Music is the basis for so much of the innovation and inspiration we see today: we’re pleased to announce that we’re bringing a performer who raps about innovation to our stage this year. *AND WE'RE FIRST TO DEBUT HIS NEXT TRACK.* *To hear Divine's new track for the first time, scroll down!* By Shaherose Charania (Co-founder & CEO, Women 2.0)
This may be news to many of you (or not), but I used to make mix tapes with the hottest R&B, hip hop and rap (on cassette tapes!) for my friends when I was a teen.
In high school, I discovered a publicly funded radio station called CFRO, located in a tough part of downtown Vancouver, and every Monday, Wednesday, Fridays from 6 - 9 am, a segment called, “The Morning Drive-by” played the latest new hip hop tracks from America (which was where the “real” rap came from).
Hip Hop was not a popular genre in my community and surprisingly hard to get a hold of back then. I volunteered at the radio station to help keep it alive -- I worked on the phones to get donations and prizes - NPR style (soo…. who wants to co-DJ with me at the next Women 2.0 event?).
Point is, I was obsessed with the genre. I fully respected the craft and was inspired by the passion and artistic expression. I found my own points of connection to their stories, despite my life being quite different. As a result, I did what I could to support the flow of music I loved so much.
When I heard there was an “Official Rapper for a16z (the twitter handle for Andreessen Horowitz)” I was tickled inside. ...Tech and rap officially blending? Then when I read more about Divine’s respectful response to a ValleyWag article, I was even more intrigued.
Then through Twitter magic, I had the chance to break bread with this up-and-coming rapper, otherwise known as “Divine”, in New York last week. Thanks to my friend, Ellen Leanse who made the connection happen.
Turns out Divine was discovered by Ben Horowitz via a Kickstarter campaign. Horowitz contributed to his campaign and from there began what seems to be a great new friendship.
DIVINE IS LETTING US DEBUT HIS TRACK 'VC LIFE' FIRST! Conference attendees and the Women 2.0 community, we think you can relate...Have a listen!
Over some shishito peppers in the Lower East Side, Divine and I talked about how rap wasn’t the same after the mid-to-late nineties. We also talked about the golden era of hip hop, reminiscing about 2pac, BIG, Dr. Dre, Snoop...you know … the good stuff!
I learned about his life growing up, the 15 years he spent in prison (wow) and how he connected with Ben through the power of the internet. We found areas of commonality even though we came from from completely different worlds. Divine told me he connected on the inspirational and aspirational powers of music and we both agreed on the unifying powers it has.
Halfway through my conversation with Divine, we realized we are doing similar work for the tech industry -offering new inspiration and helping tech become inclusive to diversity - Divine through his music and myself through Women 2.0. That’s when I stopped and asked Divine to come to our conference and perform his (now) two songs inspired by Ben Horowitz.
I grew up listening to hip hop, identifying with the culture (even though I was in a middle class suburb in Canada), I had, and always will, have a soft spot for rap and R&B. Music was a mood changer, an inspiration, an escape.
Rap is often about about power, money and respect, and yes, can be displayed through offensive scenarios, especially in regard to women. But, after hearing Divine’s tracks, I’m inspired that there will continue to be a new spin / trend in rap, where artists rap about this new age of power, money and respect - and earning it within the tech industry and innovation going on here.
I’d love to see more rap that is more about positive change in the world - and that is precisely what Divine is doing.
We’ve arranged to have Divine perform at the upcoming conference next week! He will be doing the first live performance of his second song he wrote inspired by Ben Horowitz, that releases today - lucky us! Catch him live on our stage September 30 at 5:30 PM.
All of you may not be rap or hip hop fans; maybe you’re confused on why he’s joining us for the event… but I ask you to stay open-minded to new experiences, after all, that’s what innovation is all about.
If you haven’t got your conference ticket yet, it’s not too late, we are close to selling out, but do have a few tix left. Grab yours and be sure to come say hi!
LISTEN TO IT
About the author: Shaherose is a purpose-driven Product Marketing leader. She was previously, the CEO and Co-founder of Women 2.0. She began her career working at various startups in Silicon Valley in Product Management and Marketing at: Ribbit (British Telecom), Talenthouse and JAJAH (sold to Telefonica/O2). She is an active advisor to early stage technology startups through her pre-incubator, Founder Labs which she founded in 2010 and sits on the Board of Directors for Good World Solutions. Shaherose holds a B.A. in Business Admin from The University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business. Follow her on Twitter at @shaherose