‘Concrete Magazine’ offers scoop on Nashville hip-hop

Monday, November 12, 2007 at 1:08am

Growing up in Nashville Bryan Deese was a huge fan of urban and hip-hop music, even delving into it as both a onetime break-dancer and graffiti artist.

But Deese seldom saw any news, information, reviews or profiles about rappers or urban performers in local publications despite the nationwide popularity of hip-hop. So he decided to take matters into his own hands and in September of 2004 Concrete Magazine was launched.

Now the bi-monthly publication is available at some 300 distribution points not only in the city, but in Clarksville, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Donelson, Hermitage, and parts of Sumner, Rutherford and Williamson counties.

Besides its 10,000-issue print run, you can see an array of interviews, photos and other magazine features at its Web site concretemag.com.

“I’ve always been into hip-hop culture and been a fan of the music and felt that there was a lot of interest in this marketplace,” Deese said. “But I had noticed that the mainstream media seemed content to ignore it, or act as though it were on the fringes of pop culture. But the truth is that hip-hop culture is pop culture, and that’s something the corporations understood long before the media did.”

“You look at the marketing pushes of companies like Nike, McDonald’s or Coca-Cola,” Deese continued. “They understand how popular hip-hop and rap has become and they aim at those consumers. When I saw the void that was in the Nashville market regarding coverage, it just made good sense to start something devoted to the hip-hop and urban marketplace. We came up with a business plan, got things underway and now we’re getting excellent support from not only the business community in North Nashville and Antioch, but in Clarksville and many other places across the region.”

Concrete Magazine blends Q&A features with musician profiles and reviews. Freelance journalists, disc jockeys and fans provide the editorial content, while Deese and others shape each issue’s look and blueprint.

Most interviews have brief intro sections followed by detailed segments (complete interview texts are later available online). It’s the type of informed, comprehensive and insider-oriented publication that’s become the staple of hip-hop and urban scenes in other cities, and Deese feels that Nashville is often unfairly and inaccurately compared to larger marketplaces (particularly Atlanta) when it comes to hip-hop.

“If you compare us to places like Kansas City or Oklahoma or even Memphis, which also has a rich history of R&B and soul music, then in terms of homegrown talent we can stand with any city when it comes to hip-hop,” Deese said. “You add the caliber of recording studios and the industry access and we actually come out ahead. But Atlanta is a special situation. There are other factors involved there, especially in terms of the population size and the number of black people and power of that community, that make it very attractive to rappers around the South.”

“The history of rap in America has seen the music explode at various times in different parts of the country. You’ve had East Coast rap, West Coast rap, the Houston scene and now the whole dirty South movement, and Atlanta has emerged as a key city as a result of that. But there is plenty of top rap talent right here in Nashville, and I think we’ll continue to be a major city for many years. We have a platinum rapper here with Young Buck and most of the time when you look at the radio ratings the hip-hop station (101.1FM) is always at or near the top of the ratings.”

Deese cites Quanie Cash, Haystak, Cowboy, All Star, Paper and Pistol as prominent names on the current Music City rap scene, plus the members of 615, Young Buck’s group (HI-C, D-Tay and ‘Lil Murda). Cowboy will be one of the featured artists interviewed in the new issue of Concrete Magazine, which will be published Thursday. Others include performers Rip, “Lil Bizzy” and Chevy P.

Deese lists expanding and strengthening the publication’s Web presence as a primary objective for 2008.

“We’ve always put the complete interviews on the Web site and also had a MySpace page, but there’s some other things that we want to add to bulk up our Internet presence,” Deese said. “One thing we’re exploring involves some sort of blogging setup. Also we want to improve the archives, maybe do some things with more photos. We’re looking at several different things. But we’re not going to abandon print. There are still lots of people who want to read about the music that don’t just want to depend solely on the Internet.”

In the meantime, Deese and his crew of dedicated freelancers plan to continue making Concrete Magazine one of the prime sources for information on hip-hop, rap and urban music in the area.

“There are still plenty of people around here like Grammy-winning producer Shannon Sanders that are highly respected around the world, but many Nashville music fans don’t know,” Deese said. “Nashville continues to gain more respect in the national hip-hop, rap and urban communities, and the talent gets better every year. The challenge for us is making sure that people know just how many great performers live and work here in this music.”

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