An Uncommon Brand: Common Talks Music, Acting and Drake

Young black entrepreneurs sometimes have trouble letting go of the hood but also recognizing their accomplishments as they ascend in the business world. In your book One Day It Will All Make Sense you talk about being a “humble king”.  How does one stay humble but also embrace their success?

I’ve seen and heard enough stories to know that it’s easy to be getting a lot of money and just lose it. I didn’t reach a high level of finance or success when I first came out. It was like I was always taking steps to get to where I wanted to be and I’m still doing that. At each step I was able to appreciate where I was at.

When you rise to the top quickly, everybody is feeling you and some people might not be authentic with you. You have to deal with the fact that you may not be getting a true opinion of you and your craft. Coming up, I had real people around me and had a good chance to look at myself and saw that I needed to keep going.
Also I believe in God and he says we have to walk humble. No matter how confident or faithful. That means you have to know you are the best and work to be the best but you must always treat people with respect as your rise.

You are currently starring in the AMC Drama Hell On Wheels and have starred in a number of other acting roles including alongside Denzel Washington in American Gangster. Which is more lucrative for you, acting or music?

Over the years, music has been more lucrative for me. But film could definitely be more lucrative as I get into producing and directing films and screen plays. In the long term, film has a lot of potential.

You had a beef with rapper Drake, that some say is a marketing ploy. As a Grammy nominated rapper why would you get involved in something like this? Do you need it?

I don’t take it too heavy, I’m not trying to shoot no one. It’s a rap battle and nothing that should be taken too seriously. Would you ask an athlete, a ball player that’s been in the league for a long time, should they not play hard or against somebody who is younger? If the younger dude is coming at him, he should come right back. Remember when Allen Iverson crossed Michael Jordan over? This [beef] is like that. You have to play dudes for real. If someone comes at me, young or old, I’m still an MC. Rap has no age. If I’m still on the court, I’m going to play for real.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs on how to build a successful brand?

First, discover and decide what your brand is. Then come up with a real vision and creed that you live by; stay strong and believe, whatever it is.

Lastly, in your business, sometimes you will make money decisions, but make sure that it is true to your brand and will move it forward. Don’t let money take away what your brand is about. Always stay true and focused on your brand and vision.

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