Jamarlin talks to Alvin Blanco, managing editor of HipHopWired, about #MeToo, allegations against Michael Jackson, and they revisit Spotify’s efforts at censorship. They also discuss the gentrification of the term “woke” and how Vanity Fair used it to describe Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, culture vultures in digital media, and Jay-Z’s legacy.
This is a full transcript of the conversation which has been lightly edited for clarity.
Jamarlin Martin: You’re listening to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin. We have a go hard or go home approach as we talk to the leading tech leaders, politicians and influencers. Let’s GHOGH! Today we have Alvin Blanco on the show, the founder and managing editor of Hip Hop Wired. Welcome to the show.
Alvin Blanco: Thanks for having me JM.
Jamarlin Martin: Let’s dive right in on where you believe hip hop journalism is compared to when we were growing up. I remember back in LA, I would pick up a Source magazine and I see really good political stuff, conscious stuff. They had a certain angle. David Mays and Benzino and the editors, they had it really cracking to me. And I remember XXL as well, I would see Dr Khalid Muhammad on the pages with a red, black and green flag and a gun, and they would be covering a lot of stuff that the mainstream is not going to cover. How would you compare the state of hip hop journalism today as opposed to, let’s say the nineties?
Alvin Blanco: I mean, I got to admit the state of hip hop journalism today is more watered down.
Jamarlin Martin: You believe it was better in the nineties?
Alvin Blanco: I think it was more concentrated in the nineties because in the nineties, there weren’t as many outlets. If you wanted to know what was going on in the hip hop game, you had a few outlets to go to. You had “The Source” or “XXL”, “Vibe Magazine”. Of course there were other smaller magazines like 4080 or Rap Pages. But I’d say those three I mentioned were the top ones, and if you read those every month, you were kind of in tune with what was going on in the culture. But then, as times change, the internet rises up. Now we got social media. You really don’t need a magazine. By the time you get a magazine that’s old news versus what you see on your timeline.
Jamarlin Martin: Let me be more specific. So you had “Source”, “Vibe”, “XXL” back in the day. And then now you have “Complex”. How does that stuff compare? Based on website traffic, “Complex” is the leading publication, but when you compare a “Complex Media” to the strong editorial in the nineties, how do you see things shaking out?
Alvin Blanco: When you look at “Complex,” right? That’s one example. They’ll cover music, they’ll cover fashion, they’ll cover politics a little bit. They’ll cover sneakers. It’s just so much. Versus in the nineties, you take one “Source” issue, right? You literally had to distil everything. It was almost like a natural gatekeeping process. It was like, okay, what’s the most important stuff that we could fit in this monthly issue? We’re going for a month and put it out and that way you got the most important stuff versus on a website daily you’re kind of drawing everything up there. And naturally only certain things will stick or actually last more than say a 24-hour news cycle. So the movement of the news is just so fast.
Jamarlin Martin: I guess from a culture perspective, what I’m thinking is, hip hop has been degraded. It’s been watered down. Mumble rappers and people just talking about bullshit, more so than the nineties.
Alvin Blanco: There was bullshit in the nineties.
Jamarlin Martin: For sure. But you got a fair share of good stuff. But what I’m thinking is, has hip hop journalism just followed hip hop? So the trend towards mumble rap and kind of shallowness, that the journalism has followed that as well. Do you believe that’s fair?
Alvin Blanco: I believe it’s fair, because as a journalist you have to cover what’s out there, you just can’t ignore it. A journalist’s worst fear is missing out on something. Like Fomo, fear of missing out. Right? But at the same time, I can’t say that there’s not maybe in smaller doses the same quality of work, the same devotion to making sure the story is correct and seeking out stories. It’s just that there’s just so many outlets. Right? You mentioned “Complex”. Got To mention “Hip Hop Wired”, “XXL” has a website. “The Source” still has a website. Vibe.com. Even mainstream outlets like GQ or Vanity Fair are posting hip hop stuff.
Jamarlin Martin: There’s so much competition.
Alvin Blanco: Yeah, exactly. There’s just so much competition. Whereas in the nineties all the talent was either at “The Source” or “XXL”, “Vibe”. Now all that talent is spread out. So there’s no one outlet that has all the best writing talent.
Jamarlin Martin: Alvin and I, we worked together for maybe five, six years. I want to apologize for something on the show. There was an issue that came up. A venture capitalist that I knew over years, he had known Dj Vlad and so the brother investor said, hey, “Hip Hop Wired” put out a hit piece on Dj Vlad and you shared an article about somebody else calling Dj Vlad a culture vulture. I went through with that favor for that brother, investor. I guess he had a commercial relationship with Dj Vlad. Dj Vlad is like, ‘Hey, how do I get to Jamarlin and “Hip Hop Wired”, .’Hey, I know him, let me see if I can ask a favor’, but I should not have done that, but I want to apologize to you on the show.
Alvin Blanco: Accepted. I understand the game.
Jamarlin Martin: How were you feeling after that?
Alvin Blanco: I was pissed. Because I remember when you hired me, you said you want to get back to the days of “The Source”, keeping it a hundred and keeping it above. And I was cognizant of the fact that… Is it fair to say the site had some type of relationship with Vlad.
Jamarlin Martin: No. I didn’t have a personal relationship. I had a relationship with the investor who was connected to Vlad. So Vlad had reached out to this investor to get to me to ask for that.
Alvin Blanco: Right. Okay. Dealing with a website that generates revenue, I treaded thinly. I was proud of the fact that we were independent, that were black-owned, but at the same time, yes…
Jamarlin Martin: That’s not what we do. Posters.
Alvin Blanco: Right. But at the same time, I don’t want to be the hotep journalists that shoots themselves in the foot by not being aware of the political connects or whatever.
Jamarlin Martin: It wasn’t even you calling him a culture vulture.
Alvin Blanco: Exactly. So another site called him a culture vulture. So we were reporting on that. Now me personally, I’ve said that Vlad does culture vulture-ish all the time, all the time.
Jamarlin Martin: For the record, make no mistake about it. Dj Vlad is a culture vulture. I don’t care how many Illuminati people you get to come ask me for favors, but make no mistake, this guy fits the description of a culture vulture.
Alvin Blanco: Yeah, 100 percent.
Jamarlin Martin: So this came up maybe last year with Funkmaster Flex and Damon Dash. There was some stuff about Lyor Cohen. Is Lyor Cohen a culture vulture?
Alvin Blanco: The way Dame Dash put it out there. Yeah. The argument can be made. I wouldn’t put him in the same tier as Vlad at the moment because, maybe he’s just been more deceptive with it. He’s just not as bad as Vlad. But I mean, especially with some of the stuff that Dame Dash is putting out about how he hasn’t propped up any black executives. He’s definitely propped up white executives.
Jamarlin Martin: Lyor Cohen?
Alvin Blanco: Yeah. So, I mean the argument can be made.
Jamarlin Martin: What about vice, are they cultural vultures?
Alvin Blanco: Vice? Yeah. I haven’t studied Vice to know exactly what the makeup of their publishers are or I’m not really up on their content like that just because I don’t really tune into them like that. But from what I’ve seen, yeah.
Jamarlin Martin: What do you say to the establishment negro who will say, “Hey, what Dj Vlad is doing, you could do it too, you can start building out your own platform. Don’t get mad at him because he sees the opportunity and he loves hip hop.” Why fault the white men who’s into hip hop for building a business, when you could do it yourself?
Alvin Blanco: Nobody’s faulting Vlad’s business acumen, because honestly the dude gets out there and gets some money.
Jamarlin Martin: You’re just saying that he fits in that box as a culture vulture?
Alvin Blanco: Yeah.
Jamarlin Martin: I believe even the brother from Brand Nubian called him a culture vulture to his face.
Alvin Blanco: Yeah. Lord Jamar. He started with mixed tapes, mixed tapes fell off. He started doing dvds, eventually got into videos and he’s been making a killing doing that. So business-wise it is what it is. But at the same time, that business is basically exploiting a lot of people.
Jamarlin Martin: How so?
Alvin Blanco: He’s putting people on camera and taking the worst,the most… I’m just trying to think of the proper word.
Jamarlin Martin: Most coonish? Is he promoting coonism? Because he has…
Alvin Blanco: It depends. Recently he had an interview with Lil Boosie and he’s asking questions about, “why don’t you have any children with white women, like why aren’t you into white women and your children are dark skinned?” What does this have to do with whatever you’re talking to Boosie about? It’s clearly just trying to get hits. And I mean obviously that’s part of the game, getting hits, but you’re getting hits at the expense of…
Jamarlin Martin: A community?
Alvin Blanco: Yeah.
Jamarlin Martin: Didn’t Rick Ross’ people slap him?
Alvin Blanco: Yeah. I think Ross had to pay up so definitely somebody put hands on him.
Jamarlin Martin: Okay. You mentioned something about Nas and Kelis on Twitter, and we’re in the #Metoo environment and movement. Why are brothers so soft on rape, sexual assault against women? Let me clarify that. So just in terms of my own experience that rape on women, sexual assault, harassment, there seems to be a feeling that you’re less of a man if you’re a defender of women. You want to build her up, you want to protect her. And so it reminds me of back in LA, of a perverted sense of manhood where people wanted to gang bang, shoot each other, fight with each other. They were looking for validation from other men, but they’re looking for it in a perverse way, in an American perverse way. So when I hear some brothers talk about some of the abuse of women, they want to like really push back, right? And from my perspective, the strongest position as a man is to be a defender of women. Can you talk a little bit about how you reacted to some of the allegations against Nas from Kelis?
Alvin Blanco: Well, when I first heard it, to be perfectly honest, instinctively you want to say, I got to hear both sides, right? But during this time, when you look at the stats, that’s almost wrong because more times than not, when a woman accuses a man of assault or rape, I believe the stats say that more times than now she’s telling the truth. It’s actually the opposite where it’s very unlikely that she’s not telling the truth.
Jamarlin Martin: You believe the default black man position, it’s like, “She’s lying”.
Alvin Blanco: All these black men have been accused falsely. Or someone will say, “Oh, I know black people that were accused falsely, I don’t want to propagate that”, when in reality, the case is that more times than not, the woman is telling the truth. Right? And I got to that point just by educating myself, by falling back and listening. A lot of these dudes that run out and defend the wife beater, haven’t got that knowledge. They don’t realize that they are part of rape culture by doing that.
Jamarlin Martin: One of our guests mentioned that when she finds men in general soft on the abuse of women, there’s a strong chance that he’s an abuser. And so what I think about that many of us have fallen short in terms of how we have mistreated women or undermined women.
Alvin Blanco: I’ve said this recently online that a lot of times whenever a situation like this happens where in mainstream media and popular culture, a woman accuses a man of sexually assaulting her. It kind of brings out the closet rapists because you have guys that are adamantly saying, there’s no way, I believe the dude, even though all the evidence is saying that she’s telling the truth. This guy’s still going super hard and I’m like, “dude, why are you going so hard to defend this dude who really shouldn’t be defended?” Maybe it’s because you see a lot of yourself in him.
Jamarlin Martin: I think a lot of cases where brothers, one of these boxes are checked, when you see a brother who’s very soft on defending the black women in particular, but women in general, is that they are an abuser or they have been an abuser. They possibly have been abused themselves. Their daddy was an abuser or they had no real good role model in terms of teaching them how to treat and respect a woman. You’re not harder raping or assaulting or being soft on women.
Alvin Blanco: Like when dude’s are cat calling. It’s like, dude, you know that’s not going to work, but yet you are still doing it. Come on, grow up.
Jamarlin Martin: Do you see that part of the culture where folks are defending or being soft on the abuse of women, a part of that is tribalism? Hey, I’m a man. I’m on the guy team. I’m inclined to defend my team. I’m not on their team over there. And so I’m pushing back and banging for my side as a man.
Alvin Blanco: Yeah, I definitely see that. But also, as you said, this is their defense mechanism of the fact that they themselves are abusers. So let me take that off of me by saying, oh no, I’m just looking out for the black person. I’m looking out for men in general, but really just trying to defend yourself.
Jamarlin Martin: So Kelis comes out and she says Nas is an abuser. He was physically abusive. From your perspective, you don’t need to hear from Nas in terms of your own way of looking at things?
Alvin Blanco: I want to hear from Nas. That’s why I was disappointed that he waited so long to address it in a song, and I was disappointed that he didn’t address it right away because as journalists we are aware of libel and slander. So, if it wasn’t true, I’m thinking he could sue her, right? I just don’t understand why he didn’t come out right away and defend himself and say, “No, I didn’t do it.” So because of that, you kinda got to give him the side eye like, okay, why didn’t you say anything?
Jamarlin Martin: Are you taking your side right away in terms of Kelis, I believe her, or are you saying, hey, I want to hear Nas too and I’m mad that he’s not coming out to clarify what’s going on?
Alvin Blanco: Yeah. Honestly because I’ve been a Nas fan forever. You don’t want one of your favorite rappers to be known for putting hands on a woman.
Jamarlin Martin: Let’s say he did. So Nas slapped Kelis. Hey, they’re partying…
Alvin Blanco: This is theoretical.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. He got mad and he abused her. From your perspective, how are you looking at Nas from that point? Meaning that you’re obviously a fan, a lot of us have done things that not proud of, but how do you look at Nas today?
Alvin Blanco: I mean, I’d be disappointed. I can’t respect that. I mean honestly, I definitely wouldn’t support him anymore. I wouldn’t buy his music. If the music came on, would I change the station? I’d have to see. Because when you look at music in general, James Brown put hands on women. I stopped listening to James Brown.
Jamarlin Martin: What I’m struggling with is when the Spotify issue was going crazy with Spotify saying they’re going to take R. Kelly out of their recommendation algorithm, because of their values. Obviously they’re going to pick the black artists first. When they start doing policy, the black guy got to go first. And some of our people, to be fair, we’re calling for R. Kelly to be less promoted in Spotify.
Alvin Blanco: And I mean, I don’t listen to R. Kelly.
Jamarlin Martin: But my problem with a lot of folks saying, “Hey, this artist did this, this artist did that. I’m not listening to that artist,” is that, to me, there’s a massive amount of bias where they’re picking and choosing which artists they’re going to enforce the law upon. So for example, R. Kelly, he has a history of being accused for abusing women. Being with young women. The consensus is that he’s an abuser. However, what about Michael Jackson? Michael Jackson had court cases where repeatedly, parents came against him for molesting children. That’s fine if we’re going to apply a moral law in terms of any artists who are abusers of a human being in general, I’m not listening to them. But I believe 80 percent of these people who are picking and choosing, they’re banging Michael Jackson and this guy was accused like five, six times of molesting kids.
Alvin Blanco: Right. But you reconciled that in Michael Jackson’s case, weren’t a lot of those accusations eventually proven to be suspect?
Jamarlin Martin: No, nothing was proven. He settled. He wanted those to go away. Obviously, what do a lot of our leaders and executives do when they get in trouble? In Michael Jackson’s case, usually he’s not Black, but he turned Black real quick when these accusations hit. Reverend Al Sharpton, he got him. He got Jesse Jackson. When he got in trouble with Sony, he gets the Black leaders and kind of I’m banging Black now, but nothing provec that Michael Jackson never molested kids. What we know is that he settled cases, and the facts say he was at a minimum, exhibiting suspect behavior – sleeping in the same bed as the kids. So how can someone on one hand say that R. Kelly, this guy is an abuser. I’m not listening to R. Kelly, but then they’re driving home in the car banging Michael Jackson.
Alvin Blanco: People have levels. I mean, I guess I’m one of those guys that are still banging Michael Jackson. But when you look at R. Kelly and the settlements and the video, generally acting the fool in public with that song that said I’m sorry, or whatever it was called, where he kind of admitted to everything in song. And just as outlandish, coonish behavior, just I have no problem axing R. Kelly from my personal life discography.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. I didn’t stop listening to R. Kelly because of the Spotify and the protests. I just stopped liking his music. I stopped listening to R. Kelly four or five years ago.
Alvin Blanco: That’s what it comes down to really. It’s personal choice, you know? I give people to side-eye that still bump R. Kelly just because of all the stuff that’s come out. And with the stuff you mentioned, I understand people seem the same way about Michael Jackson, but it all comes down to your personal decision.
Jamarlin Martin: Trump.
Alvin Blanco: Cheeto.
Jamarlin Martin: Today it was announced that Kanye will be coming to the White House and they’re gonna talk about Chicago. They’re going to talk about criminal justice reform, most likely Kim Kardashian-branded criminal justice reform. What are your thoughts on the association between MAGA and Kanye?
Alvin Blanco: Before I get to MAGA and Kanye, the whole lunch meeting they’re having, it’s all just a photo op for Donald Trump. He not going to really take heed to what Kanye West has to say. No matter what Kanye West says, he’s just gonna trot him out and take a picture, immediately tweet about how Kanye understands him and how he lowered the unemployment rate for black people. “You should vote for me”. Now, as far as Kanye-MAGA, I think he’s misinformed. I think he’s a troll. And I think he really understood what that MAGA hat stood for and symbolized, considering where he comes from, his mother, who was an English department head.
Jamarlin Martin: African-American studies…
Alvin Blanco: Yeah. African-American studies, there was no way he would don that MAGA hat. But clearly he thinks differently for whatever reason, whether it’s mental issues or just not being educated about these societal issues. He’s chosen to be a troll.
Jamarlin Martin: Let’s talk about that. There is a point of view, and I think I may have said this, as soon as he started wearing the MAGA hat, and I saw some of this stuff, he was saying, I was like, this guy’s not well. Let’s try to refrain. This brother is sick. Like many of our entertainers who go into Hollywood and go into these white shallow environments, you may have an inclination in terms of bipolar or something like that, but when you go into those environments as a Black man or a Black woman, it’s hard to get out in terms of all different types of, whether it’s the values, drugs, just folks insanely want the fame and the money. And next thing you know, Chicago, Kanye. Who is that? Do you feel like he shouldn’t be criticized because the brother may be sick?
Alvin Blanco: No, I don’t think he shouldn’t be criticized. I think that the asterisk should be placed at all times that one of the reasons he might be acting out this way is because of his mental illness.
Jamarlin Martin: He says he’s been diagnosed with bipolar.
Alvin Blanco: Yeah. And he’s even said, I’m being me, I’ve stopped taking my meds, I’m self medicating, I adjusted the levels or whatever. And it’s like, dude, you’re not a doctor, that’s not your call to make, you know what I mean? So that asterisk should be there, but at the same time I know plenty of people that might be dealing with bipolar disorder, any type of mental condition, and they’re not acting the fool for public consumption.
Jamarlin Martin: Where do you see this going with Kanye in terms of he’s gaining white majority racist MAGA fans.
Alvin Blanco: They’re not even his fans though. If he suddenly says something woke even by accident, they’ll turn on him in a dime, and I’m sad to say he probably doesn’t even realize that. And if anything he should, because fans turn on artists quickly, so he should be aware of that.
Jamarlin Martin: Let’s talk about that word, woke. A hedge fund manager, Steve Assness. A Billionaire, he’s talking about being woke and this is woke and this is not. The new CEO of Goldman Sachs, I guess he’s a DJ on the side and the media was saying he’s a woke executive.
Alvin Blanco: Clearly woke has been co-opted.
Jamarlin Martin: So woke has been taken over in many cases by folks who are the enemy of our people. Would you get to the point where, Hey, I’m starting to see this word abused and used. We may not be talking about the same thing.
Alvin Blanco: Yeah. You gotta be mindful of it. Yeah. You always have to. Anything that we as black people, people of color that we put out there as our own and suddenly the culture vultures start leaching onto it. You just gotta be aware.
Jamarlin Martin: How disrespectful is it when, whether it’s Trump or other folks, when there’s an important issue like criminal justice reform, they put a celebrity in front. They put Kim Kardashian in front. They put Kanye up, talking about criminal justice reform. Why don’t the experts from the black community, why aren’t our experts, our scholars, why aren’t they allowed to talk. So, as a black man, even myself, I don’t want to be there. Let’s say if the president really wants to talk about criminal justice reform. Jamarlin Martin is unqualified to talk about that issue because we got so many people who are better and more knowledgeable and so, how much negative impact is created when white America picks comedians, rappers, clowns. Not like everybody’s like that, but you know what I’m saying.
Alvin Blanco: Yeah. They pick the most non-threatening negro that they know won’t really give them any pushback. You mentioned comedians. There’s plenty of comedians, like D.L. Hughley who, I’m not a hundred percent sure, I think he’s done some stuff in the past I might not agree with, but clearly he’s an intelligent guy who, if he were to sit down with Trump, he would take him to task and put out ideas that would work to help black people. But there’s no way that Trump would actually sit down with him because he knows that he has no desire to do that. So instead, we get Kanye West. But when you look at all the people in the nation, in the world, all the Black people, intelligent Black people with something to say with keen ideas, whether it’s them being intellects, whether it’s them being on the ground, knowing what the people need, there’s so many people you could choose from that would be valid. Initially people might be like, “Yo, why is he even meeting with Trump?” Because the first instinct is like he doesn’t really care what you have to say. But if it was somebody that we rock with and Trump took the meeting, we’d be like, they’re representing us. Instead he’s taking black people that don’t represent us. It broke my heart when Jim Brown met with him and, back in the day Jim Brown was like one of the wokest athletes out there. But now Jim Brown saying, “Hey, Trump’s a good guy”. Yeah.
Jamarlin Martin: It’s all about personal relationships. And it’s not like it’s new because we know that Maya Angelou, Bob Johnson with BET, Magic Johnson, they all sided with Hillary Clinton over Obama. They may have loved Obama’s politics, but part of that I think is just the relationships.
Alvin Blanco: Yeah. I forgot about that.
Jamarlin Martin: Because of the relationship. Where do you see Kanye going? Like where does this end up? I have my theories.
Alvin Blanco: Honestly, man, I never want to see a black guy go out like horribly.
Jamarlin Martin: What do you mean? Like drugs?
Alvin Blanco: Drugs, out in the grave. More times than not if somebody commits suicide, they’re probably bipolar. Somebody in their right mind won’t take their life. But somebody who’s bipolar and might not be in their right mind is more likely to do that. I hope that would never happen, but unless he’s reeled back in…
Jamarlin Martin: He’s going in that direction.
Alvin Blanco: He’s going in that direction.
Jamarlin Martin: Like a lot of the Hollywood celebrities. They’re chasing fame, they’re chasing money. Next thing you know, you’re dead.
Alvin Blanco: When those things happened in the past, it would come out of nowhere. It’s kind of like we’re seeing this spiral out of control.
Jamarlin Martin: If, I believe, Kanye comes back to life and finds his core again, my thinking is he’s going to throw everything away. What he is going to do is all the Kardashian stuff, it’s kinda like black or white. Literally. I think if he comes out of whatever he’s in, he would be going through an identity crisis and he has to throw all that stuff. All the Hollywood, Calabasas, all that stuff. He has to just throw that off and he’s gonna say, “Hey, this stuff, this environment, these people made me sick or they contributed to it. How do I get like this?”
Alvin Blanco: People want that to happen. A lot of people wanted that when he went back to Chicago, I’m moving back to Chicago. He went into Chicago radio stations.
Jamarlin Martin: Or he’s talking about going to Africa, but he sounds sick when he says that.
Alvin Blanco: It eventually sounded like a press run to try to make himself look better…
Jamarlin Martin: Then he deleted his Twitter, he sounds like a madman.
Alvin Blanco: He’s not stable.
Jamarlin Martin: So let’s talk about Jay-Z, 4:44. So you were in the, “A Genius Leaves The Hood” documentary, the unauthorized story of Jay-Z that appeared on Netflix and TV One and did extremely well. Thanks for your contribution.
Alvin Blanco: No problem.
Jamarlin Martin: Is Jay-Z evolving in terms of, in the film we talked about some of the questions like, Hey, what do you really believe? Beyond, you want to get a big wallet, you want to be successful. But as it relates to your community, we don’t know what you believe. We don’t know what you believe in. But then this new 4:44 Jay-Z, to me there’s a lot of delta between “A Genius Leaves The Hood” and 4:44. Can you talk about what seems to be like a transition for him or maturity for him?
Alvin Blanco: Yeah. I mean, I think this is the man growing up. I don’t want to say growing up, he has been a grown man for a while. He’s just maturing and his worldview is just evolving, you know, he’s a family man now. He’s thinking about legacy. Obviously he’s been super successful, but now it’s, how could he even make that exponentially even more successful and that’s by making sure his family is good or making sure his friends are on the right path, making sure his friends are flourishing as well. And I think that’s seen in a guy like Biggs Burke, who at one point this guy was back in jail for dealing weed. Now he’s doing fashion and being a consultant for a whole bunch of different brands, or his best friend Emory Jones who is doing a lot of stuff with Puma.
Jamarlin Martin: But his lyrics, as you know, he’s like, hey, if I really want to rap, I would rap like Common or Talib Kweli, but ever since I did so and so I’ve been rapping like that ever since. Meaning like, I gotta go get paid. And now, I guess he got paid. But do you think this is a new consciousness or did he have this back in the day? But Hey, I got to go get this money first.
Alvin Blanco: Yeah, I think it was always there. I think it was always there. Like you said, he had to go get the money first. Now he got it and a lot of his fans will see right through it too. You can’t give us the same thing. I know the running joke is that Jay-Z has been doing the same album for years, but with these more recent albums, with 4:44 and even with, um, with the joint album with Beyonce, it is shown that he always had that in the back of his mind. He always had that, I don’t want to say woke because woke has been co-opted, but he was always one of the wokest rappers out there.
Jamarlin Martin: How much of possibly the divergent directions of Kanye and Jay-Z could it just be explained in consciousness? Or do you think it has nothing to do with consciousness?
Alvin Blanco: I mean, you don’t have to be a celebrity to know that friends eventually drift apart, you know. You might be best friends for four or five years and suddenly there’s certain fractures where we’re just not seeing eye to eye on stuff or there’s no love lost, but I can’t rock with you. And even recently John Legend was on MSNBC and they were asking him about Kanye West. And he even said he never discussed politics with Kanye, just didn’t talk about that. So he always found it strange even when Kenya said George Bush doesn’t care about black people. John Legend said they never discussed politics. So I think with Jay-Z it’s kinda like, he was going in one direction. Kanye was going in a bunch of different directions. Jay-Z knows that for his best interest, he probably shouldn’t be around Kanye right now.
Jamarlin Martin: Jay-Z is no doubt a great businessman, in my opinion. How much of his move to Black-Black, what I would call Black-Black, a clear position and where he was in early 2012, 2013 where, hey, we don’t know where you stand on a lot of this stuff. How much of it could be a business decision? Meaning that Nike, we’re moving towards cap because we think we could make an extra three billion.
Alvin Blanco: I think 95 percent of Nike’s decisions are probably business. I’m sure they ran the numbers. They ran the numbers and were like, we’re going to get paid.
Jamarlin Martin: But how much do you think Jay-Z’s moves, since “A Genius Leaves The Hood” is heart in terms of heart for the people, and how much of that is business? If you had to break it down in 100 percent?
Alvin Blanco: Honestly I think it would be like 5/050. I say that because, it’s like, okay, let’s give out scholarships. Right? He’s giving kids $100,000 scholarships, which is great. I’m sure he’s gonna take the tax break on that. Right? The natural hustler that he is, he’s just not gonna. If there’s a way for him to be taken care of financially through something, he’s not gonna, just leave it on the table and be like, I’m just going to let this money go. Nobody should just pass up on a bag out of the goodness of their heart. It just makes no sense.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. Let’s talk about brands. Looking at Nike, as you know, brands are a lot like consumers. They look for a leader, somebody who takes a chance, it works, and then they go follow. Do you see more brands doing a Nike or doing the Pepsi, where everyone’s talking about Black Lives Matter. Let’s get Kendall Jenner, let’s put a little protest and they’re gonna start pimping the folks of goodwill that are in the streets, battling with this beast and establishment. So now they’re going to be like, man, like a record company would invest in a Public Enemy, “I could make money off this”. Do you see more brands saying, Hey, I’m trying to get with folks who are doing really good work for the people and passionate about people? Let me try to bring my money in and partner with them.
Alvin Blanco: That’s gonna come down to the people they partnered with. Like Kaepernick, I’m sure Nike gave him a nice check for that. I personally think Kaepernick is going to do good things with it. Even before Nike was technically in the equation, he was giving suits to men who were fresh out of jail or to charities. So it just depends on the person. If you were one of these ambulance-chasing type of hoteps that were talking a good game about how you wanted to look out for your people, but really you’re just padding your wallet. You can’t wait for the corporate people to come in and give you a check. If you were really in that life where you’re doing this out of the goodness of your heart and these corporate people come in and it’s going to be a give and take because anything’s going to be a give and take. But if you could use it more to the benefit of your people, then it’s a good thing. I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Jamarlin Martin: People still say this til today, what they’ve been saying for years. So when they talk about the bad programming and hip hop impacting our people, the first thing they’ll go to is, “Hey, the white folks are programming this bad stuff about syrup and pills and death and just all the bad stuff. It’s the white folks’ fault”. I have been skeptical of that point of view in terms of, I know that if certain stuff is profitable, Shabazz the Disciple, Public Enemy, X-Clan, if the conscious stuff is profitable for white folks, they will invest. They don’t care.
Alvin Blanco: It’s strictly a numbers game.
Jamarlin Martin: So rather than it being some big spooky conspiracy, this is folks trying to get paid with the lowest risk possible, and they’re trying to make money, whether it’s conscious music or it’s people talking about killing, drugs and murdering each other. And so the blame has always been the white men on the perverseness in hip hop, the negativity in hip hop, the cultural death in hip hop. The blame has always been them. So now, as you know, the record company has been kind of reduced, dialled back. Now people in the street, they can just put their music on Soundcloud. They can go upload through an intermediary directly to iTunes or Spotify. And so some folks, there is no record company, they’re putting really bad stuff out, but they’re going direct. So who are you going to blame now? So now that the record companies has been taken out the equation and the rappers are putting it into the systems. Who is there to blame? There’s nobody left to blame.
Alvin Blanco: Right. But at the same time the record companies dialled back, but there’s still technical somewhere in there. If it’s not the record companies, it’s the streaming service or some shady player out there trying to maximize profit.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. But how much of our rise has to do with reprogramming the culture. And obviously music is a big component of that and so, we’re not with the C. Delores Tucker type of stuff, but we do realize that a lot of fathers are not in the home and so the community is not strong. The community is raising the children on a high level. So if a lot of our families and communities are broken or weak, I believe the Lil Waynes, the Boosies, these people become like a father. So instead of the son looking up to the father, they’re looking up to rappers, and I’ve talked to like 30, 40-year-old men who talk about them like they are their father.
Alvin Blanco: That’s scary.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. It’s like the rapper is higher than Jesus, the rapper is higher than God. The rapper is higher than a lot. The rapper is higher than my father. I love the rapper. So how do we optimize the culture in terms of how we’re kind of putting out stuff? What are the steps for that?
Alvin Blanco: Where to begin? I think first you need to really try to make a dedicated push to really prop up the rappers who are worthy of being role models.
Jamarlin Martin: Don’t you think 4:44, I thought it was a step up. This guy’s talking about inheritance. This guy’s talking about real estate. This guy’s talking about not blowing your money at the club. Like Jay-Z is doing the damn thing.
Alvin Blanco: Right. Versus a guy like Tyga. That’s a good fun time. But take it for what it is? Yeah.
Jamarlin Martin: When I heard 4:44, I was like, wow. If the people are going to be reprogrammed. This is it right here. We have to make home ownership. Life expectancy. How to deal with buying used cars instead of new cars or how not to kind of get cheated in your auto funding. We’ve got to make knowing about this stuff cool. And I think some folks are stepping out and making it cool.
Alvin Blanco: Yeah, definitely there are MCs out there now, like J. Cole or Kendrick Lamar, guys that are cognizant of their influence and definitely put the right messages out there, and so I’d rather my kid want to be like J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar or Jay-Z, and put them up there as an idol. Ideally it will be a parent or someone in the community or somebody who is a more realistic role model, versus a rapper or an athlete, you know what I mean, as opposed to somebody in business or a black venture capitalist or a black mogul. If that’s not the case, I’d rather be one of them.
Jamarlin Martin: A lot of the magazine editors did not make it to digital. They didn’t scale over to digital. You were able to go from old media to new media. Why do you think you were able to do it and lot of people weren’t able to jump over?
Alvin Blanco: I was fortunate in that when I was writing heavy for the magazines, like for The Source or Vibe, their websites were coming up as well, and since I wasn’t really established on the magazine side, breaking into the online side is what helped usher me into the magazine side.
Jamarlin Martin: Okay. So you started in digital?
Alvin Blanco: Well no I started in magazines, I got a couple of magazines clips. Then I found that a lot of work I’ll be able to get was on the online side because so many people were focused on writing for the magazine, that the digital side was in need of writers. So that made it easier for me to get in there. And because I was familiar in that online side, I got down with allhiphop.com. I was a music editor there so I was still writing for magazines, but was still heavy in digital at the same time.
Jamarlin Martin: It sounds like you had an advantage at the right time.
Alvin Blanco: Definitely.
Jamarlin Martin: Because you didn’t spend a lot of time on the magazine side, so you didn’t come into digital with a lot of baggage like, hey, we’re supposed to cover hip hop this way. Hey, this stuff may need to be re-thought.
Alvin Blanco: Yeah. Like for example, like let’s say XXL. I was writing for XXL, I was writing a profile on apples and then the rest of the magazine would maybe be a feature on 50 Cent, and a feature on who’s popping at that time, let’s say like Lloyd Banks or Rick Ross or whoever. So the magazine will come out with these features. We’d have those same features maybe in a week on allhiphop.com. Same information that was in the magazine, maybe more stuff because we had Q&As heavy. So I saw that, this monthly issue took like 30 days versus where we were throwing up stories, speak to the rapper on Monday, have the feature story up the next day. So a lot of the magazine guys, they will come to the online side, “Yo, new story, gotta get this up”, and two days later, three days later, “Yo, man, it’s late. You still transcribing? You got to speed it up.”
Jamarlin Martin: For our audience, what’s an average day? I know it changes, but what’s your average day?
Alvin Blanco: Average Day during the week is getting up early, seeing what’s trending. I’ll see Google trends and see what’s trending on Twitter. I’ll check my email to see if I’ve got any press releases and just start writing, knocking out stories.
Jamarlin Martin: Do you get leads from the users, the fans?
Alvin Blanco: Definitely on social media you’ll get leads. I’ll look at Shade Room, see what they threw up. That’s definitely a good way of getting news. Yeah, you just gotta be open to all types of sources. That’s how you get the best stories.
Jamarlin Martin: What was your most memorable interview over the years? I remember you brought over Fat Joe, had a chance to meet him, but what interview stood out over the years?
Alvin Blanco: Had a good interview with a Q-Tip.
Jamarlin Martin: What is he doing now?
Alvin Blanco: He’s working with Anderson Paak. He just posted a picture.
Jamarlin Martin: Who’s that?
Alvin Blanco: Anderson Paak? He’s an R&B dude, has a couple of albums out, Malibu was one, he signed some aftermath for Dr Drey. Super talented cat. Unique voice. Yeah, you’ll hear a lot more about Anderson Paak in the future. But yeah, they say don’t meet your heroes because they’ll let you down. Q-Ti,p as far as when I was talking to him about music and he did like a Biggie impersonation.
Jamarlin Martin: Did he come to the New York office?
Alvin Blanco: This is before Hip Hop Wired. So yeah, it was actually a video interview and the videographer messed up and I didn’t even get the vetting, but luckily I recorded it. So it ended up being just the editorial interview. As far as Hip Hop Wired, Ray Quan was a good one.
Jamarlin Martin: You did that in New York?
Alvin Blanco: Yeah. Did it in New York. He came through to the office. That’s like a hip hop legend, but he’s still a humble dude.
Jamarlin Martin: One of the things I was thinking about a couple of months ago, I was like, I remember I used to listen to Poor Righteous Teachers and I feel like this generation does not know, it hasn’t been documented well, the influence of the five percenters in hip hop, how entrenched that influence is.
Alvin Blanco: Yeah, I’ve been listening to old records now and there’ll be like a five percent reference that I get now and I didn’t get back thn, and I was like, Oh wow.
Jamarlin Martin: This generation doesn’t have to be a five percent or five-percent teaching. But this generation doesn’t have that injection. That five percenter, man. Like everybody’s talking about that. Nas, AZ, Wu-Tang…
Alvin Blanco: Yeah. It’s like even if you weren’t down with the five percent nation and just respected them, naturally you wouldn’t be a savage on the record because the whole thing is like civilized and the uncivilized. It kinda puts you in a righteous lane automatically because if you weren’t, they come find you.
Jamarlin Martin: It goes back to our point that during the time of a Jay-Z, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, Chain, even Capone-N-Noreaga, Poor Righteous Teachers, X-Clan. You weren’t cool if you don’t know about the five percent teaching, five percent teaching, that’s, look at this guy’s knowledge.
Alvin Blanco: Yeah. Zulu nation too. If you weren’t down to Zulu nation or at least respected at Zulu nation and their principles, then you weren’t cool.
Jamarlin Martin: Jay-Z still has a lot of runway left. But how would you describe his legacy, in terms of what legacy will you leave on the culture and the people?
Alvin Blanco: I think when all of a sudden done, he’ll be the number one rapper. The greatest rapper of all time. Unfortunately Biggie and Pac got taken away from us too soon. As far as the length of his catalogue, the time he’s been great for so long.
Jamarlin Martin: You’re looking at a lot of metrics.
Alvin Blanco: Right. Lyrics, influence on the culture, influence on society, influence on the globe. He’s going to be the number one guy. He’s going to be the guy that any rapper who wants to go beyond just being a rapper that wants to become an icon or a world icon, they’re going to have to attempt to hit all the points that Jay-Z’s hitting.
Jamarlin Martin: I think, more than anybody else in hip hop, he brought the A-game on the lyrical content side. But I think where he’s gonna end up is I brought the A-game on the business side and I brought the A-game at the end on the lifting up the people side. It may have taken me some time to get here, but I got there and I think across those fronts, he’s going to be looked at as a certified hero.
Alvin Blanco: Yeah. The trajectory of his life is a college course. It’s ups and downs. It’s life lessons. I think it’s a beautiful thing because we all know guys that were smart beyond their years, but through certain circumstances they didn’t get into the right school or got into the wrong circles or made certain poor decisions.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. That’s important. How many other Jay-Z’s are out there, where this brother may have been out there on the street selling drugs, but if you pull that man or woman outside of that environment, they can bang with the best in the world at business.
Alvin Blanco: Right. And, and I mean he’s made some mistakes, but clearly for every misstep, he learned from it, but he leapfrogged past it. What was it he gets flack for, the Samsung deal. That might not have worked out ideally. He got a big check out of it. But then dude starts Tidal, same thing, got flack for Tidal, then suddenly, there’s Apple Music, Spotify has to step up their game and, there’s Amazon Music now. But a lot of people forget that it was Jay-Z that was like, streaming is the thing, but more than a lot of people won’t admit that they thought he was crazy for starting a streaming service. I have a press subscription.
Jamarlin Martin: Okay. I want to thank Alvin for coming on the show.
Alvin Blanco: Thank you very much.
Jamarlin Martin: Where can people check you out on Twitter and online?
Alvin Blanco: On Twitter, I’m at https://twitter.com/Aqua174. Instagram is https://www.instagram.com/alvinblanco/. Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/aquaboogie, and of course https://hiphopwired.com/ on a daily basis.
Jamarlin Martin: Alright, make sure you check out the OG Alvin online. Let’s GHOGH! Thanks everybody for listening to GHOGH. You can check me out @JamarlinMartin on Twitter and also come check us out at moguldom.com. That’s M O G U L D O M.com. Be sure to subscribe to our daily newsletter. You can get the latest information on crypto, tech, economic empowerment and politics. Let’s GHOGH!