What’s the inspiration behind Healthy Hip Hop?
Hip hop has always been a large part of my life. My dad was a bass player in a couple of bands when I was a kid. He loved old-school soul music and R&B. Whenever we spent time together he’d play new records from LL Cool J and Public Enemy. I immediately fell in love with the beat and the wordplay.
When the song “Jump” from Kriss Kross came out, I saw kids start putting out their own music. This encouraged me to write my own rap songs and pursue a career as an artist.
Everything changed when I noticed that my 4-year-old son, Justus, was repeating my lyrics word-for-word. My music promoted drugs, violence, and misogyny. I knew I couldn't be this type of influence on my son and created a positive alternative: Healthy Hip Hop!
You pitched on Shark Tank! What was that experience like?
Pitching on Shark Tank was one of the most exciting and nervous moments of my life! There were two big surprises. The first was that Kevin O’Leary, aka Mr. Wonderful, wanted to invest. He is one of the hardest sharks to close and we didn't expect him to want to invest in Healthy Hip Hop. The second surprise was a heartbreaker: our episode got blocked from airing and our deal was halted due to Hollywood politics. It turns out that Shark Tank airs on ABC, which is owned by Disney, and they saw our children’s programming as competition.
How does your experience as a founder and artist influence your plans for Healthy Hip Hop?
The very first company I founded was Chop It Up Records. At the time, I was just a teenager right out of high school trying to produce my first album. This experience forced me to learn every facet of the music business—from creating an LLC to writing, recording, pressing up CDs, and selling them in storefronts or out of the trunk of my car. This experience helped spark my entrepreneurial spirit and allowed me to work on the music I love.
How do you handle risk and competition?
I have always been inspired by risk and competition. In my younger years, I was much riskier (although I'm not sure if that was sheer confidence or stupidity). As I matured into a family man and business owner, I grew to take more calculated risks.
I believe competition is healthy—it pushes me to go harder and allows me to learn from my competitor’s successes and failures.
What’s been the #1 (or two) top challenge(s) you’ve faced while launching your company?
Once we made the pivot to become a full-fledged tech company, the biggest challenge was building out the tech as a non-technical founder.
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
The most important thing I learned about myself is that my spirit is unbreakable. Going through the Shark Tank experience was the true definition of going from mountain high to valley low. We were banking on our big break and ended up getting broken. This experience forced me to dig deep and reinvent myself and the Healthy Hip Hop business model so that we could climb back up the mountain. In a way, I had to push and prove to myself that I have what it takes to succeed.
What is your superpower?
My superpower is loving and building up others, including my family and people that I meet.
What’s your kryptonite?
Candy, lol. In particular gummy bears, which are not conducive to my fitness goals.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
My top priority is family. I love creating memorable experiences with my wife and children. I also work out often, coach my kid's basketball team, and produce music.