G.I. Jobs Latest Issues

FEB 2019

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32 G.I. JOBS | FEBRUARY 2019 | GIJOBS.COM VETREPRENEUR SUCCESS THE MARINE RAPPER The Marine Rapper parlays his storytelling talent into a Hollywood career and business. BY ANDREA DOWNING PECK MARINE CORPS VETERAN RAYMOND LOTT honed his storytelling skills as an award-winning combat correspondent in Afghanistan and Iraq. Following a decade of service to his country, Lott continues to chronicle current events but he has traded in his camera and pen for a microphone and words on a beat. He is "The Marine Rapper." "I still tell stories," Lott explains. "I'm just using a different medium." Lott's military background is not the only part of his image that allows the former sergeant to stand out in a crowded music genre. His American flag leather jacket or bandana, leather jeans and red frohawk create a trademark persona to go with his "pro-military, pro- America" rap rhymes. "A lot of reasons my fans follow me is because I always make songs about current events," he says. "I will talk about current events that are patriotic- based. Very pro-military and very celebratory of the military and veteran culture. Because I am one of the few people that do that in the veteran space, they gravitate toward my brand." Lott served as a combat correspondent during deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan, earning a combat action ribbon and the Department of Defense's Thomas Jefferson award for a haunting stand- alone photo of an Iraqi woman peering out from a doorway. During his military career, the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association named Lott the 2006 Photojournalist of the Year as well as awarded him first place for a human-interest feature. Lott admits his chain of command was caught off guard by the news he was leaving the military. "I told my boss, 'I'm getting out to be a rapper,'" Lott recalled, "and they were like, 'No. Seriously, why are you getting out?'" After separating from the military in 2014, he moved to Texas with his daughter and returned to Taco Bell, a place he had worked while growing up in Oceanside, Calif. While his military- sharpened leadership skills resulted in a promotion to manager, Lott soon left Taco Bell and then spent a short time at a local newspaper before using his Post-9/11 GI Bill to enroll in the Los Angeles Film School, where he earned degrees in music production and the entertainment business. Lott hadn't been pursuing a hip-hop career for long before he realized he needed business acumen as well as talent to make it in the music industry. "Talent is probably the smallest portion of the whole music business," Lott says. "Everything else is the important part. Knowing contracts, knowing how to read contracts, knowing how to monetize your music, knowing how to sell merchandise, knowing how to network with individuals, knowing your brand, knowing how to market yourself and staying consistent and never giving up." Lott credits his military background for forging a never-give-up mentality that motivated him to "keep doing songs, keep doing albums" as he worked to perfect his craft. He admits his musical talents were a work in progress while in the Marine Corps. "We would have rap battles out by the smoke deck," Lott recalls. "I lost. I wasn't as good as I am now. I was horrible, to be honest."

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