Don’t Rap About It, Be About It


        Setting the tone with a DJ, bright neon lights and video screens, Kevin Liles, Vice President of Warner Music Group, encouraged students to tap into the business side of the hip-hop music industry Monday night.

Liles is also the author of the book “From Intern to President: Make it Happen. The Hip-Hop Generation Guide to Success.” He is on a 15 city book that stopped as Howard University in Washington, D.C.

            “Not enough people are getting money from the business side of the industry,” said Liles.  Unknown to some in the audience, heavy hitters in the world of business were noted by Liles as those who make the 10 and 12 million dollar salaries or more: CEO Dick Parsons of Time Warner who has 22 people handling their money; President Steve Mills of Madison Square Garden, CEO Michael Lee Chins of AIC Limited who has $8 billion from equity, to name a few.

            Liles made a point of emphasizing that he was there to serve, that he had not come to party, to pick up CDs, or to hear anyone rap.  He shared something a relative had always told him.  “There are three types of people:  People that make things happen; People that watch things happen; and People that things happen to.”  He asked the audience “What do you want to do?”  The response was “Make It Happen,” the title of his book written “not to make money, but to give back to the community, to share knowledge,” said Liles.

            Liles rejected the notion of this generation being called “Generation X,” since ‘X’ represents unknown. Instead he said “I want to be Generation E for entrepreneurship and empowerment” Then he shared some of the ten rules included in his book to achieve that goal.

            Rule #1 €” Find Your Will.  Find out what makes you want to get up in the morning.  What do you have a passion for doing? Recalling something a teacher had repeatedly told him, “Kevin, you can be anything you want to be,” Liles told all the teachers in the audience to be sure that they are telling their students the right things.

            He added “Some of us don’t worry about opportunity. We just let it pass us by.”  He warned against this, but said “You have to prepare for it (opportunity).”  Then Liles spoke about his experience as an intern without pay for two years, but he also said that he was the best intern possible -Rule #5- Play Your Position.

Playing his previous position correctly enabled him to become president of Def Jam in 1998 at the age of 30. As president he took company sales from $60 million to $400 million.  He credited much of his success to a message taught to him by his mother that he internalized, “I believe in myself.  Therefore, I am what I believe myself to be.”

            Finally, Liles left the audience with the four S’s that he lives by:  Serve family and community; Sacrifice €” no pain, no gain; Surrender to the higher calling; and Survive €” Liles reminded the audience that he had to survive the streets of Baltimore, MD as a drug dealer no less to get to where he is today.