When singer, rapper, songwriter, and producer Blxst pulled up to LMU’s Hilton Business School, it wasn’t to spit bars. The South Central LA native currently at the forefront of the city’s hip-hop scene was on campus with his team to discuss entrepreneurship, the music industry, and what inspires them.
Over the last four years, Matthew Dean Burdette, a.k.a. Blxst, has become one of the hottest names in hip-hop, receiving two Grammy nominations for features on Kendrick Lamar’s “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers,” going Platinum with his single “Chosen” featuring Tyga, and founding his label, Evgle Records.
Blxst seemingly took to heart Quality Control’s insight that “Bosses Don’t Speak,” so it was actually his team who took the first few questions from the audience of about 100.
“Some people bow out before they can even see there’s a light at the end of this tunnel,” said Blxst’s manager Victor Burnett. “I see people making the mistake of thinking there’s one tunnel, [but] there’s multiple. It may just be a gap where there’s some light shined on you and you get some air, but you gotta go right back in there and dig it out to get to that next light.”
As an example, Burnett talked about the two years when he and Blxst worked to grow what was effectively an independent label before teaming up with former Bloomberg corporate attorney and current entertainment lawyer Karl Fowlkes, the third speaker on the panel.
“This year marks 50 years of hip-hop,” Fowlkes said. “But how much do the creators of hip-hop actually own? For us it’s always been about structuring everything we do with the intention that 50 years from now it won’t just be about being celebrated and people clapping for us, but we get to eat off this, and our families get to eat off this.”
Blxst and his team formed a partnership with RedBull Records in releasing Blxst’s 2020 breakthrough EP, “No Love Lost.” And they did it for very specific reasons.
“Redbull is a privately owned company and they have different mediums and verticals of their own,” Burnett said, “so why not get with them in that sense and learn from how they amassed so much success and cultural currency?”
The team explained that Blxst had the leverage to make a deal like that possible because they had worked to build social value in their brand first. But according to the artist, his success was not self-driven.Instead, he credits his network — and his ability to build one.
“How I really got my name out here in LA was taking a back seat for Bino,” Blxst said of Bino Rideaux, another South Central native with whom Blxst produced and released “Sixtape I” and “Sixtape II.” “I just wasn’t in a rush to do what I was going to do, I wanted to give it to Bino, and then that light just shifted over to me as well.”
The speakers’ honesty and transparency felt like genuine advice from big brothers of sorts.
“Vic was talking about how he didn’t really know what he wanted to do after college, and how he tried so many different things before he found what fit him,” said senior Journalism major Max Goffman. “And Blxst was talking about how he was very quiet and reserved as a kid and had some self-confidence issues. He talked about how there was no Plan B except to become the person he wanted to be. That resonated with me.”
Jaden Drisdom, a freshman political science major, took away things based on the trio’s presence alone.
“It was a special thing to have an entertainer of his caliber show up,” he said of Blxst. “An implicit lesson was getting a group of likeminded people together if you want to succeed in the world. It taught me the importance of collaboration. Seeing their cohesion was really inspiring.”
This was the second installment in a seminar series created by Prof. Mitchell Hamilton to pay homage to the late rapper and activist Nipsey Hussle. The trio talked about how there should be no difference in the way one conduct themselves in life and in business, an ideal Hussle embodied.
“I got to a point where I got smart enough to know that I’m not smart at all, you feel me? And I just surrounded myself with people that I’m influenced by,” Blxst said. “Like I always say, It’s bigger than me, I can always learn from the ones around me. If I feel like I’m in a weak spot, I got somebody to lean on.”