By Emeka Onyejekwe aka Mekka Don
Emeka Onyejekwe aka “Mekka Don” can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After working for a year as an associate at a law firm, I made what many would consider a drastic career and lifestyle change—I left the law to become a hip-hop musician. Why? I love law, but music is my passion. Also, I believe that my background and accomplishments in practicing law can be positive influences and inspire many in the hip-hop community. I want to be a role model for young minority youth who otherwise may never know about the opportunities that I have had. I am signed to M.O.V.E. Records, have a lot of underground “buzz,” and have major record labels contacting me for meetings. I love music, and I love to write.
At first I thought my transition from law to music would be difficult. It seems like writing briefs and writing lyrics would be completely different tasks; however, recently I realized that the two are more similar than one would think. The main premises are the same: (1) know your audience, (2) be persuasive, and (3) be able to support your claims.
In both music and law, knowing your audience is critical to your success. In music, knowing your target market is crucial. Who are your listeners? What do they typically like to hear? Are they willing to hear something new or more traditional? In law, you must know your judges. What type of arguments do they tend to favor? Are they straightforward or do they entertain crafty, novel arguments? The answers to these questions should determine how you write in these situations.
The musician may have an advantage over the brief-writer in the art of persuasion because the musician not only writes but presents his case orally. This isn’t always the case for the brief-writer, who must make sure the document itself is persuasive. In either case, the writer has to be careful not to “over-sell” and should focus on the strongest arguments. Additionally, the audience must believe that the writer believes what she is saying, which is not easy. In fact, acting classes are often helpful for both musicians and litigators who argue orally.
Finally, in both the law and hip-hop music, you must appear credible. In law, you must cite your authority to present arguments. The judge must be able to look at or find support for the presented arguments. In hip-hop music, listeners like to believe that the rapper can back up his lyrics. 50 Cent became so popular in part because people could verify his story about being a gangster and getting shot, and they were intrigued by it. Conversely, Rick Ross has faced major criticism from fans and music critics for portraying himself as a gangster when he allegedly at one time served as a correctional officer. In law and in hip-hop, you must be sure that your arguments can be independently verified.
There are definitely differences in writing briefs and writing music, but in my life, there have been certain similarities. In the end, the transition from law to hip-hop music has not been rough for me, not only because I’ve been writing music for a long time, but because the primary goals of the two are the same—win!