Entrepreneurs and Hustlers Are 2 Tracks on the Same Record

A former DJ at one of New York's largest hip-hop radio stations shares how he blazed a path to success.

learn more about Cipha Sounds

By Cipha Sounds

Cipha Sounds
Cipha Sounds

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When people think of entrepreneurship, they may think of someone such as Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, men who started their businesses from nothing, had an idea or concept and ran with it. But that's not always the case. My story as an entrepreneur starts with me never knowing I was one. Where I come from, we would use different terms such as "hustler" or someone just "getting that money," but I've learned that it all means the same thing.

I grew up in the Bronx with a single mother and younger sister. My mom did her best with providing my sister and I with everything we wanted or needed, being that she worked 16 hours a day driving a FedEx truck. But she never prepared me with the tools I would need to become a successful self-starter or entrepreneur. Because of this, I really wasn't into much of anything. I just watched a lot of sitcoms.

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Not until I moved to Long Island, a suburb of New York City, did I start to feel a bit empty. Because of the culture shock of moving from the Bronx to Wantagh, I tried to find things that reminded me of where I came from. Hip-Hop was the best solution and that's when I discovered my drive and passion.

Music and music videos were the closest things I had to being back home, so I tried to figure out ways to be more involved in that world. Since I couldn't rap and had no equipment to produce beats, I turned to DJing. I figured it was a technical skill that could be learned and perfected with practice and it didn't have to be a "god given" talent. I taught myself and perfected it.

Much like an entrepreneur, I would go to clubs and make deals with promoters, bargaining for sets with the promise of me playing longer than other DJs or for less money. I tried to sell mix tapes along with my services any chance I got. I would make deals to DJ anywhere! I started working part-time jobs just so I can buy records and more equipment. It was invigorating! I never felt as alive as I did when I was just getting started. I just wanted to DJ for the love of it. I didn't know that this would be the start of my "business".

Years went by and I started doing everything I could to become a "famous DJ." I would intern at college radio stations and that eventually turned into interning at the famous Hot 97 radio station in New York. Because of this accomplishment I was able to use that little bit of notoriety to get more club DJ gigs, even jobs working at different labels in the A&R (artists and repertoire) division . My DJ gigs escalated and I hit the road. I was DJing for artists such as Lil' Kim and Jay-Z. I was even working at a record shop called Fat Beats. During all of this time I would use one job to help facilitate and fuel the other.

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Where I come from the term is "hustling." I would record myself at the clubs and sell those tapes on the road or at the record store. I would get Lil' Kim to come to the radio station and get Jay-Z to be on Flex's album. I didn't know at the time, but I was good at marketing and promotions and just connecting the pieces. People get paid big money for stuff like this and I was just using all this momentum to be a "famous DJ."

Now I am more aware of what I actually do and more aware of how to make it into something. I still connect it all through music because that has always been home base.

There is nothing like a secure paycheck, vacation days and health insurance, but every time I do the job thing, that tiny voice in my head just keeps nagging me to create something new and take risks. That's what keeps me alive and excited. And through the expert tutelage of some very smart and rich people, I have learned that my hustle is what makes me an entrepreneur.

Hustle on.

This article was written by a member of the AlleyNYC contributor network. AlleyNYC is one of the world's largest innovation hubs, helping foster the growth of startups in its flagship location in New York City. Entrepreneur Media is a partner and investor in AlleyNYC. If you would like to learn more about AlleyNYC and how to apply for membership visit here.

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Cipha Sounds

Entrepreneur and Entertainer

Cipha Sounds is not “most DJs.” Whether it's hosting the Hot 97 Morning Show for the past seven years, DJing, doing stand-up comedy or producing and hosting his monthly improv show “Take It Personal,” Cipha radiates personality, driving every project with his likeable demeanor and confident tastes. Cipha got his first break interning for Funkmaster Flex. Soon after that, he found himself spinning for Lil' Kim, Mos Def and Jay-Z. Cipha’s ear for talent made him a natural A&R executive for labels such as Rawkus,Tommy Boy Neptunes’ Star Trak imprint with Pharrell Williams, and Roc-A-Fella.

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