Posted Jul 1, 2008 8:20 AM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward
In the rap world it’s all about street cred. And Emeka Onyejekwe has credibility—just not the kind typically associated with rap. What he does have is a law degree from New York University and experience as a litigation associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges in Manhattan.
But the 26-year-old left it all behind to become a rap artist. His self-produced “mixtape,” Law & Order, can be downloaded from MySpace, and his reality show The “Legal” Hustler can be seen on YouTube.
When Onyejekwe calls himself a hustler, he’s not kidding. Besides music, he says, he’s earning a living through modeling, event planning and sports marketing along with running a small legal practice with his sister.
Q: You are the son of a U.N. diplomat and an academic. What do your parents think about your career change?
They’ve always known I had a burning desire to be an artist. And it’s not like I just left and said I’m going to rap every single day. I may be crazy, but I’m not dumb.
Q: If you had it to do over, would you go to law school again?
Definitely—I love the law. That’s what people kind of lose in this situation.
Q: What do you mean?
I’ve been able to make it cool trying to run your business like a model citizen. All these things rappers talking about that people love so much—money, women, cars, jewelry—there are other ways to get those things. I graduated from law school at 24 and was making $160,000.
Q: So why give it up?
It makes me less legitimate in some people’s eyes if they think I’m doing this as a side thing. For me to really make it, I had to go all out. If I was still working at Weil, I would still have that support system, and I wouldn’t have that burning desire to make it.
Q: What’s the biggest misunderstanding about you and your work?
That I’m doing this for fame, to get rich, just for stardom. That it’s kind of a self-serving type of situation. That’s not entirely wrong, but it’s misguided.
Q: Fame and fortune is not such a terrible thing.
Well, yes. But this may not be my best idea. I probably have better business ideas and opportunities than this.
Q: What sort of reaction are you getting from the legal community?
To my face they say it’s cool, but behind my back there are a lot of negative responses. Some black lawyers think this is the worst possible thing I could have done in the black community. But almost every piece of criticism is from someone who’s never heard my music.
See all of Mekka Don's The "Legal" Hustler.