in leadership because it’s about creating pathways of connection.”

While Howoritz’s posts often take on practical business elements that appeal to venture capitalists and those in the executive world, it is important to note a powerful lesson from what Horowitz has done:

  • Leadership lessons can come from anywhere!!!  (including rap music)


Anything and everything can teach lessons about leadership, from movies to sports to school and everything in between. If we look for  opportunities to glean lessons from everything we experience we will become that much more effective at being leaders.

Here’s a rap lyric from Eminem’s song Like Toy Soldiers that I thought of while writing this post. While it may be a little more obvious than some of Horowitz’s examples, it teaches about leadership by example.

I’d never drag them in battles that I can handle unless I absolutely have to
I’m supposed to set an example
I need to be the leader, my crew looks for me to guide ’em
If some s*** ever just pop off, I’m supposed to be beside ’em

Remember that leadership lessons come in all shapes and sizes and from a variety of sources!


4 Comments on “Beats, Bass, and Leadership”

  1. I didn’t see your Tweet so I’m so glad you posted this blog!

    I just added his blog to my Google Reader… I’m sure I will spend much of my next hour reading up on his stuff. Very cool.

    Thanks for the share!

  2. Nice post Justin! Who knew we can learn leadership lessons from rap music?! LIke Emily, I will definitely keep up with Horowitz’s blog. Good find!

  3. This is awesome Justin! I’m so glad you shared your find!

    I agree that you can learn leadership lessons from almost anything. I am going to check out Horowitz’s blog and see what leadership lessons I find!

  4. I didn’t see your tweet, but I saw the NYT story making its rounds on Facebook the other day and thought it was fascinating. I like a lot of rap music, but it never occurred to me that the lyrics sometimes have some good leadership lessons to teach.

    I really like Adam Bradley’s quote about how leadership is “creating pathways of connection.” A lot of people listen to rap, and if it can be used as a platform to teach leadership qualities, what a great way to reach a large audience (who may not even realize that they’re learning while they listen)!

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