In the ongoing debate within hip hop journalism about who is well versed enough to write and who demonstrates enough expertise of the culture to actually formulate an opinion on it, Priya Ramanujam stands out.
As Editor-in-Chief of Urbanology Magazine – Canada’s leading urban culture and lifestyle publication- she and her staff of writers and photographers are an example of the gold standard. Committed to bringing you content that is factually correct and very well articulated in it’s delivery, Urbanology is a pillar within Canada’s hip hop community
When I first approached Priya for an interview, her swift responses and meticulous attention to detail – “When will it be published? How should I present myself?” – immediately cued me in as to why Urbanology was flourishing. I met Priya at the SPOT, an Art and Design Centre adjacent to the Malvern Public Library, for which she served on the founding committee. Priya generously gave our readers well thought out responses and sound career advice on how to prosper within Toronto’s hip hop and media industry and beyond.
This interview has not been edited or condensed from it’s original context, so won’t you please join us in the following conversation?
Bad Perm: I’ve noticed in our correspondence that you’re a very organized person. I think with our generation, we have all of these ideas but we don’t have the motivation to put them in action and organize ourselves. What are some of the habits you’ve developed that you would recommend other people to develop in order to get their aspirations off of the ground?
Priya Ramanujam: You’re right. I think I’m pretty organized and everybody always tell me that, and then I’m even more critical of myself. I think that I always have to be more organized. Some of the things that I do…I write everything down, every last thing, as you can see I have my little notepad, my agenda, my paper. Even if it’s a world of digital, where everyone has their phone or their tablet, I still write everything down. I also end my week by projecting my next week, putting out in front of me all the things I have to get done next week -all the things that are my everyday things that I have to get done daily, and then leaving time aside for creative thoughts and ideas so that I can have some cushion time to actually play with my ideas – to think things through, and I put in all my meetings and that type of stuff.
I think you’re right in the sense that a lot of people have really cool ideas and never know how to bring them to life. When I do have a cool idea, I try to divide my paper up in half and think of the idea, but then think of it backwards, from the end result and then I walk myself back to everything that it is going to take to get me there. I write it down right beside it so that it gives me a visual of everything I need to do to get there, and also thinking about how long it will take.
BP: In terms of Urbanology, obviously the magazine has come a long way from its inception. What were some of the key steps that you had to take to in order to bring that into fruition?
PR: I think we had to do what I just said in terms of taking this grand idea and making it into real time. What does that look like in real time? Obviously we had to launch, so how are we going to launch, how are we going to get it printed, how much would it cost, etc. But I also think it had to do with formulating a team. I was just saying to somebody the other day how difficult it is to manage people. It is probably more difficult than anything else. Yes, money and resources have always been an issue. It’s not like we had millions of dollars to start a magazine, and magazines are quite expensive. So great, everybody knows that when starting a business, money is going to be an issue. I don’t think everyone knows how difficult it is to manage people. Getting a team that you could actually rely on, that communicated properly and could get the work done was something that we had to work on at the beginning, and is something that we work on to this day. One of the things that I found over the years and something that we do a lot of now is building the staff morale and help creating that team, building your team up and finding opportunities. Recognizing them when they did a good job goes a long way. I think sometimes the media can be a thankless job. People don’t get that recognition. I think people like the fact that we actually recognize them as part of why Urbanology is what it is.
BP: When I was interviewing Vanessa Satin, the Editor-In-Chief of XXL, she said one thing that really stood out to me and that was “Nobody cares about Vanessa. Nobody cares about the writers. All they care about is XXL and the Freshman Class.” You just touched on building morale. How do you keep egos in check, not only for the artists that work for you, but also for the artists that you interview, feature and work with as well?
PR: Ego is a big thing in this industry. I’m not fond of ego. I actually really love when people are humble. I actually gravitate towards the artists, individuals and staff, anyone in the industry who is able to keep a level head. In terms of keeping the ego in check for the artists, sometimes it’s hard if it’s a really big artist. Sometimes we all give into the ego a little bit in the sense that we realize that if we want the story, if we want the interview, some things you just have to go along with. Within the team of Urbanology, I really continue to emphasize that we can’t. We have to check our egos. Sometimes people think that it’s only the artists that can get an ego. Just like Vanessa said about people not caring about her or the staff, it’s kind of true and you kind of have to remember that you can’t beat the celebrity in the picture. You have to check your ego and I always let my writers and my team know that and constantly kind of remind them that they have to check their ego.
*Interview by Sandra Stanisa; words by Mehek Seyid