Many Wharton MBA students go into consulting and startups. Wharton MBA student Clyde Kelly is no different, except for the fact that he is also a successful rapper.
Clyde Kelly Atkins, who uses his middle name as his stage name, spent two years in management consulting at McKinsey & Company before starting Wharton’s MBA program in the fall. Raised in Raleigh, N.C., he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014.
While passionate about work, he missed making music.
“I always really connected with music,” he said. “My mom will always say I danced before I walked. I would just hold myself up and dance.”
During his time at McKinsey, Kelly began recording on the weekends and writing songs on many of his flights to visit clients.
“I really missed it, and I felt like there was a side of me that was being repressed.”
During college, freestyling with his roommates became an everyday activity. He became focused on musical lyricism in a freshman year poetry class after suffering a great personal loss.
“Poetry became an outlet for me that year when my dad passed away,” Kelly said. “It became a big thing I would use to bring myself back into the moment.”
A self-described music addict, he began releasing songs last summer leading up to the launch of his debut album, “Not Rich Yet,” last November.
“You can hear the hunger in the title,” Kelly said. “It was about making an entrance and saying, ‘Look, I’m here.’”
He described his next album, " (out May 18), as a more organic, pop-electronic sound with a strong element of hip-hop.
“Love Rx” is also completely clean — no explicit lyrics whatsoever.
“My mom was very happy about that,” he said. “There was also an element of me that was thinking about the business side of it and knowing that if you put out a clean track, the radio can just grab it and put it in rotation. If you only have the explicit versions out, they can’t.”
Kelly tries to create a balance between school and music, going home to write songs after class and thinking of hip-hop as a complement to his Wharton experience.
“I treat [music] as my entrepreneurial endeavor that I’m taking on here at Wharton,” Kelly said. “A lot of people have that, and I definitely look at it as, ‘This is my startup.’”
He met his manager, fellow Wharton MBA student Emmanuel Chimezie, on the first day of Wharton orientation. Chimezie, now editor of the Wharton Journal, wrote an article about Kelly that spurred their business partnership.
“I’m super passionate about music,” Chimezie said. “I can’t create music — we tried to do that once and that was a fun experience — but I do love music, primarily jazz, rap and R&B.”
Chimezie and Kelly are planning to tour this summer and throughout the fall. Penn students may also see Kelly perform on campus in the near future.
“We’re in talks with a few fraternities on campus about doing shows here,” Chimezie said.
After graduating from Wharton, Kelly plans to go back to consulting.
“The plan is to go back to McKinsey, unless I get a million dollar signing bonus before Wharton ends,” he said.
He hopes to transfer to McKinsey’s Los Angeles office, get involved in the music business as a consultant and continue releasing his own music and writing for other artists.
Kelly, who has adopted the moniker, “Genre Killer,” plans to keep listeners on their toes, switching between “incisive rap verses,” softer pop and completely new sounds.
“I don’t want to conform to any one archetype of what music sounds like. That’s why I’m going to keep spreading my wings and trying new things.”
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