There’s been lots of speculation as to what exactly is going on with this company lately. As the one of the internet’s longest running, pioneering hip-hop websites, we’ve had a long, great history as one of the first online news and information sources for hip-hop since our birth in 1996. The site was started by two KUNV deejays, myself (DJ Pizzo) and Warren Peace, who prior to building HipHopSite would meet every single Friday night for the “#1 show in your area”, Word Up (yes, this show originated in the 1980’s). This show found us in the two of the most important eras of hip-hop music, the golden era (1988-1994) and the birth of the indie hip-hop movement (1995-2004). When I came aboard the show in 1995, I was bringing news updates from rec.music.hip-hop usenet boards, as well as exclusive songs that I got through prehistoric file-sharing methods – that being, trading audio cassettes of unreleased music through the U.S. mail service to other hungry backpackers. Warren then had the idea to turn it around, and instead of just exposing our radio show audience to all of this great information and new music, why not spit it back out to the rest of the web? And thus, HipHopWeb.Com was born…and thankfully, that domain name was taken…and instead, HipHopSite.com was born. Holla.
Back in that era, our original business model was to act as a content based website that would generate revenue through advertising. We had a little bit different of an idea though about how the site should be run editorially. We were fed up with the way hip-hop print magazines were selling out to their advertisers, essentially selling positive album reviews, five page features, and cover spots to whoever had the biggest album budget. In this era of shamelessness, we attempted to provide brutally honest record reviews (i.e. “Cam’ron sounds wack as fuck on his verse on KRS’s “5 Borough’s”…”), and then attempted to – yes, in 1996 – ask those same labels to advertise on our website. It didn’t take. I remember Kevin Black was head at A&M at the time, and we were in his office, pitching this revolutionary idea of advertising on our website to him, and he bugged the fuck out. “Yo, how are you gonna give the Centipedes (he meant Cenobites) four stars and then turn around and say the Players Club Soundtrack is wack!?!?!”. It didn’t take.
At the same time, the world of indie hip-hop was blossoming, with labels like ABB, Rawkus and Stones Throw putting out cutting edge new music from artists that wouldn’t “work” on major labels anymore. The new renaissance was here, and authentic hip-hop music would live on through the sale of underground 12” singles and eventually CD’s. We needed some way to keep the editorial end of the site alive since internet advertising was too new of a concept for people to understand at that time. From there, we birthed our online mail order service, which helped launch the careers of then unsigned artists like Eminem, Talib Kweli, RJD2, Jedi Mind Tricks, Kardinal Offishall, Demigodz, Madlib, and the list goes on. When these guys were coming up, we took a chance on them and carried their debut singles and albums, selling hundreds and thousands of copies to the core hip-hop audience via mail order.
This eventually evolved into our retail store in Las Vegas, which was host to numerous in-store autograph signing events, with cats like MF Doom, Redman, KRS-One, DJ Premier, Slum Village, Lupe Fiasco, Murs, Atmosphere, Mobb Deep, Alchemist, Pharrell, ?uestlove, Pete Rock, and blah blah blah, we’re the shit, etc. I know I’m kind of waxing poetically about the achievements of this company, so I’ll shut the fuck up because many of you reading this know the story. It truly is, at this point, old news. What you don’t know is what happened next and how we ended up here, at this moment in time.
So how did we go from having this massive two-story hip-hop specialty store in fabulous Las Vegas that processed hundreds of orders per day, to, well… nothing? The writing was on the wall. In 2005, we began to see the decline of this industry, which got worse with each consecutive year. Artists that would sell a lot in previous years stopped selling as much. Record stores all over the country were closing down. Distributors were folding. What was going on? We all know what happened to this industry – the rise of file sharing and the transition to digital music. In 2007, our lease for the brick and mortar store was up. We thought long and hard about it. Should we renew our lease and try to salvage this thing? We’re busting our asses maintaining the business for little reward, the site’s original focus of editorial content was beginning to wane because of it, and it the future of music retail wasn’t looking bright.
Sure, we could still kill it and push 1000+ copies every time Dilla or MF Doom released an album, but those types of artists only dropped albums once or twice a year. That would leave some pretty dry months where you were left trying to push a horrible U-God album or whatever on people – which didn’t feel good consciously or financially. For us, it wasn’t enough to justify trying to hold this ship together. As a last ditch effort in retail, we thought we would give digital music sales a try. This was an experiment more than anything. We had high hopes for it, but again, we were too forward-thinking for our own good. Try explaining to an executive at a major label that you want to obtain the rights to Del’s fifteen year old catalog, including the instrumentals, acapellas, and 12” mixes, while they’re trying to convince you instead to sell Soulja Boy. At the same time, try battling Itunes and Amazon for exclusives. It didn’t take.
So here we are in our fourteenth year of business (well, let’s instead say “existence”) and I’m hyped to be typing this out to you. That being said, all due respect to those still running things in the indie retail world – UGHH.Com, Turntable Lab, Sandbox Automatic – more power to you, fellas. For us however, I feel that now we have reached an age where we can actually pursue the original intent of what HipHopSite.com was meant to be – a full fledged news and information source for hip-hop music. With the new site, we’ve got thirteen years of archived content, with over 1100+ professionally written album reviews and 250+ interviews dating back to 1995, available for you to read, right here, right now – with some of this content being offline for two years.
We’re going to be making changes and additions to the site over the next few months until we slide into a comfortable groove of what exactly we want the latest version of the site to be and how it will take form. That being said, we are looking for freelance (emphasis on the word “free”, kek) contributors that wish to write or provide content to the site. So if you are interested, first get a feel for the type of content that is being posted here, and if you think you can add something worthwhile, hit me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your support, peace party people.
P.S.: Special thanks to all HHS contributors, past and present: Darin Gloe, Jon Bauer, DJ Five, DJ Revise, The Kilowatt Brothers, Big Rod, Andreas Hale, Oliver Wang, Matt Conaway, Christopher Yuscavage, S-Boogie, Adam Rogas, Joseph Patel, Joe Fro, Deekal, Jon Doe, DJ Create, Nick Tywalk, Lalo Hernandez, Ryan Harrison, Troy Johnson, Mike Rodriguez, Stefan Shumacher, Lucas Gaffney, Max Herman, Matt Barone, Sean Clarity, J*Grand, Peter Agoston, OldSoul, D.T. Swinga, Jamin Warren, One Line, Justin Strout, Justin Moore, Marlon Regis, Jason Gloss, Dane Johnson, DJ Prizmatik, Stefan Braidwood, Jesse Hagan, Mike Czech, J. Miller Dean, Ant One, Anthoy DiLodovico, Kye Stefanson, David Ma, Nikhil Yerawadekar, Meddafore, Joe Meeks, Roberto Carvajal, George Hagan, Jack Goodson, J. Butters, T. Becks, Tim Stroh, Nikhil Yerawadekar, Oneline, Terry Malko, Eric Perez, Matt Gomez, Mike Czech, Dane West, Bill Heinzelmen, Mike Divine, Colin Finan, Charles Tremblay, Claudio Cabrera, Dara Cook, Toshi Kondo, Eric Kay, Deekal, Brandon Pitts, Ming Dang, Matthew Daniel, Esam El-Morshedy, Zio, William Ketchum, Matt Harlem, T. Becks, Joseph Mandat, Justin Strauss, K.I.N.E.T.I.K., Fat Tony, DJ Ethx, Demo, Steve Juon, Muwuse Ziegbe, Jesse Hagan, Chris Richburg, Chris Seeger, Adam Klein, Matt Snider, Aaron Newell, Aaron James White, Angus Crawford, Craig Smith, Damien Scott, Dan Gizzi, Jesse Serwer, Jillina Baxter, Joseph Mandat, Paul Rosenberg (LV), and anyone else I forgot. It’s six in the morning, police at my door.
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