Birthplace Mag's Manny Faces: New York Hip-Hop's Not Back - It Never Went Away
Manny Faces Manny Faces of Birthplace Magazine
How many times have you heard "New York Hip-Hop is Back" championed by every hip-hop publication worth its weight in Rawkus slipmats? Before the hip-hop hoopla, one man saw it all coming a mile away. Manny Faces launched his website Birthplace Magazine in 2008 to cover Tri-State hip-hop at a time coverage seemed non-existent. Along with being able to chart the rise of up-and-coming artists, Manny's provided the definitive list of hip-hop happenings with Birthplace Events Calendar, and spun off the website into a weekly live hip-hop report internet radio show, one of the few avenues for hip-hop discussion in a talk-radio format. Tonight, Monday September 16th sees Birthplace Magazine holding a reader appreciation party at Bowery Electric. In honor of the occasion, we spoke to Manny about how the site came to be.
What was your first exposure to hip-hop in New York?
I was a music head, my father played jazz and blues in the house, so I remember catching wind of hip-hop as it was becoming more popular. My clearest memory of getting into hip-hop was going to my friend Craig's house on the weekend after school in his cool basement where we'd listen to Rap Attack with Mr. Magic, Marley Marl, DJ Red Alert and those mix shows. That was real hip-hop on the radio then and that would be the soundtrack to our Friday night hanging out sessions with Colecovision. It was there I started to hear it more and more and could start absorbing it into my bloodstream.
You also had a hat in the MC game for a while too.
I've been a lot of things. I actually started as a "DJ" just playing music in the house and with a rudimentary drum machine playing with production. I remember writing a verse in ninth grade and that was my introduction to MCing. I was an MC and making beats for myself and other for a couple of years and name-changes.
Was there ever a point you weren't following the New York hip-hop scene?
No, ever since the beginning when the New York scene was so prevalent that to follow hip-hop was to follow the New York scene. I was always closely connected being here in New York and in the shadow of the city. Since then, since I got into things like production and remixes, I got into the regional sound.
At what point did you decide to really start reporting on it?
In the real world, I had gotten into the news business as a production manager for an alternative news weekly in Long Island. I'm a self-taught kinda guy and was learning things as I go. I started writing a bit for this paper while I was learning how to finagle new media. That all coalesced into realizing there was a void in journalism in covering New York hip-hop. I think it was just because my awareness was up about news and still doing music, sometime around 2005 the early brainstorm of Birthplace Magazine came into the mix.
Was Birthplace Magazine your first attempt?
When I was in Freeport, I wanted to do a local artist newsletter called "The Zone" and have a couple stories in there with album reviews and a local artist spotlight. This was back in the 90s like '94/'95. I guess I had some idea at some point. When I decided to do Birthplace Magazine I had the idea to make it a full-fledged print product, and then doing research and putting together the business plan while not having any money I realized it wasn't going to work. Once new media started picking up online, I realized it could be doable.
But it officially launched in 2008?
Yes, very poorly. I think the idea was there, the foundation was there, but then it relaunched in 2009. I've had a hard time pinning down exact dates because we kind of started and then stopped.
Do you recall the content you first started with?
I was trying to do a daily roundup by combing through other sources and linking to New York relevant content. I wrote a manifesto which I like to point to as my "prediction." I think that word can be a little bit egotistical and it's not entirely true, I use it for marketing purposes, but I did it as an point to what I was trying to do. I guess it's optimism. It might have been 2010 by the time I got good acclaim and I settled in to what was the regular content.