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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 Praverb.net 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: Hip-HopKings.com / HHKMag.com@HHKMag / Facebook.com/HHKMag

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 Praverb.net team. He's always on Twitter.


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