What Industry Leaders Can Learn From Kendrick Lamar

Earlier this week, a bombshell hit the hip-hop community when Kendrick Lamar unleashed a no-holds-barred calling out of several prominent contemporary rappers as well as the NY rap community.  It was the hottest topic for a few days on Twitter and had everyone from sports to politics weighing in. 

Some of the artists he called out were understandably miffed, but many of them have remained silent.  One of them (Wale) was actually honored that he made the list worthy of bashing.  Who got really steamed?  All the other rappers Kendrick failed to call out.  They are ticked off! 

Why am I writing about it?  I, like Kobe, Russell Simmons and a few others, think it was a GOOD thing for the genre that Kendrick promised to bury them and make their core audience forget about them for producing such banal product.  He raised the bar.  



But still, he’s surely glad he did it and I am too.  Rap will have a new sense of vitality that we haven’t seen since 2Pac and Biggie Smalls had their beef.  (Note: Due to Kendrick’s immaturity, he also made a mistake: He announced that he was ‘the king of New York’ which elicited ire from the community and a scolding by none other than Coach Phil Jackson. This proves you need to stop short of arrogance when challenging your industry colleagues to do better.)

I’d like to see Johnny Ive drop some science on device and electronics makers (except Samsung).  I’d like to see Richard Branson unleash a rap of fury, promising to ground all the major airlines with his hyper-focus on the  customer-experience, making all of us forgo our frequent flyer miles to fly with Virgin. 

I’d like to see Elon Musk call out Detroit, Toyota and a few other auto makers for their lack of imagination and/or style.   I’d like to see Tony Hsieh thrown down against online retailers that can’t or won’t deliver happiness.  And so on.  

In each case, the response may very well be negative at first, with those left out replying first (that was the case with Kendrick’s rap) and then those called out feeling the pressure, and likely stepping up their game to truly compete.  

Things have gotten far too civil in business these days, as everyone seems to be afraid to directly call out their competitors for the sake of improving the entire industry.  In fact, I’ve got some studio time booked to cut my own rap, which will call out several author/speakers I know.  Here’s a sample: 

“I’ll bury you with my takeaways, next year you’ll have 350 free days…” 

I’m no stranger to employing a rap to make my point.  A decade or so ago, I made this video to challenge the Yahoo sales team to do a beter job learning their customer’s business.  And it worked!