“Keep the rolodex full if you’re plan on being an editor. Constantly reach out to new writers, take submissions, even take personal time to read submissions because they’ll always pitch ideas to you.”
Halftime: What’s the science behind the name Yellow Rat Bastard and how did you first hook up with the Mag?
Courtney Carrerras: The name was there way before I got involved with them. It started out as a clothing store down in Soho. The store was doing really well way, they decided to do a catalog and that spawned into a having one or two interviews in it and the concept of being its own publication was birthed from that. I used to own The 411, a hip-hop trade publication kinda like the Hollywood Reporter. I created it with three business partners and did everything from A-Z to get it out there and from there I just started to do freelance writing. I was editor-at-large for the Source for three years. I did their Timeout column and Source Sports. Honestly, I would just go to newsstands, bring a notebook and write down the names of other magazines. I saw Yellow Rat Bastard and I sent my clips to them. They called me, said they liked my work, and asked if I would do freelance for them. I did a couple covers for them and my payments were late, so I wouldn’t do anything for them anymore. Then I was in LA for five months about a year ago and I had just came back in January and somehow the publisher heard I was back in New York and he offered me the editor in chief position. We sat and had breakfast and I said yea.
And now the checks come on time.
Courtney: Yea, he paid me what he owed me when I came back to New York because I was the devil on the phone.
I did a story for a mag before and it took them like a year to pay me my money, I don’t fuck with them anymore.
Courtney: Yea, half the time it’s not intentional. It’s just that the material might look nice and the distribution might look good but most magazines are in the rut. That’s the honest truth.
What are your basic responsibilities and day-to-day duties as the editor in chief?
Courtney: Well because the magazine is independently funded and it’s self-published I do just about everything. When I first came in there, I revamped what the entire magazine was going to look like. I decided departments for the actual publication like the Radar Section, The Jump Off, the leads that go into the Big Well Section, the book reviews and music reviews because it didn’t have any of that. So, I had to incorporate that. My day to day is just making sure I have a theme for each issue. I have to hit all the PR people, get to them and send letters. I need an assistant. I wind up doing the invoicing.
What’s the basic formula you use to layout the entire issue?
Courtney: I have an editorial team and I just make sure everyone is responsible for their section. My photo editor will do a huge photo editorial but I make sure I go to the shoot. Everything that’s happening I’m the first and last look. Nothing should slide by me. It’s the editor in chief’s job to look at the whole magazine as a book. It’s gotta have personality that the audience is expecting. My fashion guy might have the flyest fashion but it doesn’t make any sense with the issue I created so I have to keep everybody on the same page. I even do the paginating. I paginate the ads into the magazine and that’s not supposed to be the editor’s job. I just don’t trust anybody else to do it so I do it. I organize the issue release parties we have and get the sponsors for it. I just do everything for this magazine.
So since you’ve only been with YRB a short while where do you see yourself say 7 years from now as far as being an editor?
Courtney: Well I just finished writing a book and I have two publishing companies that have offered me a deal but I am waiting to figure out which is the best deal. The book is called â€œThe White Man’s Guide to Hiphop.â€ I don’t know about [my future] as an editor but as a writer I think it will go into books and screenplays. I’m just an entrepreneur anyway. I have my own company, I do licensing deals with Ashanti, Jessica Simpson, and Girls Gone Wild. I have a lot of projects going on besides Yellow Rat Bastard.
What exactly do you do for Girls Gone Wild?
Courtney: We do different licensing. So for Ashanti we just did a licensing deal in three categories like cosmetics, fragrance, and bath products like candles and gift baskets and things like that. For Girls Gone Wild we are doing a Spring Break Survival Kit, like body lotion and massager, you know. But as far as writing, books and screenplays and I’d like to see YRB blow up and expand and get more credible advertising and branding. I hope I’m on the right path to doing that. I would love to stay there because I feel like I’m building it. I feel like it didn’t exist until I got there. That’s cuz it’s like a baby to me now. I feel like I went in and revamped it and now the industry is looking because I have industry relationships and I’m putting the word out there now.
Since you are coming at it from a writer’s standpoint what are some of the key things you’re looking for in an article?
Courtney: I theme the issue out like I’ll have the reality issue, and I’ll have the art issue. For the art issue a lot of straight art pictures came in like I’m a painter or I do sketches. But I was like you have to think less of the idea or of the theme. I did a feature called the Art of Pimping according to Too Short, Ice T, and Don Juan. You gotta kind of flip it. I’m always gonna think less of the theme. Like for the colors issue we did George Clinton on the cover and we did Cam’Ron and this sheriff in Arizona. He runs a prison in the middle of the desert and he has them in black and white uniforms with pink underwear, pink socks, pink t-shirts, and pink towels when they come out of the shower and he serves them green baloney. It’s just stuff like that. You have to think less.
What issue are you most proud of and why?
Courtney: I think that every time we put out a new one we always say this is the hottest one. I think we are getting better with each turn. There are always problems like this issue we are low on advertising or sometimes the ads are just fucking ugly. I wish I could have a say on the creation of the ads. My next issue is old school and I would love to have advertisers do old school ads. But to do that on top of putting together the magazine without assistance it will never happen. I don’t know which one I love the most. I think I just love them as they come up and they I forget about them and go onto the next one. The joy doesn’t last long because the pressure is always right there.
Yea, I remember the first time seeing my name in a magazine I was all hyped, now I just check to make sure what I wrote hasn’t been jacked up and then I flip through it and move on.
Courtney: Yea they didn’t massacre your shit. That’s something I have a big habit of doing. I’ll see somebody’s work when they turn it in and I’m like whoa. Sometimes they turn it in perfect and I’ll just need to do some copy editing. Other times I’m like this absolutely not what I asked for. I used to just go an fix it and then after a while I said wait a second they are getting paid to turn a story in they need to step up to the plate. I’ll have a photographer shoot some shit twice. I just did it the other day at the Lenox Lounge, I had a Radar piece for this author and the way the guy shot was not how I told him. I tell people from now on you’re my hunter, if you go out and hunt and bring back some shit I can’t cook up you’re going back out. So now their like Courtney how exactly do you want that again? I just feel like there are no resources and no money so I don’t have time to waste. You really need to be dead on. I’m not a bitch about it, you just have to be firm.
What’s something you slept on last year and what’s some things you’re looking for in the future?
Courtney: You know what nothing and it’s because I theme the issues out. Everything I do is evergreen; it can be in almost any issue. I won’t put Outkast on the cover because they are about to drop a album and it’s gonna blow up, I put them on because it’s the fashion issue and those are two are fashionable urban dudes. I didn’t put George Clinton on the cover because he got arrested. I don’t think we mentioned it three lines into the story, who gives a shit we all know he’s a crack addict.
Have you dealt with any difficult artists or labels?
Courtney: I’m gonna tell you who but I don’t want to give these fucks publicity. Let’s just say I don’t think they aren’t too hot for TV and New Orleans could have come up with a better cat than that. He was such a bitch. I had to kick duke out of my office on some take my clothes off that you’re wearing for the shoot, put the shit you came with back on and get the fuck out. He was the biggest asshole.
What do you feel are the key things needed to best perform your job?
Courtney: You just really have to have a passion for this particular position. You have to be able to tunnel your vision to get your point across. You have to listen to other people’s ideas too. And money did I say money? Honestly resources are so necessary but you gotta make do.
What suggestions would you have for an up and comer interested in doing what you do?
Courtney: Keep the rolodex full if you’re plan on being an editor. Constantly reach out to new writers, take submissions, even take personal time to read submissions because they’ll always pitch ideas to you. For a writer just keep sending your clips to publications and giving them good pitches. The most important thing for a writer is know what publication you’re submitting too. You can’t submit something for Sister to Sister that sounds more like it’s for XXL. Sometimes I get pitches like very pro-black, uplifting, and spiritual but that’s not my audience.
Have you ever tried any new things that after you were done you were like maybe I shouldn’t have done that?
Courtney: Yea, we did a piece on Jenna Jameson. Her company contacted me and she was just signing an endorsement deal with Sims snowboards so I was like I do extreme sports, porno is cool, it’s a hot chick so let’s do it. I did it but what happened was because the magazine didn’t have enough credibility but they knew who I was they were willing to give me an in on the photo shoot. I didn’t demand enough. I didn’t demand that she can’t have the same outfit for a press junket. I think I should more calculating and demanding and more organized about what I was doing instead of being I got what I needed great. I was looking at it like damn Jenna Jameson the biggest porn star on the planet is giving me an hour and a half of her time and I’m feeling lucky to have that when I should be like wait I need to put crazy pictures of her in the magazine. They were not innocent looking but they weren’t what we should have did. That could kind of frustrate you when you get the perfect person but you don’t get what you wanted from them.
So what are your hours?
Courtney: The office opens at ten and stays open till nine. Honestly, I get there like 10-10:30 and I’m out by five. I’ll go take a lunch and maybe shop.
Courtney: I do everything so I just take certain days to grind out everything but a lot of times after I send all my pitch letters I’m waiting for PR people to get back to me. I commute and take the coach into the city so it’s like two hours on the bus with my laptop. You’re just constantly working because your brain is always thinking about it. If I see a commercial or a news clip while I’m home I’ll go online and research it. That’s like that Arizona prison thing. The hours are not normal but I love them. I definitely get to dictate how I want it to happen.
So tell us about this book.
Courtney: Jared Wiesel, this jewish kid who doesn’t know anything about hiphop, happens to be ODB’s manager. Years ago when he was like two years old we went to the same country club and our families knew each other. We grew up in the same town, but we never hung out because he was so much younger than me, but at the news conference where ODB was released from prison and Jarred’s there. I’m like dude I want to put Dirty on my first cover. From there we just connected and he had this really cool idea to do a book but Jarred doesn’t know how to write. So I was like let’s make it happen. I just picked fifteen topics that would make sense to teach a white guy how to survive in hiphop like the Scarface chapter or baby mama drama. It’s definitely a novelty book not to be taken serious. I have different people like Vanilla Ice, Nelly, Ice T, Big Boi, Cam’ron and a bunch of people that answered questions for me. Ice T actually committed to doing a one-hour tv show based on the book and Spike TV picked it up. The book is done but I feel like I need to go back to tune it up.
Was this intimidating to do because this is your first book?
Courtney: It was extremely intimidating because it was somebody else’s idea and they had to explain the idea to me and I had to add my personality to it and of course the idea evolved into something different. I have other ideas for books and this is a great kick in the ass to get those started.
The Bullets (stupid questions we ask anyway)
Would you rather wear a t-shirt with a picture of your boy Choppa on it butt naked eating a pack of starburst or just drink hot bleach?
Courtney: I’d wear the t-shirt cuz he would look like an asshole on my shirt.
Who would you rather see as president Al Sharpton or Arnold Schwarznegger?
Courtney: Al Sharpton
Who would you rather see do an adult movie Snoop Dogg or Gary Coleman?
Who sounds like they have throat cancer DMX or Busta Rhymes?
Who’s brain would you rather have Bill Gates or Donald Trump?
If you had to go on a date with Bobby Brown what could you picture on an ideal date with Bobby?
Courtney: Getting access to Whitney’s bank account.
Which record would you rather see become a legend 100 years from now Illmatic or Reasonable Doubt?