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Media training 101

When I first started writing about hip-hop, one of my friends in the industry gave me a piece of advice about interviewing rappers. “The dudes on top know what the deal is,” he told me. “But you gotta watch out for the has-beens and the haven’t-made-it-yets. Those are the ones that are going to act up.” I thought about that advice this week when I read Lauren Carter’s op-ed in the Boston Herald:

Nothing hip about hip-hop harassment.

It seems that Ms. Carter was in the process of interviewing Stat Quo, Obie Trice and Alchemist about The Re-Up mixtape when newcomer Stat decided that it would be a stellar idea to demand phone sex. The Atlanta rapper—whose debut Statlanta is currently scheduled to drop on Shady/Aftermath Neveruary 33, 2107—went on to inquire if the reporter used a vibrator, joke about Alchemist defecating while on the phone, detail his groupie escapades, and claim that he was phoning in from Bangladesh, where he was “bangin’ the flesh.” The reason? Apparently he was salty that the reporter’s questions were too general.

As Ms. Carter points out, this type of behavior is mind-boggling counterproductive. Promoting yourself obviously shouldn’t involve pissing the press off to the point that they publish a piece that makes you look like a clown. Not exactly rocket science.

The phone fiasco surprised me, since Shady/Aftermath/G-Unit artists are known for being pretty media savvy. Apparently nobody has got around to giving Stat the heads up. So allow me to offer a few tips for dealing with reporters:

Always assume that you’re going to have to deal with someone again in the future.
The thing about us writers is that we occasionally make it. You might talk to us when we work at a local newspaper in a mid-sized city. You might think that you are free to act up because you’ll never have to see us again. You might be right. Then again, you might find us reviewing one of your records for a major publication a year later. Best to play it safe and refrain from requesting random hotel sex.

When the tape is rolling, anything you say can and will be used against you. So don’t say stupid shit.
Seriously. If you let loose with a bunch of outlandish crap, it will get published. Don’t say things that you don’t want to see in big, bold quotation marks in the middle of the article.

The more famous you become, the less your interviewer is going to know about you.
When you’re coming up, you are probably going to be talking to writers for indie rap mags, hip-hop websites, and alternative weeklies. These people will normally know your work well and care about it on some level. The bigger you get, the more mainstream publications you are going to talk to. Which means you’re going to talk to reporters who were assigned your interview hours before, don’t know much about hip-hop—let alone you. They are guaranteed to ask a bunch of inane questions. Get used to it.

Phone interviews suck. Period. Don’t make them more painful than they have to be.
Everybody hates phone interviews. Don’t drag it out by giving one word answers, or talking to your boys, or shouting directions at your driver, or playing video games, or smoking weed, or taking other calls, or eating lunch. Or suggesting phone sex.

Don’t flake out.
Here’s a secret about reporters: a lot of us are freelance. Which means that if you make us wait around for hours and then stand us up, we don’t get the story and we don’t get paid. Writers get grumpy when they don’t eat. Grudges can develop.

Media skills pay the bills.
You’d be surprised how far a few jokes, some decent conversation and a pleasant disposition will get you.

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