“Ten years from now ask me and I might be able to sit back and go damn look how this shit got built up.”
Halftime: What’s the focus of Wax Poetics and what really pushed you to put the product on the market?
Andre (Wax Poetics): The idea was to do a documentary about beat digging because I was digging separately down in Florida. There really wasn’t a community when I was in college, it was just me buying old records and I didn’t even know there were a bunch other people doing the shit. I got up here in New York and I realized it was much more of a network. My man had moved up here a year after me and I was already making beats and getting heavy into it. My man hipped to the breaks list on the Internet with all of the samples in ‘˜97-‘˜98 so everybody was kinda geeking over it. I realized there was a lot of cats out there from the U.K and Germany writing in so I was like this is kind of big now. I would be scurrying around New York digging whatever and running into cats and I saw it was a little community. It was all secret squirrel shit but nobody was talking about. The idea I had was to do a documentary on beat digging and show the connection to hip hop. So I started doing some research and I realized there was nothing out there about any of this. You go to Barnes and Noble and find ten books on the Rolling Stones but you couldn’t find one on James Brown or Sly not to mention some of these ill cats like Andy Vogue or Axel Rod. So I was like I’ll do the shit myself to get the word out about these cats. I called my man up who had worked in magazines before and was like you want to come on as editor. That was the beginning of it. I would start hooking up with people. I’d read stuff on the Internet and I’d email them like I read your article, I’m trying to put this magazine together are you trying to get down. It kinda started like that. I knew looking at all the other hip hop magazines out there that they were only talking to the fan so I just wanted to set myself apart from those magazines. I wanted to do something that I’d be comfortable reading. That was it. We just collected a group of essays over the course of nine months and put that first issue out.
What were some of the trials and tribulations you went through establishing it and how did you overcome those?
Early on the biggest thing was when I approached cats they looked at me like I had three eyeballs. They were like you want to do a magazine about breaks what are you crazy? They were like this is our shit we don’t want nobody to know about it but I was like the time is here now and if we don’t do it someone is going to come with it and it’s gonna be wack then everyone will be mad. So let’s just get the cats who know the shit and get them to open up about it. That was the number one hurdle, gaining the trust of cats who were deep enough that they would open up and start talking about it. The second part was that I would find cats who were mad deep but they couldn’t write. Trying to find that balance of cats who knew the shit and could write about it was the second biggest thing. Then it’s just the whole logistics of publishing. It’s some complicated shit. I understand the business side of it more especially now that I’m working with Harris (Publishing) on how to make it profitable. That wasn’t even a concern of mine at first I just wanted to get it out and see what would happen. I had to start from square one with the printer, then the distributor, the paper, it was just one thing after another. Once I figured out what kinda paper I wanted then I could move on from there. The beginning was the hardest part. Once we got it off the ground the response was kinda immediate that heads have been waiting for it. It’s been a lot easier since then. Most people didn’t realize what I was trying to do but when it came out they were like oh I get it now.
It reminds me of this thing we started called Madcap Promotions, which is still in the works. We had a lot of cats with mad talent but getting everyone on the same page is not easy.
When I got the idea I called up one cat. He had a guy he worked with who did design and that was it. We own the company. Everybody else is on the outside. The whole idea came out of my head and my man saw the idea and added on. I think that was one of the things we had going for us was the fact that I wasn’t trying to come out and gather up all these people like let’s go to the mountain top. Once it all comes together it’s almost deceiving. People think we have offices because it looks like some professional shit but I’m doing this out of my crib so I guess its working.
One of the main reasons we wanted to talk to you is because so many people have said Wax Poetics is one of the best magazines out right now. What do you think intrigues your reader the most about your content?
I think it’s the fact that we are doing what nobody else is doing. The only other cats who were doing something similar was Big Daddy. I saw what they were doing. They had one approach and I had a different way I wanted to do it. I wanted to go deep deep into it. For me it was more than some obsession. It goes back to my grandfather telling me stories about seeing Ella Fitzgerald at the Apollo for a nickel, it goes back to my father telling me about seeing Jimi Hendrix at CafÃ© Wop before he went to the U.K and came back and blew up. This was part of my cultural history. I saw a link that really hadn’t been made between these generations. I saw no one gave black music its proper context like hip hop came out of a vacuum. Hip hop comes from a history of black music in America and this is sorta the end all be all. When you get to hip hop it just eats everything up and that’s what it’s doing now. It’s all over the world. I had a different take on it and when people read the shit we go deep on it. It’s not like this is some cool shit with beats on it this is some real shit. I’m trying to tell the history so my kid can pick it up and go now I understand. Then I’ll pass the torch to him and see what they come up with. I saw how Jazz music was played in whorehouses in New Orleans. It was sacrilege, now you gotta have a tuxedo on to listen to jazz and they teach it at universities. I saw how that has been canonized. I saw the window open that everyone is looking back and trying to piece together the history of music and I thought I ain’t gonna wait I’m gonna validate it right now. That’s why I purposely flipped it and didn’t come out on some porno paper and treat it like whatever. I used to look at all these art journals and expensive books and saw people take this shit seriously. So I’m gonna put funk and hip hop in this academic journal with some fly art and make it look like something nobody saw before. So when people see it it’s like oh shit he is coming with some next shit because nobody was doing it like that. Now I see people biting this piece but the way we keep pushing the envelope we not even worried about it.
Looking at the content in the mag and the fact that it’s so focused on beat digging, by nature you’re excluding a lot of readers. What do you have for the layman who may not understand beat digging?
I’m not trying to dumb the shit down and if you’re willing to spend eight dollars you’ve wanted this shit for a while. You may not get the deep story on Sweet Charles on Jabo but more than likely you saw Style Wars. That might be enough. No one else is going to do the Style Wars joint like how we did. In issue #2 one of my editors was complaining the Beatminerz interview wasn’t flushed out enough, he wanted something longer. I was like you gotta remember everyone isn’t looking at it from the same level. I realize I got cats who’ve been digging for twenty years who can pick it up and learn something and I got cats who are like eighteen who can pick it up and learn something. I try to make sure that it hits at every level. You don’t have to be PH.D level to get all of it, but you do have to have some deep knowledge to get most of it. I don’t even know half the shit that’s why I get cats because I wanted something I could read. When I finish an issue and sit down with it and read it I come away from it like everyone else. It depends on how much you want to invest in it. It requires more of the reader than your average magazine.
What do you see in the future for the art of beat digging?
The reality is that’s hip hop. You can fuck around on a keyboard all you want and I’m not saying that you not making rap music but there is an art to making beats. It comes from rocking doubles. If you don’t know records then you don’t know the art of hip hop. You may be able to grab sounds off of a keyboard that’s hot that will make you money right now but its not gonna be no classic shit you’re gonna put in your car or in your stereo ten years from now like Low End Theory. Who’s gonna know who Chingy is five years from now? That’s gonna be gone. This is like the hair band era of the eighties. Everybody who is making hip hop is getting tired of it. There is no art to it. The art is there but it ain’t on Hot 97 or Power 105 you gotta dig for that. I don’t think it will ever go anywhere. Everybody can make all he keyboard beats they want but who’s killing it right now, Kanye West. That’s a motherfucker who’s steeped in the art of making beats. That’s a producer right there.
He reminds me a lot of DJ Premier’s shit where it’s just raw and he makes it obviously sampled and I like that sound for some reason.
There is a feeling to it. When you sample something you are getting that soul. You feel that soul. Those keyboards don’t have no soul that’s some manmade shit they programmed in there. You hear James Brown or Phil Johnson pouring their heart out with a bunch of musicians behind them playing some shit when you take a piece of that you are carrying on that history. It’s like ancestor worship and there is a connection that’s made.
In any business there are always shady things going on especially with advertisers in publishing. What have you faced thus far that you may not have expected?
I got to admit I came into a bit naÃ¯ve. I kept looking at all of these other magazines and looking at all of these advertisers and everyone was all down with each other. So I was like let me put my shit out and these motherfuckers will get down with me too. Hell no! In my first issue, I got three ads. They all fronting in the first place. If you claiming your down with the little dude where is the support? Everybody was turning their heads and it was right after 9/11 so they were scurrying off. I got a marketing director now and he be on the grind. He don’t take no for an answer. That’s the reality of it. You have to push because they are not going to come on some big family shit. Then on the other side of it with the label they on some oh sure I’ll take an ad out here’s this you gonna write it up? They want editorial for the ad! I’m like we don’t play that shit. All these labels are all broke anyway. Now the record companies take it to another level, they get a writer or call me up like I got this idea for you and they coming with the whole package. So now they come with the writer to write the story about their shit. It’s shameless too.
What’s the best and worst things you do as the publisher of your own mag?
The best part to me is putting it together. There is a process to it and that’s really what the magazine is all about the process of making music. There is an art to the magazine as well. I love that challenge of going out trying to figure out what we are going to put in each one. It’s mostly working with people who already have ideas and building with them and figuring out how we can make it all fit together. The worst is all the headaches with motherfuckers like yea I’m gonna do it and then three weeks later I’m trying to call em and they not trying to call me back. Same with advertisers too. We’ll have to send this shit off Monday morning and here it is Saturday night and I still don’t have half of the ads. That part for me is the worst. It gets kinda hectic at that point.
What opportunities have opened up simply from you putting out Wax Poetics?
Somebody told me earlier that they want me to write some liner notes but this other job is probably as good as it gets. This was a cat who saw the magazine when he was out in somebody’s office in L.A. He looked my info up inside and called me when he got back to New York, turns out the dude is a huge publisher. We went in there to meet we started talking. I just wanted to take him the old issues and one thing turned into another. They had been wanting to start this other magazine anyway and it was right along the lines of what I was doing so we just decided to get down together on it. I didn’t go to school for English or to be a writer, I didn’t know shit about publishing before I started the magazine and now they are paying me to run a magazine. Somehow doing what I was doing somebody recognized it. It was a blessing. I look around that office and I have to pinch myself because I’m in the XXL office.
XXL, King, Slam all that.
They have 70 titles. The fact that I used to read these magazines before and now I’m in the middle of it. This joint we are about to put out is gonna be some next level shit. My shit’s cool but they are talking about something that will be ten times the size of my shit. It will be the largest DJ magazine on the market. Remix and all them shits put out 30,000 issues, this shit coming out the box shipping 300,000. I’ll be able to do everything I don’t do in my magazine, all the big names, all the commercial names. I’ll do an interview with Lil John and see what you do in the lab. Everybody sees Lil Jon with his pimp cup but there is an art to it. This is the first time really on a large newsstand publications you’re gonna see brothers doing the work. It ain’t all about the party and the cars, now you get to see how the shit comes about. It’s really an aspiration type of book for kids who have some turntables and are thinking about making some beats.
What’s the name of it?
Scratch. They came up with everything I’m basically running the shit. This will open up the need a bit more. This will bring a lot of younger kid’s to it and when they get old enough and start to understand it a little deeper we can switch them over to Wax Poetics.
If I ask you who is Wax Poetics what would you say?
It’s everybody from James Brown to DJ Premier.
Now that you’re a ballin’ editor and publisher what are your keys to success and suggestions for anyone interested in doing what you do?
I look back at how growing up you get interested in something you do it and then you move on like that shit sucks now or you get tired of it. At one point I was working two jobs and running the magazine working sixty hours a week seven days a week for stretches of a whole month. But grinding like that is what pushed this shit over. I could have stopped after the third one, but every time I just said fuck this I’m gonna do this shit. I’m gonna keep doing this not only because it makes me happy but to prove a point to myself that I can do it and finish it. That is the main part people get a little light in ass at. I just keep it on the low, putting out one after another staying on the grind. Ten years from now ask me and I might be able to sit back and go damn look how this shit got built up.
The Bullets (stupid questions we ask anyway)
If you won a contest and had to choose between a 2004 Benz with a radio that blasts John Denver’s hits beyond your control or a free bus pass, which would you choose?
Being that I ride the train everyday I’d have to put up with some John Denver.
You’re in a fucked up ghetto nobody ever heard of and its cold as hell outside and you waiting for a cab to come help you out and one pulls up but the driver is ODB, do you get in the cab or stay outside and pray another cab will come by?
I’ll ride with ODB!
M&M’s or Reeses Cups?
Hell yea Reese’s Cups!
Milky Way or Kit Kat
Sink or Bottled Water?
Elephant or Rhinoceros meat?
Snowballs or Italian Ices?
Now this is the new joint. I’m gonna name some artists and celebrities and you respond with the first thing that comes to your mind whether it’s a groan, grunt or whatever,
Lil Bow Wow
Mary J Blige
Ying Yang Twins