5 Hip Hop Songs for Your Project Management Playlist

October 6th, 1986 marks a major milestone in my life. I was in 5th Grade, it was my birthday, and my grandparents gave me Run DMC’s “Raising Hell” on cassette as a birthday present.

“Now Peter Piper picked peppers but Run rocked rhymes…”

As these words poured out of the new boom box I also received that year, not only did my grandpa say “What the hell is this?,” but my lifelong love of hip hop was born.

Here are some highlights.

Middle school found me buying De La Soul’s “3 Feet High and Rising” at a mall in Jasper, Alabama, while visiting my relatives. I hide out in my cousin’s bedroom, listening to it over and over again.

I secretly borrow N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” from my friend Joe, and copy it to a blank tape so my parents don’t know what I’m listening to. I cannot relate to a single lyric, but am motivated to start shoplifting at the mall…until I get caught.

The world changes in the summer of 1990, when I first hear Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”  A PE poster covers the wall next to my bed for years.

PE shows up while I am a student at Bible school. During my sophomore year I meet a guy who has been to a PE concert, and we spend the spring semester dealing with college stress by rapping through the lyrics of “Fear of a Black Planet.”

Fast forward many years, and I experience the most difficult 24 months of my life. Although I am uncomfortable with a large portion of the lyrical content; the braggadocio, swagger and “pull yourself up” attitudes of Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Eminem inspire me to face my obstacles head on.

So what does this have to do with project management? As a result of my affection for hip hop, there are points where I use hip hop to help me get through projects. Because of that, I want to give you a hip hop playlist for project management, with notes as to when and why you should listen to each song.

1. “Swagger Like Us” – T.I., featuring Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne

There is nothing more motivating than telling the world, “no one on the corner has swagger like us.” Use this song when you need to remind yourself that your team is completely bad ass, and that the work you are doing is indeed going to change the world.

2. “I’m Bad” – L.L. Cool J

At some point you may just need to remind yourself that you are the one who is bad ass. Yes, you may need to channel lyrics like “forget Oreos eat Cool J cookies” and “I take a muscle bound man and put his face in the sand.” These moments exist, and this is the song to do it with.

3. “Stressed Out” – A Tribe Called Quest, featuring Faith Evans

There will be moments within projects where you will need to calm down. Use this song, and allow the voice of Faith Evans to soothe your soul. Practically, you may want to give yourself the exact length of this song as an intentional cool down period.

4. “Flute Loop” – Beastie Boys

Every time I hear this song I want to go for a run. It’s a classic hustle song that can be used in moments when you are tired and need some motivation.

5. “Shut ‘Em Down” – Public Enemy

After listening to this song you will be convinced that you are invincible. It is your secret weapon, the song you should listen to five minutes before taking the stage for an important speech. The song you should listen to when you are about to pitch. The song you should listen to when you are about to have a tough call with a client. Use it wisely.