Changing Lanes: Wall Street Trader Quits Job to Pursue His Dreams

Anteneh Addisu was already successful in the finance world, but he gave it all up for a career in music

Addisu put more stock in his dreams than the market

Anteneh “Anthem” Addisu, 25, loved working on Wall Street. Making close to $150,000 a year, the Duke University graduate was among a handful of Black men living the fast paced, Manhattan life of a Wall Street trader. During his first year in finance, Addisu’s take-home pay helped care for his mother, who’d been laid off while he was in his senior year of college. But a prestigious job, six-figure salary, and the accomplished joy of being able to support his family wasn’t enough. Addisu wanted to be a rapper. So he approached his mentor, DG, with plans to quit his career and pursue dreams of working in hip-hop. “He didn’t take kindly to that,” says Addisu, with a chuckle. “In hindsight it did sound foolish. [DG] said, ‘Do you have any music?’ I said, ‘No.’ He made a deal and said he’d finance a demo and if it wasn’t good, I’d commit to focus on my career.”

The demo, filled with Addisu’s smooth-yet-persistent and eloquent vocals about the realities of life, impressed DG so much that he decided to partner up with the aspiring artist and make a hefty financial investment into his rap career. “He was the person whose word I respected. When you make a believer out of a naysayer, that was all I needed,” says Addisu, who performs under the name Anthem. “He’s kinda my Quincy Jones, in a sense, of my development as a rapper.”

Despite the surprising support, Addisu’s radical career shift didn’t happen overnight. Continuing to work 12-hour days on Wall Street, he headed home at night and locked himself in a studio to manifest his musical aspirations. “Weekends I didn’t go out,” he recalls. “When you work for your dreams, it’s tough to waste time.”

That focus has been rewarded. In the summer of 2009, Addisu left the world of finance for a full time career as an MC. Since then, he’s performed shows in DC, California, and opened for critically acclaimed rap acts like B.O.B. and Lupe Fiasco. This spring, he’ll perform at the South by Southwest Music Conference, while dropping his first mixtape Manhattan Music, Vol. 1, hosted by 50 Cent’s DJ Whoo Kid. A documentary, about his grassroots marketing and promotions hustle as a rapper, is also in the works.

“I wouldn’t rest my hat on my own talent. My transition has been successful because of organization,” Addisu says. “When you pursue a dream, you’re effectively a start up business. You gotta be organized, but you should never keep a dream to yourself. And never wait on a cue from the world that you’re in the right place. You should just move and act.”

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  • Mentors really help when you’re about to make big life decision. Had he not had a mentor, he wouldn’t have had to be accountable.

  • bk’s finest

    nice feel good story, but is the music actually good? where’s a link to a website or facebook? music better be dope or he made a bad decision which shouldn’t be encouraged…..

  • Cii

    another black man trying to rap…womp womp. next

    • bobbifromva

      and you’re a nameless, faceless critic who took time out of your day to knock what he’s doing… what exactly does that say about you… the term is overused but you know what you are… go ahead young man, follow your dreams.

      • Cme

        well said bobbifromva

        i know this man personally, he made a decision to follow his heart… i respect him for that. brilliant man

  • Report Much

    Why doesn’t the article tell us *where* he worked, and what his “Wall Street” position was?

    • BeMore

      Why does that matter???

    • joe trader

      it does say he was a “trader”…are you looking for them to disclose portfolio strategies or view on the market??

    • Alfio

      I like your post and loved to read it. It the great scorue of inforation for us and that is why people like you and appreciate your work Keep rocking ..!!!

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  • asi9

    I found him on facebook. the music is actually good; the story makes sense now

    • keisha

      the music is good! “Lookin Down” is a hot song.. I can’t wait to hear this in the club, i will finally be able to say i was up on something first. lol… you go boy!

  • righthand man randy

    sounds like John Legend’s story. dope to see in hip hop

  • jaded pinkett

    @asi9 good looks on that link, the music is hot!

  • j. jonah

    music’s solid. inspiring story

  • Very inspiring and motivational for me because I’m in transition and it’s taken me a very long time to move. I guess I was just waiting for the world to say it was OK instead of having faith in myself. Best of Luck Anthem. Hope to see you in DC.

  • sunnysideup

    i too looked him up on fb after reading this… the kid is really talented.. his music is actually, GOOD, and not in a corny way – he can rap… best of luck Anthem. I might not buy it, but i will download when his album comes out 🙂

    • Nenita

      Thanks very much for the ceomlimpnt. It should definitey have some sort of spice to it, in order to effectively differntiate our site from the mountains of others out there in cyber space.

  • bartholomey

    Okay, now i can way that the music is about as good as the story. I feel like i’m reading that story that could have been me. Kudos on the courage

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  • WriteMoneyInc

    What an inspiring story! Loved this article! This line from the article is so true – “When you work for your dreams, it’s tough to waste time.”

    There’s a dream in everyone. When it comes a calling, you can ignore it but you won’t feel complete joy. So glad to see this man go after his dream. Reminds me of people like Michael Baisden and Bernie Mac. Sometimes you just gotta cut loose, take off and fly!