7 Business Lessons I learned from “Straight Outta Compton”

What business lessons can you learn from the life of drugs and hip hop? Seeing Ice cube and his son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., at the VMA yesterday got me thinking about the business lessons I deducted watching their biopic just this weekend, after topping the weekend box office a third week in a row. Spinning around the rise and fall of the hip hop group N.W.A., the movie is not just a biographical production but one that provides food for thought. Not only it projects the birth of a genre of angry street music, it also teaches some vital business lessons. It reflects the inexorably undignified nature of money, and the disguised complexities involved in the music business. The domestic box office gross collections have already hit the $135 million mark.

Though the movie provides several significant take-aways, let us reflect on 7 key business lessons:

Follow Your Passion

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you”, says Oprah Winfrey. MC Ren, Easy-E., Dr. Dre, DJ Yella and Ice Cube came from a place with not much hope, and wrote and recorded what they knew. Dr Dre even left his home to follow what he truly believed in. Once their debut album, “Straight Outta Compton” was out, their voice was known to the world. Remember, for any idea to take shape, you need to have a burning desire, and perseverance.

Be Consistent  

The debut album of the N.W.A. was banned from TV, radio and was even rejected by the record labels due to its controversial nature, yet the group did not give up. Donald Trump rightly said, “Sheer persistence is the difference between success and failure” The group today is looked upon as pioneers of hip hop.

Make Smart Investments

Easy-E used the cash he obtained apparently from his nefarious business activities to gain access to talent and connections. He invested in Dr. Dre to get him to produce tracks for his new record label. Later he also used cash to get in touch with Jerry Keller. Every investment has its risks though. But Robert G Allen says, “How many millionaires do you know who have become wealthy by investing in savings account?” Investing involves risks but smart investments pay off. Another business lesson associated here is that of growth, it’s important to diversify and make use of opportunities as they come along.     

Tap into Opportunities

When there were hardly any takers, Priority Records was the first label to sign N.W.A.  Though they only had California Raisins behind them, the deal was made, and the opportunity well utilized. It provided them resources they required to make their first album, “Straight Outta Compton.” When opportunity knocks, take it but be vigilant.

Affiliate Cautiously

It is a hard learnt business lesson for many. N.W.A. got into bad record deals. Easy-E did not even hire an attorney to check the contract even when the team was suspicious of foul play. It is important to be careful with loopholes, and clauses that could affect you adversely. Get the paperwork carefully scrutinized by the right people before entering into a deal. And keep your team intact.

Broaden Your Horizons

When the group split, and initially Ice Cube, and later Dr. Dre left the group, they paved their own paths to success. Cube did not compromise on what he felt cheated for, and Dr. Dre after facing adversity, and switching labels, went on to do his own thing. “Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you,” said Aldous Huxley. Definitely, both of them learnt and gained new experiences, and kept working hard, and succeeded. The important thing is don’t just stay there, learn and grow further.

Success is a Journey

There is no easy way out. Dr Dre, after the split from N.W.A., went through a lot of struggle but never stopped. He started up Aftermath Entertainment in 1996. Ultimately he co-founded the company Beats Electronics with Jimmy Iovine, and in August 2015, he announced the release of his third album, Compton: A Soundtrack on iTunes and Apple Music. Realize that nothing is easy, and success comes when you embark on a journey with determination. Vince Lombardi once mentioned, “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”Nobody said entrepreneurship is easy, and it isn’t.

To sum it all, the movie is a learning saga. It provides us with a few important business lessons. First being, to chase your passion, and persevere. Move slowly but move, and know your business well. Make right investments, and tap given opportunities. Look for meticulous details when signing deals, and keep looking for prospects to grow. Finally, don’t stop, success is a long journey, and once you achieve it, you have to continue working to maintain it.


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  1. Renee Groskreutz

    WOW this is a great article. I already really wanted to see the movie and now I have gotta see it. I had not heard the line about “no one gets rich with a savings account!” Boom!

  2. Raul Tiru

    Hi Douglas, When I read the title, I thought to find a lot of hussles, but I found great strategic lessons. Great post, once again!

    1. Douglas Idugboe

      That’s what I was expecting to see when entered the theatre but I came out inspire with these lessons. Thanks!

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