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BLAQ INK

by David Wollock

L.A. Times Magazine



He may not be living as large as Jan Weiner, but in the L.A. hip-hop and R&B scene, Meshack Blaq is the man. In 1994, Blaq started Kronick, an underground chronicle of hip-hop culture, out of his home office in the West Adams district. Eight years later, his staff of one (himself) has swelled to seven, and major advertisers like Universal and Nike are booking space in his 60-page, bi-monthly free 'zine, distributed across the city and beyond. Chat Room raps with Mr. Blaq, and finds out that when it comes to hip-hop, he means business.

What sets Kronick apart from bigger music magazines?

The amount of respect I get from the artists. They give me a little more of themselves than they would a larger, more mainstream publication because they see me handling things from the top to the bottom. In rap, everyone started from the bottom and worked their way up. When they see someone like me coming from the same place, trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents, it's easier to vibe and click. Other hip-hop publications aren't run by black people The Source and Vibe are good examples of 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 I learned a long time ago that 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.

Tell us about being the last reporter to speak with Notorious B.I.G. before his unfortunate demise.

We were hanging out at the Vibe/Soul Train after-party. Everyone was having a good time, they played his new song "Hypnotize" like eight times in a row. It was one of the best parties I've ever been to. Biggie and I walk out, and plan to get together the next day for an interview. He tells me to call him tomorrow at the hotel, his room was under the name Frank White. I almost went with him that night. They get in the van, drive away, and all of the sudden, shots ring out. Some people say, "I live and die for hip-hop." Not me. It's just a musical art form and the way I make my living.

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. That sucks. 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 Cali slanguage is "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 "La Chiam!"

What would make your life "chuuch"?

Putting out a million copies of my free 'zine. I'd be like the black Hugh Hefner.

by David Wollock



EXTRA MATERIAL

Why is your magazine called "Kronick"?

It's short for "chronicle, as in, we are the chroniclers of hip-hop culture. On the streets, C-H-R-O-N-I-C refers to good, good smoke. And yes, while I might indulge, my 'zine is not about weed; that's High Times. K-R-O-N-I-C-K is how I spell relief from the other mainstream music magazines out there. I give it to you raw, uncut, and fresh off the bush.

What's unique about the L.A. hip-hop scene?

It's a scene comprised of dialectic opposites: gangsta rap culture, which bred N.W.A., and on the flip side we have "backpack" or underground culture, which bred Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples and Pharcyde. And these "back-pack" groups spread a much warmer, sunnier vibe, as opposed to the cold, grimy, gritty and gutter vibe of their New York counterparts. We're also home to the most important single hip-hop figure in the world, Dr. Dre, and we have a ton of stars who have transcended the music to become Hollywood icons, such as Ice Cube and Ice-T.

More on whites trying to be down with hip-hop.

Don't bite the hand that feeds you. But my feeling is that hip-hop is teaching these white boys how to be [down]. The music is actually coming full circle to undo what has been done for so many years, and that is, teaching black people that we weren't sh-t, that we were just niggas. Now the music is helping to reverse it, saying we are the shit, and you can be [down], too.

What was your most interesting recent interview, and why?

My next cover story, on the most popular rapper of the moment, Nelly. There's a big controversy between him and KRS-One. KRS is one of the greatest MCs of all time. However, he's not relevant any more. Nelly is the top dog. And here comes KRS challenging him, telling people to boycott him because he did a song called "Number 1," which [KRS says] disrespects hip-hop pioneers like himself. Now, here I am in the middle. Same with Biggie Smalls and Tupac I was friends with both.

What's the coolest thing about running your own magazine?

Everyday is like Saturday, because I always get to go out, meet stars, meet beautiful women and all the stuff people get into rock 'n' roll for.

Look into your hip-hop crystal ball and tell us what you see.

I predict that Nelly will have his own sit-com like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, that Dr. Dre will start producing movies and scoring soundtracks, and that there's going to be a phenomenal white female rapper I don't know who yet out in the next two years.

You've got some pretty fat ad accounts for a regional 'zine. How'd you hustle that?

Because 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.

Indie publishing is precarious to say the least, yet you've been at it over a decade. What makes Meshak run?

I'm a role model to my son, and to the 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 to me 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.

What are the most and least "chuuch" albums of the year?

I'm really feeling N.E.R.D. and Raphael Saadiq. And this L.A. Latina R&B sensation Elvia. You haven't heard her yet, but you will. Least? The new Lauryn Hill CD is quite bootylicious.




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