AllHipHop.com recently sat down with Dr. Boyce Watkins and we discussed his humble beginnings, building his brand, his Top 5 Emcees, how he met Damon Dash and about the Black School online.
AllHipHop.com: Explain to our audience who is Dr. Boyce Watkins?
Dr. Boyce Watkins: Well, I will say that he is a black man. He is a man that loves his family, and that believes in doing his best, believes in doing what he can for his community, believes in the power of intellect, the power of thinking. I like to think a lot, you know, and there's always something to think about. There's always something intellectual happening around you, no matter what. So, I enjoy just processing life. Life is a university, in my mind, and there's always a lesson, you know. It depends on whether or not you pay attention to it, you know what I'm saying?
AllHipHop.com: Yes, sir.
Dr. Boyce Watkins: And I would say that's pretty much who I am, as a person.
AllHipHop.com: How did you become so popular as it relates to the hip-hop culture? You've got such a big digital footprint now. And I'm like how did you do this?
Dr. Boyce Watkins: Well, most stuff like this tends to come from planning and energy. About maybe, about 12 years ago, I kind of started off on a journey where my goal was to see how I could play my role in uplifting my community, right?
So, I left my job and I just said you know what? The internet is here. The technology is dope. It's a great opportunity to turn the world into a classroom. It's not just a university, but it's also a great problem, because there's students everywhere. People are learning all the time. So, I just pretty much took what I was doing inside the university, and I translated that into pop culture and what was happening in the world. And then, on top of that, marketing is important.
Yeah. So, in order to build the brand, whenever we made money, we'd reinvest a lot of it to push the message further. So the way I kind of think about wealth-building, black power, black economic empowerment, things like that, I think of that as a gospel. You know what I mean? So, if you're a pastor, then that's ... pastors understand it, because I pretty much, I guess you could say, I'm a little bit like a preacher, but I don't try to preach at people. I try to support, and teach, and do what I can to help.
AllHipHop.com: So, what did you do, in terms of marketing? What did you do to get the message out?
Dr. Boyce Watkins: Well, I paid attention to the latest technology. I tried to hire people who were smarter than me, who knew more than I did. I also studied branding, and the thing that people don't always understand is that fame is manufactured.
Like Beyonce, for example, Beyonce is a product. Jay-Z's a product. Just like Coca-Cola's a product. You know? And if you think of it that way, then you understand brand building is the same, across the board, whether you're branding LeBron James or branding laundry detergent. And a lot of us, unfortunately, our limitation, our challenge that we have to overcome as black people, is that we're not trained on that.
We're not trained on where brands come from. We think that to be the most famous singer, you have to have the most talent.
When we don't understand that there's a million talented singers that no one will ever know about. Shit, it's all about the branding.
I had a conversation with a young rapper I mentor, the name's Dre Priest, out of Kentucky. And the first thing I told him, was I said, "Look man," I said, "If you want to be a respected artist, you need to study business as much as you study music." I said, "If you listen to Jay-Z, Jay-Z talks about how I'm a businessman. And I bet you, that if I was to sit down and talk to Jay, we could talk all day about business without even bringing hip hop into the picture.
So, every black man in America should go with me to go to business school every single day of his life. Every black woman in America needs to do the same thing, because all this stuff out here in the world is won by economics, making deals, marketing, branding, and all these other fundamentals. The other stuff is just extra.
AllHipHop.com: Right. So, was the YouTube videos a part of that strategy?
Dr. Boyce Watkins: Oh, hell yeah!
AllHipHop.com: I would probably consider you a master YouTuber, by the way.
Dr. Boyce Watkins: Oh, well, thank you, brother. I appreciate it, man. You know, they don't let niggas like me on TV. You know, guys like me, I get on TV, I get on radio, if I had a TV show, they would take it away in about two weeks, because the things that I say just don't fit their agenda. So, YouTube was my version ... it's like a digital version of a chitlin circuit, where the chitlin circuit ... you know, you can eat good of a chitlin circuit if you make it work, right?
Dr. Boyce Watkins: So, we built up a nice little base. We got about a quarter million subscribers on the YouTube channel. We reach about three million people a month. And we also do a lot through Facebook and all that.
It's all about the numbers. It doesn't matter how you reach people, whether you reach them through television, radio or print. What matters is that you reach them. It's just reaching them.
So, people were really sleeping on the Internet, and even I slept on it, up until about 2013. If I had actually started it when I planned. I had planned to start all of that back in '07. If I had started in '07, we'd have over a million subscribers, but until 2013 when I really analyzed it and saw the power. And now, the YouTube channel isn't just a great source of revenue, but it's also a tremendous vehicle for just reaching lots and lots of people. So, it worked out pretty well.
AllHipHop.com: Well, what I can appreciate about you, is that you have like a good sales strategy leveraging pop culture . Like you know how to do the video teasers really well then drive, people to your website, and i'm like wow, that's pretty clever.
Dr. Boyce Watkins: Thank you.
AllHipHop.com: How did you meet Dame Dash?
Dr. Boyce Watkins: You know, Dame and I met because two things, we were just kind of destined to become friends. One time, I made a quote on my page, where I was talking about a Jewish guy who said that he refers to black people as liquid money. Because the way liquid gold flows through your hands, and they look at black people like they're easy money, because they spend all their money. They give it all away, almost like a ... you know, almost like a cheap hoe, that's just fucking everybody that walks through the door. Like that's how black ... black people literally are the economic whores of America. We're really seen as the people where you get easy money from them, because they don't see the value in what they have. They give it away cheap, because they all want the red bottoms, we want to go to the club, to the movies and all that. And we have a completely warped way of seeing money, sometimes, and it's very unfortunate.
But anyway, I had made this quote, and what happened was I guess because Dame and I look alike, they attributed the quote to Dame. And so, Dame, he had told me later, he said, "Yeah. Everybody was saying, yeah, I liked your quote about liquid money." He said to me, "I would tell them," he said, "like man, I didn't say that. I don't know who said that." You know. So, that happened. And then, Charlemagne, after Dame went on to Breakfast Club, and kind of did his epic interview, which was one of the most classic rants of all time. Charlemagne called me and Charlemagne was like, "Hey dog. You gotta talk some common sense into people, 'cause now, we got all these people saying I'm gonna quit my job, 'cause they saw Dame saying you ain't a man if you got a job."
I said, one thing I will not do, is I'm not going to bash this man for challenging the manhood of black men in America. See, 'cause black men have been emasculated.
When you go to other countries, and you see real men getting married and raising children, going to work every day, starting businesses, busting ass. They ain't in the koonery. It reminds you of just what white supremacy has done to the mindset of the black American male.
White supremacy makes the black American man into a little boy, you know? Into a clown, a court jester. He thinks he's supposed to sing and dance, and all this other, and put on wigs and dresses and shit. And that's how he fits in. That's how he survives. And it's not natural. So, long story short, I love Dame's interview, because we need calls to manhood, in that way. But the thing was, with that interview, the goal was like not to bash Dame, which I didn't do, it was to say okay, let's talk about a strategy, so that when you quit your job, you've got a better plan B.
And so, at that point, we just kind of became friends. Somebody connected us, and the rest is history, I guess.
AllHipHop.com: Right. So, was that the tipping point in your career?
Dr. Boyce Watkins: So the tipping point in me becoming who I am, was when I was 28 years old, and I was ... I spent many years working very, very hard to turn myself into a white man and to fit in. And I said this shit ain't working. I was in this fucking job, getting yelled at every day. Things weren't working out. My woman had just left me, 'cause I was so busy. I was trying to do this whole academic thing that I didn't give her the time that she needed. So, I was just heartbroken, man, I literally hit rock bottom. Imagine like every area of your life like being totally obliterated, all at the same time. No money. No woman. No nothing. You know, no future. All of that.
That was when I kind of just realized that I had to rebuild myself, and I had to rebuild myself in a better way. And the way that I did that was I said you know what? First thing I'm gonna do is make sure that I'm not afraid of being who I am.
Because by being who I am, while it's a little risky, what it does, is it gives me a monopoly. You have a monopoly on you. Can't nobody else be you, as well as you can.
So, I figured hey, if I commit to being Boyce Watkins, in his entirety, loving him even for his flaws, then I will definitely win on that. I'm gonna be the best in the world at that, because nobody will ever do it better than me. And then, the second tipping point, I guess, in terms of success and things working. I owe a lot, as far as getting out there publicly, I owe a lot to Wendy Williams. In 2006, her and Charlemagne had me on their show a few times. Back when she was doing radio, that really helped through the years.
It was really just kind of learning the technology, honestly though. I mean, as far as like building the brand, I can't think of any one moment that sort of just propelled everything forward. It was really just kind of like this day to day grind, when the good thing from being in school for so long, and doing the PhD thing, was that it taught me how to work eight, nine, 10 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 a year, because that's what it takes to be excellent at something.
I learned that, because I was sitting in classes with motherfuckers from China and Russia, and places like that. And they never stopped studying. It wasn't like oh, we gonna study three hours and then go to the club. It was like I will study from the time I wake up, until the time I go to bed, and then, I'm gonna go to bed, and then, I'm gonna wake up, and I'm gonna study again. I'm gonna keep going until I get what the fuck I want. And that's something that black people still have to learn. We don't get that yet, and that's really the kind of approach I took to everything. And if you have that approach to life, you're always going to be successful at something.
AllHipHop.com: What music would be on your spotify playlist?
Dr. Boyce Watkins: Oh, man. You're telling on me now. My buddy, D1. Killer Mike. Of course, Spice 1. Let me see. What else is on my phone? As far as my hip hop stuff goes. TI ...
Dr. Boyce Watkins: I even got a couple old songs from like C-Bo, from back in the day. Yo Gotti and E-40. Well, the thing is I'm real picky with hip hop. Like most songs bore me, right?
Dr. Boyce Watkins: But usually, every artist will have like two songs, where I'll be like oh, my God. Loop it so I can listen to it over and over again, and music, you know, it's inspirational. You know, it gives you an energy. So, I'll listen to that ... I'd rather listen to that same song over and over, than to listen to a bunch of wack songs from a whole album, right? So, Yo Gotti and E-40, That's Law, the song they did together. I love that song.
AllHipHop.com: Okay. Now, what's up with that guarantee that you made to parents that you were going to make their kids rich, by the time they turned 21? That what I've been hearing.
Dr. Boyce Watkins: Well, it's not 21. It's actually 40. The thing is that there's a basic formula. Finance is my thing and I know all the equations, and formulas, and all that. And basically, what I explain to people is if there is a way that your child can have an 80 to 90% chance of being a millionaire by the time they're 40, would you do basic things for them when they're born? Or even before they're born? The key thing is to understand you have two main types of wealth in most people's pockets. There's many split, the two types that people have are either a little bit of money, and everybody has a lot of time. You always have time.
The younger you are, the more time you have, and really, in wealth equations, when we do the math to explain how wealth is built, time is the most important variable in that equation.
You think about growing a tree. If you give yourself 400 years to grow a big tree, then you've got plenty of time. You can grow a really big tree, right? But if you've only got 10 minutes, you can't grow a tree in 10 minutes.