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Go Behind the Scenes with Jamaican Hip Hop Pioneer Five Steez

Five Steez, Internationally Renowned Rapper: An Interview with AWKWORD

Five Steez is a Jamaican artist and organizer who I met on Twitter in seeking out international artists for a global collaboration I am producing with artists from across the world. A Founder of Pay Attention, Jamaica's premiere Hip Hop-themed party and showcase, Five Steez is a veteran of the scene who's showing no signs of slowing down. In September, as part of The Council, he released the "Council Arts" single off the group's currently untitled project slated for 2016; he is also planning to release Momentum: Volume Three with New York City's DJ Ready Cee before the end of 2015.


1. Birth Name: Peter Wright
2. Birth Date: November 11, 1986
3. Birth Place: Kingston, Jamaica
4. Languages Spoken: English, Jamaican Patois
5. Favorite Color: Blue
6. Favorite Food: Fish and bammy
7. Favorite Movie: Malcolm X
8. Favorite Song: ("too hard" to answer)
9. First Single: "Yard Nigga Rap," 2011
10. Official Website:


1. Why Hip Hop?

Hip Hop spoke to me in a way that no other genre did. Among other things, I was drawn to it by the diversity I heard in the content and, of course, the lyricism. I had older brothers who were into the genre, so while growing up, I heard a lot of it through them. By 11, it had become my favorite genre, and I had begun to delve into the music myself. A few years later, my love for it had grown and I was writing and recording rhymes.

2. Is that common in Jamaica? How big (or not) are Hip Hop culture and rap music? Were you influenced locally or by US artists?

Hip Hop music is very popular. You will hear it on radio and all over. Whatever is popular in the US is usually popular here, and that has been the case for decades. Even Reggae, for which Jamaica is known, was something we stumbled upon after our Rocksteady era, in which we were following and singing over American R&B. Reggae was once the most popular genre here, but now it is Dancehall music. And while you can hear and see the influence of Hip hop in the music and on the people, local Hip Hop music is not readily supported by the industry. Generally, there is a lack of knowledge about the culture and a view among some that Jamaicans should only do Dancehall or Reggae.

I have been influenced by local and US acts. I love Reggae and Dancehall, and they definitely influence my worldview and taste in music. In regard to my craft, I've mostly been influenced by my favorite emcees in the US, but also some of my fellow Jamaican rappers who have been making music for a longer time than I have.

3. And how have you influenced others? I understand that you've been very active in not only getting your music out nationally and internationally, but also in promoting Hip Hop in Jamaica. Please explain. 

I think other rappers have been motivated to continue on their path and approach the craft more seriously. I've received a fair amount of media exposure, which has raised awareness not only about me but about the movement here. And I have been involved in staging events since 2010. I began working with the youth arts organization Manifesto Jamaica, and we staged numerous events until late 2011. These events fused different genres of music and varying art forms. I performed at some of those events and, being one of the few rappers in the organization, I also reached out to other rappers to include them on some of the bills. 

In 2012, I helped found Pay Attention, a Hip hop party and showcase that has become the hub for the community in Kingston. Since its inception in April 2012, and up until March 2015, we've been staging it frequently, receiving unprecedented media attention for uniting a community that was once divided. It is the only event of its kind out here, as there are no other events completely dedicated to Hip Hop. 

We have now taken a break from the events to focus more on our music, as all of us are artists first, but I have seen other events being organized by our peers and patrons. I'm not sure how much of an influence Pay Attention or I has had on them, but they are events that definitely cater to and provide an avenue for the Hip Hop community, as opposed to the typical Dancehall or Reggae event. 

Lastly, the studio space in which I operate with my peers has been around for a decade, and developed a reputation for being the 'Mecca' of Hip Hop in Kingston. There is no other space where you will find as many Hip Hop heads, artists and producers on, pretty much, a daily basis.

4. So what is it about Hip Hop? What is unique to this music or culture that makes it so appealing to the youth? And how does Hip Hop lay into Jamaicans' everyday lives?

Hip Hop is said to be the global youth culture. It's music for young people and those young at heart. The stories, messages, realities and aspirations in the music are aspects Jamaicans can relate to, like people from any other nation. 

Hip Hop has become more pop than ever and the average Jamaican is familiar with Drake, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, etc. Most young Jamaicans, even if they're not into Hip Hop, but being a part of mainstream culture, followed the recent Drake/Meek Mill drama. Certain Hip Hop slangs, those popularized in the genre, such as "beef," "ratchet," and "shade," have found their way into everyday speech for some. People wear fitted caps and Nike Air Force Ones, for example. These things are not indigenous to us, but we're a country with a diaspora as large as our actual population, if not bigger. Most of us travel or have family who travel, and people from all over the world come here. Plus, we've had American cable stations since the '90s. Hip Hop has influenced Jamaica's popular culture in many ways, even if people at large aren't living the Hip Hop culture as you and I may know it.

5. Global, for sure. As you may know, I put out an album in 2014, World View, which features 16 countries and six continents. Had I known you then, it would have been 17. But we're working on that new global collaboration track, and your verse on that record is crazy. You talk about your life and life in Jamaica. Are those common themes in your music? What do you use your voice to say, and why?

Yes, I think it was some time in early 2014 that your music came to my attention.

My music usually deals with my own life, and social commentary. I usually have something to say, and it's always of relevance to the people. Life in Jamaica naturally finds itself in the music, and on These Kingston Times that was the focus. There are things I advocate for in the music -- knowledge of self, for example -- and things I often protest, such as police brutality. I try not to box myself in, however, and I'm finding that my music, particularly an EP I'm working on for 2016, is becoming more personal. In a similar vein as songs like "Slaving on the Plantation" and "Wanna Be Free" off War for Peace and "Night Streets" off These Kingston Times, I represent the everyday person -- and I intend to articulate that because, one, I need to tell it, and two, I think people need to hear it. 

6. Word up. Couldn't agree more. So is this what makes you stand out from other artists? If not, what does? And what do you think of popular rap music today?

I think it's my honesty and my commitment to certain standards, as well as my environment, since people aren't used to hearing about Kingston in Hip Hop. 

I'm not fond of what's popular in Hip Hop today. I like what Kendrick (Lamar) and J. Cole are doing, though. I guess they both are mainstream enough to be considered 'popular.'

7. Is this new, or has the mainstream always been this way, in your mind? What kind of period are we in, in historical context?

Hip Hop in the mainstream used to be good! I loved the '90s, but by the early '00s, it was evident that a shift had fully occurred. 

We're in a new era. The Internet changed things, and some indie acts get a level of mainstream exposure. I'm not sure where the mainstream is going. I think the labels, radio stations, etc., are trying hard to adapt, but they're doing too little, too late. 

The essence of Hip Hop is more alive now than 10 years ago, I think. With the Net, now, it feels like there is more good music that is finding its way out there, even if it remains underground.

8. So who are we talking about here? Worse cases of mainstream 'f*ckery?' Best examples of indie greatness? 

Worst cases? Bobby Shmurda, Migos, Future, Young Thug. 

Indie acts making good music include Joey Bada$$, Roc Marciano and Curren$y. (I understand Curren$y is now with a major, but he's been releasing independent projects for years.)

9. In the case of a Bobby Shmurda or Slim Jesus, who's at fault? Who/What is ultimately responsible, and why? Is it the artist, the industry as a whole, or the label that signs him? Is is the radio station that plays his music? Or, is it our society? And what do you most respect about artists like Joey Bada$$ (minus the dollar signs in his name)? 

Everyone is to blame. Some fans may not know better, and the labels and radio are just about the money. 

I respect the independence of someone like Joey, and he's making quality music -- a type of music that you wouldn't expect from someone his age. Anyone making good music that represents the essence of the genre, I can listen to. That's what I want to hear in Hip Hop, and once someone is doing that, I can respect him/her as an artist.

10. To me, Praverb (RIP) was one of those artists (and people). How did you two connect?

Yes, he was. I think I may have first heard him on The Social Network. Or, maybe I found him online through a retweet.  I'm not sure, exactly, but we used to converse via Twitter, as he was always sharing useful information for independent artists. I learned a whole lot from him, directly, as well as all the links he used to share. He was always open to discussion, and we came to respect each other as artists. We may have collaborated, eventually, if he did not pass. In fact, I did something for DJ Bobby Bob, with K. Sparks and Nomad Carlos, a while back, Bobby Bob had initially reached out to Praverb, but he opted not to jump on the track. I don't think he was writing as much at the time. When Praverb passed. I realized just how many he had impacted. I knew it was many, but I never realized it was so much. He was committed to helping people, and it's good to see his work and legacy continue.

11. Thank you, fam. I couldn't agree more, as you would probably guess. So, whats next for you? Aside from dropping the upcoming projects, how do you see your future in this business playing out?

I only see growth in the future. I intend to take it as far as it can go. And, no matter what, I'll always be making dope music. Because, in the end, that's all that matters. 

12. Are you signed to a label? For the up-and-coming artists out there, how do you continue to be prolific, while also feeding yourself (and others)?

No, I'm not signed to anyone. I am the label, pretty much. 

My art helps me bring balance to my life. So, it's natural for me to write rhymes, especially now. I strive to be disciplined, however, and try to organize my work as best as possible -- and I think that's what allows me to be constantly creating in spite of other commitments and challenges. 

13. The simplicity is astounding, and yet I can relate -- I've done it myself my whole career, too. What advice do you have for others, in terms of making it work? What three things are most important for the indie artist's survival? 

(1) A true love for the music; (2) dedication to the journey; and (3) a willingness to be your own team -- playing multiple roles -- until you have the suitable people in place. 

14. And for the fans: Any intriguing stories from backstage or the studio? 

I was backstage at Manifesto Festival main show in Toronto in 2011, and someone thought I was Q-Tip. I was just watching the show, and a guy in front of me to my left was glancing around... He saw me, and he looked, kind of, surprised, and then walked over, excited, saying "Yo, Q-Tip!?" I was like, "Naaahhh." We laughed it off, and he said I looked like Tip. That was the second time I heard that.

15. (Laughing) OK, last question: what's one thing nobody knows about you that would be especially telling for your fans?

(Thinking) It's not really something that nobody knows... But, it's not something everyone knows or something I advertise... I'm really concerned about the well-being of my people. On and off since I was a teenager, I've been active at the community level, working with the youth and helping to execute projects... Not as much now, outside of the music I'm creating. But in the future I will be making more contributions to my people, and to my nation, by doing more than just music.

Jean P the MC: Reflecting On His Hometown Hero Debut


Author’s Note: This is the first interview of a monthly series I’ll be doing on talking to artists all over the world that you may or may not have heard of. Praverb always did his job to give a voice to a myriad of artists. I plan to do just the same. RIP Praverb.

Canton born emcee, Jean P has proven his skills as a veteran emcee while still pursuing growth not only in his music but in his personal life as well. Coming off the success of his debut LP “Hometown Hero” and his performance at the 2x2 Hip Hop Festival in Columbus, Ohio, I catch up with the artist and talk about the road leading up to his debut LP release. We also cover how his personal life influences his art and music and his upcoming projects.

Michael Stover: Let’s go back, you dropped your debut LP “Hometown Hero” about a year ago. You went through a lot to get to this point. Being on the other side of that, reflect on the struggles you went through for a bit.

Jean P the MC: I really wouldn't say "struggle" but more of just learning the ways of being an adult. I'm 25 years old now and my eyes are opening up to many "adult things". One of the main things was feeling like I was in a simple cycle where I wasn't growing as a man. Music will never go away, it's apart of who I am. Everyone who knows me or meets me can tell from the way I walk, talk and breathe that I am Hip-Hop. Jèan P The MC is good, now it's time to get Jèan P. Johnson right (laughs). I had to get my health right as well. Last year when the album was released I was sitting at 240 pounds and my sugar was high. Now I'm weighing in at like 204. People weren't calling me "big homie" because of my age. My goal everyday is to be better than yesterday and in the midst of that the journey will consist of good and bad. Either way God is with me in my artistry as well as a man.

MS: How have your fans & your hometown reacted to “Hometown Hero”?

Jean P: The love has been so real. People come up to me and tell me their favorite songs off the album and it puts a fire in me that inspires me. I live in a city of about 70,000 people and it was dope riding around and kids were shouting out "Hometown Hero!" as I drive by. I just want to be a Positive OG. My hometown has even gone as far as saying I shown Canton in a different light. The main thing I want people want to know is what's next and I want to know that answer too. I'm not the dude to be in the lab all the time. I go in when I'm ready and this time I am. I recently announced a new album I'm working on titled "King For A Day" which is similar to the "15 minutes of fame" slogan. I'm excited about it. Just something to hold the people over but still quality nonetheless.


MS: Talk about how Canton has influenced your sound and your music career.

Jean P: The grind. Seeing single mothers go to work to provide for their kids. The felon who just came home deciding to get back to what he knows best or put his pride to the side and fill out an application for McDonalds. A kid who has played sports all of his life and he knows it's one of his ways out. It's stories like these everyday in the city and that's what inspires me. Canton has inspired me to be the best because a lot of people from here were told we never were the best at anything.

MS: We’re here in 2015 and you’ve been a bit quiet, yet you still managed to go out and perform at the 2x2 Hip Hop Festival in Columbus. Explain the importance of that and elaborate on the experience.

Jean P: I was quiet because my laptop was damaged (laughs). It's the way I make my music and I had no other way so I was sad to be honest. I was in the gym going hard too, trying to turn into LL Cool J too so it was definitely lit for that. I said hey...they like my puppy eyes, now let me slim down and add some muscle to that. 2X2 Fest is important! Much love to Josh Miller for putting that together. I don't think a Hip-Hop festival in Ohio has existed since Scribble Jam in Cincinnati. There was so much talent on that bill as far as emcees go. My OG PA Flex of The 3rd came out to see me rock so I had to come correct. That's one of my favorite groups. My favorite acts at the festival were Sam Rothstein, Nes Words, Solson and a few others. I networked, took pictures and had a ball! I'll be back next year for sure. A fun time for Hip-Hop.

MS: As you know I’ve been a fan for too long, when in the world are we getting an Opposites Attract sophomore effort?

Jean P: Yes. LAKIM is really busy and killing it right now with Soulection so I'm just working on my stuff in the meantime. We have a group with La, J'Von and Kasflow. That's all I'm gonna say.

MS: You still making beats?

Jean P: Does OJ Simpson wear gloves? Hell yeah. I'm still learning the ropes though. I'm just trying to make beats for the '99 and the 2000.

MS: Your son Amir is a huge part of your life, how does he and the life you two have influence your art?

Jean P: My son is my world. He will be 5 this year and he's so smart. I couldn't see my life without him. It was crazy because when he was born I was scared and didn't think I would be a good father and now he's like my little buddy. It's beautiful to have someone who doesn't understand the world yet to love you that much.

MS: Any advice for artists trying to do what you do? Jean P: Stay consistent. MS: Anything else you wanna say before we get out of here? Jean P: Grab "Hometown Hero" on iTunes. Shoutout to the girls with good credit and bad intentions. We gonna be a household name and get on TRL soon. Watch!

Jean P has plans to release the first single for his new album “King For A Day” on iTunes on October 27th.

Twitter: @JeanPTheMC

Skyzoo, Rapper Big Pooh & AWKWORD Join for #PTheWyseVol2 Tribute

Kyle W. Knapp Creative & present: "Cruel Intentions" feat. Skyzoo, Rapper Big Pooh, AWKWORD & DJ Fonz Solo [prod. by Jakk Wonders FKA The Militia]

The lead single off #PTheWyseVol2, a Praverb tribute album from which 100% of the proceeds are being donated to P's wife, Vanessa, and young son, Matthew.

HipHopDX Premiere

Stream x Purchase

NEW! #PTheWyseVol1 Tribute LP: ALL Proceeds go to Praverb's Family

Idiomz, Executive Producer: 

"It goes without saying that all of the artists and beatmakers featured on this project had a relationship with Praverb. Most of which were pretty deep rooted. But what is even more unique is that I have established a working relationship with a majority of these artists and beatmakers as a result of Praverb and him intentionally introducing us at some point. I am honored to be in the company of such artists as Don Streat, DJ Grazzhoppa and Jeremiah Bonds - artists who I have looked up to and admired - and now I can reach out to them personally thanks to Praverb. 

"This compilation features Awkword, Kev Turner, DJ Grazzhoppa, LX Beats, Don Streat, Sensei Walingh, Vivid, M-Dot, GodzG, Travis Harmon, Tuelv and Jeremiah Bonds. When I initially threw out the idea of the project, there were many more who wanted to participate; unfortunately, we just could not get everyone coordinated. Praverb meant a lot to so many people. 

"This project has truly been a labor of love. At the end of the day, I just want to see Praverb's legacy live on. This project is just a small way that we can help that to happen."

Stream x Purchase

#RIPPraverb: A Q&A with Praverb's Brother Mike Gaits McNease

Since the unexpected, untimely passing of Earl Patrick McNease (aka P the Wyse aka Praverb), one man has worked more tirelessly than anyone at preserving the legacy and mission of the late, great rapper, blogger and family man: his brother, Mike Gaits. In honor of the one-year anniversary of Praverb's death, I interview Mike on his relationship with his brother; his brother's love for Hip Hop and his unquenchable urge to give back; and the future plans for this site,

Mike Gaits, Brother of Praverb: An Interview with AWKWORD


1. Name: Michael "Gaits" McNease
2. DOB: February 27, 1985
3. Birthplace: San Diego, California
4. Hometown: Fredericksburg, Virginia
5. Political Affiliation: Conservative
6. Religion: Christian
7. Languages: English
8. Favorite Underground Artist: Praverb
9. Favorite Mainstream Artist: N/A

Praverb (RIP) with wife Vanessa and newborn son Matthew


1. What is your educational and professional background?

I have an Associate's Degree in Applied Science IT, Multimedia. I am a freelance graphic designer.

2. What is your role at And what is your relationship to Praverb.

I am the administrator, and a blogger. I publish music submissions, update the banner, and change out Patrick's music. I am Patrick's brother.

3. How did you get into Hip Hop?

My upbringing wasn't the most pleasant. Patrick, my oldest sister and I were raised in foster homes. Living in San Diego, California, in the early '90s really opened my eyes to the West Coast vibe. I used to listen to Snoop Dogg a lot. Patrick loved the Fugees, and had a thing for Lauryn Hill. (laughing)

4. How did you get into blogging? Was this something you planned on being part of? Or, did you take over the site as an emergency fix when we lost P?

I always loved to write and express my thoughts and perceptions on life. I really didn't know what blogging was, or how to do it, until late 2009 when Patrick showed me how to blog a bit. Just the basics. After the world globally lost Praverb, I didn't know what to do -- I was still distraught that he was gone, and so suddenly.

I believe it was November, two months after he passed, when Vanessa (his wife) basically handed me the site and told me to carry the torch. I knew from that point on that I had to do something to keep his music and his legacy alive. Especially for the people who were inspired by his presence, and all he helped along the way.

5. What has it been like trying to run the site without P? 

Man, I tell you, it's been rough at times. But I've adjusted since I first started. Patrick made it easy to navigate the site. He left the ultimate blogging blueprint.

6. What has the feedback been like since you took over?

I've been getting an insurmountable amount of feedback from the many artists he knew and collaborated with, and it's been very rewarding. A lot of artists say I'm doing a wonderful job keeping up with his site. Vanessa has always been very supportive of me no matter what. Craig Hosie, a great friend of Praverb who was always supportive in and out of the music realm, told me P spoke very highly of me all the time. Al Laureate told me that P was like family to him. And there are many others, including Cayos The Beast, M-Dot, Idiomz, Big Sto, Soulchef, Soulution and yourself, who've expressed how much P's presence meant to them, and what a wonderful, unselfish guy he was.

7. What are some more examples of things people have said to you about P since his death?

Praverb was beyond amazing, musically. And he had a major impact in Hip Hop, and in the Social Media community. 

8. What is one thing about your brother that his fans don't know?

His music inspired others in Hip Hop. 9th Wonder followed his music. His music was globally recognized.

His fans didn't know that he was unemployed and still gave back for nothing in return. He made it his purpose in life to inspire and help as many people as he could.

9. What was your relationship with your brother like? What were his greatest attributes in your mind?

P and I had a great relationship. We were always close growing up. He was always there no matter what the circumstance. I miss his presence. I miss him calling me at the most random times, just to see how I'm doing or what's new in my life. 

His greatest attribute was his writing. He was truly lethal with the pen. He taught me how to write. He said, just be true to yourself. His music will last forever because he made people relate, through the struggles that we all face. 

Blogging is just something he loved to do, and along the way he found that he was actually really good at doing it. Because of that success, he built a huge fan base socially worldwide.

10. What, if anything, did P struggle with, as a musician, blogger, or provider for his family?

He took some time off, and I'm sure some of his fans knew this. For 10 months he was absent from the music scene. He just wanted to live life, be a better husband to his wife Vanessa and a better father to his son Matthew.

11. What was P planning for the site, and for his music, during his final days?

Back in April 2014, just six months before he passed, P told me that he was going to start doing product reviews. I think he wanted to build a bigger following on the blogging side of things. As far as his music, I know that he was posting more on Facebook, and he had told his fans he was gearing up for some new music, reaching out and connecting with producers and other known artists in Hip Hop. 

[Editor's Note: Along with LX Beats and Kev Turner, I was able to posthumously release Praverb's single "All A Dream", which also featured myself and was world premiered by All proceeds from the sale of this song go directly to Vanessa and Matthew.]

12. How are you working to further P's mission and legacy?

I started up a page on Facebook called IdoThis4Praverb. I post his music and the music of artists with whom he collaborated. I celebrate his life there on the 17th of every month. 

Also, in March, I started doing my purpose for Praverb, Angel Wings for Praverb. I play his music, spreading my arms out in an angel pose, and honor him in my own way to cope with his death. It brings me peace. 

13. What do you see as the future of this site, 

The future of will be nothing short of amazing. I am backed by a strong team, and I feel that P is living through us. I want the site to inspire others, and to give starving artists who put their heart and soul into their music, like P did, a chance to gain exposure -- because that's what P would have wanted. I want to provide great content, and keep it simple at the same time, as P constructed it.

14. How can people get involved?

One great way to keep Praverb close and help spread the message would be to purchase Praverb merchandise from the store. In 2005, P dropped an album called Wisdom's Cafe. He really touched base with God, while storytelling from the heart and soul. When he passed, I just couldn't let him go like that, so I created a shop for him and named it after the album. Designing and selling merchandise for him helps me cope, knowing that through his music and my designs I am keeping his name alive.

15. How can people get editorial coverage? How about Advertising and/or Public Relations?

We have a publicist, Quin Marshall. People can contact her at A public policy around this will be implemented soon.

16. It's great that Quin is involved. She is my management, and the first I've ever had in my career. She does great work, so I do recommend people reach out to her. How do you plan on leveraging her services, and how did that relationship come about?

Yes! Quin is brilliant at what she does as a publicist. I'm definitely sticking with her all the way. We met through Praverb's twitter. She let me know who she was, that she had heard of P's passing, and that she was devastated. We talked for almost two hours. Long story short, she is 100% involved now and is dedicated to not only helping Praverb live on but also monetizing for his widow and young son. 

[Editor's Note: We will NOT be charging artists for features; music quality and message are what get notice here. Quin is going to be working on incorporating more paid ads and sponsorship opportunities for artists and brands.]

17. Awesome. OK, weird question: In your words, how did you connect with me -- and other friends of your brother -- after his death? And how are we helping, or not?

As you know, you and I met on Facebook. And I'm never going to forget our first call, minus the drop-calls (laughing). But when I finally talked to you, you clearly introduced yourself and told me that you wanted to help and that you felt P deserved to be recognized and remembered. You said that he had helped you when you were going through tough times. 

After he passed, everyone who knew of his passing made a way to my inbox to express condolences. I will never forget the overwhelming amount of respect that people showed on September 17, 2014. It brought tears to my eyes. 

You guys are helping so much. I hope we never lose this bond, because this is really showing me that the world is not so cruel after all. 

18. Thank you, family. That means a lot... So, other than me of course (laughing), who were some of your brother's favorite artists?

I know a few of his favorites were J. Cole, Rakim, and Mos Def.

19. Before we leave on a high note with some of the best of Praverb, let me ask you one tough question: What is your biggest regret related to the loss of your brother?

No regrets. We shared brotherly love. He supported me in every decision, while keeping me on a straight path in my younger years and even in the recent pass leading up to his passing. God showed me P in a Divine Intervention that he is writing in Heaven, and he said the pens last 50% longer when writing. He taught me: Love what you do! Love life!

20. That's beautiful. And if the great Praverb were here today, which four songs would he want me to (re-)share with the world?

AWKWORD is a Global Hip Hop Ambassador; Rapper, Songwriter and Executive Producer; Sociologist; Civil Rights Activist; Journalist; and PROUD member of the team. He's always on Twitter.

Hip-Hop Kings Founder Talks Tips for New Artists and More

With the one-year anniversary of the passing of Praverb fast approaching, we at thought it fitting to shine some light on one of the many bloggers who benefited from the tireless support of the late, great rapper, dot-connector, confidant, family man and marketing wiz, born Earl Patrick McNease. Today, we share 10 questions with Ryan Maxwell, Founder of UK-based Hip-Hop Kings. 

Ryan Maxwell, Hip-Hop Kings: An Interview with AWKWORD

Ryan Maxwell, HHK Founder, in front of the green screen HHK uses for video and photo shoots


1. Name: Ryan Maxwell
2. Employer, Title: Hip-Hop Kings, Founder/Owner
3. Birthplace: England
4. Hometown: Manchester
5. Political Affiliation: None
6. Religion: Agnostic
7. Languages: English, Spanish
8. Favorite Underground Artist: Atmosphere
9. Favorite Mainstream Artist: Hilltop Hoods
10. Website/Twitter/Facebook: / /

Ryan Maxwell with Evidence at the Fresh Island Festival in Croatia; Evidence rejects an interview request from MTV but sits down with HHK 
 Immortal Technique with Ryan Maxwell in Manchester, England, after his interview with Poison Pen 


1. How did you get involved with HHKMag, and why? 

I started Hip-Hop Kings in 2004. After 10 successful years I decided I wanted to expand our brand, and HHKMag was the solution. Hip-Hop Kings concentrated on UK and US Underground Hip-Hop music. I felt my audience had more interests including Sports, Games and Movies (which was the inspiration behind HHKMag). It launched this year and is continuing to grow (both in popularity and website traffic). It’s been exciting blogging and covering events outside of Hip-Hop and has given me challenges, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

2. So you mentioned popularity and traffic. How else do you measure success? For people thinking of entering the field, is there money to be made? If so, how do you generate income? 

Brand strength and recognition is very important to me. When I meet people who visit, or have heard of Hip-Hop Kings / HHKMag without knowing me personally is inspiring. Also the caliber of artists I network with and interview reflects the great work we’ve done over the years. There is money to be made but it’s VERY difficult and shouldn’t be your primary focus. Blog about things you’re passionate about and things that excite you. The money will come later. We are affiliated with iTunes/Amazon and YouTube, and also run various advertisements (direct and network ads) on the website. We don’t accept paid submissions or content as we feel that would “cheapen” our brand and not be fair to our audience.

Ryan Maxwell with 2/3 of eMC, Wordsworth (L) and Masta Ace, in front of the HHK logo mural at Sedgwick Avenue in Leeds, England; Ryan interviews eMC and producer Marco Polo; Masta Ace gives Ryan the opportunity to be the first media person in the world to hear his MA DOOM: Son of Yvonne album.

3. OK. It's about passion, not pay. You've got to respect that. Do you have another job or profession that allows you to maintain the site? How do you manage your time and ensure your're keeping the site fresh with new content?

I also work as a social media manager for a UK retailer which is a full time job. That’s a 40 hour job (excluding overtime) so I’m pretty busy all the time! For the most part of the week I only get around 4-5 hours sleep per day. I am committed in keeping active in the gym and also making an effort to see family and friends, so it’s very difficult to blog more than 4-5 times per day (especially if you’re looking to blog quality content). Luckily, the likes of Wordpress allows you to schedule posts, and sharing those posts on social media can also now be scheduled through Twitter and Facebook. Using the analytics is important to understand when my fanbase are online. It means that I don’t have to be physically sat at a computer and laptop to post which does help.

4. Impressive! Why push yourself so hard? What do you get personally out of providing content to others? And why Hip Hop? What is your personal relationship to the culture?

Not only do I love the genre, but I feel a sense of responsibility to provide great music to as many people as possible. We all have problems with the type of music played on mainstream radio/TV and featured in magazines and blogs, and with HHK I have a solid platform to showcase true talent to thousands of people.

Slum Village rapper eLZhi gets interviewed by Ryan Maxwell, during eL's UK tour promoting eLmatic
Ryan Maxwell with Raekwon after interviewing the Chef post performance in Manchester

5. What do you think of sites that charge artists for features? 

I personally don't agree with that process. I have never charged an artist for a feature, and never will. I will post music if I approve the quality, and whether the music is suitable for my audience.

6. How would you recommend artists invest their money?

Professional PR companies go a long way for artists. A well-structured and executed PR campaign goes a long way. That being said, investing money in audio and visual quality of music is important, along with artwork and a press release.

7. What tips do you have for aspiring artists looking to make it?

  1. Persistence is the key. Do not become disheartened if you send 100 emails to 100 blogs and you get 5 responses. If it was easy, everybody would make it!
  2. Address bloggers and website owners individually and personally. I am much more likely to listen to a song if: 
    1. It's addressed to me personally.
    2. The name of my website is mentioned in the email.

NorthaZe: "These guys are Leeds-based and very sick artists. They are paving their own lane musically, and I'm helping them reach success." -- Ryan Maxwell [Ryan Maxwell photo]

8. How about aspiring bloggers? 

Aspiring bloggers should offer to blog for larger publications and blogs to get the experience. It's also a great starting point for making connections and understanding the industry. When, and if the time is right, you can move on to bigger things.

9. Speaking of blogging, how did you get connected to the late, great Praverb?

Praverb reached out to me years ago, asking to add Hip-Hop Kings to his list of blogs. I, of course, obliged. And then I began featuring his music on our site. We stayed in touch and actually spoke less than 30 days before he tragically passed.

10. Yeah, man. I was horrified. I cried for days. Praverb was the most selfless, genuine person in this game. It was an honor to know him. It was an honor to work with LX Beats to finish up a song we'd been working on together. And we've been able to raise a nice bit of money from it for his widow and son. Actually, this Thursday, September 17, will be the one-year anniversary of his death, and we're going to be doing a lot more to honor him on this day as well... What is the most important thing, in your mind, P left behind for Hip Hop and the world?

P was selfless in his efforts to help others achieve their dreams and goals. Nobody ever had a bad word to say about him, and he supported a lot of our earlier work, which I am truly grateful for. Earl's passing was very upsetting and the Hip-Hop world lost a great man. Vanessa and his family can be very proud. RIP Earl Patrick McNease.

AWKWORD is a Global Hip Hop Ambassador; Rapper, Songwriter and Executive Producer; Sociologist; Civil Rights Activist; Journalist; and PROUD member of the team. He's always on Twitter.



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