Thinking of a Master Plan: Brand Lessons from a Legend

James Cuth – Rakim Brand Lessons

I was nervous and excited. In just a few moments, I was going to be face-to-face with one of my personal heroes. A year earlier I had pushed hard to get him included in a national marketing program I created and now I was going to have an opportunity to sit-down and interview the godfather of Hip-Hop lyricism. I took a deep breath and knocked firmly on the TV production door. As I waited on the street outside his trailer in New York City, I could not help but smile as the legend I spent countless hours debating about in music stores, barbershops and after school, awaited inside. His manager opened the door, I walked in and sat down with Hip-Hop icon Rakim…

Two years later, as I sit back and think about that interview two life lessons strike me as most worth sharing:

  1. Higher Purpose – “Thinking of a master plan…” – Rakim
    • Rakim completely changed the game. From the moment, he stepped on the hip-hop scene he catapulted the genre into the stratosphere with never before seen displays of lyrical excellence. With no Rakim, you would have no Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem or Kendrick Lamar. When I think about what got him to where he is today, one word captures it perfectly, PURPOSE. Rakim has been on a mission to be the greatest Hip-Hop lyricist ever since the first day he picked up a microphone. Furthermore, Rakim always conveys his authentic truth which consistently pushes the listener to look deep inside and evaluate their personal journey. These may seem like the desires behind all artists, but in a genre where it can pay to be overly misogynistic, flashy or hardcore, this separates Rakim from his peers. Personally, I believe your higher purpose is not a thing you achieve, but a never-ending path you walk your entire life. That being said, “…ain’t – no – half – steppin’.”
  1. Passion – “Fire burns in me eternally time’s eternity” – Rakim
    • I have had the pleasure of talking to my fair share of celebrities and my conversation with Rakim stood out. His passion and determination to continue to strive for greatness was infectious. He was equally driven as an artist, leader of Hip-Hop culture and as a dedicated father. Recently, I had the pleasure of reading books by Kevin Hart, Richard Branson, Phil Knight and Charlamagne Tha God and they all share the same trait I felt in Rakim, sustained passion. Life is short. If you are not passionate about what you are doing, take immediate steps to re-envision what you can be. Or in the immortal words of Rakim, “…break away the chains, take away the pains, remake the brains, reveal my name”.

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