In 1988, the rap group EPMD (Eric and Parrish Making Dollars) released the album Strictly Business. Strictly Business was EPMD’s best selling album. As I reflect on my formal education and what it has taught me, I often remember how hip hop lyrics also taught me a lot and helped my social and professional growth. A verse I learned much from Strictly Business was spit (lyrics performed) by Parrish, and it goes a little something like this.
“And all due respect, when I say mic check
Let a sucker slide once — then I break his neck;
So when I say jump, you reply, “How high?”
Because I’m takin’ no prisoners, so don’t play hero and die;
You’re just a soldier.. and I’m a Green Beret
I do not think twice about the MC’s I slay;
So if you want to battle, I highly recommend this:
Bring your dog, mom, and dad.. because I’m Strictly Business!”
Parrish, EPMD, Strictly Business
During the summer of 1988, I was a rising senior at Morehouse College. That particular summer, like all summers in college, I returned home to Detroit and worked at Chrysler Corporation. Unlike some of my friends that had office internships in marketing, finance or law, my summer job was in the stamping plant. The stamping plant helped prepare quarter panels for building Dodge Ram trucks. My shift was from 12:00 am – 8:00 am and we worked 7 days a week. The money was good, but it was a hard and long summer. By the time everyone is heading to the party, I had to get ready to go to work. When everyone got up to start their day, I was sleeping. I made a lot of money with overtime that summer, but did not have much of a social life. The lack of social interaction gave me time to think and dissect rap lyrics like Strictly Business. :).
The beat and chorus to Strictly Business is set to the song “I Shot the Sheriff “ by Bob Marley. The beat is melodic and makes you want to bounce. In addition to bouncing, the song made me think about working at the stamping plant that summer and realizing that it was not the life for me. A stamping plant is hot, the machines are large and dangerous, and the line never stops. You are moving heavy steel which is sharp to the touch. I have a cut on my arm to this day to prove it. The protective gear was not very protective and the late hours/early mornings made this one of the most dangerous jobs I have ever had. I never wanted to go back to work at the stamping plan after graduation. This job made me want to stay in school and graduate in order to get a “good job” as some of my fellow co-workers would say. They said stay in school and do not make this a career. They were good men and women and gave me great advice for the future. They also said use your mind and focus on business. I listened and became a college and law school graduate. I focused on my business, my strictly business.
Listening to Parrish’s verse on Strictly Business taught me a few lessons about business and how I could use those lessons to assist me and uplift others. Parrish taught me how to handle my business. Here are some of those lessons learned:
1. Be respectful, be prepared and don’t miss an opportunity.
“And all due respect, when I say mic check
Let a sucker slide once — then I break his neck”
When you are ready to solicit business, gain clients, or promote yourself, you must always present yourself with integrity, confidence and honesty. This will demonstrate respect for your work and the clients you seek You must also double check your preparation and make sure you are more than ready. Always do a “mic check” to make sure all of your ideas, promises and solutions will work. Make sure your “mic sounds nice” and that you can be heard clearly. Lastly, make sure that you never miss an opportunity or let someone overlook you. Let no opportunity slide by. Always shoot your best shot and don’t let others out work you.
2. When you are up against a trouble meet it squarely face to face.
“So when I say jump, you reply, “How high?”
Because I’m takin’ no prisoners, so don’t play hero and die”
When you are faced with a daunting business opportunity that stretches you to your limit or makes you question your ability to get the work done, don’t give up. Instead, step back and give yourself a running start to jump over that hurdle. Mediate on how high you need to jump and prepare for positive results. Never doubt your skills, talents and abilities, just jump. Make sure your jump is planned, you have practiced in your mind and that you have reckless abandon to make your jump successful. You will not be a hero, but you will instead give it your all and have a plan to address barriers and not fail. Failure might occur, but poor planning and preparation assure it.
3. I am the best! I will bring my best work! No one will outwork me! I am the master or my fate and the captain of my soul.
“You’re just a soldier.. and I’m a Green Beret
I do not think twice about the MC’s I slay”
You are the expert of your work. You know more than anyone else about what you want to accomplish. You are not an average soldier or common person. You have trained and prepared your mind, body and soul for this moment. You are the Green Beret. You are the highly skilled assassin that will seek out and capture all the business that is for you. When you win a contract, don’t apologize for it. Do not undervalue your worth by undercharging. Do not feel bad for anyone, but instead show humility and at the same time exhibit pride and confidence in your work. Master your craft, feed your soul and be the best.
4. Bring your “A” Game
“So if you want to battle, I highly recommend this: Bring your dog, mom, and dad.. because I’m Strictly Business”
The first opportunity is the last opportunity and the last opportunity is the best opportunity to do your best. When you are set up for success, never be mediocre. If you are recommended for a contract, a job, a board position or a meeting with the CEO, bring it all so you can leave an amazing impression. That meeting or opportunity is not only for you. The opportunity is for all those who poured into you. Your parents, your teachers, your mentors, your sponsors, your detractors, your prayer Warriors, your admirers and your haters. When you seize that opportunity these folks help you bring your best. Use all that you have to get all you deserve and when you get it, do it well. Most importantly and above all, give the next opportunity to someone else so they can bring it too.
“Cause when I am in action, there is no time for maxin’ or relaxin’ — just reactin’ and subtracting.”
Make your next opportunity Strictly Business!