What I Learned From Hip-Hop

Hip-hop raised so many in my generation. The dancing, the battle rap, the gear; there was no dodging it’s influence. For my 80’s babies out there, we were blessed to witness many lyrical giants rise to the top. Unfortunately, we had to witness a lot of senseless violence and tragedies along the way. A common debate I’ve had with many of my friends over the years is whether hip hop has an overall positive of negative influence on the culture? I believe there are good arguments that can be made on both sides but today I want to share a few major positive lessons I picked up over the years.

1. Consistency

Do any of you remember Mims’ song “This is Why I’m Hot” or the Luniz “I Got 5 On It” song? Many would consider them one hit wonders. What were they missing? The talent was obviously there but what I would say they lacked was consistency. I’ve always believed that passion and consistency are the secret ingredients to success. Why do you think P Diddy constantly yells “Bad Boy, can’s stop won’t stop.” The most impressive premeds, med students, medical doctors I have encountered are those who are consistent. Those who continue volunteer activities for years. I have a few mentees who like clockwork message me to check in. This is supper impressive. Medical schools look at this because they know that an inconsistent student will struggle through the rigors of medical school. In life, we all want to work with, marry, and care for consistent individuals.

“Even going into the second album, it felt more like a job than it did like something I was passionate about. And the second album, everything about that went horribly bad between my relationship with the label, that after that process, I decided that I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever be signed to another record label again.”  -Mims     

2. Stay on the Beat

The only rapper I know who made a career of being off beat was Silk the Shocker but his career didn’t last too long. It is important to stay on track and to keep a calendar. It is also important to recognize that life follows a rhythm. Everything is cyclical and once you find the pattern you can follow it. You have to search for it by seeking counseling, meeting with advisers and getting mentors. When you are in sync you will be much less stressed. There are important dates and deadlines you need to stay on top off. If you fall off, it can be very tough to get back on the beat.

3. Believe in Yourself

Nearly all hip-hop moguls have been self-made. Many would say that others knew they were talented but people hated on them or discouraged their passion. In that dog-eat-dog industry it is important that they can fend for themselves and they know who is truly in their corner. Confidence is not an easy trait to master. Being underconfident or overconfident can damage you. I’ve heard of a few rappers who bragged their way all the way into a pair of handcuffs. In medicine, many of us struggle with the imposter syndrome. With hip-hop, it is interesting that when the beat comes on you first start to bob your head and rock but in no time you are stepping and signing the words. You can have 50 people staring at you but if your song is on its like you are singing all by yourself in the shower. It is crucial that you find that trigger in your life that sparks that same confidence.


4. Money Can’t Buy Everything

So many rappers opened up about being depressed despite being filthy rich. Some even let us in on a little secret “mo money mo problems”. It doesn’t matter what career you are in, chasing money and fancy things will not bring happiness. It is important but you should never let it control you. Growing up in the Houston area, so many of the local greats resorted to codeine syrup and other illicit drugs ultimately leading to their demise. These things don’t bring happiness but meaningful relationships and fulfilling one’s purpose will. There was a great article about a now deceased young doctor by the name of Richard Teo who illustrated this point so well. Check out the article sometime. The book When Breath Becomes Air is also an amazing story.

5. Be You

Some of you may remember a rapper by the name of Guerilla Black. He sounded just like the Notorious BIG but his career was short lived. You can only go so far imitating others. People may be impressed initially but will later label you, place you in a box or get bored with you. Now we all know Lil Nas X and the controversy he stirred up in the music industry. His unique style allowed his song “Old Town Road” to break the record for the longest song on at #1. His rise to fame is is praiseworthy. We all have our own God-given gifts and talents but sometimes we misplace them while running in the rat race. Your gift has the potential to impact your career or the world. Last week, a good medical doctor buddy of mine was on the Kelly Clarkson show for his artwork. He found a way to auction his artwork to help pay for his patient’s procedures. He has been able to incorporate his art into his career. You don’t have to be like everyone else but instead be unique and find your special niche.

Lil Nas X and others. Picture from the Washington Post

Well those are 5 life lessons that hip hop taught me. How about you? Is hip hop a good or bad influence? What have you learned from it?