He may not be living as large as Jann Wenner, but in L.A.'s hip-hop publishing scene, Meshack Blaq is the man. Blaq started Kronick, an underground chronicle of hip-hop culture, out of his West Adams home office in 1994. Eight years later, his staff of one (himself) has swelled to seven, and advertisers such as Universal and Nike are booking space in the 60-page, bimonthly 'zine distributed free in record stores across the city and beyond. Rapping with Mr. Blaq, 36, it's clear that when it comes to hip-hop, he means business.
What sets Kronick apart from bigger music magazines?
The respect I get from the artists. They give me more of themselves than they would a mainstream publication because they see me handling things from top to bottom. The Source and Vibe are good examples of [hip-hop] magazines well-staffed with black people, but the name at the top is white. That means we're seeing the culture through white spectacles. That's where I come in.
What do you think about whites trying to be "down" with hip-hop?
I love it. I call hip-hop a Martin Luther King type of music, because it brings everyone together. It's also an equal opportunity "disser" in that if you have skills, you get respect, like Eminem. Then there are the kids, like the ones parodied in the movie "White Boyz," who watch music videos to see how kids [in the 'hood] are living, and try to portray that lifestyle. But the biggest consumers of this music are white boys in the suburbs. They are our biggest supporters, so how can I be angry with that?
Over the years, what are the most important changes you've seen in the art form?
Going from a handful of records coming out a year, to thousands a year. That means opportunities for someone like myself, or a music video director, or even a dancer, to make a good living.
Indie publishing is precarious, to say the least, yet you've been at it for more than a decade. What makes Meshack run?
I'm a role model to my son, and to kids who see me walking up and down the street each day--in my dreadlocks, not in a suit--doing my own thing. It's important that they see that whatever they want to do, they can do it. And it's not just being in front of the camera, rapping to a beat. You can be behind the camera, with the rappers, and make money.
You've got some fat ad accounts for a regional 'zine. How'd you hustle that?
I'm internationally accepted, nationally recognized, and locally respected . . . and if you keep banging on the door asking for scraps, eventually they'll come around.
What's the biggest problem you run into as a black indie publisher?
Getting major advertisers to take me seriously. The other thing is, I really try to get artists, athletes and entertainers who aren't black in order to broaden the scope of my magazine, but many of them--or the people who represent them--don't want to open themselves up to a black publication. Hip-hop is not a segregated culture, but I get turned down more often than not by a Stephen Dorff or a Jay Mohr.
Where are the best L.A. spots to observe rappers in their natural habitat?
The Beverly Center, the W Hotel in Westwood, House of Blues, The Highlands, and The Conga Room on Thursday nights.
The hottest slanguage right now seems to be "chuuch." Please define.
It's some pimp language from the Midwest. It basically means, it's all good, all gravy, everything is taken care of. It's like when you raise your glass and say "L'Chaim!"
What would make your life "chuuch"?
Putting out a million copies of my free 'zine. I'd be like the black Hugh Hefner.