Hip-Hop Fridays: Exclusive Q&A With Wendy Day Part 2
This week we run the second part of our exclusive interview with Wendy Day of Rap Coalition. If it wasn't obvious from Part 1, this fascinating second portion of our interview should make clear why we can't think of anyone who has a better understanding of the intersection of culture and business in Hip Hop as well as a comprehensive grasp of the confluence of forces that impact the Hip-Hop community -internally as well as externally.
Here is Part 2:
Cedric Muhammad: What is your take on MTV and BET? Do you think that either network presents programs that respect Hip-Hop?
Wendy Day: I think both channels (owned, by the way, by the same white-owned and run corporation) respect money. Both are in place to make as much money as possible, not to nurture or help enhance any culture.
Cedric Muhammad: How much influence do Hip-Hop magazines like the Source have over Hip-Hop culture as well as the industry?
Wendy Day: Not as much influence as I imagine they'd like to have. I know that artists get really tense over things like reviews and ratings (ie - receiving 3 mics in the Source instead of 5 mics), and I know labels complain the ratings are political and can be altered based on ad budgets, but I just don't buy into that crap. My only problem with the publications is that we have no journalism in hip hop. When a label advertises heavily in a magazine, doesn't pay any of the artists on its roster, is then sued by most of those artists, but this doesn't even get a mention in the magazine, that shows me the value placed on "reporting" in the hip hop nation.
In the 15 years I've been reading rap magazines, I can only recall one time, out of all the magazines, where a story contained any inflammatory truth (it was an article by Allen Gordon, the then-editor of Rap Pages, talking about how Hammer was fleeced out of money and was concerned because Craig Mack was naively working with the same "thieves") that we all knew about in the industry, but for some reason kept it silent.
When Biggie and 2Pac were assassinated, our publications didn't stay on top of the investigation to enforce that things were handled properly, investigated thoroughly, or that information was disseminated to those who care most. If we inside this community don't give a fuck, how can we expect those outside the community to care? A few short days after the Versace murder hundreds of FBI agents swarmed into Miami Beach and the case was solved. We still don't know who killed 2Pac and Biggie years after their unconnected deaths. Pac was my friend; I want to know. The rules that apply to the rest of the world in journalism don't apply in our world. Many of the writers, in all fairness, are not journalists but young people with no training and minimal education covering topics because they are fans of the music and the culture (which also makes them biased). They really just want to be down in a genre they can relate to.
I can count on one hand (maybe two) the number of writers the hip hop publications and web sites that could actually hold down a job at a major newspaper or publication longer than a week. The influence the hip hop publications do posess revolves around artist information. The magazines are for fans who want to learn more about their favorite artists, with almost all interviews based around the release of an album. Other than Murder Dog (which I used to dislike because of the lifestyle content, but I love them now because of their coverage and unbiased attitude), there aren't really any magazines that cater to the independents and regional artists. Most of the magazines cater to the national recording artists to bring in those big ad dollars from the majors. It's hard to be unbiased when the magazine's entire financial solvency depends almost solely on the record labels' budgets of the artists written about. Unfortunately, when fans read these publications they begin to question the authority and the "realness" of the editorial content. Fans also look at the outside projects some publications have (TV shows, alliances, events, radio shows, etc) and the success or failure of these also affects the brand.
For example, the Blaze battles had a TERRIBLE reputation amongst the industry, artists, and fans which added quickly to the demise of the Blaze brand and Blaze magazine itself. Very sad because the staff and editor were exceptionally well intentioned.
Cedric Muhammad: For a unique period of time you were very close to Tupac Shakur. What impressed you the most about him?
Wendy Day: Damn I miss him. The thing that impressed me most was how different he was from the media portrayal of him. And I originally bought into that whole false image, I'm embarrassed to admit. I found him witty, charming, intelligent, thoughtful, business-minded, the ultimate strategist, funny as hell... in fact, the best anecdote I have to share is when I was visiting him in Clinton (the prison where he was for 8 months up near the Canadian border, 45 minutes from Montreal). He had just hired a new lawyer who taught at Harvard and Pac was up for appeal which most likely would spring him (and eventually did). But at this time I asked him, "so what happens with the 8 months you were locked down if the verdict is overturned? Do you get reimbursed for what you've missed?" And he said, "Hell no, but I'm gonna ask the judge for a credit towards the next time."
Cedric Muhammad: If any, what special challenges face women who make a career in the Hip-Hop industry? Do you think that Hip-Hop artists have a special problem when it comes to disrespecting women?
Wendy Day: I know that women aren't taken very seriously in urban music. It's a bit more difficult being female, I guess, but I'm not at all in tune with that kind of stuff (meaning obstacles), so I can't really say it has affected me. I figure out what needs to be done and do it. If there are outside forces trying to slow me down I'm not really aware of it. If it was harder along the way, I didn't notice. My focus is always accomplishing what needs to be done. As someone who spends the bulk of her time around rappers, I must say the way some women play themselves to catch some residual fame or money is pathetic. I have seen ugly stuff happen on both sides of the equation: men treating women badly and women treating men badly. It makes me VERY sad. I don't think rap artists specifically have gender issues, I think people as a whole do.
Cedric Muhammad: Who, in your opinion are Hip-Hop's 5 greatest MC's?
Wendy Day: In no way am I an authority of who the "greatest" are, but I can tell you who my favorites are: hands down #1 is Ras Kass ("Nature Of The Threat" was a four minute song outlining what two years in a Masters program of African-American studies taught me), Rakim (obvious choice), Biggie (and sadly I did not realize his greatness until after his death, as I was Tupac's friend), Pharoah Monch (he says shit that makes the hair on my neck stand up), and Kwest Tha Mad Ladd (all I can say is DAAAAAMMMNN!!!).
Cedric Muhammad: Who are Hip-Hop's 5 greatest producers?
Wendy Day: Premier, Pimp C from UGK, RZA, David Banner (just DAAAAMMMNN!), and Cold 187 from Above Tha Law. Oh wait...can I have one more? Please? I have to have one more: the team who did the production on the original Mo Thugs Family Scriptures album. I think their names are Bobby Jones, Tony Henderson, and Archie Blaine.
Cedric Muhammad: What are some of the biggest changes that you see coming to Hip-Hop in the next 5 years, creatively and business-wise?
Wendy Day: Creatively: Artists will have more respect and a better sense of responsibility for what they are saying lyrically. Business: Artists will become the masters of their own destiny by owning their own companies and having more control and ownership of their music and masters. They will also learn to work together better, sharing information and business secrets. The unity has already started....
Cedric Muhammad: What has proved to be the most difficult project that you have worked on?
Wendy Day: Twista. He was originally signed to a person I considered one of my closest friends and he completely dropped the ball on Twista, his project, and the company my friend built with 2 other guys. Twista ended up not receiving royalties or fair payment for the work he did for that company. It killed me to watch a company I helped build for free, jerk all their employees and artists while they bought phat houses, new cars, trinkets, studio equipment, trick off loot on countless hookers, etc. I'll NEVER forgive them for what they did. I now manage Twista because I feel so badly about how shit went down with his career with my friend. Thank God Twista is incredibly talented....
Cedric Muhammad: Over the last decade, what evolution, if any, have you witnessed in terms of drug use in the Hip-Hop industry? How deep has the use of ecstasy penetrated the industry?
Wendy Day: I know it exists but I am unqualified to speak on this topic as I have yet to see it firsthand. The artists I work with directly have too much respect for me to even smoke in front of me...
Cedric Muhammad: What has the impact of the Zulu Nation and the Nation Of Islam been on Hip-Hop?
Wendy Day: Sadly, the effect is a tiny, tiny fraction of what it could be. With the hip hop nation, you have to actually give something back, not just take from it, to build trust. Most organizations straight rape the nation for what they can get. This renders these organizations ineffective, and is what caused me to build Rap Coalition to the power level it is today. People's intentions, whether altruistic or self-serving, appear VERY quickly. Those who have agendas to help are still in existence within the Hip Hop Nation. Those who had their own agenda to fulfill are no longer visible within the Hip Hop Nation and get ZERO love or support. I respect the Nation Of Islam, but have nothing to say about the Zulu Nation other than I'm disappointed they did not fulfill their destiny due to the shady actions of a few.
End of Part 2
For All Of Wendy Day's written articles visit her slavesnomore website
For artists seeking to learn how to put out their record label visit Wendy's Rapcointelpro website
For a report card on record labels in Hip-Hop visit Wendy's Industryreport website
Friday, December 22, 2000