Filed under: In The Trenches,Internets,Interviews,Lost In Yonkers,Not Your Average
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Photo: Alexander Richter
Concluding my talk with eskay, we cover his time at XXL, the Nah Right comment crew, why his detractors just don’t get it and future plans for the site.
Robbie: So how was your time XXL? Was it a 9-5 kinda role?
eskay: I was gonna run the content on the Scratch website, because the XXL website was already up-and-running but the Scratch website didn’t really have any content, so they wanted me to come in and handle that. But then Jerry Barrow – who was the Editor-In-Chief at Scratch at the time – left, and they appointed Brendan Frederick in his place. Brendan of course had launched the XXL site and he had been running it since it’s inception. I had already accepted the job at Scratch, so when I got there Elliott was like, ‘OK, there’s gonna be a change of plan. Brendan is doing Scratch so I want you to do the XXL site’. I felt more comfortable working at the XXL site ‘cos it was more general hip-hop than the sorta niche site that Scratch was. I was amped that Elliott gave me that job – I got to work with a lot of talented writers and editors. I didn’t learn as much as I would’ve liked to learn when I was there, but I definitely learned a lot.
Why do you think that was?
For one thing, I was an inexperienced editor. I was a blogger, basically, that was now in a position that they’re editing a website of a major magazine. Obviously I have no journalism degree, I’m not an accomplished writer or editor, so it was really a learning on the job type of thing. On top of that, it’s a web property. With a magazine you have a month or so to sit there and work on content and edit and go back and forth and do rewrites and this and that, but with the web you need content immediately. So the work-flow is just so crazy that it’s really hard to sit down with people and absorb what you want to observe. It is what it is. It definitely helped me a lot.
What prompted you to move on after a year?
At the beginning of 2008 they let Elliott go and they brought in Datwon – who is a great dude – but the publishers wanted to change the direction of the magazine. If you look at XXL now, they cover R&B artists and stuff like that, which is really not my thing. I could give a fuck about The Dream’s new album or who Ne-Yo is collaborating with. Those guys are talented but that’s just not my forte. I dreaded having to write a fuckin’ article about Lloyd or whatever. [laughs] The other thing was that Elliott had brought me in, and [with] him leaving, I was like, ‘I didn’t sign up for this’. Scratch had folded, and Brendan came back to XXL, so it was me and him doing the site. Then Elliott left, and about a month and a half later Brendan left to go to Complex, so it was now just me alone doing the site. I was like, ‘Fuck this. Do I want to kill myself trying to maintain this website by myself and let Nah Right fall by the wayside, or do I want to leave and focus all my energy on the site that I own?’ I had to make that decision, and obviously I’m gonna go with my site, so that’s when I left.
During those 12 months at XXL, did you feel like you were neglecting Nah?
Yeah, definitely, because at my old job nobody knew that I was a blogger. Nobody knew that I was blogging instead of working – they had no idea! [laughs] Then I go to XXL, and the whole reason that I’m there is because I’m blogger. They know about Nah Right, they know that I’m doing that at the same time that I’m doing XXL, and I’m also doing it on their dime! It was hard to put time into Nah Right but not put too much into it, where it was keeping me from doing my actual job. The site I think definitely suffered. That was really when I stopped writing as much and just started throwing-up songs and throwing-up videos and stuff like that, because I just didn’t have time to sit there and write for half-an-hour about whatever. I would say that it suffered, but at the same time a lot of what I do at Nah Right is aggregating content. There’s something to be said for just giving people music and letting them form their own opinion about it. I may download an mp3 and listen to it, but I don’t really have anything to say about it. Like, ‘OK, this is the new Blaq Poet joint produced by Premier’. OK, it’s a nice beat, but I may not have anything in-depth to write about it, so I may just throw the song up and let you listen to it and let you remark on it in the comments, or take it and upload on your website and write whatever you have to say about it. During that point where I was at XXL the site kinda turned more into an aggregation site than a traditional blog, but when I left XXL and I started doing it full-time, I kinda kept the aggregation part of it, because I still feel like there’s something to be said for that type of site. Plus I was one of the first sites doing that type of thing – now you have a thousand blogs that do the same thing – but just remember who was first.
And streamlining it allows you cover a lot more content.
Right. Would you rather I fuckin’ spend three hours writing about songs or post ten new songs for you?
Would you ever take a job at a record label if the deal was right?
That’s not really something I would want to do. I’ve always said, ‘I don’t want a job that depends on somebody else selling records’. [laughs] If this guy doesn’t sell records then I’m out of a job? Nah…I’m a fan of music. Not saying I wouldn’t like to at some point put out an artist or start some kind of company that would facilitate releasing artist’s music – maybe some underground artists that don’t get the attention paid to them – but that’s definitely not high on the list of things I want do.
Is it worthwhile doing more original content like Nah Right interviews in the future, or is that a waste of time?
For the most part, I don’t think it’s really worth it for me to sit there and do interviews because I feel like that shit is so saturated right now. It’s just so wack. It’s like – artist has an album, artist is doing a press run, artist talks to 20 bloggers. All 20 bloggers ask him the same questions, artist gives the same answer. Then the interviews go up – one goes up today, one goes up tomorrow, one goes up the next day, and it’s all the same shit. It’s just really not worth it to me, there are very few artists that I feel that I could speak to. First of all, if I’m gonna speak to you I’m not gonna ask you the same questions about your new album and why it’s your best album ever and this and that. I’m gonna want to talk about something interesting, something a little bit left-field, and there are very few artists who I feel are worth talking to at this point. I feel like there are a couple of good bloggers – yourself included – who do those good interviews, who get a hold of these artists and ask them good questions and do really worthwhile articles, and there are a couple of hip-hop websites that do that and a couple of magazines that do that. I just feel like it’s such a crowded space. I’m not trying to stick my flip-cam in your face and ask you questions – there’s too much of that shit as there is. I don’t need to add to that noise. That being said, I’m definitely gonna start to ‘blog’ more, like when I first started the site, and do a little bit more opinion pieces and commentary. It’s really been kinda crazy for me, the last few months. I’ve got a couple of other things – nothing I really wanna announce yet – but I’ve got a couple of other things in the works that I wanna do that I’ve been putting time and energy into. Now that Nah Right has become a business for me there’s a lot of shit behind the scenes that I have to take care of, which is why I brought in dre and nation to do blogging for me. And then I’ve just got shit going on in my personal life which doesn’t allow me to blog like I would really like to. I was actually thinking I’d like to do a separate blog on Nah Right – like ‘eskays blog’ type of thing – where I would talk about stuff. Not just music, but a little bit of everything. So I might do that, but I’m definitely gonna start doing a little bit more commentary on the site.
The other thing that makes Nah Right unique is the commentator community that you have. It’s funny seeing artists catch feelings from the comments section.
Shout-out to the Nah Right comments – we have the best comment section on the internet, hands down. Whenever my comments section comes up, all I hear is that, ‘The comments are not about the post, it doesn’t make sense!’ But people gotta understand that it’s a community. A lot of those people you see in the comments have been commenting there since 2005 when I started the site, and we’ve been meeting on Nah Right for the last four years. We know shit about each other in real life…we actually have relationships with these people that we’ve never even met before. So it’s a running conversation through the comments, and they’ll tell you, ‘We don’t give a fuck about what you posted, eskay! We’re having a conversation here and if you don’t like it, too bad’. [laughs] I learnt that, early on, that you can’t moderate them. You can’t tell them, ‘Don’t talk about this, talk about that!’ So it’s not even worth trying, so just let it go. A long time ago I realized that was the way to go. Definitely the gulliest comment sections on the internet.
I notice you’re also experiencing the ‘crabs in the barrel’ mentality, with some other bloggers taking little shots at you recently.
What can you do? When you reach a certain point or level of success I think that just comes with the territory. I think a lot of that shit is misguided though. I think that they don’t really follow my site, they probably just heard about my site in the last year or so. I don’t think they really read it everyday or go into the archives or read the commentary that I leave on the site. I think they have this limited picture of what they think Nah Right is and what they think my opinions are, so I think if they spoke to me on a real level – man-to-man shit – they would understand that everything I do is for the music. You may think that eskay feels one way about something when that’s actually not the case. Just because I make a smart-ass remark about something, you can’t take that and make assumptions about what my opinions are or how I feel about this or that. I’m definitely not one of these bloggers who feels he needs to talk shit – miscellaneous shit – and call people out for no reason to get attention or get traffic. I’m not with that ‘shock blogging’ shit. I may say something crazy that you may take as a ‘shock blogging’ tactic, but it’s really not. I really mean it. I mean everything I write. I say a lotta shit in jest, but that’s the voice of Nah Right. What can I tell them?
How many of the newer artists that you post on Nah Right are you a fan off, and how many are you just putting-up to let people decide for themselves? About half and half?
Am I real fan of all of them? No, but I respect of all of ‘em to a certain extent. If I thought they were utter garbage then I wouldn’t even post them. I may respect their talent, I may think they’re a good lyricist but I may not listen to their music on a regular basis. I’m probably an actual fan – as in I actually listen to their shit – of probably about half of them, and I respect all of them. I respect what they’re doing.
When’s the Nah Right BBQ popping off?
The comments have been asking for that for the last three years, so I have every intention of doing it somewhere around next Memorial Day weekend, which will be May of 2010. That’ll be the fifth year anniversary of Nah Right, so I’m trying to put it together and make sure we do it sometime in May 2010 – The First Annual Nah Right BBQ. Free beer, free food.
A Corona-free zone I hope!
No fuckin’ Coronas! If you come with a Corona, I’m throwing that shit at you! [laughs]
Previously: eskay, part 1
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