by Larrie Peniel

Recently, it was announced by Forbes Magazine, that legendary hip-hop rapper and producer Dr. Dre is the highest income earner for 2012 (hip-hop category). Without really ‘breaking sweat’, he took over from more flamboyant merchants and show-businessmen, P. Diddy and Jay Z. Such is Dre’s dominance in 2012 that the combined earning of Jay Z and P. Diddy ($38m and $45 respectively) is nowhere near Dre’s whooping revenue of $110m.

How did this humble man from a small beginning become the highest earner in 2012?

Well, these are a few Business Lessons to tap from Andre Romelle Young’s (Dr. Dre) Success:

1. Inspiration: As a person who is interested in going into business, always have an inspiration, source of inspiration or be inspired by something. Dr. Dre was inspired by ‘The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel”, a single released by DJ Grandmaster Flash in 1981. It was a live mix recording of DJ Flash scratching and mixing records from various groups using three turntables. This single influenced Dre to be a DJ and subsequently, a rapper / producer.

2. Start From Where You Are: You don’t have an excuse not to start the business you have always wanted to do. Do not be restrained by capital. Dr. Dre started with cutting and joining tapes. His love for music and how it was produced was so infectious that he received a music mixer from his mum for Christmas in 1984. He turned his family home into his studio and for hours, he would work his magic, taking pieces of different songs and sounds to make his own sound.

3. Take Action: It’s not enough for you to have an idea or a grandiose project, you must immediately take action. Dr. Dre went to a Los Angeles club ‘Eve After Dark’ and started hanging out there regularly. He soon got his chance to work the turntables and he soon became a DJ. 

4. Learn from Others: If your association with certain friends or people will add value to you, then make sure you learn from them as much as you can. Dr. Dre teamed up with fellow rappers Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Yella, MC Ren, the Arabian Prince and the D.O.C. to form N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitude) in 1985. With his new group, he was able to produce a more hard-hitting sound. Dre parted ways with Eazy-E (and N.W.A) in 1991 due to financial differences. He had already learnt useful financial management tips from the affairs of N.W.A. before leaving.

5. Prove Yourself: You would usually have disagreements with people in the course of doing business but if you are confident of yourself, the onus rests on you to prove your worth. Dr. Dre proved he can be a very good producer by working with Snoop Doggy Dogg (later known as Snoop Dogg and Snoop Lion). Dre’s personal album – The Chronic – sold over 3 million copies while Snoop’s album – Doggystyle, which Dre produced grossed 4 million copies in sales.

6. Take the Plunge: Do not settle for less in life. If things aren’t working exactly as you have planned, take charge of your life and your destiny. Seek new opportunities and adventures, and take control of your own affairs. Dr. Dre wasn’t exactly comfortable with the way things were going with Death Row record, the record label he helped form with his former bodyguard – Marion ‘Suge’ Knight. He quit to form his own company – Aftermath record.

7. Take Impossible Risks: Someone said: “It’s not an idea until people say you are crazy”. Very true. We must learn to take risks that are unimaginable because the higher the risk, the higher the returns. What is considered risky in certain quarters, is a platform for success for others. Dr. Dre took a decision in 1998 which was to alter the history of rap and hip-hop music forever. Against all warnings and what seemed to be ‘bad judgement’, he signed a non-black rapper called Eminem for Aftermath / Interscope Records. It was considered a ‘taboo’ for a white dude to be rapping, how much more associating with him and signing one under your label. As at date, Eminem has had twenty one (21) Grammy nominations and won eleven (11) out of those nominations. He is one the best rappers the world has ever seen.

Dre famously remarked after his split with Death Row record, “Now I’ma be able to do whatever I wanna do,” he claims. “If it works, it’s on me. If it fails, it’s on me. But I’m an innovator. I like trying things.”

8. Don’t be a Mentor, Get a Protégé: In the business world, people always talk about being a mentor and encouraging someone else but I completely disagree. If the intent is to develop the next or new ‘you’ then it must be a protégé. A protégé is like your prototype, someone who will imbibe all your values and also help to discover another ‘you’, so that there is a vertical linear chain of ‘you’s’. Dr. Dre made Eminem a protégé and together they have a label called Shady Aftermath. Eminem discovered and prepared 50 Cents (another successful rapper) as a protégé; 50 Cents has a clique called G-Unit (Game, Lloyd Banks and co.). We can trace the chain back to Dre. It’s a win-win situation when a candle lights another candle.

Dre had this to say about his protégé, “I don’t care if he’s purple, as long as he can rap!”

9. Keep ‘em Guessing: Never allow your competitors know what your next move is. You can actually increase anticipation for your product and service by making it scarce and not readily available. Since 1999, Dr. Dre has not officially released a solo album and the feverish hype about his next album – entitled ‘Detox’ (which will be his last album as a rapper, if he doesn’t change his mind) is guaranteed to record massive sales. The content living up to its hype is another thing entirely.

10. Pray for Providence: In all your dealings, always pray for providence. Call it any name you so desire; Luck, Opportunity, Chance, Fate, Destiny, Fortune and so on but the fact is, you need an element of supernatural favour which is outside your immediate control. Dr.Dre would never, I mean NEVER have met Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr (Snoop Doggy Dogg, now Snoop Lion), if Dr. Dre’s mum had not remarried. The fact that Ms Young (Dre’s mum) remarried made her to relocate with her child and the man she remarried is Warren Griffin III’s (Warren G – another successful rapper) father. Warren G (now Dre’s step brother) was Snoop’s age mate and good friend, and he (Warren) was instrumental to Dre & Snoop meeting and working together.

11. Keep Good Company: Anywhere you are in the world, you need and must strive to always keep good company. It’s the law of association and it has been proven time and again, that the quality of friends you keep will influence decisions made. Six years ago Dr. Dre was walking along the beach with his buddy, Interscope Records chief Jimmy Iovine, pondering whether or not he should launch his own shoe line. “[Forget] sneakers,” said Iovine. “Let’s sell speakers!”. It might have been the best piece of advice the rapper-producer ever received. In 2008 he teamed with Iovine and a handful of other partners to launch Beats By Dr. Dre, which now sells more than half of America’s premium headphones ($100 and up). That’s music to the ears of Dr. Dre, who collected $100 million pretax when handset maker HTC paid $300 million for a 51% stake in the company last year.Two good heads are definitely better than one.

12. Concentrate on your strengths and Test new frontiers: Dr. Dre could have turned down Jimmy Iovine’s piece of advice about “making speakers”. What was in vogue then was for rappers to start their own clothing lines – Diddy already had Sean Jean and Jay Z owned Rocawears, so Dre was definitely trying to tow this path, until Iovine’s suggestion. Nonetheless, inner sense must have told him, as a producer, to accept Jimmy’s advise and concentrate on where his strength lies, which is music production. He launched the premium headphones Beats by Dr. Dre in July, 2008 and the rest, as they say, is history.

About Larrie Peniel:


Larrie Peniel is the Lead facilitator of Peniel Consults – a solutions, strategy and training consulting organisation based in Nigeria. He is an accomplished serial entrepreneur, small business expert, football pundit, public speaker and chess enthusiast.

Connect with Larrie via Twitter @larriepeniel

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