Kanye West, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Diddy. Each one of those artists and many more took a burgeoning career in hip hop and made it into an empire that transcended the music. And now, Philadelphia’s Institute of Hip Hop Entrepreneurship (IHHE) hopes to train the next generation of Philly hip hop artists to follow the same path of greatness.

The city that gave rise to an array of hip hop artists (like Meek Mill and DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince) is still a hotbed of musical talent. IHHE offers promising Philadelphians between the ages of 18 and 32 a nine month, tuition-free course in turning their talent into a business.

The venture was founded by Tayyib Smith and Meegan Denenberg, who are also co-founders of Little Giant, a boutique branding agency located in Center City. With the IHHE, they’re hoping to draw on the collective experience and mentorship of the instructors and themelves to create a blueprint for repeatable success among entrepreneurs starting in unconventional places.

Tayyib Smith

As Smith, a hip hop artist himself, told Philadelphia Weekly “Hip hop opened doors to give me the experience, network, and confidence to be an entrepreneur without an academic pedigree, inherited privilege, or vested with assistance from family.”

For Smith and Denenberg, IHHE is all about recognizing that hip hop culture and entrepreneurship spring from the same roots, and one can potentially be a path to the other. Hip hop is a art form that disproportionately attracts young people of color, so this can be a way to reshape the face of entrepreneurship in America, away from established wealth and institutional privilege.

The program itself does not evaluate its participants. Instead, it simply provides opportunity and means.students glean valuable knowledge and obtain even more valuable face time with professionals due to a wide range of instructors in business, marketing, brand management, music, and more. From there, it’s entirely up to the students to make an impression.

It’s also important to distinguish what exactly hip hop is. While often confused with rap, rapping is only one of the four traditional pillars of hip hop culture, along with DJing, break dancing, and grafitti writing. Regardless of the students’ association with hip hop, Smith and Denenberg hope to foster the so-called “hustle”, and to foster it the right way.

Institute of Hip Hop Entrepreneurship in session

The first class of 24 students was selected from a pool of over 300 applicants. The one similarity connecting each of the selected 24 is that they’re all from Philadelphia, and they are all “underrepresented in the current ecosystem”.

And that’s really what’s at the heart of the IHHE. IHHE is an initial investment into the lives of these 24 students and all that will follow them. Success in venture capital is often defined as 10x, a 10 times return on your initial investment. For Smith, the benchmark of success for his students is 2x, “2x is a success story. 2x is keeping you out of mass incarceration. 2x means you’re not being caught up in something that marginalizes you into the black market economy. 2x is life-and-death when you’re thinking about it in those terms.”

Learn more about the Institute of Hip Hop Entrepreneurship at their website.