There are people who make things happen. There are others who let things happen to them, and there are also those who watch things happen. Kevin Liles, Executive Vice President of Warner Music Group, pushed the envelope Thursday and wanted to know how Temple students fell in line. About 600 students packed Mitten Hall’s Great Court to hear the accomplished executive speak on his success in the hip-hop industry and on his first book, Make It Happen: The Hip-Hop Generation Guide to Success.
“It’s great to see somebody who’s trying to get people motivated,” Anesha C. Howard said. The business and technical management major is also host of Philadelphia’s hip-hop broadcast Magazine Show.
Sharonda Johnson, an aspiring entertainment lawyer, said she wanted to “learn how the industry works on a more personal level.”
The self-professed president of interns seemed more than happy to oblige the crowd. Liles said that he didn’t come to boast or bask in his own glory. Instead, he emphasized his desire to inspire.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve,” Liles said. “It’s the only reason I’m out here. To make a difference.”
The 37-year-old former unpaid intern turned Def Jam Recordings president arrived on a tour bus with his image emblazoned on its exterior. After interning at Def Jam in 1992, he was named president of the record label in 1998, resigning last year after failing to negotiate a new contract with the group. While president and CEO of Def Jam, Liles oversaw the creation of some of today’s most recognizable record labels, including Rocafella and Murder Inc.
Temple was the latest stop on Liles’ book tour to promote his foray into literature. Make It Happen: The Hip-Hop Generation Guide to Success is a blueprint for success through his set of “Ten Rules for Making It Happen.” His points for success include “finding your will,” “playing your position” and “embracing the struggle.”
“Who you are tomorrow comes from what you are willing to do today,” Liles said. Liles entertained the crowd with dance moves, sharing childhood stories, taking questions and instructing the audience to repeat the refrain “make it happen.”
His success sometimes provoked jealousy by his peers, but Liles said that he was not consumed by the negativity. “I walk around with the negative energy just as Jesus walked around with the thieves,” he said.
Liles also dismissed any notions of entitlement. That’s not his prerogative, he said. Nor does he want it to be anyone else’s mantra, he said to the audience.
“A lot of people don’t appreciate the hard times,” Liles said. “If I did not allow myself to fail, I don’t think I would’ve learned like I should have.”
He credited God for allowing challenges to come into his life, helping him to overcome his shortcomings and pushing him to think beyond his one-time aspirations of becoming a professional rapper.
Liles doesn’t take his achievements for granted. “I don’t want to be king,” he said. “I just want to serve.”
Stephanie Guerilus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.