BP: There’s an ongoing debate between the older hip hop heads and the younger ones. I like to say that it’s Gen X, Gen Y and Z. The older ones will say that the Golden Age has passed, that there’s no more real hip hop music. The younger generation will say that they think their stuff is dope. Where would you place yourself between that argument? People say that hip hop is in a weird place right now. We’re in a experimental phase where we’re crossing over to electro and different genres. What’s your take on that?
PR: I seem to have this conversation pretty often. I think I was just having it on Friday. Some of the very new, young people are making music and that’s on the underground. They’re just burgeoning. They’re really aspiring and upcoming. I hear people on that level and I’m like, ‘This guy’s really dope or this girl’s really dope,’ you know? Then there’s people who are out there and are more like the new school of hip hop, the mainstream, that I also really respect. I also respect some people who are old school. I also think that some of the people I grew up listening to should stop rapping. There’s a little bit of everything. There’s also a lot of new stuff that I personally don’t listen to. I just listen to it for as much as I have to in regards to work, but would I go out and personally purchase their album and then listen to it everyday on the regular? Probably not, but I know it really resonates with people who are just starting to get into hip hop now, as fans.
I personally see myself as a lover and supporter of both generations. I truly appreciate the new school, more than I see some of the other people who grew up on the 90s era hip-hop do, but I think it’s just truly cause of my love of hip-hop and everything. I think if you were to just take what’s Top 40 hip hop, maybe you would have a skewed perception of the quality of what’s out there. There’s a lot of people that you need to dig for a little bit more and they’re putting out some quality music. If you don’t do that, you probably won’t find that good stuff from this generation.
BP: The ultimate game changer was the Internet. Anybody can consume music. You don’t have to go out and buy the album. You produce a written publication. Do you ever feel like that will eventually become obsolete and everything will move online?
PR: We put out different content on the site and then we’re going to be, this year having a version of our publication available for people to read on tablets and what not, like the digital version of the print publication. But, I still feel like there’s a lot of people, and even a lot of young people, that appreciate the hard copy. They still feel like there’s something about seeing yourself in print that makes people excited or seeing someone that they know or someone that they like in print. I think that there will always be a niche market. I do feel like the way people consume everyday content and everyday news is very much online, but I also feel like with more timeless content, content that lasts for a really long time, people appreciate looking at really great photographs, really great spreads and reading those in-depth pieces – but it’s niche market magazines that will continue. It will be to a specific demographic of people that appreciate it, so you do a lot of very targeted marketing as opposed to something like a Mcleans or something like that where it’s like millions of people, they probably will reduce their readership.
BP: One thing that I’ve noticed that is very unique to Toronto is hip hop being used in community initiatives to promote a better standard of living. I’m talking about things like Manifesto and Unity. Do you feel like hip hop is a great tool, especially to empower the youth and to help them to strive to improve themselves and their quality of life, for themselves and their community?
PR: I think that’s what hip hop initially started out as: an outlet for people who felt voiceless. I think that can continue to be a catalyst for social change and that it always has been. I think that it’s unfortunate that it usually gets a bad rap but people forget when it gets that bad rap of about all the things that it’s used for in positive ways. I think that’s why it is the voice of young people. That’s why it’s a tool to engage them in grassroots-levels and on big stages like Manifesto. On both levels, using hip-hop has been pretty effective from what I can tell from all of my work in the community and with youth and I think it’s because that is truly what it started out as; the voice of the youth, the voice of the people who felt voiceless.
BP: What are some of your vices in music and media or bad habits that you’ve developed?
PR: Right now, one of them is watching Love ‘n’ Hip-Hop. I know it’s pretty ridiculous and probably doesn’t help to contribute any type of necessarily positive image for hip hop, but it’s entertaining sometimes to watch how much drama there can be with their relationships. That’s one thing. Also, similarly, I watch The Young and the Restless very religiously and I know people make fun of me for that. I grew up with my mom watching it. When it comes to music for example I’m a very lyrical-type of person, in the sense that it’s lyrics that grab me. I tend to listen to a lot of music that has intricate lyrical content and gravitate towards that. However, I will always have those very non-lyrical based songs that are just catchy, that I will just bump on the regular and they’re just the “ratchet” songs. I just like them!
BP: Any specific songs?
PR: Rich Homie Quan’s Type of Way… or for example, you remember the song by Cali Swag District?
BP: Teach Me How to Dougie?
PR: Teach Me How to Dougie, something like that, is very ridiculous, but I would just play it over and over again because it’s just fun and I remember reading an interview where someone said how sometimes you need those songs that you would just play at a barbecue. People fill those needs in hip hop and sometimes I just have those vices of songs that I just like to play.
Bad habits that I have are like eating a lot of chocolate. Even though I’m a very busy person, if I get the chance, I would love a sleep day this holiday, if I could just sleep all day long.
BP: What advice would you have for people who are interested in getting into print journalism, specifically within this city where there are not as many outlets when it comes to hip hop content?
PR: There aren’t that many opportunities, but I think just being able to put yourself out there. Something I just told one of our interns was that there’s so few print outlets, even within something like Urbanology, where we publish to print less than we publish online, the online content is more timely and the print is more timeless. I said to him, it’s ideas, really unique ideas and trying to come up with them. Just telling your editor that you want to sit down with an artist and do an interview, there’s a million artists out there, so there’s probably a million opportunities for that editor to take your story and everyone else’s. But if you come with a really unique angle for how we’re going to cover that artist, or what that story’s going to be about, you’ll probably catch your editor’s attention more. That’s not just with hip hop magazines, that could be with any magazine. If you think about it as real estate, the real estate available for print journalism is shrinking a little bit. You need to put forth the ultimate sales pitch to get your real estate and capitalize on that.
BP: Do you think that having an educational background in journalism or in English could help you?
PR: It could. In the case of Urbanology though, we’ve taken a lot of people who do and we’ve had people who don’t necessarily have the journalism background but the experience. Sometimes for us the experience speaks more than the education. I value education and what not, don’t get me wrong, but we have a lot of people on our team that have various levels of education, but I found that no matter where the education lies, what really matters in terms of their performance is their experience and their real life experience. It could definitely help, but getting yourself out there, getting those bylines, having those unique ideas and really being persistent about getting the story, whatever the story is, and getting the interviews, is where you’ll get that editor’s attention.
BP: When it comes to your writers and their varying perspectives, what happens when somebody is about to write a completely scathing review? Do you sort of skew away from that and try to be a little more diplomatic? Or do you encourage that sort of free speech based off of experience?
PR: We kind of encourage the free speech. We’ve had some pretty rough reviews published within Urbanology. Most recently, probably DJ Khaled sticks out. He didn’t get a very good review. In the past, he has gotten good reviews, so it’s totally unbiased. It’s not a hate-out on a particular artist or anything like that. We have some really articulate reviewers. If you’re taking a critical approach, then we want that critique of it. We just encourage you to be as honest as possible.
I always encourage people though to look at it from a journalistic lens. Even if it’s really horrible, was there something that was good that we can mention so that you review seems balanced, at least? I do encourage that, but I don’t encourage you to sugarcoat it or anything like that.
BP: You said that the publication is coming out for tablets. Aside from that, what else can your readership expect from Urbanology in the new year?
PR: We will be releasing on tablets. We will also be relaunching on the website. There will be some new added columns, some new added features, multimedia features that people can look out for on the website. We’re aiming to have at least one signature event. I don’t have too many details about it, but we’re going to aim to have at least one signature event, especially for our print subscribers. People who subscribe in print should really look out for that. And this year leads up to our 10-year anniversary in print, December 5, 2014. So stay on the look out for a special 10-year campaign.
*Interview by Sandra Stanisa; words by Mehek Seyid