There are literally millions of underground MC’s who dream of making it big one day. For most, it’ll never happen. Then there’s Divine, an aspiring rapper from Brooklyn who just happened to befriend billionaire venture capitalist Ben Horowitz. How did the formerly incarcerated Hip Hop artist strike up a friendship with the man who was recently called “Silicon Valley’s Stealth Power” by Fortune Magazine? I had to track down Divine to get the scoop.
While coordinating our first online interview, I got to know Divine well and learned some fascinating aspects about his connection to Horowitz.
Divine first came in to knowledge of Ben while incarcerated, via an article he read, written about the Silicon Valley VC and his use of Hip Hop in the tech business world. A couple of years later events would have Divine and Ben first meet via Twitter when the MC responded to a blog titled “The Legend Of The Blind Emcee” that Ben, a huge Hip Hop head, had posted. The exchange led to Ben pledging to Divine’s Kickstarter campaign and quickly turned into an on-going email conversation. Encouraged, Divine wrote “Venture Capitalist (Like Ben Horowitz)” and sent it to Ben who loved it and played if for Nas. As a gesture of support, Ben’s wife, Felicia Horowitz, ended up pledging a substantial amount to Divine’s Kickstarter . Shortly after, Ben introduced Divine to Rap Genius founder Mahbod Moghadam who helped the rapper promote his campaign. Divine, Ben, and his wife eventually met in person in NYC at a Phat Startup event, an opportunity for Hip Hop heads and entrepreneurs to come together. Ben was a featured speaker. He invited Divine to dinner and introduced the rapper to Grammy nominated producer/songwriter Ryan Leslie.
As the relationship developed, Divine co-wrote, “A16Z Podcast Rap“, with a16z’s own Deputy Chief Of Staff Chris Lyons, a technology theme song for the a16z podcast, the podcast for Andreessen Horowitz, the $4 billion VC firm founded by Horowitz and business partner Marc Andreessen, which prompted Ben to dub Divine “the official a16z rapper”. Divine dropped the video for “Venture Capitalist” which was premiered on Rap Genius and then re-launched by The Rap Test. TechCrunch, one of the world’s most popular technological sites, ran a story about Ben and Divine’s unlikely friendship. Ben then flew Divine out to Silicon Valley for a weekend to celebrate his birthday amongst a small group of close friends and relatives. Upon his return, Divine was asked to narrate a couple of Ben’s widely read blogs. Inspired by Ben and Felicia Horowitz’s charity work and the hope they re-instilled in him, Divine started H.O.P.E. Through Hip Hop, an organization dedicated to giving the disadvantaged and oppressed opportunity using Hip Hop culture as a medium for education, change and self-improvement.
Quite an achievement for an underground rapper!
It took a few weeks for myself and the Brooklyn MC to overcome numerous technical problems and finally connect via Oovoo web chat. When I finally caught up with Divine, he’d just returned from Silicon Valley where he was invited by Ben to view an a16z private screening of “Time is Illmatic”, a soon-to-be released documentary on Hip Hop icon Nas. Full of energy, and with a new lease on life, Divine shared details of his amazing story. Check it out.