What started as an independent magazine run by one employee in a small office has now, 10 years later, become an iconic piece of SA hip hop culture. This month’s HYPE magazine celebrates the publication’s 10-year anniversary with a trip down hip hop memory lane, featuring now-and-then interviews with past cover stars, like Jack Parow, Cashless Society, Amu, Skwatta Kamp and many others.
I had a chat with HYPE editor Simone Harris to find out how she feels about the magazine’s achievements, the SA hip hop scene and the future of the magazine in such a niche market. Simone says the hard work, respect for the fundamentals of hip hop and drive laid the foundation for this successful publication being the only and biggest one of its kind.
Sheilan Clarke for Live SA: How does it feel to have made it 10 years later and still be influential?
Simone Harris: It’s the exact objective we’d set out to achieve, so it feels really fulfilling that we have come this far, not only as a magazine, but as a hip hop nation.
Live SA: What makes HYPE the go-to outlet for hip hop fans in South Africa?
Simone: Because we document every single newsworthy and relevant hip hop story. The HYPE CD is also a huge reason that we’ve remained in business. It’s the most widely distributed physical mixtape in Southern Africa, which has helped build hip hop careers. Like Tumi Molekane once said, HYPE is like a major record label!
Live SA: Hip hop has grown a lot in the past decade. Do you feel HYPE has played a part in it and what do you think of the hip hop scene in SA right now?
Simone: Definitely. HYPE magazine has been the biggest print outlet and CD distribution system for hip hop, so it definitely has played a major role in the preservation and promotion of the culture. The scene right now is amazing. Looking back 10 years ago, guys were pushing side hustles to get by but now rappers are living off the genre, the way it was intended to be. The quality of production, engineering and overall MCing skill is at an all-time high, hence the backing we now see from more investors and the amount of airplay across all media. I love the fact that we are finding an identity in a space where the genre has been sidelined for a long time – although the SAMAs need to acknowledge that and air the award for Best Rap Album.
Live SA: The Collector’s Edition Issue features all the past cover stars and fan-favourites like Greatest Hype Honey of All Time etc. Where did the idea for this issue come from?
Simone: I wanted to give the industry a gift by crafting an issue that was dedicated to every local artist that ever had a cover on HYPE, to indicate how far we’ve come as a Southern African hip hop industry. Most people have given the magazine flack for putting international artists on the cover, but the fact is that we’ve had double the amount of local covers than international. The sad reality is that international covers outsell the local ones. We touched on the history of the magazine by inserting a timeline and “Did You Know” fact box on every page. It’s full of rich heritage and it was an absolute pleasure to put the issue together. I hope people will appreciate it as much as the love that went into it.
Live SA: What has been your highlight and lowlight throughout the 10 years?
Simone: The highlight is definitely celebrating 10 years in the game. A lowlight would be almost shutting doors when our former publishing house went into liquidation. Thankfully another publisher saw the magazine’s potential and decided to take charge of the brand.
Live SA: Your favorite interview done by Hype?
Simone: I would say our interview with Nas this year as he was celebrating 20 years of Illmatic, the greatest rap record of all time.
Live SA: Your favorite cover?
Simone: The first one I was involved with. It had DJ Ready D on the cover.
Live SA: What are your plans for Hype for the next 10 years?
Simone: My time as editor is coming to an end soon. HYPE will be getting a new editor from January 2015 and I know that readers will be in good hands – cheers to another 10 years in the game! My personal wish is for HYPE to be distributed all around Africa.
You can get your copy at good retailers. Also, get details for the big HYPE Extreme parties to celebrate the mag’s 10th birthday here.
Follow HYPE magazine on Twitter: @HypeMagazineSA
And follow me: @_Sheilan_