Kevin Liles, the executive vice president of Warner Music Group and former president of Def Jam, offers his tips on becoming successful in Make It Happen: The Hip-Hop Generation Guide To Success. Using a combination of quotes, memoirs, inspirational stories, and traditional self-help teachings, Liles puts his spin on the motivational book and makes it relevant to readers who would normally think that books like these are corny.
Make It Happen, written by Liles and Samantha Marshall of Crain’s New York Business, is organized into ten rules. These rules are primarily variations on traditional principles. For example, the second rule, “Do You,” is a combination of the principles of standing out and being yourself. Liles tells the reader to “Find a style that expresses your personality” but also to make sure that the style you do put out is “not just some cheap counterfeit of someone else’s brand.” Rule seven, “Get Connected,” simply means that you should network and be nice without becoming a pushover. Rule five is to “Play Your Position,” which in other words means to always work hard no matter what you’re doing.
What makes these rules stand out from other books is the fresh way that Liles explains them. His writing is conversational and he does not come off as being preachy. He uses lots of anecdotes from his life and the lives of others to make these rules relevant to the hip-hop audience. In the “Do You” chapter, Liles tells of how he ended up working for Def Jam. In the “Create A Blueprint” chapter, he mentions his days as part of the rap group Numarx. In one instance, his preparation and attention to detail helped catch the group’s manager in the act of withholding money from the group. He also mentions how Ludacris started off, how Shyne took responsibility for his actions, and how Jay-Z calculates every move he makes in order to explain his rules.
The philosophies behind Make It Happen value hard work, perseverance, intelligence, passion, and humility. Higher education isn’t seen as the only road to success. Liles himself did not finish college and while he does not discourage higher education (and emphasizes that you must at least finish high school), he feels that it’s pointless to “study for studying’s sake.”
Overall, I feel that Make It Happen offers a lot of advice without hypocrisy or arrogance. The type of rules provided here give you an idea why hip-hop has been able to grow from a “fad” into an industry. However, even if you are not a fan of hip-hop, Make It Happen can inspire you and give you useful tips for your own quest for success.