Sunday, July 31, 2022

How Starting A Music Magazine Elevated My Writing Career

Before blogs were a thing… young, hip writers wanted to write for magazines they read. Black Writers lived for seeing their names on a byline in the pages of The Source, Essence, Vibe, Rap Pages, etc.  But it was different for me, I didn’t simply want my name  in someone else’s magazine, I wanted my own magazine. Call me crazy, I’ve always been different that way. This is part four of In My Lane, How I Became A Writer.

I didn’t simply want my name in someone else’s magazine, I wanted my own…

I went through many name ideas before I landed on Mad Rhythms. I wanted the magazine to say, “music” and I wanted it to say that we had “edge.” I put those two words together and Mad Rhythms was formed. I printed my first business card on my home printer using some Avery Business Card Labels. Yep. And I put my HOME PHONE number on the card.  Yep, it was back in the day. Who even has a home number now? 

I printed the first issue of my magazine at Kinkos and with the 20 or so copies that I had printed, I sent them to 19 record labels/publicists that I researched using the PHONE BOOK and my trusty intern whose connections at a radio station helped me find people. I remember mailing the publication with a letter that said something like this: “Hi, my name is Yasmin Shiraz. I’m the publisher of Mad Rhythms. We’re a new hip hop publication based in Virginia. We cater to the college market. If you want to expose your artist to the college market, give me a call.” That simple. 

Bad Boy was interested in advertising their artist in my publication… Now, my head is spinning.

The first record labels to receive that prototype issue were: Bad Boy Records, Def Jam, Loud Records, Priority Records, Epic Records, and several more that I can’t remember. But I do remember a lady from Bad Boy Records who called me at home out of the blue shortly after I mailed that faithful package. It was around 9pm when my phone rang. When I answered the phone I almost fell over when she introduced herself and said she was from Bad Boy Records. My first thought, “GTFOH.” My second thought, “The mail be workin’.”  My third thought, “Try not to faint.” Shortly after she introduced herself, she told me that Bad Boy was interested in advertising their artists with my publication. Now, my head is spinning. I’m thinking, “Uh, I just sent that magazine in like a week ago and we’re already on the schedule? Amazing!!!” 

That one phone call made me take myself that much more seriously…

From her phone call I had to learn how to write up a rate card, but at least I knew people in the industry were reading my mail. That gave me the kind of motivation I can hardly put into words. That one phone call made me take myself that much more seriously which leads me to the next unbelievable thing I’d done in a short amount of time. 

With my new found confidence… I snuck backstage and found Diddy and Biggie.

During the time of launching Mad Rhythms, Bad Boy Records had the Flava in Ya Ear Remix all over the radio. They were on tour with the project and had booked the Hampton Coliseum. I got a ticket to go to the concert and with my new found confidence that people cared about what Mad Rhythms could become I snuck backstage and found Diddy and Biggie. On the fly and off the top of the head, I told Puffy about Mad Rhythms, I told him that it would become a hot magazine and I asked if I could interview him. On the spot. He said yeah and he told me that I should also be paying attention to this little known rapper known as Biggie Smalls aka the Notorious B.I.G. I agreed that I would interview B.I.G. and feature him in Mad Rhythms and we proceeded to do an interview backstage.  

My interview with Puffy was featured in what became the first official issue of Mad Rhythms magazine. I sent it out to more record labels, publicists, etc.  And my phone started ringing, a lot more. I started getting invited to interview artists, go to listening parties. Any time an artist came through Virginia, their people called me. Any time an artist wanted to reach the black college market, their people called me. I took writing the magazine seriously and I took working with the artists and their reps seriously. 

Any time an artist wanted to reach the black college market, their people called me.

One night at 1am, when I was already sleep, I got a call from a label rep asking me to hang out with Mobb Deep.  I was like, “Who?” And then I went and I interviewed them. Then I went home. Did I care that it was 1am? Nope. I was doing what I set out to do. And, the rep knew that I was legit so it was always about the business.  In the first year of owning Mad Rhythms, I interviewed Notorious B.I.G., ODB, Suge Knight, Miss Jones, … there were a bunch of people I can’t remember them all.

People were in awe of the progress the publication made in such a short time. And to be honest, when I showed up and I was, “Yasmin Shiraz, the publisher,” they didn’t believe that either. I looked too young to be running a hip hop publication, let alone a college street team on 50 campuses as well. It didn’t seem possible. And yet it was. 

This wasn’t the first time I interviewed Puff, this was at his estate in the Hamptons years later. Shyne was there. Biggie wasn’t. He was already gone. I met Benny Medina that day and he told me about him being the original Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Benny also told me about reflexology. I’ll put all of this in a book some day.

Every story that I’ve ever written in Mad Rhythms has another story behind it. From the meanest publicist in the business, to Lil Wayne’s over-the-top 16th birthday party, to snakes in the business who try take you out of the game, nothing is ever as it seems. And the hotter you get, the more people want to take your heat from you. That’s the ugliness of success that people don’t talk about. It’s also the part of being Black in business that is some kind of dirty secret. Black people will try to take you out because the jealousy is so palatable. In the beginning of My Downfall by The Notorious B.I.G., Diddy rhymes, “Jealousy is a motherf*^#er, you weak jealous motherf*^#ers, if you’re a jealous motherf*^#er, you’re just a weak motherf*^#er, see when you’re on top, motherf*^#ers just wanna bring you down, motherf*^#ers don’t even know you and they don’t like you.” As I saw that happening in the business, I stayed focused on my writing and taking it to the next level. The next level for me was launching the How To Get Into The Entertainment Business Tour on 30 campuses.  

To read how my college tour, changed my life, made me an official paid motivational speaker and helped me elevate my writing, check out next week’s article of In My Lane. The series so far: 

Dedicated: How I Became A Writer, Part 1

Inspired: How I Became A Writer, Part 2

This Intern Changed My Life, How I Became A Writer Part 3

Yasmin Shiraz
Yasmin Shiraz
Yasmin Shiraz is a Screenwriter and TV producer who has worked for Lifetime, A&E, Bravo and PBS. She's a best selling author of more than 11 titles and the founder of Black TV Film Crew. She is the CEO of Still Eye Rise Media.

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