The rapper and the venture capitalist

  @FortuneMagazine February 27, 2014: 1:42 PM ET
HOR17 nas
(Fortune)

Ben Horowitz, co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, boasts an encyclopedic knowledge of rap and hip-hop music. He has spoken at Harvard's Hiphop Archive and Research Institute about the connection between rap culture and entrepreneurship. Horowitz, a frequent blogger, peppers his posts with quotes from Rakim, Jay-Z, Drake, and Nas, who has become a friend. Nas, born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, recently spoke with Fortune senior writer Miguel Helft about their seemingly unlikely kinship. Edited excerpts:

How did you meet and how did the two of you develop a friendship?

Me and Ben met through mutual friends and we just hit it off. We talked about everything at that meeting. We have similar views about hip-hop as a whole.

What did you like about him?

To tell you the truth, we were talking about barbecue, and we both have a love for barbecue. Hip-hop wasn't part of the conversation, but I think the next meeting, the next time we were supposed to get together was to go over barbecue techniques and have food. That's what we ended up doing. After we go through that, you know, we enjoyed good music and some cognac. That's what it was. You can talk hip-hop all day long with someone who really knows what it's about, because you might find out things.

Some people out here think his whole blending on business and hip-hop is something of a gimmick. What do you think about the connection between hip-hop and business?

The people that think it's gimmicky are the people who don't know Ben. It's funny for me to hear that because I know Ben. You can't play with Ben with hip-hop. He'll school you about it. Ben schools me about hip-hop, and I know a lot about it. He's only true to who he his, and that's what makes him stand out. There's nobody else out there were he is at. Hip-hop is an extension of him and him of it. What you see is what you get from Ben.

Do you think he's helping bring the art form credibility with a new demographic?

Absolutely. He is hip-hop. Ben is hip-hop. What I briefly found out -- though he never told me -- but what I found out from his lovely, amazing wife, Felicia, is that he was once a rapper.

Yes, I saw the tape.

In his way, he's rapping now. This is his way of expressing his hobby, expressing himself through his love of music. It's part of him. It's his way of still being MC.

Has he opened doors for you as an artist in the tech world? And why is that important?

Oh, I mean, he has been like a brother to me, man, and I to him. He's opened my mind to computer science and to the whole inside world of being a venture capitalist. He made me more aware of the world around us today as far as tech is concerned and increased my interest in it in a huge way. He's been 100% involved in a lot of things that I do as far as investments is concerned.

I think Ben is a revolutionary. And one of the smartest people I ever met. He's one of my heroes. Ben's a great dude.

Read Fortune's full profile of Ben Horowitz here: Silicon Valley's stealth power

See Ben Horowitz's annotated hip-hop classics playlist here: Ben Horowitz schools you on hip-hop To top of page



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