A Hip Hop Press Column by Slav Kandyba
Truth is derived out of honesty and integrity. This is the motto which will underline everything you will read here. In the forthcoming posts, I will offer you thought-out sentences on two subjects closest to my heart: Hip-Hop culture and journalism.
As a reporter who has written for a major newspaper, a wire service and most recently, a leading Hip-Hop web site, I believe I can offer a uniquely original perspective on the business side of the burgeoning field that is Hip-Hop journalism, whether in print or online (occasionally, TV and cable, but those are not my areas of expertise).
While I’ve held jobs in the mainstream media, I’m far from a MSM journalist. At my first job out of college, at a business journal, I told my editor and a coworker that I was “firmly entrenched in L.A. underground Hip-Hop.” That was the butt of many jokes to come, but it couldn’t be closer to the truth. I was an aspiring emcee once, but decided to leave that career to pursue journalism, which was a natural thing for me to do since I was an avid reader of books growing up. Naturally, I’m coming back, because that’s what I planned all along.
Practicing real journalism (see the motto above) is a lot like trying to be a conscious emcee in a capitalist society – it’s not done out of profit-chasing and can be a quite lonely and thankless job. Still, someone’s got to do it, and I feel the urge to apply myself and see what happens.
Thanks for being with me if you’ve read this far. As a treat for your patience in reading, I want to actually now delve into two items that will give you an idea of what to expect in future posts.
At ‘The Source’ of it all
Like many of my peers, The Source Magazine was the Hip-Hop publication of record in the 90s. Even as a reporter at a business journal, wire service and two daily newspapers, I’ve always kept up on the magazine: both its content and the hoopla surrounding its business practices. Naturally, I was inclined to one day find myself writing for the magazine, as well as finding out what the hoopla’s all about.
This year, I am proud to say I’m close to achieving both objectives, yet I’ve put myself in a very strange position as both a contributing writer to the magazine and someone trying to critically examine it. Nevertheless, I can handle it by simply sticking to the truth.
In August of this year, after about a year-long chase, I caught up with Ryan Ford, the magazine’s executive editor. From lunch with him in L.A.’s Los Feliz area in August, I emerged with a picture of a seminal publication that is going through an incredibly ugly stage in its almost 20-year history. Between Ryan’s words and the media reports lies a great discrepancy and the fact is the truth is somewhere in the middle. While the media, be it the Washington Post or SOHH, have focused almost exclusively on the drama playing out in the courts, almost no one has checked in with Ryan, CEO/publisher Jeremy Miller and his staff to see how they’re holding the ship together through this storm.
In my opinion, this is unacceptable. Further yet, it serves a good example of the lack of balanced perspectives within Hip-Hop journalism. It’s as if the field has gotten wide, but failed to dig deeper. It’s something we all need to remember as we move forward – just as we should remember we are all members of a culture just as much as we are individuals who contribute their part.
Who is Barack Obama?
I’ve noticed a lot of coverage in the MSM on Barack Obama, the U.S. Senator from Illinois who many in political circles seem to think can win the presidency in ’08 – and the exact opposite in Hip-Hop media. I’m not sure why this is happening, but I think it should change.
Barack manifests Hip-Hop, in my opinion, in the fact that he has the Hip-Hop generation’s interest at heart as evidenced in his two books, Dreams of My Father and the recently released the Audacity of Hope. In indirect ways, I perceive that he is influenced by community leaders in Chicago just as much as he is by the entrepreneurial, self-made and brilliant people in Hip-Hop, from rappers to moguls. Unfortunately, the Hip-Hop journalism community seems to be more focused on competing in its own market and less on chasing really good stories, issues and subjects. Obama is clearly one and all of these.
For a second, take a risk and give your readers more than less. Change the status quo. At the end of the day, there is more to journalism than selling words.
Hip Hop Files is written by Slav Kandyba, a contributing writer for AllHipHop.com, The Source and former staff reporter at the Orange County (Calif.) Register and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.