Deco Carter, the Hip Hop Lyft driver, is giving out free rides at Sundance.
Lyft is an on-demand ridesharing service that got its start in San Francisco. It just recently expanded to the San Francisco East Bay Area, from Oakland to Castro Valley, and some of the suburbs of Los Angeles, like Pasadena and Malibu.
Business Insider had a chance to catch up with Carter to learn about what it's like being a Lyft driver.
Carter first started driving about eight months ago, he tells Business Insider. The former MC and hip hop historian got in the business after he got fed up with his job as a security guard.
Today, Carter is one of the most well-known Lyft drivers in San Francisco. He hosts hip hop trivia in his car and passengers can compete for prizes. He even has his own Lyft-inspired theme song. People love riding with him so much, Carter says, sometimes they don't ever want to get out of the car.
Here's a lightly edited Q&A.
BUSINESS INSIDER: You’ve become a bit of a celebrity thanks to Lyft, how has your life changed since you became known as the Hip Hop Lyft driver?
DECO CARTER: M y life has changed tremendously from being a Lyft driver. Before I was a Lyft driver, about two and a half years ago, I was a security guard. Something really terrible happened to me while I was doing security. I was on duty and I was arrested for a crime I didn't commit. I did five days in jail.
I had to get a lawyer, my family had to bail me out. It was a terrible ordeal. It took the life out of me as far as security goes. I told myself I would never work in security ever again, and my girlfriend supported my decision.
So I decided to take a break and stay home and be with my newborn baby while my girlfriend worked. That worked out all right, but we had to cut some things financially. So about nine months ago, our friend who had started working for Lyft told us about it. She basically said that I could still stay at home with the kids, and work any time I want to.Lyft, this company, has literally restored my faith in humanity. Before Lyft, I really was depressed. I didn't know what was in store for me next. Lyft basically lifted me up and made me believe in myself again.
It sounded really cool. It was really flexible, all you needed was your insurance, and proof that your registration is up to date. Once I got in I started driving. I'm a big hip hop music fan and I used to be a hip hop artist. It goes without saying that I only play hip hop music, be it Snoop Dogg, Biggie, or the Wu Tang clan.
It's the stuff we all know and love. I was playing it for myself at first. Now I've had passengers try to give me money for playing a song. They would say, "Thanks for the memories, I haven't heard that song since 5th grade."
I would go home night after night and think, "People are raving about my music." So I figured that I had to do something. To tell you the truth, at first I created hip hop playlists because of my passengers and I figured it'd be a good idea to get some extra tips. B ut once I created the hip hop lists, I had to put myself in the mind of the passenger. I had to think what would blow my mind.
That's when I came up with the hip hop trivia game with prizes. It took off really well and it has changed my life.
Lyft, this company, has literally restored my faith in humanity. Before Lyft, I really was depressed. I didn't know what was in store for me next. Lyft basically lifted me up and made me believe in myself again.
I mean, the passengers' response to me made me feel like I can do anything. I haven't had that feeling in so long. I 'm really living a dream right now. Two years ago I didn't even think this was possible.
BI: When you pick up someone and they realize it’s you, how do they respond? What’s the best response you’ve ever gotten from someone?
DC: So I pull up to a group of four people and they go, "Are you hip hop Lyft?" I say, "Yeah." One of the guys jumps up and down and screams, "I won the lottery!" He just spazzed out.
He made everybody else excited. They got in the car and were wondering what this dude was going crazy about. I almost had to pay these people to get out of my car. They did not want to leave. They just said, "This is the most fun we've ever had in San Francisco, period. Your music is better than any club's."
I've had people say, "Just keep going around the block, this is my favorite song." One time R apper's Delight (a roughly 15 minute-long song) came on. She (a passenger) asked, "If you don't mind, can we pull in my driveway and keep listening to this song?" Me and this young lady are rapping the whole song to each other. We bonded right there. She's like my sister now."
BI:So how many rides do you give per day?
DC: I average about 13 to 14 rides per night. I only drive at night because I'm a stay-at-home dad.
BI: How much money do you make per month?
DC: On average, if I work five days and all my hours, I make about $800 per week.
BI: Is Lyft your whole career? How long do you think you'll do this for?
I definitely see myself as more of an entertainer. So that's my new title. I see myself doing TV shows, or some kind of Web show, and just taking it somewhere else. People are definitely paying attention to what I do. I have already had people reach out. I'm praying that this leads to something.
BI: What has it been like driving around Sundance?
The traffic is a lot lighter. San Francisco can be a little hectic driving around. Here, the people are a lot more relaxed and chill. Most people are out here on vacation, so it's a lot more relaxed. But I've been having a ball out here.
I've even driven around a few celebrities, like this one guy in Breaking Bad who played Hector. He was in my car last night. He asked if I had Tupac and I said, "Of course." He went nuts and ended up saying it was the best ride ever. He didn't want to get out of the car either!
He even won a prize, and now he's following me on Instagram. I also had a playmate in the car [Thursday] night, and she invited me to a party.
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