Elite Interviews Mekka Don
Mekka Don is truly one of a kind. In a day where money means everything, Mekka Don left his high profile and high paying job as an attorney to pursue his true passion: music. Mekka Don, originally from Columbus Ohio, is the youngest of four kids from an accomplished family where education was always paramount. In college, he was a varsity football player at Ohio State University, and after graduating in three years he went on to law school at NYU School of Law, where he graduated in 2006.
He then practiced law at a top New York firm, but eventually made the decision he knew he would always make – leave to pursure a career in music. Now he is a full time indie artist with M.O.V.E Records and Co-owner of “Pilot Boys Clothing” with NFL Star Derrick Ward.
Mekka Don began his music endeavors as a drummer in a band in 1999 with his brother and cousin. Throughout college and law school he would continue making music, but was set on finishing his degree before jumping all the way in. Since he made this decision, Mekka Don has been featured in some of the Nation’s major magazines, newspapers, websites and blogs. Additionally, he has been featured in National Ad campaigns, performed at major events, hosted private events and endorsed companies. Mekka Don represents the future of hip hop: smart and cool.
What skills have you developed through your journey that you find to be most applicable to a music career ?
The power and importance of networking. Who do you know? Who knows you? And of the people you know or know you, who is willing to do something to help your career?Also, understanding contracts and business dealings has helped immensely. We’ve been able to negotiate many of our deals.
My Mom. My Mom always thought I was going to be a star. She believed and still believes in me wholeheartedly and that support has definitely given me strength to continue on such an unpredictable journey. She’d never allow hate or ridicule to seep into my brain because she always had the right words to say. I love you Mom!
While some rap artists turn to the business side of music to lengthen their careers, not many transition from the halls of an elite law school to pursue rap. What inspired your current direction?
Music has always been a passion of mine. Every member of my family is a big music lover so I hear all different types of music growing up. I was a drummer in a band back in 1999, and I knew I would always pursue a music career, but I also believed getting my degrees was very important as well. A law degree has been very helpful in negotiating the business end of things.
Division 1 football is about as close to turning professional as it gets. Many consider these programs de facto minor leagues. Looking back, what was your experience like?
The experience was amazing. Being a part of such a storied program, running out to 105,000 fans and becoming part of a football “fraternity” were major for me. The Ohio State University has always maintained an excellent football tradition, and I have been able to meet many of the greats, i.e. Archie Griffin, Eddie George, and Troy Smith. Wouldn’t trade that experience in for the world!
Very strict. Sometimes I believe being busier actually makes you more efficient. For example, if you know you only have a two hour window to complete something, you’re less likely to put it off (if you’re disciplined) than if you had all day to do it. I was very disciplined, but I still kicked it hard! I loved college.
As if music were not enough, what inspired your branching out into a clothing line?
I never dreamed of being in the clothing industry, but being around it for awhile in New York sparked some interest. Initially, Pilot Boys Clothing was only created as a way to help promote our “Pilot Boy” movement – young, fly, on – the-go dudes, but once we created the logo and the designs we knew it was a winner. We’ll be launching in the fall. Stay tuned to pilotboys.com!
Being as you are a businessman, it is inherent that you have, or will experience failure depending on your risks. How do you deal with failure? Give an example.
In this industry you fail 10 times for every success. Thick skin is required. Actually, the thickest of skin is required. The key is to believe in yourself and also surround yourself with people who believe in your movement – not “yes men,” but people who think like you. Some of my projects weren’t that successful, but that doesn’t mean I should quit. You have to learn from it, continue to believe in yourself, and move on.
So what is your idea of success? How will you know you have attained it?
I honestly don’t know what my idea of success is. It isn’t a specific dollar amount. Whatever it is, it must be consistent however. I do know that I want to be an artist who is performing internationally and reaching millions of people with my music. I’ve heard that many of the most successful people never truly feel satisfied. I could see myself being like that – sad but true.
How important are the individuals you surround yourself with on the road to success?
This may be the MOST IMPORTANT thing. People who share your vision or who can at least see it are vital. Not “yes men” though, but people who believe in what you’re doing. Negative energy has killed so many stars in so many fields. It’s also important to surround yourself with people who can push you and truly make you better.
If you could give someone three tips for becoming a successful entrepreneur, what would they be?
3. I’d say PLAN!
Planning your moves and understanding the business you are in are very important. I think many people jump into something based on passion or interest before they’ve planned anything out. Plan all the way until the end.
You have had many successes – football, law, business, music – how do you keep yourself humble? Is it even important to be humble? If not, why?
I was raised to be confident in myself for who I am, not what I am. Things, titles, materials are fleeting – who you ARE is not. Also, the more you live, the more you understand that everything can be taken away from you in the blink of an eye. Arrogant people are misguided and often insecure. Humility is important and is somewhat rare in this industry. People respect it.
I don’t think I ever knew exactly how it could come about, but I definitely knew around when. Education was always important to me, and being able to start and finish law school at such a young age didn’t make it feel like it was an obstacle to the ultimate dream.
Looking forward, where do you want to be in your career? Be it rap, clothing, law or any pursuit? Tell us about a plan you have that we would not have expected?
I am an artist. That is my passion and that is what I want to be respected for. The MTVu Freshman honor was big for me because it forced people to understand how serious I am. Everything else is secondary to me. They are a part of who I am, but the music brings everything together for me. It allows me to express all sides of my personality and experiences.
Download Mekka Don’s new mixtape “It’s On” here.
And follow him on Twitter @MekkaDonMusic