'People Don't Understand What They've Never Seen': 7 Quotes From Rapper T-Pain on Entrepreneurship
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
What can the newest Star Wars film teach you about launching your own business? Grammy Award-winning rapper T-Pain has the answer.
In an interview with Entrepreneur, T-Pain (born Faheem Rashad Najm) said entrepreneurs can learn about frame of reference from actors Donald Glover and Billy Dee Williams, who played the same character -- an old friend of Han Solo -- in two different Star Wars films.
“One of my friends asked me, ‘How did Childish Gambino [Donald Glover] play a better Lando Calrissian than Billy Dee Williams?’” T-Pain said. “I always say it’s because Billy Dee didn’t have a reference. He was a brand-new character. When he did it he was the first one to do it, and Childish Gambino had a reference.”
Going all-in on a unique business idea is a similar ball game, T-Pain said: You’re the first one to do it, and you have to chart your own course. But once you've created that reference, it’s also important to prepare for someone else who may use your idea as a launchpad and improve on it. If you prioritize listening to customers and continuously aim to improve on yourself, you may be able to stay ahead of the game.
Although T-Pain’s business experience is largely limited to the music industry -- he founded a record label imprint called Nappy Boy Entertainment and collaborated on an “I Am T-Pain” iPhone app that allowed users to use Auto-Tune to imitate his voice -- he’s venturing into other industry areas in a new Fuse television series, T-Pain’s School of Business.
Ahead of the Tuesday premiere, Entrepreneur spoke with the singer to ask him about his best advice for founder hopefuls.
On out-of-the-box thinking:
“Don’t pay attention to the naysayers, because what I’ve learned is people don’t understand what they’ve never seen. So it’s always going to seem like a crazy idea to everybody else.”
On seeking approval:
“If you’re looking for other people to approve of something that they’ve never seen before, then you’re already in the wrong game.”
“In entrepreneurship, there is no such thing as failure. You’re not failing -- you’re only finding ways to not do the shit you were thinking about doing. … If you’re coming up with something that’s brand new to the whole idea of any product that you’re making, you’re not going to know how to do it at first because there’s no layout.”
On pacing yourself:
“Things take years and years and years to develop. We have these ideas in our heads that come together within minutes … [but] nothing new is a quick process.”
“The only thing that can gauge if something is worth it or not is if you’re enjoying it. … If you’re coming at it from a money standpoint, you’re always going to lose because the first few years of development is just lost. … You have to get through the loss and know that you’re doing this basically for yourself.”
“It’s like Quentin Tarantino always says when people ask him, ‘Who the hell are you making these weird-ass movies for?’ He always says, ‘I’m making these movies for myself and hoping to God that there’s someone out there as crazy as me.’ That’s a motto I live by a lot -- all the time … even when I’m making songs. If it makes me feel good, it may not be a smash-hit record, but if this song comes out, I’m gonna feel great. … That’s really what can keep you going, and that can be part of your motivation.”
“Go with the product that you believe in and not something that is going to appease a company or appease other people you know. Make sure you love it first. You have to love your own project first. It has to give you that feeling of serenity. … Find something you love doing, and try to, in the long run, get paid for it. That’ll give you all the confidence in the world.”