With over 3,500 articles under his belt for publications including (but not limited to) The New York TImes, XXL, and The Source, Soren Baker's discussion at the 2018 Tucson Hip Hop Festival will not be one to miss as he shares his experience as a white journalist in the Hip Hop Industry. Here are eight q's with Soren Baker.Read More
It's one thing to create a brand that embodies a shift in various threads of industrial cloths. It's another, to actually incorporate this embodiment into a whole lifestyle.
Well, meet Alok Appadurai.
Co-founder of Tucson, AZ clothing boutique, Fed By Threads, Alok takes living organically, efficiently, and kindly as far as his lifestyle can breach.
He is an entrepreneur, father, author, poet, environmentalist, shop-owner, artist, and earthling (he described with pride).
Fed By Threads offers sweatshop-free, American-made, organic apparel. But amongst battling and going against the currents of the typical "profit-at-all-costs" clothing brands, they also conquer hunger.
Every purchase made at Fed By Threads helps feed some of the 46 million Americans facing food insecurity. To this day, the boutique has contributed to over 470,000 meals fed.
What inspired this? In short, Alok has been an activist long before the brand was created and has always aimed at making a difference in the world. But in November of 2011, a letter he received in the mail from the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona struck him.
At the time, Alok and Jade Beall (founders of Fed By Threads) rented a dance studio and began to curate ideas as to how they can get involved in helping towards this crisis. Community members suggested creating t-shirts for the dance studio. So that is what they did.
A month into the project, friends began to inquire about the shirts and where they were being made. Uncomfortable truths about cheap clothing began to arise and the unsettling discoveries caused second thoughts towards this mission to profit towards this hunger epidemic.
This was the start of everything that Fed By Threads embodies today.
Alok and Jade had to change themselves before they changed the world. They felt as if they only had two options: start over or end the project completely (and obviously they didn't want to give up on their vision to make a difference). The simplest solution they felt they had to avoid unfair labor practices was to switch to all American-made apparel.
"Your desires overshadow truths until you can no longer live that way," said Alok, "What I realized in something as simple as a t-shirt is that it touches the whole globe."
He described the process of making a simple t-shirt as being a story about the world and our place in the world.
"Your fiber is grown here (under who knows what conditions), the cotton has 25% of global pesticide uses to grow pesticide-based cottons... if you start looking into worker health who are involved in spraying, they just walk around and at every stage I'm just like 'oh!'
Then you look at the heavy metal dyes that are then just dumped into rivers and water waves. So you're polluting the air, you're polluting the soil quality, you're destroying worker health and you're polluting the water," explained Alok.
Gaining this knowledge was like an awakening. If they hadn't changed the origin of their apparel, they'd felt like the mission to help others was a failure.
"A lot of what happens [at Fed By Threads] is a dialogue about what people value and what they want to communicate out into the world about his or herself," commented Alok.
He doesn't fail to mention that he nor the company is perfect but that they're willing to have a conversation, an open dialogue about the good, the bad and the ugly in regards to the clothing industry and all else.
In all, Fed By Threads looks at life from the broader perspective. The founders thrive on making the world a better place through their apparel and creating a community of like-minded people.
But it doesn't stop in there. The founders take their brand as a lifestyle, a way of living.
So how does the Fed By Threads mission go beyond the boutique walls?
Right now, Alok is in the midst of releasing his own book titled "Good Elephant" (slated to release in July) and it revolves around his mission to change the world for his son.
About ten years ago he began to transform his life, starting with vegetarianism. That inspired him to weigh in on many other aspects of his life and reflect on what are the necessities rather than the desires.
He gained knowledge about various industries (food, clothing, etc.) and started seeing how everything comes full circle.
"How we think about fashion has to be how we think about food. They're connected choices. Likewise, housing. I've been downsizing the size of my house. I live in a very small home but I love it. It meets my needs.
"You live simply, you get rid of a lot of stuff and I started seeing how all these are connected," said Alok.
At this point, he is leading by example. He simplified his lifestyle and couldn't be more satisfied.
Eventually, the goal is to open more Fed By Threads boutiques in other major cities across the nation and expand the custom printing business as well. To ultimately end the sweat-shop shirt.
"I'm looking at it from the bottom up. I believe if I change consumers on mass, it's an unstoppable force. It won't matter what governments and other organizations do (I mean to some degree)," said Alok, "These things occur often because of consumer behavior."
So what advice would he give to someone who's trying to make a significant change?
"The first thing that I think is so important is to shift the mentality from thinking about it as giving up things. It's always this conversation about deficit and what I've lost. Just begin and then surround yourself with other people who think this way because you're actually gaining," explained Alok, "I'll speak for myself, I've gained so much. It starts becoming a whole exciting way of life.
"I think many people float through life not knowing what a satisfied life looks like. So another thing would be to begin defining what a satisfied life looks like."
His biggest accomplishment is being a father. He also shared his pride in cultivating the lifestyle he has now.
Alok said, "I didn't realize that clothing would be my way of helping a main street of a major city come back to life, reducing our carbon footprint, taking care of people and bringing manufacturing jobs back to life in this country.
"I don't have an issue with overseas production but there are people here that want to work. So many people want to donate to charities and all these organizations that do all these things in other countries when we have people that are struggling here. Take care of your own backyard!"
Providence, Rhode Island hip hop trio, Code Green, has been putting in work as a collective since 2009 and now, with their recently dropped visual for their catchy single "Too Silly," fans and new listeners catch onto the CG wave.
Their vibrant, colorful and scenic music video premiered on AshleyOutrageous.com February 2, 2015.
As a fan of Code Green myself, JRecognize linked up with ER, Evo and Nesi (the CG trio) for a short yet informative interview that took place on The Gold Factory radio show regarding "Too Silly" and what fans should be on the look out for, among other things.
Musical chemistry for the trio was found back in their high school days and as they continued to have fun with their style, Code Green has had the diligence to develop their sound before releasing any material to the public. "We've been working underground for a while now just trying to get our shit right. Just so it's like... once we come, we come hard," said Code Green.
Influences for the trio come from an array of different genres and musical styles. From alternative to R&B and Michael Jackson to Max B, Code Green appreciates good music with a fresh sound. "Just crazy sounding shit that can just open up my mind to new things," as they described it.
They don't label or perceive themselves as strictly East Coast artists, as they believe that the East Coast versus West Coast Hip Hop history is a thing of the past. Avoiding the regional barriers, Code Green's sound goes beyond the Providence and is relatable to Hip Hop listeners who have an ear for various Hip Hop styles. "We just make songs that we would like to listen to," they said, adding that they do have down south bounce that rides, storytelling and palm tree vibes.
Young Thug's flow is currently a heavy influence, alongside Future. Thugger is an artist they're eager to collaborate with.
The hip hop scene in Rhode Island is very much present and with Boston emerging not too far away, Code Green said that they've been grinding hand in hand. "It's all love between us. We all know where everybody stands and we all know each other," said Code Green.
"At the end of the day, what's competition," they said, "Obviously, we're all competing in this field but it's like everybody got their own lane and there's enough room for everybody to do their own thing."
Unexpectedly, "Too Silly" acclaimed house party playlist fame so the trio decided it was time to not only give it a visual but create their first music video, which was directed by John Greene. "If you think about it, a lot of things can be too silly," they said, "Your outlook on certain things or your opinion on something."
Within the next month, Code Green is set out to provide the listeners with more than just "Too Silly." Having revisited a current project multiple times that has been in the works, they are focused on making it fresh and adding new things before they make any official announcements. "There's a lot of different flavors," they described, "It's like a color wheel. All these different colors. All these different types of vibes that you can catch but it works cohesively."
Make sure you stay on the look out for Code Green's upcoming project release and if you want to stay posted on all things Code Green, click on one of the buttons below.
You may know him as Jazz from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. You may know him from your old school favorite "Summertime" with his partner Will Smith (the Fresh Prince). You may know him through some of your favorite R&B artists like Musiq Soulchild, Jill Scott or The Roots. Maybe you even know him from his episode series Vinyl Destination.
Wherever you may know him from, it is known that DJ Jazzy Jeff is a legend behind the turntables. Since the young age of ten, Townes had a passion and love for music that came into fruition while spinning records at parties.
Since the '80s, DJ Jazzy Jeff has had and continues to have great success; even as the music industry evolves through the ages.
Having gained popularity overseas and a fan base in and out of the Hip Hop community, he continues to tour the globe and spin a dope mashup of your favorite records.
On November 13, 2014, DJ Jazzy Jeff rolled through the small (but vibin') city of Tucson, AZ.
A little less than an hour before his set, fans spotted him sitting in a a black leather booth with the rest of his crew, unhesitatingly shaking hands with those who approached him.
He is as cool and collected as you picture him being.
After his set, I await to interview him outside in the the patio with much explaining on my end to the venue security and management (because by this time the club had been cleared out and it was no longer "legal" to have me there).
[Journalist tip: contact the venue staff and management prior to the event, as well as the interviewee.]
Townes comes out and takes a seat in front of my good friend, Kiara, and I like he was meeting up with two friends who were waiting for him at the end of the night.
Here's the short but sweet interview with DJ Jazzy Jeff:
J: You’ve been spinning records since you were ten years old, what’s been your drive?
DJ: Love of music. Simple and plain. Love of music over everything. Over business, over everything. You always come back to music.
J: In honor of it having been throwback Thursday, what is your favorite throwback of you and Fresh Prince?
DJ: Can’t name it. Can’t name that. I can’t solo any of ‘em out. All of them are equally important.
J: Okay, a random throwback.
DJ: I can’t, can’t.
(he smiles and nods)
J: Too good?
K: How do you stay so passionate throughout all of your work? You’ve been in the game for a minute and you are so passionate, just like your face, focused.
DJ: Like I said, it’s the love of music. You know, trust me, it drives me crazy. It wakes you up in the middle of the night and makes you zone out. People don’t understand that you’re thinking of stuff but it’s just a love. What other thing can you put on and change somebody's emotion, instantly?
J, K: Music.
(we all agree)
J: What advice would you give to aspiring DJ’s?
DJ: Ooo, that’s a tough one. I would want to tell them to find what your niche is. If there’s a hundred deejays, why would someone pick you? You gotta figure out what that thing is and drive with it. Deejays used to have a lot of personality and it got to a point that you could replace the deejay with any other deejay because everybody kind of plays the same. And granted, you have to play some of the same songs but I think that you have to show some kind of an identity that can separate you from everybody else. I’ve always said that at the end of the night when people walk out, they don’t ever walk out talking about the Drake song that you played. They talk about that song that they didn’t expect you to play and didn’t expect you to play it when you played it. So you always have to add those signature things in and kind of separate yourself from everybody.
J: So what do you believe your thing is?
DJ: I don’t know if it’s necessarily a thing. Sometimes it’s certain records just… you know, I play everything. I came up when it wasn’t a Hip Hop deejay or EDM deejay, it was just a deejay. You had all kinds of music and you played all kinds of music and as it kind of went on, everybody kind of got separated and started calling themselves specific deejay’s but name me one person that you know that likes one type of music.
J: Well I don’t. I like all kinds of music. So from the 80s to now, what’s the biggest notable change you’ve seen in the industry?
DJ: That this is the biggest that deejaying has ever been and I never expected that. You know, you always knew that deejays were always going to be around but the explosion in the 2000s of the deejay is just… you know, I probably work more now than I’ve ever worked in my life and I’ve always consistently worked. And everybody wants to be a deejay now. I think with that notoriety, it’s a gift and a curse. With the notoriety, again, everybody wants to be a deejay. Some people who don’t need to be a deejay want to be a deejay. But it also brings and sheds light on to something that, you know… I know a lot of deejays that used to deejay that used to say that the rappers used to push them on the back burners and now that rappers are asking [the deejay], ‘What are you doin’ this weekend.’ So you see a whole paradigm shift.
J: I’m wondering if 2014 was everything you expected it to be because I saw one of your episodes on Vinyl Destination where you were like, ‘I wonder what 2014 is going to bring.’
DJ: It’s been great. It’s been great. We probably did close to 130 dates. We just came back from a month long European tour. I have two more dates and then I’m home for two weeks before we go to Asia and Australia for a month. So it’s working. I think everytime we play, we play for someone to ask you to come back. When you can look on your calendar six months in advance and know where you’re going to be, it’s definitely a blessing.
J: What is 2015 going to bring?
DJ: Oh God. I’m taking office for September 2015.
(we laugh and the PR gives me the 'wrap it up' signal)
J: Could we possibly see you and Fresh Prince reunite one day?
DJ: We’ve been talking about it. Like you know, the desire. Its just, he’s probably the biggest movie star on the planet and the movie people don’t like me too much because I want to pull him in the studio but, I mean, we talked about it. We talked about setting aside some time in the New Year and just going somewhere for a month and just knocking the door. Yeah I’m keeping my fingers crossed. He’s actually came out to a couple of the shows. I was in Dubai for New Years and he called me two days before and asked me what I was doing ‘cause I didn’t think he was gonna show up.
J: This past New Years?
DJ: Yeah. And he showed up and he was blown away. So anytime he sees stuff like that he gets the juices flowin’. Like, ‘yo man we should, we should.’ So let’s see.
Thank you Hi Fi Kitchen and Cocktails for letting me interview the legend after hours. Thank you Vinyl Destination crew for being patient. Thank you Kiara for being my lovely partner for the night. And thank you DJ Jazzy Jeff for being extremely genuine and I look forward to the next time I get to see you!
Justin "The Company Man" Hunte is a true Hip Hop head. His passion for culture, music and writing inks into all that he does.
After working under him I realized that it's one thing to know who the Editor-in-Chief (EiC) of your favorite Hip Hop site is and another to actually meet him (or her). I mean, you always imagine them being really dope (and they are).
From being an employee for Banc of America Securities Financial Institutions Group in New York to becoming the EiC of HipHopDX in Hollywood, a dream come true, Justin's hustle goes unmatched. Banker to Hip Hop editing gangster, he has gained a substantial amount of understanding of all that comes with being involved in the entertainment industry.
Having no idea that he would become a journalist, it all started with his appreciation of Lupe Fiasco's word play and artistry that eventually became an e-mail thread. Consistent Hip Hop conversations soon became an addiction for Justin and eventually led him to create a blog titled "The-Quotable."
Justin then took the leap of quitting his job at the bank to pursue his blossoming passion of being a Hip Hop journalist and going full throttle.
Trials and tribulations, snowstorms and plane rides later, he finds himself living the dream as the EiC of his longtime favorite Hip Hop media outlet, HipHopDX.
Although, having to move to Hollywood from Brooklyn was not the easiest transition. As a writer habituated to his own space and ways in his customized apartment office to the modern desk of HipHopDX, changes had to be made.
My interview with Justin originally was of which I was the interviewee but being that Justin is so informative, a few questions from my end gave me enough to not only recognize him on my site and do a write-up but, also, taught me a handful.
As I walk through the interview and add my own side of the conversation, I hope you recognize Justin Hunte as an inspiration as much as I do (and not just as an aspiring journalist myself but, also, as a dream chaser).
The DX Layout
I had to mention to Justin the layout I noticed while being in the DX office. As an intern, I worked with each of the sections behind the site so I got a good taste of the functions for each section and the knowledge of the journalists behind them.
It was laid out in such a way that each section was made up of two uniquely different, extremely talented individuals. The partners balanced each other out while, also, challenging each other in such a way that everyday at the office is a learning experience.
Being the EiC, Justin has purpose behind why it is set up this way. It is an approach that he has seen in other organizations he has worked with in the past and highly favors. He believes that people can benefit from working with others that have opposite perspectives and provides an opportunity to learn.
JH: Group thinking can be a problem and we need to challenge each other all the time, even when it comes to the way we think about stuff. What are the right answers all the time? We don’t know. We’re creating art everyday. Everything we do is art, so we could do whatever. We need to know everything we can, as much as possible, about our audience and the people who really fuck with us.
Aside from the functions within the DX team, Justin also has his eyes on the outside of the office: the readers.
This is something I really enjoyed when I was interning at the office: getting to know the readers and talking to them. It was encouraged to reply to the readers whenever they commented on an article we wrote. Of course, not all comments were positive but that is something every artist has to get comfortable with.
Responding to the readers genuinely, intelligently, and professionally was fun for me because it allows the writer to build a relationship with his or her readers. It also makes the reader feel heard and recognized.
JH: Everybody just wants someone to listen to them and most people would rather talk more than they want to listen. So when they do run into someone who actually listens and gives a thoughtful response, then they’re much more open and honest and vulnerable because it’s a rarity.
Transitioning from busy New York to chill Los Angeles
Last year was a big adjustment for Justin, explaining that New York and Los Angeles are extremely similar and extremely different from one another.
JH: The access is incredible. If there’s something dope happening on the planet it’s gonna go to New York or it’s gonna go to LA. It can be Lebron James, it can be the Mona Lisa - it’s going to come to one of those places.
Being that access is great, living in each of these cities allows you to touch base on the most important things that, in this case, the music industry has to offer.
Although, the cultures are the exact opposite.
Even with the same convenient and beneficial access available in both cities, everyone and everything in New York runs with urgency.
JH: So everyone in New York is (snaps fingers), ‘cause New York is the headquarters for everything. It’s the media headquarters, it’s the banking headquarters, it’s the insurance headquarters, it’s the shipping headquarters, it’s just number one in everything. Where LA is number one in movies and television and they’re making a real run on music. Outside of that, it’s number two or number three in everything.
With this cultural difference, the first four months in Los Angeles were the toughest for Justin.
One thing that he pointed out, was, well... trust issues. No, we're not talking about the Drake song but rather, the fact that people in LA are very different from those in New York.
JH: ...I couldn’t tell who was lying to me in LA. Because everyone, also, with that urgency comes a real directness because no one has time to waste in New York. In LA it’s a different population. One, I think, part of it is just because the most common title you see on top of a resume is actor. People literally come here, run here to be somebody else, anybody else - literally.
The sudden, cold turkey transition was not a comfortable one but Justin soon realized that a situation is what you make of it and what perspective you choose to see things in. Upon realizing that, he saw the importance of changing his mindset.
JH: I can't throw my judgements on my environment, I can only adapt to it. Otherwise, I’m either gonna be frustrated, become unhappy and leave, or I’m just gonna fail. So for me personally it was important to just change my entire mindset.
Justin emphasized the fact that Los Angeles is home to many, many actors; more than anywhere else in the country.
JH: ...If I came here to be an actor, I’d be acting all the time. I’d be acting at the gym, I’d be acting at the grocery store ‘cause I need to practice. I need to make sure I can get into whatever character. So I just be actin’ like people that’s on the subway.
This was Justin's turning point. After this "epiphany," so you could say, he went with the common saying that you should be completely honest, vulnerable, and open to people until they do you wrong or as Justin said, "give equal opportunity to let people shit on you once," (and that's if they do).
JH: Here, it presents itself a little differently. If you make yourself more available to let people shit on you, you learn faster who not to trust and it’s easier to navigate because you can’t be distracted by that stuff ‘cause you got a goal. You know where you’re gonna go anyway. You know exactly what it looks like, you know exactly what your work is on. I can tell you exactly, like to the fuckin’ tightened cell phone case, what my goals are. So anything outside of that or pulls away from that or distracts you, thats gotta go away either way. Once I learned that, I stopped thinking about how I couldn't tell who was lying to me. Now it's just like 'oh this persons never done anything wrong to me so I have no reason to treat them any differently or to ignore them.' That was the fundamental difference between New York and LA. Understanding that made everything much more relaxing. My hairline stopped receding, you know (he laughs).
Another big challenge that Justin encountered in this transition was writing.
Writers can be sensitive to their surroundings when they write. For me, I write much better when I'm near windows. I like the outside, the breeze and being around people (most of the time). I prefer it not to be completely quiet, nor too loud. Writers have it down to a science!
JH: My entire career was spent writing in my at-home office, "The Company Man" cave. And I wasn’t a coffee shop writer. I didn’t write at other events, I just would go out take notes, come home and I’d write for like seven years.
JH: Moving here was like... I couldn’t write in here. In the office it's weird to write. Still weird for me to write ‘cause theres so much other stuff. I didn’t have my desk where I was, everything wasn’t arm-reach away anymore. At my apartment the way it was set up strategically for seven years practice.
JH: The environment felt different, the energy was different. I didn’t understand the city, the pace, the people, the events, the performances, the venues. I didn't know where to go to find a rapper. In New York you could throw a rock and hit a rapper. That aspect of it was just so far away from... all those things were so ingrained in my every aspect of my approach to write. I write based off of my experiences and what they sound like and the way people talk about things and that lets me know everything I need to know about whatever it is.
It took Justin about ten months to be able to feel comfortable to be able to draw these kind of conclusions and write the way he would write in New York.
On the other hand, Los Angeles is much cheaper than the big apple (always a plus). In New York, though, walking to work, home, every where is the thing to do. Justin maintains this New York lifestyle in LA, this urgency, and applies it to the site too.
JH: New York is expensive. I could walk to work you know. I don't have a car. I take the subway downtown. I still have kind of a Brooklyn lifestyle. I haven’t left that. I set up my own existence here with a plan to not need a car, strategically. I needed to feel that urgency. That cannot go away for me. We put out, what? Thirty stories a day. We have the largest news section there is. We’re increasing the volume in features and adding on additional content opportunities in media. We do not have time to not have urgency (he snaps his fingers). Shit gotta be pumpin' because everybody that’s in our space, that we’re competing with, is in New York.
The advantage that Los Angeles has over New York is that a lot of artists in the industry live in LA, giving them the ability to slow down (just a little bit). They can map it all out - the set up, the interview, the time, and bring artists into the DX office.
The disadvantage would be: lack of urgency.
JH: The numbers tell us everything, the comments section tells us everything, our audience tells us everything. It’s easy. It makes it easier to not overthink. So as long as we continue growing, progressing, getting tighter in our storytelling as writers and our ability to tell the forest from the trees and walk between the raindrops, we’ll never lose. It’s going to be awesome (he smiles).
Being a journalist in New York Vs. Being a journalist in Los Angeles
JH: Honestly, LA, there is a lot fewer really talented writers than in New York. For two reasons. One: there are more people in New York. New York is two, three times the size of LA anyways so there’s more people. Two: there are more cities closer to New York. So DC, Philly, Boston, New Haven, all those places are at most four hours away from New York. So people go into New York and come out on the same day a lot.
Because of this, there is a lot of competition in the journalism industry. When pertaining to the Hip Hop industry, there is a lot of diversity there. May it be the type of Hip Hop or the amount of Hip Hop events, New York is the place to be for a Hip Hop journalist.
JH: There are seventeen, eighteen different rap scenes in New York - scenes (he emphasizes)! There can be five, six, seven different shows going on in New York. All underground.
JH: So there’s never a shortage of opportunity to get better at writing about rap. It’s just always there, all the time. Writing here is more difficult to get better because you don’t get the competition but you have the advantage, again, of more quality time. The writing population out here, the ones that are really, really talented, are also really tied to the publications and there’s not that many.
Justin advises young writers, if possible, to pursue journalism in New York first. Although, he wonders if he would have the same mentality had things been the other way around.
JH: Had I spent the first ten years of my career in LA and now gone to New York and had to adjust to the cost of living, pace of living, weather and winter, polar vortex’s and stop and frisk, I can't get my weed from the store no more - I don’t know how well I would’ve adjusted because, again, I am from South Carolina, North Carolina.
JH: I’m not from here so you know in New York that you have to run. You know in New York that by the end of the day you might have lost it all just because of an inability to keep up with the pace and the urgency around you. But if you can get through that, if you can learn from that and survive and thrive within that and through that, LA is a breeze as long as you don’t get upset at the fact that you can’t tell who is lying to you.
"The Company Man" Hustle
Justin is, surprisingly, not a trained journalist. Justin originally went to school for finance (which explains his job at Investment Banking of six years).
He came up with the by-line "The Company Man" for a few reasons. Part of it was because was frightened about this new chapter in his life that he was creating. He wasn't sure if he was a good writer, he just knew that he loved doing it and he was passionate about it.
JH: I needed a by-line and I created "The Company Man" because I fuckin’ worked for a multinational company slaving away for somebody else’s tax-break and as that scene in "Next Friday" where Craig and Day-Day are smokin' in Pinky’s and Day-Day’s like, ‘yo man we gotta clean all this up. Pinky’s comin’.' And he’s like, ‘company man, company man.’ That’s how I felt.
Justin quit his job at the bank in New York in June of 2009. He spent that whole summer hustling on his own by attending shows (and paying for them), taking his audio recorder everywhere he went, and waiting for rappers to come out behind the venue.
JH: A company called Brooklyn Bodega, they put out the Brooklyn Hip Hop festival. They had a bunch of showcases and I had to cover those. One I went to, I said, 'fuck it, I'm just going to cover my own artists.'
Six months after quitting his job, Justin interviewed the man who ran Brooklyn Bodega and got offered to write for them the next day.
JH: So I got my first writing gig. It was not paid but it was a bigger profile. I was like, 'fuck yea man. Okay progress, six months in already.' Then that weekend, on Saturday, the day I got the offer, I saw a story on DX that the Editor-in-Chief of HipHopDX, Jake Paine, was going to be on a panel put on by this label called "Vegas Records" in Newark, New Jersey, which was holding an open casting call across the country for artists who wanted to get signed.
That Saturday morning, he woke up to a blizzard. A Brooklyn blizzard of about twelve, thirteen inches of snow. Again, Newark, NJ is two rivers away. Justin put all this into consideration and decided to call the venue to see if the event was cancelled.
JH: I'm already having a great week. I just got a gig. I was just going to chill. There was no part of me that wanted to get up and do that shit. I call over there, I was like, 'hey I noticed there's a blizzard outside, are you guys still holding this event today?' and they're like, 'yea we're going to do it. The show starts a little bit later, you know, give everybody a chance to get in. We'll start two hours later, we're still going to do it.'
JH: I was like, 'okay cool... fuck.' I was like, 'damn, man. Fuck it, just get out of bed and go see what's up.' Got out of the bed, trekked through a blizzard across two rivers, four trains to get to Newark, New Jersey. [There] were no cabs when I got off the station, walked eight blocks through a blizzard, twelve inches of snow to this hotel where this thing is, paid fifty dollars to get in (because I was just covering and everyone else had to pay $150), paid fifty dollars to get in to cover, sat through thirteen hours of the most mediocre talent American Hip Hop has to offer, just for the chance to ask the Editor-in-Chief of HHDX eight questions.
JH: The plan was to impress him so much with my knowledge of the site, its history, that he's enamored with my interview skills and offers me the opportunity to freelance for the site and it worked. That was it. That one thing. I don't get out of bed that day, we’re not talking right now. That was it, just had to go the extra mile. And it's even tougher when you have nature against you too.
HipHopDX has been Justin's favorite site since 2004. He always wanted to write for them but he never had a direct contact. He made it happen.
His first story went on the site on January of 2010 and it was called "Fiddy More Like Diddy." It was about how 50 Cent's career was going to end up more like Diddy's rather than Jay-Z's because he wasn't caring much for rap at the time.
That piece was well received on the site and did very well. He, also, pitched another story regarding how if skill sold, J Cole's career would have been Drake's at that point in time. That pitch was turned down.
JH: So after that I pitched... I know Homeboy Sandman, who I met a couple years earlier just running around in New York and Homeboy Sandman, because I was just on the ground after my first story went up on DX, he was like, 'yo man you think you can get DX to review my new album that's coming out?' and I was like, 'yeah I cant pitch it to them.' He was like, 'cool, I want you to write it.'
This was the first time Justin was ever handed an album by an artist. He was given this album four months before it officially came out.
JH: I felt so proud. I didn't tell nobody the project. There's no way it's leaking on me and I wrote this. I pitched it to DX and they were like, 'yo we like Sandman,' and I was like, 'I got it.' They were like, 'you want to take a shot at the review?' and I was like, 'cool.' I had this way that I was writing reviews. At that point, I had ten or twelve different ways to write an album review because when I started I just wanted to write the greatest album review of all time.
Justin had never seen any of the ways he would write these album reviews on DX but he gave it a shot anyways. It ended up needing to be toned down a bit and after that Justin had his first album review up on the site. After that, he kept receiving opportunities.
For two and a half years, he didn't reject a single pitch. Didn't matter what it was because Justin needed it, he desired to become a better writer. He ended up freelancing for DX for three whole years and meanwhile, he hosted multiple radio shows in New York and hosted and produced events across the country.
One day, Jake said he was quitting DX. At that time, Cheri Media (the company that runs DX) was having a camp in New York called "CheriCamp."
JH: I had to be there dumb early in the morning. I got there early 'cause I couldn't be late. Then after that sat through the whole day, asked a shit ton of questions, ‘cause I'm looking at backend number on DX. I'm like, 'yo, wait a minute what'd you say? What happened in two thousand… that's when the site changed, okay got it.' Write it down. Writing notes and shit.
He then went to dinner with Michael, Tommy, and Jake and they asked him some questions about his whereabouts. At this time, AllHipHop was looking to hire Justin... and so was DX. They told Justin that they wanted him to be the EiC of HipHopDX and that was that.
It is important to note though, that Justin had previously applied for a position other than being a freelancer for DX. He applied for the News Editor position but didn't get it because he lacked the fundamental understanding of the "behind-the-scenes" of the site and they asked him detailed questions during the Skype interview.
JH: I didn't get it but I was running Brooklyn Bodega at that point and so everything that I didn't know, everything that was asked about that I just didn't have an answer for in that interview I fucking took notes, studied my ass off, implemented them on Brooklyn Bodega, actually did this shit they were talking about, studied all this other stuff on the side and just got a lot better at it. I ended up getting more reps because i did all those things and by the time they were actually looking of an editor-in-chief they weren't looking for anybody else. At that point Brooklyn Bodega's numbers were actually creeping up ‘cause I was implementing the things that I learned from this job interview I didn't get. So Tommy already felt more comfortable with me because not only have we met face to face before but I'm a guy who failed and didn't give up.
So What Now?
JH: Dude it's DX. Literally has everything that I want to do for the rest of my life. My goal is to be the greatest writer ever, of all time and then have a consultant firm. I've got six years of investment banking experience, was a finance major, did nothing but go to leadership camps since high school. Now I've run two radio shows, now Editor-in-Chief for two different websites, hosted and produced events around the country... and I've got television experience. So it's not a lot of places in entertainment that I at least don't have some kind of understanding. And every year that goes by you meet more people, so you have more relationships. And as long as your relationships, your work product, doesn't get crap-tastic, then people are always going to be hitting you up for more opportunities. As long as you get out of bed in a blizzard, you'll go to those opportunities, it'll work out because eighty percent of success is just showing up. Like all you got to do is show up. Muthafuckas have a hard time just showing up, right. So you're eighty percent of the way there and if you keep going, keep getting the reps, that's priceless information
JH: Everything is predicated off the fact that I just love writing. So as long as I keep writing, keep getting better at writing, I'm never going to have to worry about anything else because if you can communicate, you can communicate in any way. I kind of write like I talk sometimes. My editorials are more like i'm talking to them than like I'm writing. News is news but that's how it's gotta be. But every time I hone in on my voice or try a new voice or try another voice or try another voice ‘cause all of my voices come from copying literally directly all my favorite writers: Scoop Jackson, Maureen Dowd, Bill Simmons. All my favorite writers I literally copied exactly how they structured their articles. I just put rappers in it instead and changed the metaphors but copied them. So over the years, all those kind of merged together and it's a brand new style that's never existed. Then there's other people I love, like Kris Ex. I'm studying the fuck out of Kris Ex right now.
JH: So as long as I keep improving as a writer, I'm never going to have to worry about anything because I just went three years in New York without a paycheck and it worked out. I get excited talking about rap.
To check out more on Justin Hunte and see his work, click any of the buttons below and to read the "preview" to this interview, visit my Personal Blog under "The J" tab on the site.
Taking my love for Hip Hop to another level started when I took a course called "Rap, Culture, and God," spring semester of this year.
After taking that course I decided to enroll in the Hip Hop minor offered here at the University of Arizona's department of Africana Studies, having introduced the nation's first Hip Hop minor (maybe even the world).
This, at the moment, was what I thought would embark me to become not just a fan of Hip Hop but a student of Hip Hop (and it did).
As summer vacation soon approached, I decided to see if I could possibly apply what I had learned so far into the field. It felt like a long shot because I was, truly, fresh off the boat and was well aware that there was much more I needed to learn. But what can you lose from putting yourself out there and seeing what can happen, right? I knew I was passionate enough.
So there I was, visiting all Hip Hop related websites, many of which I frequently visit and others that I had stumbled upon for the first time. I looked for that "Internships" tab or the "Contact" tab, typically at the bottom of the sites homepage and sent in my resume and cover letter.
Time passes and I receive a reply from the Editor in Chief of HipHopDX.com, Justin Hunte, simply stating, "Our internships are based in Los Angeles. Will you be able to work out of Hollywood for the duration of the program?" And all I read was possibility.
[Of course, there was a process of e-mails being received and sent, questions being asked and answered, and clarifications from both sides to be made within this period.]
Although I only had two weeks to make it happen, I did.
I put in some extra hours at work, collected enough money to change the tires on my car, moved out early from my apartment at the time and found a place to stay in Los Angeles.
From one morning, one decision, and one summer, my life changed forever. I went from a fan, to a student, to an intern, to a contributor of Hip Hop. Now... I am all of the above.
The internship lasted a little over two months and I returned home right back in time before my senior year of college started.
Within those two months, I met and made friendships with some amazing people. Not only that, but I worked under some of the most talented and respected (in my eyes) journalists in the industry.
Before departing the HHDX office, Justin Hunte had what he calls "exit interviews" with each of the Summer 2014 interns. Exit interviews are simply meant for seeing the interns perspective on the program, what improvements can be made, and reflecting on the experience, usually lasting about fifteen minutes.
Of course, my exit interview lasted no where near the fifteen minutes. I mean, who could blame me right? I was talking to the Editor-in-Chief of HHDX! "The Company Man." The man who changed the course of my summer, offered me the opportunity of a lifetime, and now I had the time to sit down, one on one with him.
One hour later the interview ended with me asking him all the questions. I learned an abundance of information in this one hour just as much as I did over the course of the two months. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but I did learn a lot! If it wasn't for the DX Daily we easily would've been out there (in the patio where the interviews took place) for at least another hour.
Needless to say, in that one hour outside under the California sun, I got a horrible shorts tan. Three months later and I can still see the tan lines. It was all worth it though!
Even though I wish we had more time to talk that afternoon, I got enough from that interview to recognize Justin Hunte on the site and do a write up. I know eventually, I will be able to add more to the story. But until then... I hope you enjoy what came from the one hour that I had with "The Company Man."
The queen of Scorpios, ScorpioMystique, reaches out to thousands of Scorpios around the world via social media. Interconnecting the misunderstood zodiac sign and creating a Scorpio family, she links gapped bridges and inspires both lost and found Scorpios.
Dossé-Via Trenou, the mastermind behind ScorpioMystique, connects with J and shares all the planning and creating that goes into her informative words, horoscope predictions and astrological readings.
Born in Paris, France, Dossé-Via is a fluent French and English speaker (just like myself!). From Paris to Texas to Georgia to California (and her family is originally from Togo, West Africa), this lady has gotten a taste of many cultures. Starting off as a broadcast journalism major at USC, she realized she wanted more creative freedom and switched her major to Narrative Studies (double majoring in French, as well). "Narrative studies is the art of storytelling explored through literature and cinema," she explained.
This art of story telling leaked into her brand, ScorpioMystique. To her benefit, being a Narrative Studies major has allowed her to become powerful enough to articulate inspirational words of wisdom and knowledge. Truly making the most of this creative freedom she desired, Dossé-Via speaks to us the Universe.
How It All Began
The summer of her Freshman year at USC, ScorpioMystique was born (July 31, 2011). "It started with my parents talking to me about sun signs," she explained. "Ever since, I'd say at least the age of ten, I started researching astrology, studying it and so because I had been so into it and kept it to myself I decided to try sharing it with others and see if other people could resonate with it and most specifically my zodiac sign Scorpio."
She is not only knowledgable in her zodiac sign, she also knows well about the other signs. It began when her Taurus father recalled his complex relationship with his Scorpio sister (since Scorpio and Taurus are opposites in the Zodiac). He would often tell her, "Be careful because if you don't watch out certain negative traits of yours are attributed to Scorpios. Scorpios can be really stubborn, controlling, or manipulative."
Dossé-Via was sure that there was more to a Scorpio than meets the eye, and through research she found out that Scorpio is the most complex and misunderstood zodiac sign. She continued her studies by researching her father's sign, Taurus, only to find out that it was all accurate. Same with her Leo mother.
"I felt like doing this for all my family members and eventually I asked for more than just like internet resources... I read books, like Linda Goodman's "Sun Signs," is good. "The Inner Sky" by Steven Forest is a great book and I think that was the book that got me the most into the deeper parts of astrology. The popularized version of astrology is: read your horoscope at the back of a magazine, or the back of a newspaper; it is mostly generalized and that's what I shied away from. I'm more into analyzing one's natal birth chart," she explained.
"So after doing more thorough research, I would start reading my family members' birth charts using their time of birth. So I started off just on family and when I saw that they were like, 'This is really accurate', I did my own birth chart and found that it was also really accurate. That's when I realized that I could share it with more people."
"Getting my own birth chart from other sites and seeing how they did it was an interesting process. Many sites would tell me about my sun sign, my moon sign and my rising sign but I felt like they didn't tell me enough about the other planets. So it all started with putting together different factors of astrology as if it was a puzzle. So once I knew what my birth details were, I would research every single component of my chart. Compartmentalizing everything into one is the most important part because it's not enough to just add them together. Once I put everything together, all the sun signs, all the sign placements, all the planetary placements, I went into the houses and astrological aspects. And these show the more complex side of where the astrological energy might play out into your life."
"It's through practice, it's through talking to people and seeing what part of the birth chart analysis they relate to the most. So although what most astrologers focus on is your sun, your moon, your ascendant, (which is called your primal triad), I would focus on those but I would always enhance it with greater detail. For example, I'd explain, 'well your sun is compatible with your venus placement.' I'd always interpret charts in a way where it's more than just their sun sign. A lot of my knowledge came from reading, again Steven Forest's "The Inner Sky" basically broke down how to read a birth chart and how to make it as complex as the individual you're talking about and also how to avoid generalizations."
"What was really important for me in terms of writing daily horoscopes was studying astrologers such as Susan Miller, who really draws inspiration from geometric alignments. Astrology is very much a mathematical art at the same time as a spiritual one, because it derives from the exact geometry of the planets' placement in relation to one another."
The Creation Of "ScorpioMystique"
"I remember being in my bed, I had come back from Paris for the summer and I was back in Atlanta. I signed up for a new Twitter account, started putting all the information in and then for some reason, literally, I think the ideas just came to me. I might have pondered and stared at my screen and two different names came to me. One of them was Intensely Scorpio and the other was ScorpioMystique and they literally just came to me. I don't know why or how but they both came to me and I'm like which one do I want to be my main name."
"So I actually went to my little brother, his name is Tristan, and I was like 'Tristan what do you prefer, Intensely Scorpio or ScorpioMystique?' He chose ScorpioMystique, and so that became my main name and Intensely Scorpio was just my sub name."
"If I were to think on an intuitive basis, mystique is definitely french for mystery and some kind of aura that makes people drawn to you, and I definitely think that explains what Scorpio has. They have this enigmatic aura that people are drawn to but they can't really put their finger on. It's just something about Scorpios and I wanted my brand and my company to be represented by that."
"I think that the beauty of it comes from the fact that I'm really writing as if I were also a reader who wanted an astrologist to help guide me through life... because astrology means so much to me and I took so much to really understand it, I view it as a personal responsibility to help other people understand it on its true merit. I don't want people to believe that astrology is bs or that astrology is too general. I view it as my responsibility to present people with a path towards enlightenment, a path towards self-understanding. So it feels incredible. I didn't think it would ever grow so hugely. I remember just being a freshman in college and getting five thousand followers and thinking 'This is cool, there's a lot of people who are into this', and never thinking it could grow into an audience of hundreds of thousands. And when I get those comments, it's an affirmation that I'm doing the right thing. It's an affirmation that being an astrologist is a talent that I was given and that I should keep cultivating, but it's also a big responsibility because sometimes I'm late to work or I forgot my laptop at home."
"There's so many people who are depending on me. It's wonderful, it's absolutely wonderful to know that I have that influence and that people relate to it. So many people have said that I have helped them remain sane and have hope for the future and that is what I want. I don't like when astrologists make astrology scary and they're kind of like 'So these signs are bad, these are the signs that are good, these are the signs you should stay away from,' like no. I try to have a very positive perspective towards astrology because I really think that if you're interested in astrology you'll understand yourself and astrology is constantly about those cycles in life, all those ups and downs in life and nothing is ever going to go in a straight line. Life is always going to be this challenging process, a journey with your own self, and I feel like just viewing the progression since I started it, a lot of my followers have completely crushed the stereotype that Scorpios are mean, terrible people. Just look at the comments on my Instagram posts. Look how positive and encouraging Scorpios are with each other. I was able to build a Scorpio community because so many people are like 'Let's go Scorpios, you can do it! It's our time, it's our moment' or Scorpios will start tagging other Scorpios in my posts. It's gotten to the point where people who aren't even Scorpios start following me because their boyfriend or their best friend are Scorpios or their mom's a Scorpio, or their friend tagged a Scorpio friend... people just helping other people view life positively. People who would've been way too hard on themselves, who would've fallen into the trap of Scorpio self-destruction view my forecasts as their everyday inspiration. That's something I'm really blessed with."
"The secret to the accuracy of my daily horoscopes is that I'm very much in tune with myself. If I wake up on a certain day feeling a really deep, passionate emotion for something that happened with a friend, a significant other, then yes I'll look at the planetary transits because in order to write my ScorpioScopes I study the current planetary transits and see what the sky actually looks like in terms of planetary alignments. But there's also a part of the writing process that's intuitive, where I'll write specifically what my situation is and those are the ones that are the most accurate. Scorpios are like 'That's exactly how I feel' and it's because I was able to really tune into what is triggering my current emotion and write about it and share the situation that occurred to me, even if it's not super specific. I will describe the scenario as well as the expectation that might have led to the disappointment or happiness. So I'll combine that with the planetary aspects of the day and so its total effect is what makes the most on point horoscope."
Top Three Scorpio Weaknesses
"We can be very, very, very, very proud, often to a fault. Of course this differs from Scorpio to Scorpio because we all have different levels of evolvement, the Scorpion and the Eagle and the Phoenix. But I think on a general level Scorpios are not one to always be able to admit when they need help, or admit when they've made a mistake or admit when they might not be as right as they thought they were, and this could lead to us stubbornly staying fixed in our beliefs, burning bridges, and holding grudges, which ultimately can lead to us being less happy than we would be if we just let our ego go. It's much easier said than done, however, because we have a very strong ego for a reason -- we have a very strong personality. So I'd say one of our top weaknesses is just our pride. It sometimes stands in the way of us getting what we really want, whether we realize it or not."
"Our overly suspicious minds can be another drawback, and that's largely because we have been deceived in the past. We have a very strong intuition so if our gut instinct is telling us something we tend to go with it, but at the same time we don't always give people the benefit of the doubt and once again that can lead to us allowing our first impressions to completely block someone out forever. This trait can be detrimental to our more intimate relationship or friendships when we're always thinking 'maybe our partners are not loyal to us' or 'our friends are plotting behind our back'. Even though we don't necessarily share our inner concerns to our partners or to our fiends, we harbor it within ourselves, and we can get to allow it to eat us up inside. The solution for our overly suspicious mindset is to just trust the process. If there's something fishy that you're supposed to find out, you're going to find out about it sooner or later."
"Overanalyzing and wanting to be in control of everything. Our controlling nature can be a weakness because control is an illusion and as much as Scorpios feel really strong and secure when we feel like we're in control, it's not pretty when it feels like we're not in control. We can snap on people, be really hard on ourselves and we can even have temper tantrums and mood swings. I'd say just the fact that we can be controlling and want everything to go our way and want people to see things in our perspective can be more of a Scorpio weakness rather than an advantage."
Top Three Scorpio Strengths
"If you have a Scorpio by your side, truly and you've done them right, they will reciprocate that 150%. They don't trust that many people but if you happen to be one of those few people that prove to them that they shouldn't keep their self-protecting barriers up, and that they should be vulnerable with you, the loyalty you get is immeasurable. If you ever need something from them, they'll be there no matter what time it is. If somebody ever has something to say about you, they'll have your back, even if you're not there they'll have your back. It's not only about being loyal in front of you, it's being loyal no matter what. I think a Scorpio's loyalty is one of their strongest assets. That's why people often say Scorpios make incredible friends because they feel so protected by us. The same goes for if you're in a relationship with a Scorpio, you really feel safe with them as long as you stay on their good side."
"Our passion. We're literally, I really think Scorpio is the most passionate sign of the zodiac because we're ruled by two of the most passionate planets, Mars and Pluto. When you put the energy of Mars, the planet of action, with the energy of Pluto, the planet of transformation, that means every single act we make is intense enough to transform the world, to transform ourselves, and to transform the lives of others. So that naturally just makes us radiate passionate energy, and with that passion, there's nothing that we can't accomplish because we don't believe in limits, we believe in achievement, we believe in success. We have this inner conviction that we are up to achieve something great and think it's contagious and it makes people want to be around us, it makes people want to learn about how we do what we do and it makes people want to follow us. We're great leaders basically."
"Our intuition. We are almost scarily accurate, scarily intuitive to the point of some would say some Scorpios might be psychic. Many of us are really in tune with our spirituality, even more so when we do not let our ego come in the way of evolvement, and we try to keep our thinking on a higher level frequency, which means filling our minds with more positive thoughts rather than focusing on negative possibilities. Our intuition is so on point that it can be scary. That's why I think Scorpios are such emotional people. They feel even the most subtle vibes around them, they feel the vibes within them and they are more comfortable with their emotional vibes, than they are with reason or logic or whatever people view as objective truth. We view everything from a subjective lens and that helps us make the right decisions. If we're looking for a job, a home, a friend, a partner, we'll intuitively know if it's right for us. If we have any kind of doubt, we usually shy away from it. There are certain instances where we might have been wrong but I literally think that 99% of the time, our intuition is correct."
Biggest Advice To A Scorpio
"Own your emotions. You'll sometimes hear astrologers describe Scorpios as jealous, manipulative, stubborn and all these things, and Scorpios can be hard on themselves for feeling like they possess those "darker" traits, but I think you're actually better off owning every single emotion you feel because none of them are wrong, none of them are right, they're just the way you feel. They're passive. So the thing with Scorpios is, because we are such extreme people we kind of live in a 'Oh it's the end of the world' kind of mentality, and if we own how we feel and realize that feelings are not permanent and that we'll feel differently later, then life will become much easier for us. With that being said, if you ever were to feel a "negative" emotion like jealousy, if you own up to it, you have a much higher chance of overcoming it than if you suppress it and try to pretend it's not true or if you're in denial of it, basically. Same with love. Scorpios often torment themselves by being in denial about the way they feel about someone. Own the fact that you're head over heels, crazy, obsessive even about someone because that's the first way to figure out if that person really is for you. And if that person really is for you, how am you going to make it known to them? Too many times, Scorpios sit here, tormenting themselves -- we can be very self destructive when we feel like we shouldn't be feeling what we feel. So find a healthy way to release all of your emotions, accept them and realize that there's a reason why you feel things so intensely, there's a reason that you are so sensitive to everything, there's a reason why your intuition is so strong. Once you decide to just go with the flow instead of fighting against the current and trying to live in this world where all of your emotions are controlled or all of your emotions are chosen by you, then I think you'll be much better off. The one advice I give to Scorpios is just be completely comfortable with every emotion that comes your way."
The Daily Horoscope Process
"Usually I will write my ScorpioScope as soon as I wake up, and that's why it's sporadic. Living on the West Coast I post Scopes around 8 a.m. but for Scorpios on the East coast its 11 a.m. I can't always get up at four in the morning but I will eventually start posting at midnight PST. so far what I've been doing is, I wake up, I go to see the current planetary aspects (you can find it on Yahoo, you can find it on Google, you can just type in 'current map of the astrological sky') and I see what's going on in the universe and based on what I think are the major trends."
"It can get overwhelming to look at the sky map. There's literally always something going on in the sky, different transits are always going on. But I focus on the most important transits or aspects that affect Scorpios and then I will also look at the themes that are the most important based on those planets."
"I write my daily horoscopes on my laptop so, I'll just sit with my hands on my keyboard until I have one word or a phrase that comes to me that I think will start it off, and once I start writing the rest just comes as a natural flow. I'll know which are the main planetary transits I want to discuss, and basically I create a narrative of the day using the planetary transits."
The Universe Being A Book Of Information
"Astrology sometimes trips me out but at the same time it doesn't because what people don't know is that astrology and astronomy used to be one in the same. Before the invention of the telescope, stargazers were fascinated by what was going on in the sky. They all wrote down the different phases of the moon and the different transitions of stars from what they could see on Earth with their blind eye. Some of the most important scientists and philosophers such as Aristotle, Galileo, Plato and Copernicus, were astrologers. They actually were really into astrology and their services were used by distinguished politicians and royals. It makes sense to me because I'm like, before there was psychology there was astrology, before there was religion there was astrology."
"When I think about it on a grander scale like that, astrology doesn't trip me out as much as it does when I'm out like 'Oh I'm just on Earth, I'm studying astrological movements and I can understand life's cycles.' Every planet, every sign, every house, all those things have themes to them and it was through a lot of studying through the generations that they were discovered. I feel like probably 500 years from now there will be evolvement that I didn't know about in astrology. Just like science keeps evolving, astrology keeps evolving. I think about it in a more spiritual way and I think that it's completely acceptable that just like some people aren't religious and some people aren't scientific some aren't into astrology. Everyone has heir own views on it but I do think that people who read the right horoscope written by the right astrologers will become believers."
Biggest Notable Change In Her Life
"Realizing that I can actually make a living doing what I love. I'm not exactly one hundred percent at that point yet because I was a college student, I just graduated from USC so I didn't dedicate 100% of my time to ScorpioMystique until now. But now it is both my passion and my career."
"Ever since ScorpioMystique has grown, it's helped me better realize who I am. I felt really connected with my passion and I'm passionate about my brand. I think that's why people are still very into it because they know it's a very genuine thing from me. Being an astrologist has helped me better understand myself. Through being ScorpioMystique and sharing insights about Scorpios with everyone else, I really think I've evolved."
"I got into USC grad school for education but I deferred to look at more options. So I'm taking a year off as of now and applying to different education programs. My goal in the meantime is to keep modeling and doing ScorpioMystique. In terms of modeling, I recently signed with an agency and I am excited for the new experiences which will come with that. And then as for ScorpioMystique, I am finalizing projects since Scorpio season is coming. Scorpios have asked me to develop an app, which I'm in the process of working on. They've asked me to share more knowledge on compatibilities with other signs, so I'm finding a unique, interesting forum in order to share deeper insights on compatibilities rather than just tweets on Instagram, so that's going to be coming up soon as well."
"I may be doing some speaking tours as there are a lot of astrology conventions to participate in. I expect to speak at my first convention by 2015. And then my priority is to of course continue my personalized birth chart services. I just started offering a Saturn in Scorpio forecast and I am now writing 3,000 word monthly forecasts for Scorpios. I have a lot on my plate but I'm loving every minute of it. My three main objectives are applying to more grad schools, modeling full-force and seeing what happens, and then continuing to expand the ScorpioMystique brand and really pushing the limits of what I can do with it. Look out for Scorpio season, October 23rd, for a few different projects will be happening around that time that I think many Scorpios will be excited about."
More On Being A Model
"I like breaking the stereotypes of models being superficial and vain. I like being a college-educated model, and I think that actually helps in this business for I don't allow people to take advantage of me. Modeling has been something I like to do creatively. I love fashion, I love Paris, and I love photography. I enjoy being behind the camera and I enjoy being in front of the camera. So it's just something I have a lot of fun with and I want to see where it takes me."
Twiiter Q & A's
@JailynSantana - "Do you think Scorpios are the most powerful sign? The negative traits are weak though."
SM: "I have to say, I actually do. I might be biased, but I do think that every sign has its special attribute, like they'll say 'geminis are the most communicative and social' and 'aquarius' are the most rebellious and unorthodox' and Leos are the most charismatic... basically there are a few signs that would be in competition with Scorpio for the most powerful. They'd probably be Leo, and maybe Aries, and maybe even, some would argue, Capricorn. But the reason why I say it's Scorpios is because Leo and Aries have more of an impulsive, fiery, assertive kind of power and make you think of power in terms of physical strength. With Scorpio I think it's more of an inner-strength. It's a strength of being that comes from having gone through a whole bunch of challenges and getting stronger every single time and refusing to give up. It's just this inner will that helps them propel to the top. That's what I think makes them the most powerful sign in the zodiac."
@aenterpricesfp - "Which is the most compatible sign with Scorpio?"
SM: "My astrological answer would be that I have to read your birth chart and see, because you can have a Sun in Scorpio and then a Moon in libra, and then a whole bunch of air sign energy, and I'd say you're more compatible with an air sign, all in all. But on a more general level, let's just say you have mostly Scorpio energy in your chart, then I'd say either a Cancer, Pisces, or a Capricorn. The traditionally most compatible sign for Scorpio is Pisces. They're most compatible because they're Water signs. Pisces is not judgmental of Scorpio's moodiness and Scorpio's extremes. If anything, Pisces helps soothe Scorpios intensity and helps them feel the beauty in themselves. Scorpio just has to make sure to not walk all over Pisces and not to take advantage of Pisces' selflessness. All in all these two work together because they truly appreciate each other and they mold to each other's personalities. Scorpios and Capricorn are also a great match. They work exceptionally well in business, definitely, and they are exceptional friends before even in terms of love. Scorpio and Capricorn both are about loyalty to an extreme. They're both about security and commitment and I think that's why I think they'd get along very, very well. And then Cancer is also very compatible with Scorpio. The only thing about Scorpio being with Cancer is that Cancer is also extremely moody and so that can just lead to two Water creatures passive-aggressiveness. But for the most part it's smooth-sailing. So in order I'd say the best matches are Scorpio-Pisces, Scorpio-Capricorn, and Scorpio-Cancer. But the beauty of astrology is that you can make it work with anyone as long as you know the nuances and complexities of both you and your partner's birth chart."
@heathermae777 - "Are you a fan of Linda Goodman? She wrote a book called Love Signs that I LOVE."
SM: "Yeah, I don't think I read that specific book, but many astrology sources often refer to her. She's definitely a good astrologist and I've heard really great reviews from that book. She's one of those astrologists that takes her work seriously and that's why people enjoy reading her."
@n_wilde - "What can I do to not get so attached to others?"
SM: "Keep things in perspective. Don't take everything so personally. People can get easily hurt when you think that people are out to get them so if they should change that mentality -- people aren't necessarily out to get you, they're more for themselves. So a lot of the things they do is coming from a selfish perspective and Scorpios can be selfish themselves, so that's something that we should be able to relate to. If we understand that our whole mission is just to protect ourselves form pain by not allowing very comment that somebody says to affect us so deeply. Learn the art of detachment by being around your air sign friends, Libra, Gemini, Aquarius. You'll see that they can get super social, they can get hilarious, they can tell you about themselves. But they also have this air of detachment about them that shows their individuality, that shows that they're free to go whenever they're ready to go.
"With Scorpio it's true, we sometimes can't help the fact that we get so attached, but if you keep in the back of your mind 'I can't get lost in this person, I always have to protect myself and stay true to myself, stand my own ground' then you'll be able to take things a little slower. You'll be able to process 'are my emotions kind of making me jump into this situation so quickly? And if so, maybe I should take a few steps back.'
"So one of the cool things is that Scorpio is one of those signs that doesn't mind solitude and doesn't mind being alone. So I'd day all that begins with self-love. If you start off feeling completely comfortable with yourself, and you're comfortable with the view you have of yourself, then it doesn't matter what other people are going to say about you. And of course, it's easier said than done but that's why I encourage Scorpios to have a passion, to have a hobby, or to have a career that they love, because once they do that they'll know that no matter what, even if their relationships or their friendships aren't going well, they have their passion. Also, be sure to surround yourself with positive people. If you're constantly hurting because of what your boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, mother, sibling, cousin said or did to you, then it might be a clue that that person is not the positive energy you need in your life.
"Scorpios are like sponges, we absorb everything. It might not be you, it might be that person and if that's the case you have to have the courage to cut the cord. Because we can sometimes get so attached to people, we can be blinded to their faults and can forgive over and over again for stuff that shouldn't be forgiven. We can cut people off real quick if we don't have an emotional connection to them, but if we have an emotional connection it's like we get blinded to what they do that can be bad for us. Be aware that if this is a continuous thing, where you're constantly hurt and you're continually feeling deceived, then it might be time to distance yourself from the person. See how your life is, if you can breathe more without that person in your life."
One More Thing...
"We get a bad rep in terms of stereotypical astrology and I just say that one of the proudest parts of being an astrologist is that my Scorpios show everyone how untrue our bad rep is. We are such intelligent, beautiful, loyal, passionate, kind, loving individuals with so much to give to the world, and if we continue to stick together and continue to believe in ourselves, our power, and our personal paths then there's nothing we can do but succeed. Hold onto that Scorpio power because it's real, it's real! There's a reason we're the only sign that has three symbols, and that we are ruled by two of the coolest planets. Being a Scorpio is one of the coolest things that can make up your identity. So be proud and rep team Scorpio!" - ScorpioMystique
From a standpoint, one may enter the music industry and find themselves pondering which genre he or she will be categorized under. In another light, one may find a way to blend the vast styles of music without restriction and become the multi-genre artist.
Thanks to my mentor, my boss, the Editor in Chief of HipHop DX, Justin Hunte, I was able to squeeze in one last interview before departing Los Angeles and officially ending my internship with Cheri Media. This one last interview was with emcee k-os and let me tell you, I was inspired!
K-os confidently travels through the realm of music and creates what he is feeling at the present moment. Through the years, he has proven possible to leap into multiple musical scenes.
After conversing with k-os over the phone and reflecting over what I had just learned from this unique artist, I just had to recognize him on my website and share parts of what he had to say.
J: Can you explain the meaning behind your alias k-os? I heard it’s an acronym for “knowledge of self” and I also heard it’s an acronym for “Kevin’s original sound.”
k-os: Yeah, well, that was the original acronym that I had but I, also, I think it’s at a certain point... Hip Hop was at a certain point when I was developing my rap skills where it was just like the music period I was like, I was attracted to the aspect of doing something different and standing out as somebody who was trying to bend just the genre of Hip Hop. I think I was really really affected by names like Brandy B and Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, everything like X Clan, like the early movement of Hip Hop that was like completely conscious.
That’s when a friend of mine one day, actually in a band called The Rascals, that was a very eminent band in Canada, Hip Hop band, and I met this guy for the first time in an elevator and he asked me ‘You’re k-os, what does that stand for?’ and I just off the cuff said ‘knowledge of’ I lied, I was like ‘knowledge of self’ because I kind of knew that I didn’t want to say ‘Kevin’s Original Sound,’ it sounded kind of corny to say that and that it meant that. So I just, I think anyone out there can relate to when you kind of say things that are, you don’t know if it came from you or why you said it but it definitely is something that kind of was channeled or was really spontaneous. When I was put in that specific situation ‘cause he was like ‘well what are you about?’ is basically what this guy was gonna ask me and I was like ‘yo, my knowledge of self,’ that kind of shifted my path and my musical ideas from there because I feel like having that sort of name keeps me in check a little bit. Hip Hop is a fun thing, it’s a fun thing, it’s about peace, love and having fun. I feel that’s the core of it but I think that if the acronym meaning sort of holds me where ‘okay cool you have to sort of say something.’ You know, maybe not every song or all the time but just to be a little aware that you’re speaking to a lot of people and you should actually say something that has some pertinence beyond just your egocentric idea, what you’re tryna get or the come up, as people would say, that’s important too but I feel like having some kind of intelligence about yourself and knowing yourself will probably help you say something that has a little more permanence I feel. So that’s the bottom line of it, not to drag the intro too long but it proves that we all start on an ego level and I’m not saying I’m not on that level now but that was definitely the core of when I was tryna be like the dude and make music that’s being a part of, you know rap music development it was a bit more like, sort of a musicians are still observing and people who have to serve the public as well. So that’s where that comes from.
J: Speaking of shifting paths, I read that you took a break [from the music industry] after releasing your song “Rise Like The Sun” in 1996, I heard it’s because you wanted to find your true sound as an artist and a few years later you reappeared in the industry when releasing your album Exit. Can you tell me what your sound was then and what you describe your sound as being now?
k-os: I think, now in retrospect I can, in this question, I can be honest about it, I just think I sounded like a lot of people and I didn’t like it. It was frustrating that I had taken in so many peoples raps that when I went in the studio I really didn’t have an original voice of my own. Like and you said, I think it’s just like, in other music, like rock music, there’s days you wanna like study Erik Practon or Jimi Hendrix and you play their solos continually, that’s sort of accepted way of learning rock music ‘cause music is really composed of being standard, where you actually have to show you can play someone else's music to show that you have the chops.
Hip Hop’s not like that. They call that biting, well not anymore because I don’t think, I think that word doesn’t really get thrown around in Hip Hop that much but in that era I came up in, if you sounded like another person it wasn’t a good thing and I know everyone that, maybe the people that are reading or are gonna hear this interview don’t know right now because everyone sounds like everyone and they think that's cool. But from where I came from, you’re not really supposed to sound like the next man, you’re supposed to be original. So it just comes back to the old ‘Kevin's Original Sound’ thing and realizing ‘Yo, I’m not that original really though,’ you know what I mean. I have to get like, you just sound like different dudes and so, I took a break sort of to be like ‘well what are you about?’ You know like, you’re this kid from the suburbs of Canada, you’re not from Brooklyn, you’re not hardcore so what are you about?’ and at that pose of sort of just pretending to be something I wasn't, that break was sort of just to see ‘What do you have to say to the world? What do you have offer?’ And there’s so many people tryna rap, there’s so many people who are good, why should someone listen to me? Unless I say something that brings something to the table that original so... or at least real from where I’m at, so that’s what that break was about. It was like a kid kind of knowing, and I didn't know it at the time, I kind of made up all these excuses like the music industry is messed up, I don’t like the music industry and I broke up with a girl at the time and I made up a lot of these other things but I think I was the person that knew that he wasn't really going with him and giving the real part of himself and needed time to sort of figure out his story and what he’s looking to say to the world.
J: I noticed that, and I'm sure that a lot of your fans notice that you have a wide range of styles in your music like “The Dog Is Mine” is more like rock, “On The Run” I felt like had a reggae-type vibe and the video that we posted on our site “4 3 2 1” is like a good feel, question humanity type song. Is that [experimenting with music during his time off] where your interests in incorporating all these genres in your music comes from?
k-os: Yeah and I also just get bored very much. I have music ADD, in the sense that it’s very difficult... like right now this record is probably the most Hip Hop record I'm working on. I've had twelve songs and eight of them are just straight Hip Hop tracks and I can't believe it. But that’s what I’m feeling right now. The attention that I'm paying and the way I feel about life right now, I'm really, really into where Hip Hop is and what I'm doing and it’s a real feeling. But for most of my life, I couldn't really spend more than two or three songs in a genre without being like ‘Okay I’m sort of investigated out of the record, what else do we got’ so I’m just gonna say I'm this guy that's tackulatingly mixing my styles, that’s what’s happening.
I investigate something till I'm bored of it and I move on. And I usually spend two to three songs on a record so by the time I've done my third, kind of someone would say an ‘underground song’ that’s maybe the quote unquote head song, like I'm done. After two or three songs, I'm like ‘Okay I did that, lets just put the code on the record.’ I just don't feel to do that anymore so instead of like... I just saw Andre 3000 in September and we were just talking about how sometimes you just have all these songs with verses on them and you never go back because you just move on. He’s had many albums like that. He had it for so long, he just had a verse on it and then later on he finished it. There's a lot of that going on too in my music where it’s like, you just gotta… you just investigate something and you move on and I think once you put out an album man, and it's been two, three, four, five years between now people, you know... fortunate for me I created a type of perception of me as an artist that I can go do rock song but imagine being a Hip Hop artist and you've done three Hip Hop songs and that’s all you can feel and people expect you to do the same.
You just have to wait ‘till inspiration hits you because that's what your are known to do but for me thankfully enough I set it up that if I go do a reggae song or a folk song just on the guitar, people wont be like ‘oh this is not him what is he doing?’ So that gives me more. That’s why I can put out album after album after album, next thing I'm on my seventh album now, sixth or seventh album, because I could just keep creating without the limit of a genre just to kind of limit me. I feel lucky about that. If anything people look at record sales or this or that. I’m proud of myself that I created an image where I don't have to stick with one kind of music, it’s really extreme for me. I thank myself for doing that. That’s one thing I could pat myself on the back and say ‘well at least you have the courage not to say ‘I'm just this’ because now you can do so many things and you can keep putting music out without having to be like ‘oh it’s not hip hop so that's why I gotta chill for a bit.' This is not my quote unquote stand, won’t expect for something sell with something like that. It’s just I’m in a position where I could just do whatever and I think that’s while it’s given me mobility and more options for creativity.
J: Yeah that's really cool ‘cause basically your fans can expect you to be playing around with a bunch of different genres and it won't come unexpected if you come out with a rock album or come out with a hip hop sound, ‘cause when Lil Wayne, you know, he’s been rapping his whole career and then he comes out with rock and people were kind of like ‘What's going going on here?’
k-os: My exact example, he wanted to do something creative and different and God bless him but people are like ‘what are you doing?’ They get kind of thrown back that he’s doing something like that and same thing with the rock, that dude from Soundgarden, if you do your little research Chris Cornell did a record with Timbaland. This is a guy who's in a band called Soundgarden and deciding ‘okay I want to do an R&B record’ and the whole world was like ‘what are you doing?’ I know it didn't do well. But an artist should be allowed to do the fuck they want, they should be allowed you know?
That’s what the cover song was about back in the day, in the ‘70s, you cover somebody's song because you like what someone else did and you wanted to sort of investigate that and the cover song was a way of kind of nodding your head and going ‘well okay I know this isn’t me, I’m gonna try something different’ and that’s also sort of dead too. People don't do that much anymore, where they can just go and do something different.
So I think that that could be power in music, people having this perception of themselves as a certain way, almost like a marketing thing. Where it’s like, ‘I only do this type of thing.’ You know a lot of people put this out, tell them I'm not gonna do it and then you know it’s the same when people think you become their prisoner. So now you're kind of locked in this thing where you care so much what people think that now you have to do what they say and then your fans rule you. That’s not what you get into music for. In life you want it to be creative and you wanted you to say what you wanted to but then people find themselves in the situation where they constantly keep creating something for these other people, I can't do that. And if that's what other people are doing, more power to them but that’s not really my path.
J: I know you produce, and write a lot, most of your work, and you also directed this ["WiLD4TheNight"] video. Do you write everything? What’s your process in creating your music?
k-os: A lot of it, it comes from just experience. I could sound fancy and be like ‘I do this’ or ‘write the lyrics’ but I’m getting to the point right now where I feel something and it just comes out of me. And I think that’s why people relate to what they hear, they always relate to a song that’s spontaneous. If you write a song in two, four, five minutes it’s probably going to be more impactful because you could be writing for years, months, weeks and you can’t express this thing and in one studio [session] it just comes out of you. And you know what you’re expressing that for everybody in the world and that’s why people like your song. Because you said that thing, that’s what poetry is, saying things that can’t be said. So at this point in my career, I would say yes back in the days I’ll be like ‘yeah I made the beat, have the beat on my headphones, listen to it, walk around the city, listen to it. I could go through that whole thing, get a soundscape’ but now it’s just not even like that. I don’t even make music like... I don’t wake up and make beats anymore ‘cause if I have nothing to say, I don’t say anything. When I feel something then I make music. Like okay, you know it should be about Madonna, a certain artist that I look up to, or doing big things, or spending twenty minutes writing a song getting into it and I get that because I did that in my life too. I just mess around with a genre like we talked about, experiment. Once you’ve exhausted those options then you have all these songs that are okay. You know, they’re not like bangers, they’re just stuff, they’re just like paintings that you made for yourself but then you start to realize that the best songs you made happen when you have something to say to someone, or someone pisses you off, the world rubs you the wrong way, and then you get to say that exact same thing that everyone else is feeling. That's the magic of a hit song, why quote unquote it hits people. Because you said this thing this whole generation wanted to say.
J: What would you say "WiLD4TheNight" is inspiring?
k-os: Freedom. Being black in a way that’s not American. A lot of Canadians feel like... see a lot of Canadians when they touch the pop or they feel like they have to approach it, they make it so American like they have to like... and there’s nothing wrong with that ‘cause you guys started the genre, America started the genre but it’s just my way of being like there’s a different way of being black, there's a lot of ways to be black. You could be a Swedish black person and you may be a teenie bit black that no one knows, that no ones seen yet. It’s whatever's exposed. Now the internet allows this kid to be this video, you're gonna air it to some two hundred thousand people and they get to see hey this guy gets down and he's not from America but loves Hip Hop. I think that’s a beautiful thing. You know so it’s inspired me to have confidence with that and not feel like it’s something you have to hide or assimilate, going back to the whole beginning things of genres, having a distinct personality that you feel like you have to keep playing into. Being Trinidadian is just a way of being like ‘well I'm black and I’m urban but I'm not American and there’s nothing wrong with me, there’s nothing to be weird about that.’ People need to respect that just as much as they respect LA. Like when Snoop came out, I remember when Snoop came out and no one was really rapping from America from the West Coast in a big way like Snoop and he exposed that culture. He had a southern drawl, he dressed differently, he had this slang and everyone was like ‘whoa,’ ‘cause up to that point it everything was about New York ‘cause that’s where Hip Hop started. Then the South came out and then Outkast came out and people were like ‘who are these dudes,’ you know, ‘why are they dressed like that?’ Andre said, in his verse ‘oh y’all talk funny, from the islands’ you know what I mean, ‘no I’m from Atlanta baby’ and then you know... so it’s like people weird with it too but now the whole world, the whole southern rap go north, but what are north people? They're Canadians. Like are they from Canada? No we’re from Trinidad, we’re from Diana, we’re from Jamaica.
J: Where do you want to take your music? What can we expect from you in the future, aside from the upcoming album [Can't Fly Without Gravity] that’s coming out next year?
k-os: You know what, you live in a time where you gotta just let time do what it does. You live in an era now where you can’t calculate too much and people know if you’re calculating, ‘cause everybody’s calculating. Back in the days when, you know, you had a street team on your record label will go out there and promoting and taking pictures, now the average person is self promoting so they can smell when you’re trying to make things happen, everybody does it now. It’s just the way it is, everyone put a picture on Instagram. What the difference between an artist who puts a picture up and a regular person from Conneticut? Nothing. Everyones grabbing for attention.
The internet has made the world flat. And in that way when I say flat, everybody is just on the same level so its like... I think as an artist to say this is what I want, you get a little bit pretentious. I want this record, probably I want this record if I could be honest to reach America more than any other of my records ‘cause I know people know of me there and they’ve heard of me and if you say the name they’re like ‘oh yeah I remember something’ but I’ve mostly stayed away from my music. I’ve almost kind of sworded my music not being heard from America because that's a form of insecurities as well. You don’t understand from it until you stay away from it but the more I understand myself, it’s a more natural and relaxed than it being heard by anyone else and not feeling a way about it. In China it doesn’t matter what, Thailand or Australia, I don’t care. I just, at this point just be myself and let the chips fall with the name.
As far as my life, yeah I wanna to go to a university. Go back to a university, maybe in the fall, not this year but the next year. Not next year, but yeah, during 2016 I wanna change something but I don’t know. I smell it. I’m in Toronto walking through the University of Toronto campus, I'm like yeah I could see myself going back to school and taking some courses and learning something new. Take a new direction. Not to quit music or anything, but just to stimulate my brain in a different way so I kind of have my eye on that, of going back to a university in 2016. I've been saying it and my dads been like ‘you’ve been saying that since 2011’ but it’s just so much to do with music but I definitely wanna. I think its never too late to try something new, and keep you young and fresh to like keep your brain cells moving, you know and keep pushing that through your system, your blood pumping and learning something new so that’s sort of the future for me, I feel.
J: Is there anything you’d like to add?
k-os: Nah man, I just think that we live in a time where Hip Hop has become a factory and that’s unfortunate. It’s okay, everything has their time but there’s more to Hip Hop than just it being a fashion statement, or I hope that anyone who reads this interview, if you’re out there and you’re coming up as an emcee you take into consideration that you have a responsibility, be intelligent about it. Have fun, wild out, be good to people don’t be a dick, don’t be an idiot. But you know at the same time like say something. That’s basically what I would hope for the next generation of Hip Hop is like, say something man. Like inspire people beyond… it’s not just about you, it’s about you’re speaking. If your goal is to speak to a whole bunch of people than have something got tell them that’s about it. Otherwise I’m done with my preachin’ but I have to say that because it’s a little bit frustrating when I turn on the radio and everything sounds the same.
Speaking with k-os made me assure my beliefs that art is never limited to one thing. Art is freedom and k-os embodies that. He stays true to himself with his music and by doing that he stays true to his fans and for that I thank you.
Recently signed to Dine Alone Records, k-os is slated to release his sixth studio album in 2015, Can’t Fly Without Gravity.
To contact or simply stay posted on all his upcoming and current music, click on one of the buttons below.