Dear Culture

The rise & fall of hip-hop journalism

Episode 41

With more than 30 years in the music and book publishing industry author and journalist Aliya King Neil joins Panama Jackson to talk about the good ol’ days when The Source, Vibe, and XXL Magazine were in their prime. She shares some behind-the-scenes stories and even pinpoints the exact moment she claims hip-hop journalism died.

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 18: Author Aliya S. King speaks during BET Digital Presents “The Fast Life Of: Justin Gatlin” on July 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)


Panama Jackson [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Black Culture Amplified.

[00:00:08] What’s going on, everybody? And welcome to Dear Culture. I’m your host, Panama Jackson here where we have conversations with amazing people for by and about the culture. Hence the name Dear Culture. It’s 2023 which means we’re celebrating 50 years of hip hop culture in America. But worldwide, really, because without without hip hop, the world is not running nowadays. Right? So over the course of the year, we’re going to end up having these amazing conversations with people who’ve contributed, people who are a part of it, people who look from from from 50,000 feet up and people who are probably ten toes down in it right now as we speak. My my guest today, she is from East Orange, New Jersey. Right. East Orange?

Aliya King Neil [00:00:49] You got it.

Panama Jackson [00:00:50] She is an executive editor at Disney Publishing Worldwide. There you go.

Panama Jackson [00:00:56] For Andscape.

Aliya King Neil [00:00:57] For Andscape Books.

Panama Jackson [00:00:58] For Andscape Books, Yes. But she’s written for The Source. She’s written for Vibe. Held editor positions in places like Billboard. And. And she’s written for Ebony. She’s been all over the place. She has bestselling books. She wrote a book. Let me get make sure I get the title right. Keep the Faith with with platinum recording artist Faith Evans, which I imagine was a story unto itself. She also coauthored Original Gangster with Frank Lucas, on whom the film American Gangster was based. She’s written novels of her own. And like you’ve written about hip hop, you’ve written, and now you are in a gatekeeping position, though I guess the term gatekeeping, I don’t know if that has negative connotations, but you in a position to help inspire and lead the next crop of voices into the future. So please put your hands together for our guest today Ms. Aliya King Neil. How you doing?

Aliya King Neil [00:01:57] I’m great. That was a great introduction.

Panama Jackson [00:01:59] Well, thank you. I’m glad. I listen to a lot of people do intros on podcasts. I’m trying to keep up because you know who’s really good at those things. Questlove That man is amazing introductions of his guests, and I’m like, I need to be able to do stuff like that.

Aliya King Neil [00:02:12] I get it. He’s good.

Panama Jackson [00:02:14] Right. He’s great. So, one, thank you for being here. I’m excited to have you here. I’ve known you for years, worked with you, VSP, The Root, various places. But you are somebody who’s whose journey in writing is one that is very fascinating to me. And I’ve told you this several times, like you’ve been in all the places that I’ve always wished I could be, especially when I was younger, before I even realized that I was going to be like a writer. Like all the places I read, like The Source, like Vibe in in and you’ve got stories about all this stuff like stockpile and tapes and all this stuff. So I wanted to take an opportunity to talk to you about that, especially as we’re celebrating 50 years of hip hop, because you’ve been a part of that narrative and a part of that story and for what I’m thankful for. But I want to make sure that I do my part and making sure people like yourself get an opportunity to share that. So let’s talk about the fun at The Source, because the one of the reasons I wanted to bring you here was to kind of talk about hip hop journalism and its transition over time, right? Like, I know how essential it was to the culture because there were no other voices out there right at the time. Like it’s we had to do that. It seems like all of you, all that were on the ground level back then had to you had to make a way, right? We literally there’s the only way to get respectful, decent discussions and dialog about hip hop that wasn’t done with this veneer of this little fad or this, you know, and this is this is mine maybe. Okay, go ahead.

Aliya King Neil [00:03:41] And that’s not true, at least in my opinion. What you’re saying was more true in like late eighties, early nineties. By the time I come around, you might see the occasional musical acts get a decent review. I remember Wyclef’s the Carnival was the lead review of Rolling Stone when it came out and that was like, Whoa. Like it was huge. You know.

Panama Jackson [00:04:07] Pitchfork and everybody is all in.

Aliya King Neil [00:04:11] By the time I came around. You still want the stories, but the other folks are starting to see that you can sell some magazines with this. As a matter of fact, when I got to The Source, Jann Wenner, who owned Rolling Stone, had just offered Dave Mays $30 million for The Source. Cash. And that was bubbling around and people were talking about that. Interestingly enough, no one at The Source is talking about it like you’re not reading the Wall Street Journal. But I was like, Hey, guys, 30 million. Anybody heard about this? But I don’t know. Anyway, he did turn it down. But yeah, by the time I get there, people get it. We’re still the we’re still the preferred place to have your stories holds. But by 98, it’s starting to we’re starting to lose our choke hold. Still got the hold, but maybe not the chokehold.

Panama Jackson [00:05:07] So what does that feel like? I mean, that has to be an interesting time to be there then, right?

Aliya King Neil [00:05:13] Um. Yes, but I think what made it, The Sourcece had money. Let’s start there. When I get there in 98, there’s nothing I can’t do. There’s nothing I can’t ask for is nothing that my boss is going to say no, we can’t afford that. When I got hired, my boss was Selwyn, who I’m still close to today. When I got hired, he was like, Think outside the box. Just do what you want. You know, let me know. So I thought it would be cool to follow three newly signed rappers through the first year of being signed, and I wanted to follow one person from the West Coast, one person from the Midwest and one person from the East Coast. And my plan was to fly out to see each artist once a month with my photographer, see how they’re doing, and then write about it for the next month, fly out to the West Coast with a photographer once a month for a year, and not with one artist, but two. And so I pitched it to Selwyn and he was like, That sounds cute. Let’s do it. Like there was no pitching it to some of the sales team or where is this going to come from? It was literally like, go ahead, book the flights get to my office. So having that kind of freedom was just dizzying and intoxicating. So all the other things like like maybe things starting to change. I didn’t see or feel it because there was just so much I could do and there was so much respect that I got. Like I often tell people my business card was a weapon. Like you did not just give anybody your business card. This is embossed The Source with my name, associate editor, and the address 215 Park Avenue South. Like, you don’t just give that to anybody because they might lose it. And that’s the truth. They really might lose it. So I will never again work at a place that I mean, Disney’s close. Tell people you work at Disney and their ears perk up a bit like, okay, we’re nothing like nothing like The Source. I’ll never see anything again like that. So I was for the whole time I was there, it was a moneymaker and everything was going really well except for that one Source Swards where, yeah, I guess we’ll get into that.

Panama Jackson [00:07:42] Let’s get into it. Go ahead. Let’s talk about it.

Aliya King Neil [00:07:46] So that’s when I started to see. I start to see that things are breaking down. By 2000, we are going to try to do The Source Awards. It’s infamous from back in 94. I think it was long before, you know, I was there. They had the infamous The Source awards where.

Panama Jackson [00:08:05] 95, I believe you’re talking about. It was the 95. Yes.

Aliya King Neil [00:08:10] Where there’s a lot of booing going on. And the infamous line from Suge Knight “All up in the videos,” like it was just a mess.

Suge Knight [00:08:17] In artist out there want to be an artist and want to stay a star. Don’t want to, don’t have to worry about the executive producer trying to be all in the video, all on the record. Dancing. Come t Death Row.

Aliya King Neil [00:08:30] So they let that go for a bit. So now we got money, we got sponsors. Let’s do the Source Aards again. I go to The Source Awards, my like partner in terms of like sharing a hotel room and flights is my coeditor Kim Osorio. I’m also so close to Kim and I go to The Source Awards and we’re sitting back there watching these performances, which are all a bit of a mess. The production, was just a mess. So then we hear like this rumble, like just this. I can’t even explain it. It was like an earthquake. Sounds like an earthquake coming from behind us. And we look back, we see Suge and, I don’t know, 50 dudes, and they’re all wearing these t shirts that say “Dead Man Walking” with a picture of Snoop on it. So we’re like, Oh, that’s that’s not good. Looks on the stage.

Panama Jackson [00:09:23] Right?

Aliya King Neil [00:09:23] And they’re walking on to the stage with these. So the stage goes nuts. The whole audience is a hot mess. Kim is nine months pregnant. I think I might have forgot that part. And we just see a wave of people running and jumping and stampeding to get out. So I push her down in, down, down, down in the auditorium seats. We wait for everybody to go out. We hear gunshots. We run to the bathroom. We stay in the bathroom for about, I don’t know, 2 hours until the cops come and we feel safe coming out. So that’s when I was like, This is not good. The magazine can be as good as it wants. But if that brand is having an awards show that ends this way, advertisers are not interested. You know, this show you all are trying to do, you’re not going to get sponsors for this if this is what you’re doing. So sadly, what I started to notice was that. It was not going to just be about good writing. It’s just, you can have the best writers in the world, but you also have to have a brand that’s strong. And as the writing got better, the brand was becoming weaker.

Panama Jackson [00:10:35] Yeah. Hold that thought right there. We’re going to take a real quick break and come back because that’s exactly where I wanted to go. You walked right into that. We’ll be right back here on Dear Culture, the Aliya King Neil. All right. We’re back here on Dear Culture. I’m here with the Aliya King Neil, we’re talking hip hop journalism. She was just telling us a story about the what year was this, was it 2001? What year was that?

Aliya King Neil [00:10:56] 2000 or 2001.

Panama Jackson [00:10:59] Okay. The Source Awards. Where Suge, who loves to rabble rousee The Source Awards, apparently, anyway, creating an environment where you and Kim Osorio had to hide for 2 hours in a bathroom because gunshots rang out and all kind of stuff. And, you know, you’re talking about how you notice like it is like you just mentioned thinking about it as a business. Like the writing is good. The brand is known for these other things like. The writing has to be on the wall somewhere. Right. So I guess my question here and this is kind of a hip hop journalism question in general, it’s like, what’s the environment for hip hop journalism at this time in general that you can speak to across like the industry? I read so many profiles, people talking about how much money the different magazines had because of all the ad dollars and all of these things at this time. And there were some amazing stories in these magazines, right? I mean, they’re like, this is where you go to if you’re have an interest in hip hop, but what’s the environment like? Because there were all these stories about writers getting punched in the face by artists. And, you know, obviously that wasn’t the norm. But, you know, like, there’s this tension between the access of artists and the people profiling them. And it’s like and hip hop having this certain especially at that time, like, you know, the real ness, the authenticity to it and people not, you know, not liking bad reviews or not liking the way they’re characterized or. Right. You know, so what’s the environment like? You know, how does all that tension work together for the job of ultimately documenting the culture that that is needed?

Aliya King Neil [00:12:41] So it’s interesting you say that because and I always try to explain that to people that I was not part of the scene. I was in the scene and I was the thing, but I wasn’t part of the scene. So when you talk about, you know, artists being not happy with their reviews and and reacting, I saw that that wasn’t my experience, unless you want to count what was this boy’s name? Because he was the one that beat me up. Yonkers Ruff Ryders. Yonkers Ruff Ryders. Eve

Panama Jackson [00:13:14] Like one of them. Not DMX.

Aliya King Neil [00:13:19] Drag-On.

Panama Jackson [00:13:19] Drag-on. Drag-on was not a fan, okay.

Aliya King Neil [00:13:23] I gave Drag-on a two and a half star review, which is just. Yeah. So he was at the time.

Panama Jackson [00:13:31] I remember that album.

Aliya King Neil [00:13:34] You know, I stand by it. But the thing about it is they kind of my editors kind of walked me into the fire with that, because normally you wouldn’t even write a review if it’s only going to get two and a half stars, if that had been DMX, even if it was a shitty album. They weren’t giving him two and a half stars. You’re kidding me. We need you on the cover next month. But it’s Drag-On. So let Aliya go give this shitty reviews he’s been talking about how much he doesn’t like this album. I didn’t realize that until I met with him and I’m like, Wait, why are you even getting this review? Anyway, so I was benign, you know, I saw a lot. But my versions of that, like people always ask me about Ray Benzino, for example. You hear all the stories, Benzino, Benzino, he was horrible. It was terrible. I didn’t really come into contact with Benzino that often. You know, I knew of his presence and I saw him Dave lots. But.

Panama Jackson [00:14:34] Right.

Aliya King Neil [00:14:34] I did not have the experience that other folks had. The only thing I can tell you is that when his album came out, every album came out while I was working there. He gave out the CD with everybody’s paycheck. So like, the paycheck goes on your desk and the CD goes on top of it, and he’s looking at you like, just so you know, the connection. And I was like, n-word, if you don’t get out my face and give me my check, like, I’m not playing these games with you. So I didn’t feel people above me felt tension because they could make decisions and he could override them. But I wasn’t really a decision maker like that. So I didn’t have those same experiences, though I know they existed. So when you say let’s look at the wider thing, it’s so beautiful what was happening during that time. Yes, there were fights. Yes, there was drama. But you said something like, I’ll cry right now thinking about what XXL was able to do with A Great Day in Hip Hop. They did this. They did a cover. A cover, I guess a remake of A Great Day in Harlem. And I had chills right now thinking about how Sheena Lester put that together and how that stands for that history for the rest of time that she was able to get those people together. I want to say it was like 100 emcees, maybe more. It was just beautiful. So that’s still happening. She got Gordon Parks to shoot it. The person who shot A Great Day in Harlem. No other time are you going to get that. You’re not going to get.

Panama Jackson [00:16:10] I still have that one. I actually still have it.

Aliya King Neil [00:16:12] You know, the idea that you would get. I think that’s really a great example of how hip hop journalism meant that you could get Gordon Parks to shoot that. Because if you give me the same level of photographer now, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to get them to shoot a bunch of emcees. Actually, I don’t think you’re going to be able to get a bunch of emcees together. So you got XXL doing A Great Day in Hip Hop and all of their awesome profiles. And then you have Vibe, which is just killing it. So was it always capable? Maybe not, but if you look at all of the Vibes during Danielle Smith’s reign, her first reign, you got to see a lot of number one artists on that cover and you got to know of a lot of publicists, of number two artists that were pissed off. She wanted the best of the best. And I don’t care, she don’t care if you’re her friend. She don’t care if you’re her boyfriend, which became an issue much later. She don’t care Like she’s going to have the best of the best. When Mimi. When Blaze started. People never believe me when I tell them that Blaze was $1,000,000 launch. People say, Oh, they spent $1,000,000 on the magazine over the course of the first year and a half to say to them they spent $1,000,000 launching the magazine. They spent $1 million launching the magazine.

Panama Jackson [00:17:37] Where does that money come from? Because that was like such a so and Blaze was short lived, right. Like.

Aliya King Neil [00:17:43] It was. But it wasn’t supposed to be.

Panama Jackson [00:17:45] Well, yes, that’s true. But like, there was just that much money floating around for hip hop, like hip hop in general at that time. I don’t know. This is the era of million dollar videos and like, there’s just money everywhere. It’s just like it’s just hidden in all quarters of hip hop?

Aliya King Neil [00:18:01] Yeah, but I forget. Don’t forget, by 99, every one of my coworkers has left to go to a website. All of them. All of them are going to Volume. Going to I can’t even think of all the names of them right now, but they’re gone. And those places are spending millions. You know, I wrote a story not too long ago about that time period, that 18 month time period between 98 and early 2000, $75 million was sunk into five hip hop Web sites. $75 million went like that. So you asking me how they had a year, how they had a million and launch Blaze. A year from now, they’re going to have $75 million to launch Web sites.

Panama Jackson [00:18:47] Like I remember reading that profile about about the websites, because I find the era so fascinating, especially as we get further into the blog era of hip hop, because it’s like it’s like all hip hop journalism, so to speak. And even what that means kind of got decentralized as a whole and everybody in their grandma has like a hip hop site. And I feel like all that money that was sunk into all those websites back then, like it just I don’t know if it you can answer this been actually like did it pay dividends down the line because it just seems like all of that stuff online just basically.

Aliya King Neil [00:19:22] It did not.

Panama Jackson [00:19:23] It didn’t. It didn’t last. It was unable to last. And everybody realized they could do it themselves. Right? Like, you know, like AllHipHop was one of the few that I think lasted of really like that. That’s why I got my first opportunity.

Aliya King Neil [00:19:34] The only. Not one of the few.

Panama Jackson [00:19:36] The only.

Aliya King Neil [00:19:36] AllHipHop is the only site still running from that time period. And if I’m not mistaken, they never took any sponsors or ad dollars or any of that. They were just in the mix at that time. They only site.

Panama Jackson [00:19:52] That’s why I got my first hip hop writing credit was Like six months after I started my blog, somebody who read my site knew Chuck and reached out to him was like, Yo, this guy’s a really good writer. He loves hip hop. And I got my opportunity to write in the first rapper to ever read an article that I wrote and then sent me an email about it from was Diamond D. I almost framed that thing. I was like, Diamond D read something I wrote.

Aliya King Neil [00:20:20] I can’t believe he did.

Panama Jackson [00:20:22] Yeah. I mean, I still have the email. Don’t get it twisted. I still have the email. I know exactly where it is. It’s I have it.

Aliya King Neil [00:20:27] So I guess in that way, that time period, it did bring us folks like you. It did bring us people. It didn’t bring us. You know, there was some beautiful content done during that time. I never participated in it because if my momma can’t hold my work in her hand, then I’m not doing it. So that was just.

Panama Jackson [00:20:49] It was very hard for all of us to explain being a blogger to people like you do what I write online. Like why?

Aliya King Neil [00:20:57] So can I see it?

Panama Jackson [00:20:58] Can’t you be doing something better? Like, can you do some better with your time? Like, what are you doing? Time for a quick break. Stay with us. And we’re back.

Aliya King Neil [00:21:06] Also, we need to talk about money for a bit. Not just the brands, but the people. Because I started off at The Source, I started making 33,000 as a staff writer, which is a respectable amount of money for 1998. At Billboard, I was making 16, 18,000. So I damn near double my salary when I came to source and I was like, Ooh. But soon after, maybe a year after Teen People called, because I was freelancing for Teen People on the low at The Source, you were not allowed to freelance for anyone, anything ever hip hop or not. But I still did. And the woman was like, Hey, we have a position for you. I think it was entertainment editor. It was some big leap and the pay was 50,000. And I was like, Oh, but there’s no way. There’s no way I’m leaving The Source for nobody. I don’t care that Teen People, I’ll be in that people pipeline and probably be good for the rest of my career. Who knows? Ain’t no way I’m leaving The Source, not even for $50,000. I’m giving my 33. But then I learned because I didn’t know this, that when you get an offer, you go to your boss. Your boss doesn’t have to know that you don’t want to take it. And you tell them. I literally had no idea that that was a thing you could do. I thought maybe when it was time to negotiate ten down, ten years down the road, I could bring it up. I go to my boss and I say, Hey, I interviewed and seen people and they want to. And he interputed and he was like, How much, Aliya? He has his head down and I’m like, “50,000.” He’s like, “All right, 55,000 starting next pay period. Can you go?” And I was like. “Oh, okay.” Well, I just didn’t even, like, get out my face. We’ve been. We’ve been underpaying you for a year already. You just found out, like, goodbye. So I started making 55, and I learned, you know, I learned a lot about that. And that was a decent amount of money. Probably still getting underpaid. But when I left, I started freelancing. One of my first pieces for Vibe was a cover story on Ciara and Bow Wow, who were dating at the time, and the story was 3000 words, as most cover stories were at that time. And I was getting paid a dollar a word, which was a respectable amount of money. And if you write and cover stories and you single living in a studio, 6000 $3,000 is a cute check. Cute check.

Panama Jackson [00:23:39] That’s a cute check now. Let’s be honest. Like a dollar a word nowadays, that’s that’s good money now.

Aliya King Neil [00:23:45] That’s a cute check now. Yes. Yeah. No, those dollars. But get this. So I go into the office while they’re working on the story, and the editor in chief at the time says to me, Are you good? You know how this story came out. But I’m like, Great, This is and I’m getting $3,000. And she was like, What do you mean you’re getting $3,000? And I’m like, shoot did I just eff up my check. What the heck. And I was like, “Well, I always get paid a dollar a word.” And she was like, “You should be getting 2 dollars a word. You go right back into accounting and tell them that you do not work for less than $2 a word and don’t let me find out that you’re working for any of these magazines for less than $2 a word.” I was like, Oh my God. So I go into accounting and I’m like, Before you make that contract out, I think that’s supposed to say $2 a word. And she’s like, What’s your name? Aliya S. King. Okay, fine. $2 a word I’ll send it out to you. And I was like, You know, what’s all this? Absolutely. I got paid $6,000 for that story. The next piece was Faith Evans. I was Faith Evans was on the cover, another 6000. I’m trying to think. I did a couple more covers, but for the time that I was doing cover stories from Vibe, I got paid $2 a word, and it was then that I found out that Vanity Fair’s paying a $5 award and Rolling Stone might be paying six dollars. Like, I didn’t even know that world existed. I’m happy with my pickle juice, as Nicki Minaj will call it. I’m happy with my dollar a word. That’s a come up. And it turns out it wasn’t much of a come up at all. I actually ended out with $2.50 a word. Just off GP one day I was like, okay, now I charge $2 and 50 cent and they’re like, find some like G Zoo. So the money was definitely there. No one was even thinking twice about the money. It was just it was there. You want to do a photo shoot in Iceland? Yay! Let’s go, y’all. We going to Iceland? Okay, maybe not Iceland. That might be an exaggeration.

Panama Jackson [00:25:46] But I mean. But this is amazing. Like, let’s, like, real talk, because I think about, like, this. So, for one, you just enlightened me. I had no idea people got paid that much money for cover stories or and probably should have got paid more for those things. I had no idea. Like, so you were lowball number one. Found out that you were lowball was able to go and like to say, Hey, you owe me more than that. Like, hey, right, boom, let’s do this. But other places.

Aliya King Neil [00:26:10] If my editor hadn’t told me that I would have taken a dollar a word forever.

Panama Jackson [00:26:13] Which is kind of like how like, nowadays, you know, people. It’s one of those things where like how much money people make for these things is so hush hush because it’s either people getting paid really well or not well at all. Right. But nobody knows what the right scale is like. It’s hard to figure out the scale of it. If you can use your name to leverage more money than boom.

Aliya King Neil [00:26:34] And that’s probably not going to happen in mainstream media. My editor might not have looked me out like that. She didn’t have to do that, but she just was like, No, I’ve known these girl since she did her first piece for us like it was more of a family. And I’m a freelancer. I don’t even work there. She knew me and she wanted me to make sure not only that I was taking care of for that story, but for any story to come. She was like, Nah. And I recently had the opportunity to pay that forward because I hired a ghostwriter for one of my authors and I told her, This book is really difficult. This author is all over the place. I’m I really need your time. You’re going to have to block out some serious time for this. And she said, okay. And I said, now go talk to them about the money. That’s not me. You work that out with her, the celebrity and their agent. So the celebrity and the agent come back to me and they’re like, okay, we got it. She’s doing this for X, Y, Z. And I was like, The hell she what? I called her. I was like, Ma’am, no, no, absolutely not. It was that low. I was like, we’re not I’m not going to because I would have had to monitor an editor and edit this shit for 18 months while she’s getting paid. I said, Ma’am, absolutely not. I can’t tell you what to ask for.

Panama Jackson [00:27:57] Right.

Aliya King Neil [00:27:58] But I can tell you what to not accept. So I try to cut through the money thing as much as I can. But it is tought.

Panama Jackson [00:28:07] Time for a quick break. Stay with us. Alright, we’re be back here at Dear Culture, I’m talking hip hop journalism and money with the Aliya King Neil, which is a part of journalism that people it seems like it’s under lock and key or shrouded in all this mystery for so many of us, especially in these journalistic spaces. But I kind of want to ask like a big picture question What do you think of the state of hip hop journalism currently such that it exists? I mean, it obviously exists, but like, what do you as a person who was at places like The Source and Vibe and XXL and all that and now. You know, I don’t even I can’t say it’s in a bad place, you know, It’s just it’s so sporadic, right? Like if you go through social media, like, I’m not even sure like journalists are, I feel like I’m writing 90% of the articles that I come across. And that’s just the new thing that people are talking about now. Right? So, you know, it’s a lot of lists and just let’s create controversy. Let’s let’s let’s go ahead and say the 50 greatest rappers, and I’m going to put MC Brains at number one and see how that goes. I guess, you know, it’s it’s it’s an interesting space. Like, I don’t know that I see as many profiles as we used to, as many features as we used to on artists. And maybe some of that is because artists are as in control of their own image now as the media used to be, Right? Like you don’t need a magazine. I can just go on on Instagram and tell my story myself, right? I don’t really need those spaces. So what do you like? How do you feel about where hip hop journalism is at now?

Aliya King Neil [00:29:35] I feel like this is going to be some controversial thing for me to say, but. I don’t think Hip-Hop journalism exists anymore. Not in the way we knew it to be and not the way we needed it to be. And I don’t think that that’s a bad thing. I think journalism is journalism, and there are people in journalism who like hip hop and write about it. I don’t see a community of hip hop journalists anymore. And that’s not because we were better or whatever. It’s because we needed each other and it’s because the artists needed us. Once we stopped needing each other and the artists thought needing us, then hip hop journalism as a as an entity didn’t exist. And I can always point to the death of hip hop journalism. It was 2005, I think, and Vanity Fair did this. We love hip hop issue. And Jay was on the cover and Beyonce was on the cover. And after that issue, you never saw Jay on a hip hop magazine cover again. That was literally it. From that moment on.

Panama Jackson [00:30:43] Hmm.

[00:30:44] Never. Now, you may have seen something with a stock photo and a collection of quotes, but the traditional sit down, do the photo shoot that ended in the mid 2000s. And we haven’t had him back since. Beyonce will dip a toe in. Do an Essence cover and etc.. But in terms of like, hip hop journalism. I know for you know, I remember Jay coming to The Source, like making his case for being on the cover in December of 1999 and seeing my boss and other folks comparing and being like, Do we put Jay on the cover? Do we put this and all the machinations that come from But he’s going to do the tour. The Source is going to sponsor the tour. So if he doesn’t get the cover, is that going to put the just all of this stuff going through. I know that Jay would sit down with the editor in chief just over like some old Mafia cigar thing like, I’m The Source and I’m Jay. Like, there was this thing, you know? And when my editor in chief Maslin, left to go to a website that was run by Russell Simmons, they had a party and Puffy came up to him and was like, I need to talk to you. Pulls him out of the party, in the truck. I want to start a website and I need you to be the editor in chief of my site. Not Russell’s site. Like these are the things that are happening in the late nineties and we’re depending on each other. And once the internet took over. And then once the biggest artists no longer needed us. Daniel can’t say and the number one record in the world anymore. Because if this is the number one record in the world, they’re going to be on the cover of Elle or Cosmo or Vanity Fair or Rolling Stone.

Panama Jackson [00:32:37] Which is so interesting because it feels like. It’s where the whole culture vulture thing came from, right? Like the the the big magazines. I know I’ve always felt the way when I would see, like, hip hop showing up in places where I didn’t really feel like understood it. But you would. But they would always be hired by journalists who understood it, right? So it’s like they’re not just going to have some random person writing an article. It’s like we’re going to hire and, you know, pick a name. I don’t want to just make up a name on something that didn’t exist. But, you know, like you read this article, but it’s by somebody you respect who came up in the way that that you would want them to write somebody who’s been in these spaces.

Aliya King Neil [00:33:15] I’ll give you a good example of that. I mean, Kris Ex, who was this who is, I should say, of a formidable writer, just sick with the pen like every writer’s favorite writer. You know how they say that about rappers? That’s Kris Ex and Kris. He was so dope that someone would let him freelance for Rolling Stone. Because it was just like, we’re not going to block that blessing for you. So he often wrote for Rolling Stone and they would pull him in when it made sense, like a Wyclef story or a Jay story. So those were the kind of relationships I think you’re talking about, where a place like Rolling Stone is not embedded, but they’ll get someone who is. And I think that started to break down too at some point because now they’ll just get anybody to write anything.

Panama Jackson [00:34:03] Fair. And I used to feel that way about stuff like that. Like because you wouldn’t know who wrote the story first. I know the stories there. And I’m like, What is this doing here? This doesn’t belong here. And then you read this like the story. Okay, now I get it. I see. And I so I thought, like, kind of what you’re pointing out with Jay being on Vanity Fair, like that stuff kind of killed hip hop magazines. Because if the ones with the money in, the ones that get all the readership are able to still do the same thing they can do, they can do the stuff that their fanbase wants, the ones wants to read and wants to see, but they can also like delve into hip hop stuff. Then it’s going to make it more difficult. Like I don’t think any of those magazines could ever top like the Essence’s because that’s such an innate magazine for like Black women, especially like that. That market is one that that we care so much about. Like, I don’t think it works that way. But when these other places are doing stories that Ebony and Vibe and all these other places can do, it’s like, Hey, what happens to these places too?

Aliya King Neil [00:35:01] It’s not that the magazines can cause these. It’s not that the big ones can make this happen because they can’t make it happen until the artist says, Yes, we’ll do it.

Panama Jackson [00:35:11] Fair enough. Yep.

Aliya King Neil [00:35:12] You know what I mean? It starts there. If I don’t think that, you know, hip hop journalism wasn’t trying to get Jay on the cover. Vibe and Source. But at some point, hip hop has always been aspirational. So the whole point of hip hop is to move up, especially if you’re Jay-Z, who famously offered a $100,000 bonus to anybody at Def Jam that could get him a one on one interview with Oprah Winfrey because he wanted to have that line, had Oprah in the Project Street Corner orders. That’s what he wanted. That was the the thing. You know, hip hop is not about spaces and staying still and staying in the same space.

Panama Jackson [00:35:51] So it’s a natural progression. That’s how. Yeah, it just kind of it had no choice but to Snoop and Martha Stewart. It just it gets there. Right. He’s just naturally going to get there. That’s right.

Aliya King Neil [00:36:01] That’s right.

Panama Jackson [00:36:02] Time for a quick break. Stay with us. And we’re back. All right. I have a really important question to ask you. This is actually a genuine this is a personal, very important question to ask you and I never ask for. How in the hell did you get an interview with Tyler Perry? This man, I’ll talk to nobody but like Oprah and Gayle, he’ll talk to people. And then you got him to basically admit that the whole nonsensical scene and acrimony with the boat was just like, What you talking about? Which you talk about, man, she got on the boat. She left the party, got on the boat. How did this even come to be? This is important. Like this is the journalism. This is the stuff. This is the stuff that matters.

Aliya King Neil [00:36:47] So I do have to say that. I I’ve spent my whole life doing profiles and I love them and I love going in with questions and all of that. But it hadn’t happened in a while because I was in a different space. You know, I’m writing books and I’m editing books. So I get this call from Jermaine Hall, who actually replaced me at The Source. When I left, I recommended him and I worked for him at different places. He was the editor in chief of Vibe for a hot second. He’s was the editor-in-cheif for King. Everywhere he’s ever worked I tag along. So he starts this site for Medium called Level, and he wants an interview with Tyler Perry. But he’s not I mean, I’m not saying this to big myself up. It’s just true. He was not sure if he could get the right person, like he did not want to send someone who wasn’t able to get something out of somebody like Tyler Perry, who is notably. Just. Not the one doesn’t answer questions, doesn’t like it’s not there. So I have to say, you know, he did say Aliya can do it. If anboy you can do it, Aliya’s going to do it.

Aliya King Neil [00:37:59] So honestly. I just think there was some type of connection because I don’t think that he had has yet dealt with journalists like me, like old school, not scared of you, not going to listen to anybody who tells me what I can’t ask, which I did have some things I was supposed to not ask, and I asked them all anyway. I don’t think he had had that for some time. And there were just a couple of times that he’s looking at me like, No, this B-word did not. And I’m you know, I’m 50. I don’t give a I’m old, you know, although I didn’t give a damn when I was 25 either. But like I said in the very beginning, this is a great full circle. I’m not scared of anything. I don’t care if you’re not going to be my friend when this interview is over, because I have. Journalist friends who do care about that. I don’t care if you’re mad at me. Tell your publicist. She asked me something. We said we weren’t going to. I don’t care about none of that. I don’t care about looking dumb. I don’t care about you being mad. I don’t care about getting kicked out. I care about nothing but a good story. And because I only had time to do a Q&A and not a proper profile, that means that I have to go in even more because each answer has to be full and you have to really talk it through.

Aliya King Neil [00:39:17] I can’t just depend on having a sprinkle of quotes for a long story. It was Q&A. I had 15. The whole thing happened in 15 minutes. 15 minutes. The interview was 15 minutes. It was his last interview after I think he had done a dozen interviews, press interviews. That was also in my favorite, too, because he was exhausted. Exhausted. I don’t know if I would have got those answers from him if I was the first interview that day. So combine me being a hot mess and asking everything I want, so I’ll wait. And there’s a final thing. I actually was on vacation when Jermaine call. I was in Miami and I was like, Am I going to come home early for Tyler Perry story? And I’m like, If I am, it’s got to be worth it. Like, I’m going in. I’m not going to leave my husband on the beaches of Miami to go interview Tyler Perry for some nonsense. So the night before I left, we watched Acrimony. That’s the one, right?

Panama Jackson [00:40:21] I was going to ask you about the Acrimony question. Okay. That’s the one.

Aliya King Neil [00:40:25] I never I actually have not seen more than one Tyler Perry movie in my life. And I told him that. And he looked at me like, did you just admit that? And I’m like, You don’t speak to me. I’m sorry. I love you existing. But that doesn’t mean your work is for me. So we watched the movie, and my husband and I are like, What just happened? And that was the first thing I thought. I was like, So that’s weird with this ending. So I go into Twitter and I put Tyler Perry Acrimony ending, and that’s it. Exploded from five years ago whenever that movie came out. Everybody is like the boat, the boat, the boat. And I’m like, this is true. I got to ask him that. And I was like, I don’t think I think you just was asking him about the movie that he’s promoting right now, not a movie from years back. And I was like, we’ll see about that. And I must say on a journalistic tip, I did wait until the very, very end. It’s very, what’s that that investigators name? Matlock? No, the one who says “just one more thing.” I can’t. Columbo. Columbo always says one more thing. So I totally pulled the one more thing, because when you say one more thing, it’s like, okay, it’s almost like, let me just say whatever it is and I can go. And I’m like, How does she get back on the boat? I also, from a journalistic point of view, I didn’t say the character’s name on purpose because I want to throw him off and be like, What is she talking about? I’m like, How she got off the boat? And he was like, Are you talking about Acrimony? And I was like, Yes, we’re going to talk about that for a minute.

Panama Jackson [00:42:01] Because you asked that question. That interview traveled because everybody is just like it was just like the Twitter thing. Everybody was like, Tyler Perry addresses the boat and everybody because everybody who’s seen his movies are like in I don’t know, Rees even a little bit was like, how does she get on the boat? Because that’s the that’s the. I watch all of his movies. I talk to you about nothing. Like I watch all the movies. You know, I enjoy some good nonsense. And if there’s one thing I’m again, I think this is up to the press run from a fall from grace, which was famously. Yes, famously, the one where you see people in the background in air because the actors have been on set for so long. So, you know, I love me some good nurses, I love me some shenanigans. But the boat, I just like I just need somebody to I need somebody to explain it. So when you did that, it was like all of us, like Tyler Perry speaks to it. We can throw our theories out the window. Except he basically just said she get on the boat. Would you talk about. I was like, man.

Aliya King Neil [00:43:01] It was satisfying for him to just talk about it, but he didn’t speak to it.

Panama Jackson [00:43:05] All right. Well, I appreciate. I just want you to know how much I appreciate that, because it might not speak to you, but that was. That was for me. That was for people like me who spent all our time arguing with the people about how in the world she got on the boat in Acrimony and have genuine arguments about that stuff. We were like, Man, somebody got in there and I seen it’s Aliya and I’m like this is the homie, the homie’s doing this interview. He don’t never interview with anybody. Like he’s notorious for that. He, like, only speaks when he gets an opportunity to say just what he wants to say.

Aliya King Neil [00:43:33] Just what he wants to say.

Panama Jackson [00:43:34] And that’s what he wants to say. Well, let’s take one last break right here. We come back going to our Blackfessions and Blackmendation and find out where can people find your work and everything else you got going on. So stay tuned right here on Dear Culture. All right. We’re back here on Dear Culture for our final segment here. But before we do, let’s just start at the beginning. How did you even get into writing?

Aliya King Neil [00:43:54] I was a teacher and I knew that I wasn’t going to be there for long. So I always had my antenna up about, you know, stuff that was going on the last day of school. 1998. I’m watching my kids take their final exam and I’m reading an Essence magazine in the back of the magazine and says, Do you want to be a writer? You should come to this 8 week course at Harvard University where you’ll learn everything about publishing. And I was like, Oh, word. So I’m on lunch break. I call the number. And the woman Lindy Hess, she said, I’m so sorry, but you know, it’s done. You know, we have our group coming in next month. Next year. You should apply. I’ll tell you everything you need. You sound like you would be a good candidate. And I was like, next year. The next day I took off from work. I drove to Boston, to Cambridge, to this woman’s house, I mean to her office. And she’s like, Who are you? And I said, I’m Aliya S. King, you said to apply for next year, but I don’t have that kind of time. She was like, Well, you have to complete the application. I was like, Boom. And you have to have two letters. Boom, boom. I had driven to Rutgers. I went Rutgers University. I had driven to Rutgers in the mornings to get my transcripts and then went up to Cambridge. Like Aliya King Neil is not doing that, I just have to say. But I really was really focused on that. She let me in. I remember she said, You know, the course is $5,000 and is that going to be an issue? And I’m like, Damn right, it’s going to be an issue. You’re going to find some money for me. I’ll see you in a couple of weeks. I got a full scholarship and I went and that was really the jumping off point for me. There were 100 people in my group. I obviously 90% of them are still in the business in some way. And it was a crash course in everything publishing, which I needed because I didn’t major in it. From there I went to Billboard from Billboard, I went to The Source, and that’s where all the fun began.

Panama Jackson [00:45:54] So that’s an interesting one. And I didn’t know that I had. I actually don’t know that I knew that that’s how you got into to writing and all that in the first place, though, it’s a very hip hop story, actually. Like, listen, I’m going to I’m going to make a way and we’ll find a way. I’m going to make a way. And, you know, it’s it’s you kick the door down and you get in and it turns out it worked out. What’s your relationship to hip hop at this point? So this is and you said 98, right? This is 98. So 98. So hip hop is two and a half decades old. We’re in the gold. We’re in the nineties right where we’re post Wu-Tang, right? We’re in the shiny suit era, so to speak. So to speak. Biggie’s gone. Puff is gone. I mean, I’m sorry, Biggie is gone. Pac is gone, right? Lauryn is a supernova, you know. So where are you in Where is hip hop in your life? You’re from New Jersey. So you’re part of like used. You seeing all this, like, in real time? As far as I can tell for your life?

Aliya King Neil [00:46:57] Absolutely. I’m from Illtown. You know, Naughtyville, I grew up seeing them performing in talent shows at my school before they were Naughty by Nature. You could look at Treach and just tell you was a superstar. But I must say, and that’s what’s interesting about being able to talk about this stuff now, because I couldn’t tell this story. I was not a hip hop head and I had it all in me by osmosis. I’m from East Orange, like Redman grew up a mile away from me. There’s no way I wasn’t going to be filled with it and love it. But honestly, I was a R&B girl and it’s taken me. How long has it been now? 20 years. To be able to say that publicly and be okay with it because The Source was such a gatekeeping space that the idea if I said in my interview, I want to work here and I’m good at what I do, but I really like Mariah more than I like, you know, Fat Joe, that just wasn’t going to fly. So when I was at Billboard, I was freelancing for XXL, I was freelancing for The Source, I was freelancing for Vibe, and I was paying attention to the work I was doing, not necessarily to the music, which was okay until it came time to rate albums for mics, but we’ll get to that. Yeah, so I really did not come out. I came out loving hip hop the way you love your sister. She’s there now. Of course you love her. But I was not fanatical. I was not a fan boy or girl. And I didn’t realize until much later that the person who hired me hired me for that reason, because there were enough fanboys there. But I didn’t know that at the time.

Panama Jackson [00:48:32] That that look that is interesting. And I just kind of assumed like everybody was a complete fanboy, like you said, of of hip hop. Like, I would have been right if I had those opportunities, if I’d walked in the door to be 100% like. Like wide eye and bright eyed and bushy tailed kind of thing for me. So it is interesting. So let’s talk about you getting to The Source you’re writing for XXL. So you’re like you’re writing for these hip hop spaces, You’re freelancing for these spaces. So what’s that like in in what’s that like getting into The Source? Because at that point, The Source is still The Source, right? It’s still the hip hop Bible they’ve had, you know, there’ve been issues and stuff, but it’s still the hip hop Bible. We still care about the mics in The Source.

Aliya King Neil [00:49:13] Absolutely. We care about who’s on the cover. We care about who’s getting reviewed. We care about every single page. And then, you know, just so we are clear, the magazine is like 350 pages for the September issue. So things are things are huge. When I was freelancing, I did I didn’t do any stories that were more than like 250 words, maybe a short little review in the back of XXL, a short news story in the front of the book at VIBE. For The Source. I was doing really small news stories as well, so I wasn’t like it off with those things. But for a writer to have lines in all three of those magazines, it was, you know, six months in. It was huge. It was huge for me to even have those tiny clips because, you know, you can build those up to do the next thing. But for me, the next thing was going to come out of sheer will, not the quality of my work. I’m I’m a great writer and I always have been, but it’s always it has not been my writing that’s gotten me to where I am now. It’s been my sheer ridiculous tenacity. And I have this weird thing where I don’t care about making myself look stupid. I don’t care. I don’t care about not being popular. I don’t care about how people look at me. I don’t care that I didn’t have the fly to a pager when everyone had one. I was never into that. I just wanted the good story.

Panama Jackson [00:50:46] Before we get to that, the Blackfessions and Blackmendations I do want to ask you, what advice do you have for up and coming writers who want to write about hip hop or anything just up and coming writers in general?

Aliya King Neil [00:50:57] I give this advice a lot, and most young folks don’t really take advantage of it. But the biggest difference between now and when I was coming up is that you have the power of being a published writer in like 60 seconds. You can set up a site, you can set up a blog instead of anything. It’s going to showcase your writing in a minute and it’ll look clean and it’ll look it won’t just be an email to an editor with some words on it. I always tell folks, if this is what you want to do, start something really simple. Updated regularly. It regularly is a every month, fine. If regularly is every day, fine. Just regularly. I can’t tell you how many times I hear from writers and I say, Do you have anything I can read? And they’re sending me PDFs and they’re sending me all kinds of heaviness. And I’m just like, I just want to read a couple sentences, not edited by somebody already. What do you do? What are you about? So I always say that. I always say, start with your own work. You can give yourself some type of whatever it is that you want to cover. Cover yourself. You can literally I see kids on Twitter and Instagram in the tiktoks and they are reviewing movies in real time. And I’m like, You don’t even realize this content, right? All this stuff that you’re saying here, you could put Greenleaf, You know, here’s what I have to say about episode that’s content. That’s something that if you want to write, you can actually look at. I also notice that folks don’t follow. Another thing we did not have in my day, I couldn’t follow folks. I couldn’t even figure out where Danielle Smith worked or what she looked like. You know, now you can Google anybody you want in any field you want and follow all of them. Writers might not admit it, but we pay attention to who follows us. As soon as we get that follow alert, we’re like, okay. And engage. Engage. Don’t be creepy. But engage. And one other thing that writers and editors will always appreciate is compliments. Hey Aliya, I read your story on blah, blah, blah. I thought it was really solid. Blah, blah, blah. Short, sweet, cute. The first thing I do when I do hear from writers is I don’t know if most people do this, but I put their name into my Gmail and do a search. Imagine more to see if we’ve ever communicated. If anyone’s ever brought them up. I am 49 years old. I’ve had Gmail for 20 years, so you can imagine that many times that name pops up. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it ain’t. But being contact lately, being contact. So start your own way of being heard. Whatever that looks like. Podcast counts as well, if that’s what you want to do. Follow the people that are in the world that you want to be in. Pay attention to what they’re working on. If if an aspiring author comes up to me and says, So, where do you work? I’m kind of done at that point because how are you asking me? Speak to me. You don’t know where I work. It’s really easy to find out where I work and what I do.

Panama Jackson [00:54:08] Well, we work in this writing space here. And as as somebody who’s who’s owned a publish button and edited over time, I think all of that advice is that the best advice you could possibly offer to somebody is basically be consistent. Don’t be creepy and have somebody who I am when you speak to me is probably as good as is going to get when it comes to everybody writing.

Aliya King Neil [00:54:32] Well, Panama. And say what? Where do you work? What are you known for?

Panama Jackson [00:54:36] My favorite is when people email and there’s like, I was a huge fan of VBS. I was like, vacation Bible study was my joint too, when I was young. But that’s not. Yeah. So I feel like, oh, it’s like, who are you reaching out for? Like. All right. Well, thank you for that advice. Now we’re going to have a little bit of fun with you here. And see, we do this segment here at Dear Culture called Blackfession which is where we ask our guests to share something about them that people might be surprised to find out about you because you’re Black, hence the term Blackfession. So do you have a Blackfession, something that you can share with the people?

Aliya King Neil [00:55:13] I do. But here’s the thing. Like, as soon as I heard the word Blackfessions, I knew it. Like it popped into my head and I was like, you know, this is it. But then I was like, But that’s so like. I feel like it’s so cliche for that to be it.

Panama Jackson [00:55:31] She can say she’s seen The Color Purple.

Aliya King Neil [00:55:33] It would have seen The Color Purple. Very, very.

Panama Jackson [00:55:36] Maybe people be surprising me with the things that that that they just though, you know.

Aliya King Neil [00:55:41] People like like, listen.

Panama Jackson [00:55:44] Everybody’s household wasn’t watching Black movies the way that my household watches Black movies. That’s what I find. I’m mostly doing stuff like this.

Aliya King Neil [00:55:50] Right. I get that. No, it’s not that. It’s fried chicken. I don’t like it. I never have. It is very cliche, but it’s it’s it’s cliche, but yet, when I’m forced to deal with it is no less shock, no less or no less anger, no less rage, even though it’s cliche. So I can eat one bite. If it’s a wing thingy, I can eat one by and then the rest goes down. And I’m sure I don’t know if you guys cover this. There’s this little meme about, like, how much chicken you eat.

Panama Jackson [00:56:27] Yeah, I’m always like, one, two, three, four or five. And they got the five different versions.

Aliya King Neil [00:56:31] I’m one, I’m one bite.

Panama Jackson [00:56:33] Disrespectful.

Aliya King Neil [00:56:34] That little bumpy part of the wing. That’s it. And I don’t do flats, period.

Panama Jackson [00:56:41] That’s a Blackfession. That’s your Blackfession right there. So you telling on yourself now, now you got it all.

Aliya King Neil [00:56:48] But I just realized I like fried chicken. I just don’t like fried chicken wings, which I think might be worse. It’s okay. It’s the wing I don’t like.

Panama Jackson [00:56:59] All right. Listen, that’s why we do this.

Aliya King Neil [00:57:04] I do a fried cutlet and chicken parm. Just no wings.

Panama Jackson [00:57:09] Okay. All right. Listen, that’s why we do this, because it’s always fun to find out about people and not just their professions or things, but also the personal stuff like that. And that’s that’s an interesting That is interesting because I imagine your husband, does he like wings? He seemed like he would like wings. I would imagine.

Aliya King Neil [00:57:28] My child is down to the marrow.

Panama Jackson [00:57:32] So you’re the odd person out. Okay. Okay.

Aliya King Neil [00:57:35] I am.

Panama Jackson [00:57:36] Fair enough. Time for a quick break. Stay with us. And we’re back. All right. Well, to counteract that, that proof that Black people are not a monolith, we also ask people to provide a Blackmendation, which is a recommendation about something for, by and about Blackness, Black people, something that that you engage with and enjoy that’s for Blackness that you would like to share with others. So do you have a Blackmendation?

Aliya King Neil [00:58:02] I certainly do. And it’s so interesting you said that because my Blackmendation is And it is a space by, for and about Black folks. It’s a place where I get lost in a story at least once a week, and not just because I work there. So my job for Disney is to make sure that these awesome stories on Andscape become books as as well as books that just come to me because they’re books. So I love for people to check out Andscape. Most people already do. It was formerly known as The Undefeated. It’s a great space for storytelling. Some of my favorite writers are there. Especially some of my favorite writers from hip hop journalism are there like Jesse Washington. It’s just it’s a good space and it feels like hip hop journalism, even if that’s not always the topic. It’s the sort of in-depth, you know, original photography, original reporting, actual quotes. It’s that kind of work that gets me happy. So check out Inscape. And also. It feels like this is just a really good time for authors. You know, I’m sitting here in this chair, gatekeeping, I guess, but my job is to acquire books. Now, the only thing that separates me from other folks is that I only can take proposals from agented work. Unfortunately, I can’t accept proposals that don’t have an agent from office or don’t have an agent. But if you do have an agent and you just been sitting around trying to figure out what your next move is going to be, your next book should be your next move, should be figuring out that book. I don’t do fiction. I only do nonfiction. But it’s a really sweet time for Blackness in publishing. When I came here, my boss said to me, Just so you know, Andscape books by, for and about Black folks, period. And she’s white, but she’s one of those kind of white folks that say Black, Right? If that makes sense. You don’t come out, you say, and you’re in, it’s good. It works. And she said, that’s what we do. So my collaborators are Black, my photographers are Black. My fact checkers are Black. Like, even within Disney, Andscape books is an ecosystem of by, for and about Black folks. And that makes me really happy. So that’s my Blackmendation. Go to Andscape. Check out the work that’s being done there and then go tell your agent you want to submit a proposal to Aliya King Neil. And yes, I just said that.

Panama Jackson [01:00:50] Yeah. Listen, I was just I was just about to ask you how, like, where. How can people keep up with you if you want to be found and you just basically rap for me? You basically just like, hey, come, come get me here. But how do people keep up with what you got going on? If they want to find out more about you or read things you got going on or like, how do people find you if you want to be found?

Aliya King Neil [01:01:13] You can find me. I don’t even need to tell you how to find me. If you really want to, you can find me. You can go to Very Smart Brothas and read some of the best writing I’ve ever done in my career. And I mean that. So you can find me if you really want to find me and you’re really about that life. You can find me. And if you have an agent, your agent can find me. So we good. If there’s anything you want to know about me Google it. Did I just say Goolge it?

Panama Jackson [01:01:38] You did. But you know what? That’s. That’s facts. Because I have Googled you before.

Aliya King Neil [01:01:44] Yeah, I’m here.

Panama Jackson [01:01:45] Yeah. Well, listen, I want to say thank you for joining us today. Hang on, Dear Cultures, the phone conversation. Amazing conversation. Got some stories, Got some insights. Like you’re a good friend of mine. I appreciate you. I appreciate your advice and your counsel whenever I’ve asked. You’ve been very forthcoming and very helpful from me, especially on my writing journey, which is in process.

Aliya King Neil [01:02:07] Let’s go, let’s go.

Panama Jackson [01:02:09] Thank you so much for joining us here, Dear Culture. And thank you to everybody who’s listening, who’s checking out this podcast. Make sure you check out everything Aliya has going on. You can go read old stories, Check out her books. Just listen. If her name’s on it, I promise She was good. And I don’t mean that just as somebody who knows her. I mean that in a genuine sense and somebody who’s had the opportunity to work with you. Yeah. So for Dear Culture, thanks for listening. Have a Black one.

Maiysha Kai [01:03:08] We started this podcast to talk about not just what Black writers write about, but how.

Ayana Gray [01:03:14] Well, personally, it’s on my bucket list to have one of my books banned. I know that’s probably bad, but I think.

Maiysha Kai [01:03:19] Oh, spicy.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault [01:03:20] They were yelling N-word, Go home. And I was looking around for the N-word because I knew it couldn’t be me because I was the queen.

Keith Boykin [01:03:28] I am telling people to quit this mentality of identifying ourselves by our work, to start to live our lives and to redefine the whole concept of how we work and where we work and why we work in the first place.

Misty Copeland [01:03:44] My biggest strength throughout, throughout my career has been having incredible mentors and specifically Black women.

Omar Epps [01:03:50] I’ve been writing poetry since I was like eight. I’ve been reading Langston Hughes and James Baldwin and Maya Angelou and so forth and so on, since I was like a little kid.

Rhiannon Giddens [01:03:58] Like the banjo was like Blackity Black right? For many, many, many years everybody knew.

Sam Jay [01:04:05] Because sometimes I’m just doing some that because I just want to do it.

J. Ivy [01:04:12] Honored to be here. Thank you for doing the work that you do. Keep shinning bright. And we like you said, we going to keep Writing Black.

Maiysha Kai [01:04:19] As always, you can find us on theGrio app or wherever you find your podcasts.

Panama Jackson [01:04:30] TheGrio Black Podcast Network presents Dear Culture: Tru’ish Black Stories.

Dr. Christina Greer [01:04:37] When you think of sheer artistry, sheer creativity, the ability for someone to bring Black people together in the most fundamental ways. It’s, you know, I would say of my four, Randy Watson is my number one.

Michael Harriot [01:04:51] When the news about Rickey first broke, what I heard about it is the thing you hear about, you know, every time somebody Black dies that it was gang related. That means the police don’t know what happened. So they just said probably the gang’s probably, you know, the other Black dudes.

Panama Jackson [01:05:08] Where were you when you heard the story about them? Suckers getting served by waves dance crew?

Shamira Ibrahim [01:05:14] You know, it’s crazy that you mention this. So as a New Yorker, right? Everyone knows where they were on 9/11 Right. You know, couple of years later, right. It’s 2003. Everyone hears bout this crazy moment in a boxing ring because that’s where dancers duke it out, right in boxing rings.

Panama Jackson [01:05:31] If you could say something to Ricky right now, what would you say to him?

Monique Judge [01:05:35] Ricky, you should’ve never got that girl pregnant. You knew I had a crush on you. You should have got with me instead.

Panama Jackson [01:05:40] Moments in Black culture examined like never before. Join us as we dive into the Black moments that changed us. That changed the world. Make sure to subscribe to Dear Culture so you never miss an episode.