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Getting interviewed by Dallas Penn on the red carpet of the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors — the least frivolous of my three recent interviews.
If you’re reading this site there’s a good chance you’re European, so you’ve likely already heard of a magazine called Juice. For our few American readers, Juice is a German magazine – the biggest hip-hop magazine in Europe according to Wikipedia.
Last month an editor reached out to us and asked if we could answer some questions for a story they were doing on hip-hop blogging. I said sure and answered his 19 questions but I think the only thing that got used on the small blog chart we appeared on was my answer about how much traffic we get and how often we update the site.
Oh well… that’s life. Despite the non-targeted questions I tried to do my best to drop science, so I figured I may have something to share with you here. Besides, between this and my recent interview as Internets Celebrity by a Canadian college student, I at least have two very easy posts.
This was sent in to Juice by me on September 11 (pre-Fiascogate). The most significant answer that would be different now is about how many hip-hop feeds I read. I’ve cut out a lot of the clutter. Sorry internets, I don’t have the time to even try to keep up with everything anymore.
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS // JUICE MAGAZINE, EUROPE
Answers from Rafi Kam – ohword.com
1. When and why did you start running your own music blog?
We started Oh Word two years ago for a creative outlet and because we didn’t see anyone doing anything fresh with any hip-hop sites.
2. How many updates do you run on your blog?
Typically just a few times a week. When we’re really in a groove, more like ten times a week. We go through phases. We’re not a daily news site so we only post when we feel like it, have something to share or just get overcome by guilt about letting down our readers.
3. Have you ever thought about stopping the blog? If so, why? Why did you keep the blog running in the end?
Not really. If life is feeling too hectic to post we just don’t…. If some OhWord staff member disappears for a while, others pick up the slack.
4. How many people visit your blog daily/weekly/monthly? (in numbers)
We get about 5,000 visitors a day plus another 2,000 between RSS and email subscriptions.
5. How would you describe your personal musical taste that is reflected on your blog?
I try not to describe my own musical taste because it’s a bit mysterious to me and I like it that way.
6. Have you already been approached by big hiphop websites to write for them? If you already write a column for a big hiphop website, f.e. xxlmag.com, how would you describe the difference between your work there and your „private“ blog?
Yes, have been approached. Haven’t taken up the offer so far. I value the fun and freedom of what I’m doing now but the money and larger audience is tempting.
7. Do you earn money off of blogging? Are you a fulltime music writer or do you work in a different day job?
I earn a small amount of money off of blogging. I’m not a full-time writer although I’ve been writing for most of my life and studied Literature in college. By day I work as a web programmer.
8. Do you think big hiphop magazines should hire more bloggers to write for them?
Seeing as I only buy hip-hop magazines when my site is mentioned in them, it doesn’t really matter to me one way or the other. From what I’ve seen, some hip-hop bloggers are not cut out to be print writers and vice-versa. They require two different mindsets and skillsets.
9. What is the stylistic difference between hiphop blogging and hiphop writing to you? Is there any difference?
In general, it’s more acceptable in blogging to work out ideas and be loose (unedited) because it’s free, frequent content and you have the instant feedback of an audience. Blog posts to me are more vital and geared towards conversation. Because there’s no barrier to publishing blogs it can be much less commercial (unless you seek out the commercial sites).
10. Do you get lots of submissions from writers who would like to see their work published on your blog?
Yes, we reject the crap and have used the good stuff. The two best examples of this working out are a few months after we launched we got an email from an established hip-hop author whose work we are all fans of. He liked what we were doing and wanted to get involved – he sent in a hilarious feature which is still one of my favorite Oh Word pieces. And another story of user submissions involves one commenter who over the past year had sent in probably a dozen articles, all showed promise but were unsuitable for some reason or other. But as many times as we declined the guy kept at it and eventually sent in this great post which we were happy to use just last week. The response it got was huge.
We also reach out to other bloggers whose work we admire about contributing or joining up with us. Sach O who shares most of the blogging duties with me started out with a blog of his own. We liked his style and asked him to join up. Sach opted to just do a guest spot but when he saw the big response that he wasn’t getting at his own blog he made the switch.
11. What do you think about „established“ hiphop online magazines like allhiphop.com, sohh.com? What do you think is the advantage of blogs, compared to these magazines?
Compared to ohword those sites cater to a more general rap audience. We’re able to really hit niches they’re not covering. Small is the new big and all that.
12. Do you have MP3 downloads or links (Zshare, sharebee) on your blog? Were you ever threatened by record companies or artists because of that? Were you already sued?
Yes, we post mp3’s but in most cases kill the links after a little while. Lately we use Zshare a lot more than hosting our own because we found most of our bandwidth was being eaten up by people playing our mp3’s directly from flash players on their websites or myspace pages.
13. Do you think the record industry already understands the importance of hiphop blogs to the culture?
What does the record industry have to do with “the culture”?
14. Do certain companies/artists already try to use blogs as a promotion platform/tool? Are you open to companies who ask you to write about their promoted artists?
Yes, many do. We’ll write about them if the artist catches our attention and sustains it (very rarely).
15. How many people usually download a track that you post on your website?
Do you work for the RIAA or something?
16. What do you think about bloggers who beef with artists or try to bash them in their writing, f.e. Byron Crawford vs. Lupe Fiasco?
The Lupe Fiasco beef? We blogged all about that last year – in Internet Time that’s a really long time ago.
A good blogger will shine a light on something that no one is looking at. That could mean criticizing a celebrated artist or celebrating an artist that few people know about. It all varies from case to case, I have no problem with the idea of criticizing but if a blogger does nothing but criticize they become hard for me to take seriously.
17. Do you think there should be more or less hiphop blogs?
I think there should be more bloggers reading and responding to other people’s hip-hop blogs and acting under the assumption that they’re not the only information source for their audience. There’s a lot of echoing going on in the blog world and it’s troubling. Too much information and not enough intelligence.
18. Which hiphop blogs do you read personally, and how often?
I skim from hundreds of blog rss subscriptions daily. I’m not sure how many are hip-hop. At least 100.
19. What is the future of hiphop blogging in your opinion?
My guess: many of the people that are less interested in demonstrating or gaining expertise will quit or switch topics (maybe take to more social network blogging for their friends), the passionate will keep doing what they’re doing. Black celebrity gossip sites will continue to thrive and then the market will get flooded. The rap news sites will never hit that level of popularity and the market may already be flooded. Those taking a copycat approach will fail.
More people will produce video and more people will consume it. Video, video, video is the future.