Interview with the Editor of The Ave Magazine
When last did you read a hip-hop magazine that you can say really fed the craving for this hip-hop fetish that we have? The Ave magazine is a printed journal of street escapades from the infamous streets of New York that takes its readers on a global tour giving us the low-down on hip hop and issues that’s reflective in the global community…
Printed media has been the information subway relaying the latest news and gossip way before the Internet existed, way before porn was the number one search word. It’s so coincidental that the editor-in-chief, Anslem Samuel did a four year stint at one of the biggest hip hop magazines that started the whole printed media way back when they still stood for “Hip Hop, Music and Culture”. The Ave is released on a quarterly basis touching about 25,000 different fingerprints spreading the gospel of hip hop from its humble Brooklyn offices, retailing at $3.99 dollars (that’s roughly R24), it is a read that’s worth every single dime or in our case cents.
I’m browsing the latest issue of The Ave which is the magazines anniversary issue. What is so amazing about the Nasir Jones story is that its not covering Nas’ new album but rather concentrates on family matters. A few pages forward we are issued with The Yard section dedicated to our brother and sisters on lockdown. I haven’t read the bible in a long time and picking up this magazine was like the revelations I missed in the last chapter of that book. The magazine just awakens my senses that hip-hop is more then just a mic and jewellery, hip-hop is about change and this magazine is a depiction of that change that is necessary. I had an opportunity to talk to The Ave’s editor-in-editor and asked him a few questions.
Who better to ask about the beginning than the person who initiated an idea that gave birth to a magazine that has the printed media scene in turmoil, can Anslem tell us how or when he decided enough is enough I’m going to be part of a movement that will reflect what is happening on the streets?
It wasn’t necessarily a matter of “enough being enough.” The Ave was a vision of its founders Treasure Neal and Ben Leff, I was just lucky enough to be forwarded an e-mail about the magazine shortly after my departure from The Source. They then broke down the vision for the magazine, which would be more substantial and conscious of the images promoted to the readers, and I felt their passion and decided to come aboard. But I can most definitely see a refreshing dynamic of having a magazine like The Ave in the marketplace because there is room for other options. As well as an audience that is eager for more than just what an artist’s album is like or their latest beef. And I feel that’s where The Ave comes into play in it’s own niche.
“A street movement in print,” hip-hop is a movement that came from the streets it’s also something that’s being run by corporations in the States do you think you can give us a real rundown of the streets, cause sometimes I get the idea the “streets” has just become a marketing gimmick where white picket fence America go search for hip hop talent?
Well, I don’t see The Ave as a “street” magazine or product. I think you’re focusing on one word rather than the total phrase, which is a “street movement.” Those two words paired together are much more powerful than when they’re separated. What we mean by a “street movement in print” is not that we’re street orientated or “ghetto” etc, it’s about the movement of the people and their overall consciousness. We’re concerned with the everyday man or woman and what is important to their lives. People are unemployed, have lack of health care, deal with racial profiling along with a host of other problems, so there are bigger concerns on the “streets” than diamond necklaces and 22” rims or whatever. So we’re representing that movement in a printed publication. We’re trying to represent for and speak directly to the kid or adult that is fed up with their environment and feels they have no one to talk to or no options. And also to talk to the basic hip-hop fan that might just be looking for more. So we’re not representing the streets in the cliché way marketing execs target it, we’re actually representing the mass movement of young people looking for more and looking to have a voice.
You got a strong team backing you on the editorials…
Basically, it comes down to the relationships that myself and our Executive Editor Raqiyah Mays have built over the years. The both of us have been writing and/or editing for several years and a lot of our colleagues respect us and the vision of the magazine and are willing to write for us for less money. They have been plenty of established writers that I would never have thought would write for us due to our limited funds, but you’ll be surprised how many people hit us up willing to write for the mag just because it is something new and different, and they believe in our vision.
Comparisons, comparisons there is stacks of hip hop magazines out there what do you think do you bring to the table that’s fresh and not been used with other printed media?
What I think it is that separates The Ave from any other publication out now is our balance. I think we do a great job of presenting interesting music stories and social stories. And I think with that too, we don’t do our social stories in a preachy or overbearing way. Another thing is, I think people actually learn something when they walk away from The Ave. I’ve heard that a lot of times from students, adults and even teachers who say they’ve used the magazine in their classes because it speaks to the younger generation in their language and speaks to adults too.
I been a avid reader of The Source in the early 90’s when it was still the hip hop bible you have worked for The Source moved up the ranks and finally decided I’m going to push my own agenda, what drove you to start your own magazine?
As I said earlier, it wasn’t necessarily about me pushing my own agenda, cause The Ave was being thought of long before I came on board. I just happened to get an e-mail about the magazine shortly after I parted ways with The Source and decided to try something new.
This is a question I always wanted to ask Dave Mays and I guess you would be able to answer me (please give me your honest answer) is printed media controlled by artist and the labels that market them cause it seems as if a lot of hip hop magazines all follow the same trend?
I personally can’t speak for any magazine’s business structure and industry relationships, as I’m not integrally involved in it. All I can speak on is The Ave, we’re completely independent and have no artist, label or corporation behind us. Anyone or anything we cover is based solely on what we as a staff feels is pertinent to our readers.
As much as the focus is on hip hop it has an equal feature on issues like fatherless kids, juvenile systems and even The Yard a editorial section dedicated to brothers and sisters on lockdown, do you think printed media has a commitment to society and bringing an awareness to topics that’s shoved in crime stats?
I mean, I think journalists and the media in general should do more than just glamorize money, drugs and sex because impressionable kids can’t always discern between what’s right and wrong. So it’s only right that you also show the negative aspects and downsides of the “glamorous life.” Sure, not everyone has to do that but there should be a balance coming from someone—and in my opinion that’s where The Ave fits in.
There has been a large shift on media since the net became so freely available do you think there is still room for printed media or will it become null and void soon?
I don’t see the net knocking out printed media entirely. The Internet does provide more immediate turn around and information, and has the potential to reach a wider audience, but online press tends to lack the overall feel of printed media. Like a lot of features tend to be Q&A’s as opposed to a written article and you loose the glossy imagery at times through the Web. I think both can co-exist as compliments of each other.
The first anniversary massive issue with Nas and his pops on the cover you did something unique not using the opportunity to talk about Nas new release but rather on a topic like fatherhood and blending with your people great story man. Give me a breakdown of your first year the ups and the downs?
Wow! The ups and downs are too many to mention. But I’d definitely say there are more ups in that we continue to grow and brand ourselves. Each issue we always feel like we can’t top ourselves only match, but I think there’s a constant evolution with the magazine and we continue to surprise ourselves.
You had a story on South African hip hop in one of your editions (big ups to Danya) you seem pretty much focused on featuring international hip hop aswell, if you think hip hop in Africa what’s is the picture that you get?
I can’t say that I have a specific image or picture of what hip-hop is like in Africa, I just know that music has the ability to reach people regardless of race, language or religion. And with hip-hop being a culture, that can touch people the world over. Cause there are hip-hop artists in Japan, Europe so why can’t their be hip-hop in the motherland. As for international coverage, we find it essential to show that growth of hip-hop across the globe. People, especially here in the States, need to be aware that we are not the center of the world. And things like freedom, culture, music etc are universal topics that can affect anyone no matter where they are. So with our Represent column we look to shine light no t only on hip-hop’s influence abroad but political and social situations out there as well.
Where to from here it’s a new year and your new edition should be hitting stores soon if the genie had one last wish left for you what would it be?
A wish for The Ave would be to continue to grow and develop. That wouldn’t just apply to content and structure but in our reach and audience. We just really look forward to being around for a long time to come, and be side by side with the other mainstream magazines that are already out there.
A final question before you run to do your next story, do you ever have regrets for chopping up a tree to print the next edition of The Ave?
Well, I’ve never personally cut down a tree to print The Ave, but if what we were printing was rubbish then I would feel a way about wasting a tree’s life. But I believe that what we at The Ave put out is a quality product and something worth reading.
Thanks for the commitment and time u took to do this with me hopefully we will have you guys out here soon to come check hip hops influence on society in Southern Africa, any final drops/word of promotion whatever u wanna call it man?
All I can say is Issue # 6 will be out any day now, and if you can’t find it feel free to log onto www.TheAveMagazine.com to get a yearly subscription. Keep supporting and keep the letters coming, we love hearing from our readers. They help us get better, and without them there would be no us. Oh, and Will Pope our senior designer says he never gets a shout out, so shout out to him and the rest of the A-Team staff.
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