Biggie Smalls On Entrepreneurship

in Thoughts & Observations

Biggie Smalls On Marketing and Entrepreneurship

Big Poppa is blazing out of my weedy laptop speakers. is loaded up in Chrome browser

It’s Friday Night

… One of my favourite Biggie songs, ‘10 crack commandments‘ is playing and I’m browsing the lyric definitions.

“It’s rules to this shit, I wrote me a manual
A step-by-step booklet for you to get
Your game on track, not your wig pushed back”

In non-gangsta-rap speak:

“This “manual” is a metaphor for this song, which he believes will teach one how to be a good drug dealer. It will also help you avoid getting your scalp blown off your head”

Man, this is more fun then watching Man vs. Wild on the discovery channel (that Bear Grylls dude is gnarly)

It occurs to me that Biggie did write a manual with this song, and not just for drug dealing. Given a different childhood path, who knows, maybe the brooklyn rapper would have become a college professor or silicon valley startup consultant?

With this in mind, I’ve taken the liberty of translating Biggie smalls ’10 crack commandments’ into the messages that I truely beleive he was trying to put across – the ‘10 successful business and happy lifestyle commandments

Rule Number Uno: never let no one know
How much dough you hold cause you know
The cheddar breed jealousy ‘specially
If that man fucked up, get yo’ ass stuck up def:

If people know how much money you have on you, they’ll get jealous and kill you…especially if we’re talking about crackheads

The ’10 successful business and happy lifestyle commandments’ translation:

More important then not telling people how much you’re worth (no opinion here – I’ll leave it to Andrew Warner on Mixergy to ask those questions), is the note on jealousy and envy.

My landlord here in Cebu has studied Buddhism and shares some very interesting opinions on jealousy; particularly comparing your apparent successes to the successes of those around you. His conclusion is that your ego tells you that you are better then them, that they are no smarter then you and that you, logically, should be more successful.

The trick is to quiet that pesky ego down and just focus on achieving your goals. The success of others is not something to be envied, it is something to be studied and adopted into your own strategy.

Don’t look at your buddy with the brand new BMW M6 and think “what a prick.” Take him out for a beer, casually discuss life, his opinions on success and his story, and try and draw out the core elements that you believe allowed him to make such a gorgeous, mouth watering car purchase (I really want an M6). He gets a few rounds of free beer, you gather some useful tried-and-tested information that can be adopted into your strategy and future plans. No one gets “stuck up”.

Number 2: never let ’em know your next move
Don’t you know Bad Boys move in silence and violence?
Take it from your highness
I done squeezed mad clips at these cats for their bricks and chips

The definition:

Never let anyone know what your plans are for furthering your drug empire

The ’10 successful business and happy lifestyle commandments’ translation:

Derek Sivers relays this point – keep your goals to yourself. Essentially, by sharing your goals and “I’m going to do so & so, just watch” moments with others, you are tricking your brain into believing that you have already started working on said goal.

You’ve made no progress, but your brain tells you that you’ve done a shit load as soon as the “my plan is to…” words leave your mouth.
Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed.

Number 3: never trust no-bo-dy
Your moms’ll set that ass up, properly gassed up
Hoodied and masked up, shit, for that fast buck
She be laying in the bushes to light that ass up

Rap Genius:

A great extended conceit here: even your mom — with the proper motivation (“gassed up”) — will don a ski mask and wait in the bushes to shoot you

The ’10 successful business and happy lifestyle commandments’ translation:

The issue here is not in your mum waiting in the bushes outside your house, ski mask and shotgun at the ready.

The issue is trust. Trust is often hard to earn, easy to loose and something people and companies feel is valuable enough to try and fake.

Remember all of those ‘flogs’ and ‘farticles’ that affiliates of acai berry and other shady products would use to push their goods. These were attempts at hacking the trust process: borrowing the image of brands, people and platforms (reputable newspapers and publications) to sell their ‘300 diet’ ebooks or ‘$1 trial and $80 monthly re-bill’ products. Unfortunately, trust can be engineered.

On the flipside, as an entrepreneur/producer and (hopefully) provider of value, it is important that you recognize where trust can inadvertently poke its head.

For example, if someone recommends a customer to you, they are letting you borrow the trust that the customer has given them – you have a responsibility not to mess that up (if you ever want another referral).

I find it’s best to be genrous with who you trust, without being too ignorant. But on the flipside, be quick to take that trust away if someone takes it for granted. Life is too short to knowingly allow people to take advantage.

Number 4: I know you heard this before
“Never get high on your own supply”

Frank Lopez tells this to Tony Montana in Scarface, advice famously ignored
Also a reference to the famous Ice Cube line from the N.W.A. song “Dopeman”

The ’10 successful business and happy lifestyle commandments’ translation:

Outside of the drug trade, I think this can gracefully be converted to: “don’t believe your own bullshit.”

For those trying to build businesses, careers and cool shit, read this as don’t create irrational emotional bonds to your idea, product or line of work (unless your an artist – music, graphic, whatever – you better love that stuff because there’s a high chance that no-one else will for a long time).

Try and keep a ‘10,000 foot view’ of your progress and the effects of your decisions, it will keep you grounded and stop you from wasting time regretting decisions rather then analyzing and adjusting with the goal of improvement.

Number 5: never sell no crack where you rest at
I don’t care if they want a ounce, tell ’em “bounce!”

Rap G:

Don’t sell any crack out of your home
Regardless of the size/amount they request, tell them to leave!

The ’10 successful business and happy lifestyle commandments’ translation:

To me the message here is; find customers or consumers for your new business or project, not friends and family to support you and make you feel great about ‘trying something new’.

Don’t rely on dinner-party conversations to validate your idea or even a focus group who are giving opinions on a product that they would probably never pay for (more likely that you’re paying them).

Credit cards and leather wallets are the only opinions that count when it comes to assessing how valid your business is, something that every person with a money-making idea quickly realizes when they get to the end of a month, declare that they’ve been ‘crushing it’ and getting so much done, and then struggle to pay the rent.

Number 6: that goddamn credit? Dead it
You think a crackhead paying you back, shit forget it!

R Genius:

no i-owe-you’s, youll never get it

The ’10 successful business and happy lifestyle commandments’ translation:

A simple rule for those trying to baseline their expenses so that they can build and grow something valuable, something I’m currently struggling with, is to pay off any and all debts and focus all of your spending on asset-building purchases.

This doesn’t have to mean cutting out your daily Chai Tea Latte to save money (love me a C-Latte), instead you can get creative and turn what would have been outright expense (liability in Rich dad/Poor Dad speak) into something that helps you build and progress your business. Turn your spare room into an office and save on rental and commute costs. Or better yet, turn your house into a business hub where entrepreneurs congregate. Allot of fun can be had with this one!

7: this rule is so underrated
Keep your family and business completely separated
Money and blood don’t mix like 2 dicks and no bitch
Find yourself in serious shit

Rap Gizzle:

Like mixing family and business, mixing two wieners and no birdie isn’t cool by Biggie, because it leads to you finding yourself “in serious shit” (both figuratively, i.e. excommunicated from the Church etc. and literally, i.e. anal sex/“in serious shit”)

The ’10 successful business and happy lifestyle commandments’ translation:

To be honest, I think Biggie’s explanation is pretty universal here. The RapGenius explanation… not so much.

Number 8: never keep no weight on you!
Them cats that squeeze your guns can hold jums too

R. Geezy:

Don’t keep a large quantity (“weight”) of crack on you. Let your gun-squeezing underlings bear the burden of liability if you get caught
“Jums” are jumbo crack rocks (usually sold for $20); don’t sell these yourself! Hire somebody (helps you, helps the economy)

The ’10 successful business and happy lifestyle commandments’ translation:

This isn’t so much an explanation as a lesson: when you can’t throw money at problems and roadblocks, get creative to figure out ways around it or through it. My favorite example of this is the AirBnB founders, who created presidential nominee themed novelty cereal boxes, and sold them to provide some cash runway while they built their business. They also (allegedly) spammed craigslist users in their early days to gain customers, but hey… a startups gotta do what a startups gotta do!

Number 9 shoulda been Number 1 to me:
If you ain’t gettin’ bagged stay the fuck from police
If niggas think you snitchin’ they ain’t trying to listen
They be sittin’ in your kitchen, waiting to start hittin’

The Genius Of Rap:

If you’re not getting arrested, don’t be seen with police under any circumstances because people will see you, think you’re a snitch, and then try to kill you
This rule reflects B.I.G.’s “Thug Code of Honor” mentality. It was made famous by Cam’ron’s discourse on snitching in his interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes

The ’10 successful business and happy lifestyle commandments’ translation:

Another lesson, this time on perceptions.

Allot of the time, how people perceive you can be more important then the value you are providing. Just ask some of the profitless startups that get tech crunch write-ups and a couple months later get acquired. Or the internet marketing dudes trying to sell you the lamborghini lifestyle but driving a Fiat.

This can work the other way too, if you’re providing so much value it hurts, most people are willing to overlook those perceptions in favor of results. It’s one of those areas of life that you should know what side you lie on, but not let define your progress.

Number 10: a strong word called “consignment”
Strictly for live men, not for freshmen
If you ain’t got the clientele, say “hell no!”
Cause they gon’ want they money rain sleet hail snow

Rapius Genius Maximus:

This sound business advice — the flipside of the “inventory” advice in Rule 8 — recommends conservative leverage: if you don’t have the money, don’t take crack on consignment!
This song came out in 1997…11 years before the Lehman Brothers collapse…(sigh)
Don’t take drugs on credit because unless you’re sure you can sell them fast enough, the guy that gave you credit isn’t going to settle for a payment plan when it’s time to collect

The ’10 successful business and happy lifestyle commandments’ translation:

RapGenius has this one, “conservative leverage” indeed!

As silly as it sounds, rap music has taught me allot about life and I’m grateful for being exposed to it from such a young age (if not slightly concerned about the blasé nature in which my parents let me listen to music).

I also realize that allot of lessons can be learned from artists weaving their way through the music industry, no matter what your opinions are on how much talent they possess.

Modern day rappers have turned character development and story-telling into an art form! Stories of gangster rappers previous lives as ex-policemen and the like are popping up all the time, it’s hard to hide anything these days. But in industries like music where millions of dollars are often involved, watching the marketing and media plays is like going to the theatre. Complex stories are made up and expertly performed right before you; it’s a thing of beauty.

I’m sure Biggie’s discography has plenty more stories and lessons for todays entrepreneur! Let me know what you think of these interpretations in the comments below.

P.S. For those who have no idea who Biggie Smalls is or have never heard the track I’m referring to, this is for you:

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  1. Jealousy? Hmm… sounds like Silicon valley! Used to be all the white American geeks there who built everything until all the jealous losers and PRETTY PEOPLE got REAL jealous and moved in and took over. Now the US econ ain’t doin’ so well is it? There are others way to rob people ‘sides just poppin’ ’em – for xample – you can move in on their jobs and industries, then exclude them and keep them out so that they can’t work and you get all the jobs they created. Call it CAREER THEFT and nowhere is it more popular than in SV yo’.