4 Things Hip Hop Teaches Us About Project Management

This blog post was inspired from the Scott Logic blog post, 5 Things Hip Hop Teaches Us About UX Design, where the author discusses what hidden knowledge rappers impart to the user centered design community.  Read it, it’s great!

You may not know this, but hip hop artists are overflowing with project management wisdom, as well. Of course, it shouldn’t come as a surprise; from managing being the genius voice of a generation, to working with their producer(s), to keeping their crew fly, they are seasoned PMs.

Make sure all are heard and satisfied.

Every time I do it, I do it for my hood
And every time I do it, I do it for yo hood
And every time I do it, I do it for they hood
It's understood, I do it for the hood

Website project managers exist at the intersection of the internal design and development team, the client, and the client’s customers. Good project managers, like Jeezy, are able to elegantly balance needs and produce a project that will delight all involved parties. This knack for producing a cohesive finished project relies heavily on the project manager’s ability to determine what motivates and keeps each person/group engaged. Beyond being on everyone’s team, an excellent project manager gets everyone on the same team. We all want what’s good for the hood, when it comes down to it.

Before beginning a project, take time to seek out what makes everyone tick, and why they do what they do. Enthusiasm makes a huge difference on the overall success of a project. In addition to keeping everyone engaged, a digital PM in particular must be personally invested in helping create a website that will give the best possible outcome and have the best chance at delivering on the original goals.

You have to care, and care deeply, about the minutia; immerse yourself in your client’s industry, put yourself in the place of your client (why are they building a new site or tool? What do they need to be successful?), in the place of the users (imagine needing this service/product; what would you like to see?), and in the place of your internal team (are these requirements thorough enough? Do the wireframes make it easy for the designer and developer to get a clear picture of the entire project and goals?). Do it for the hood.

Distill the information.

From client opinions to management tips, Jay-Z urges us to listen to advice when it’s given, but ultimately learn how to distill the important pieces and drown out the rest. From a flood of data, to conflicting advice from different parties, project managers are often bombarded with suggestions from every angle. It takes practice to know what’s important and realize that no one has the unique insight and knowledge into every aspect of the project that you, as the project manager, does. Everyone has an opinion, but it’s up to you to synthesize and make sense of all the noise.

After deliberation, trust yourself, trust in your team, and go forth and do what’s best for the project. After all, its success is dependent on your leadership; which means you can’t be pulled in every different direction until the project is neither here nor there. Foresee potential risks, communicate openly the pros and cons of each action, then document the logical reasoning for the decisions made and move on. Hov would be proud.


Project Manager Biggie’s reminiscing serves as a reminder that no matter how good things are in the end, it’s important to take a look back. Even though it’s now “time to get paid,” and the project involves selling out seats to hear Biggie Smalls speak, Mr. Wallace takes time to remember when he used to eat sardines for dinner. He recalls the mistakes made, and understands how he got to his position of success.

At the end of a project, it can be tempting to just enjoy the kudos and speed along to the next project. However, each completed project is an opportunity to be even better at the next one. Take time to at least jot down what you consider to be the project highlights, and what would be improved upon. Determine what caused tensions, and what eased them. If possible, pull in other members of the project, or encourage them to perform their own personal retrospectives and share findings.

Be the cheerleader.

At certain points in the project, from an exciting first intake, completing a major deliverable, or celebrating a successful site launch, enthusiasm naturally runs high. Atmosphere has the right idea by wanting to hold onto that feeling. Even if passion for a project remains steady, remembering this fluttery excitement is important to keep motivation high throughout the entire project lifecycle.

When the going gets tough, bring out that sunny feeling to help the rest of the team, along with the client (their motivation can wane, as well!). Reminders of how much of an improvement the new site will be, to how appreciative users will be of a certain feature, or even just how amazing the launch is going to feel can help bring a project across the finish line with everyone’s satisfaction intact. I’m a firm believer that happy people produce more creative, inspired, and just generally better results than grumpy ones that feel chained to their desk. As the project manager, take it upon yourself to keep everyone emotionally healthy (and keep some of that sunniness for yourself, as well!).