Billboard’s Hip-Hop Editor Carl Lamarre Speaks on His Journalism Inspirations, Landing His Major Writing Role, His Game-Changing Interview with Nipsey Hussle, Tips for the Aspiring Writer and Much More.

There have been a lot of debates happening about whether or not journalism is dead and for multiple reasons. Two major reasons that come to mind belong to the world of digital media and instant gratification. Everyone wants what they desire straightforward and direct which has led to a vast amount of people with a short attention span. So short that they completely shy away from taking 5-10 minutes to read an article and/or a full length piece. I’m inspired by a lot of writers who’ve created strong enough content that focus more on people taking the time to read and Carl Lamarre, the Hip-Hop Editor for Billboard Magazine, has been one of the guys I’ve admired in that particular realm.

Interviewing everyone from Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, T.I., DJ Khaled, Ty Dolla $ign and more, Carl is without a doubt one of the most hardest working hip-hop journalists/interviewers on the radar right now. He continues to thrive within the hip-hop community by shedding light on important stories as well as important figures we all as hip-hop lovers enjoy to learn about.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Carl to talk a little bit more about his come up in the journalism world, how he landed his major role at Billboard, his favorite interview with the world-wide publication and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get into journalism?

Man, I’ve always loved writing. Ever since I was a kid, I carried around a journal and would spend days writing inside of it. As time went by, I decided to take my love for writing to the next level and wrote for my high school newspaper. I started out as a staff writer during my junior year and then became the sports editor my senior year. I knew I really had a chance at being special l when I won third place at the Long Island Press for my editorial “30 the new 20.”

2 – What would you say was your main source of inspiration to get into music journalism?

So, after high school, I was adamant about being a sports writer. I was so in love with the NBA. I had a Slam Magazine subscription and always thought that one day I would write for them. When I attended Howard University, my freshman year, I was fortunate enough to pen some pieces for The Howard Hilltop. My love for music journalism, honestly, came by chance. A friend of mine recommended that I consider reaching out to VIBE Magazine about an internship for the summer. I remember VIBE hit me up on a Thursday, interviewed me on Friday, and started Monday. I was the youngest intern in my class. From there, my love for hip-hop skyrocketed.

3 – When did you realize that music journalism was something you could actually make a career out of?

I really realized that I had potential to do something major in music journalism when Todd Thomas (I miss you big homie!) connected me to the people at Ballerstatus.com during my internship at VIBE. They took a chance on me and I quickly began penning pieces and editorials. As soon I as got with Ballerstatus.com, during my sophomore year at Howard, I decided to take a chance and reach out to my favorite hip-hop site at the time, HipHopGame.com. By chance, Brian Kayser — who was the GOAT in the online world for hip-hop journalism — reached out to me and gave me a chance to help out with the site. So, I had VIBE, Ballerstatus, and HipHopGame under my belt at 19. Then, one of my high school buddies, Devin Chanda — who was already ahead of the music journalism game curve — was an editor for Smooth Magazine. He showed me love and helped me land my first check, as I was writing album reviews for the mag.

4 – Do you remember the first article you did that contributed to your come up?

My first ever interview was with my favorite rapper of all-time. Sounds crazy, right? I was fortunate enough to interview Joe Budden around the time he dropped his project Halfway House. It was only a phone interview, but I was grateful to have spoken to him for maybe 40 minutes. That was a moment for me because I believed that if I was able to speak with my favorite rapper off rip, that anything was possible.

5 – In your opinion, aside from being a music connoisseur, what else makes a great writer/music journalist?

In my mind, I think what makes a music journalist great is being able to listen. I think I’m a pretty knowledgeable guy, but, realistically, I don’t know everything. I don’t listen to EVERY single project. So, fortunately, I’ve learned to be receptive to opinions and give everyone the benefit of the doubt, until I  ultimately sit-down and make my final decision. You never know what or who you may come across unless you’re open to everything. Listening is also crucial when you’re doing an interview. Most of the time. even when I’m just having a conversation with my friends, I don’t even talk as much anymore. I just sit back, listen and absorb. I absorb and then counter back with my feedback right after. It’s all about building momentum and trust with the person you’re interviewing.

6 – You’ve done a lot of different types of writing so far but which type of article do you prefer – interviews, op-ed’s, daily news articles? Why?

It’s funny because I grew up doing a lot of editorials and op-eds. As I got older and landed more opportunities, I began doing more interviews. I just love that one-on-one sit-down vibe, man. I challenge myself every time out to deliver a stronger interview than my last. Being able to help an artist or whoever dig deep with just that one question makes me smile every time out.

7 – Talk to us a little bit about your Billboard come up. How did you manage to land a position there as the editor for Billboard hip-hop?

Luck, God, and hard work. Around that time, I was working at a shitty company. It was decent money, but I was writing about salacious bullshit. My then-editor, Adelle Platon, reached out to me about an opportunity. How she got my e-mail? I honestly couldn’t tell you, but when I saw “Billboard opportunity” on the subject line, I damn near cried on the train. She asked me to review Jazz Cartier’s show at SOBs and interview him that same night. I was already on my way home, but I ended up turning around and knocking out the story. Crazy thing is, I didn’t work with Billboard again for another five-six months. Eventually, I got laid off from my shitty job and was freelancing for five different places, including Billboard. The day that changed my life was when I got let go from one of the five places I was writing for and asked Adelle if she knew of any other places that were looking for writers. She, in turn, asked me if I knew of any news writers looking to help out at Billboard Mondays through Fridays. I replied like, “Um, me.” LMAO. I spent almost eight months being Adelle’s right-hand before I was asked if I was interested in being the new Hip-Hop Editor. The rest is history.

8 – You’ve done a lot of amazing things for Billboard including a ton of interviews. What would you say was your favorite interview thus far? Why?

Tough question. It’s like picking your favorite kid. My favorite interview was with Nipsey Hussle. It happened earlier this year. The main reason is because my friends and I used to go on drives and would always play Nipsey’s music in the whip. They would joke around and tell me that I wasn’t shit until I got a Nipsey interview. Lo and behold, Victory Lap comes out and I’m sitting with Nipsey Hussle at Del Frisco’s for two hours,  eating steak and talking shit. That interview wasn’t just for me, it was for my team back home. I knew that chat was something special because a few months later, I saw Nipsey at his New York show and pulled up to his dressing room afterward. I honestly didn’t think he would remember me, but he did and told me he’s been following my moves and that  I’m up next in the hip-hop journalism game. Right then and there, it hit me like, “Man, I’m really making noise out here.”

9 – Working in publication there are always deadlines for an article to go up. Yoh Phillips, a popular music writer that I’m sure you know, said “Don’t die for the deadline” in one of his interviews. What are your thoughts on deadlines and the pressures of putting a piece out that’s probably not 100%? Have you ever put something out that you felt was sub-par?

It’s funny because I’ve always been a guy who thrives under pressure. Now, I try not to play around with deadlines because I know how important it is to get an early start and make sure that the story as clean and accurate as possible. At the same time, I don’t let the deadlines destroy me, as well. If the story isn’t up to my liking, I’ll pull the plug because, at the end of the day, it’s my name at the end of the day. My byline is everything. Every piece I drop needs to be a classic read in my mind.

10 – There are so many good writers and journalists out there who are putting out great content daily. Aside from the fact that you write for one of the most prominent music platforms in the country, how do you maintain your originality and voice in your writing?

It’s easy because I’ve always said that once my voice felt limited or robotic, I’d put the pen down. Once the thrill is gone, then I’ll bow out. I’m colorful with the pen and I need to be able to have my voice heard to a certain degree. Of course, you can’t be overly animated or forceful with it. A certain tact and a bit of grace need to be implemented in order to make that happen.

11 – Who are some of the journalists you currently admire? Why?

Dan Rys, Yoh Phillips, Jeff Weiss, Craig Jenkins, William Ketchum, are some off the top of my head. In my mind, Dan is easily the best in the game when it comes to business reporting. He also was my editor at XXL. Nobody, and I repeat, nobody works as hard as him. Yoh’s writing is just effortless. He’s so fluid with the ink. Nothing is ever forced with him.

12 – What are some tips you would give to the new blogger, aspiring music writer and/or journalist?

Be patient. It took me almost 10 years to get to where I am. I knew what I wanted and I stayed the course. I worked as a janitor, school aide, camp counselor and all that, just so that I can still have some money in my pocket since I wasn’t getting paid for my pieces. If you stay the course, trust and believe, your dreams will come to light. I used to tell myself I would write for Billboard by 27 and by the grace of God, my first clip happened at 26.

13 – What are some tips that have been given to you by your peers in regards to your career?

Keep fucking going. It’s crazy because I’m addicted to winning. Like, I can’t stop going in and delivering the best content with my team simply because I know someone out there wants my spot. I refuse to be outworked or lose to anyone. If I keep going at 100, then, I know I’ll be good to go.

14 – What can we expect from Carl Lamarre for 2018?

High-quality pieces. The first half of the year was major. I interviewed Kendrick, Khaled, Ty Dolla, Pusha, Nipsey, Wiz, T.I., and much more, and was able to break a lot of exclusives. We — as in my team and I — hope to keep the pace going to close out the year. We just want our place in history. Nothing more, nothing less.

Jay Holz Speaks on Music Management and Public Relations, How He Got into Journalism, Expanding His Positive Vibe Ent. Brand, and Much More.

The behind the scenes aspect of the music industry is one business that helps mold an individual for bigger and better things. If you are able to maneuver and finesse the way one should in regards to building up a great contact list as well as gaining as much knowledge as possible, you’ll be setting yourself up for success in the long run when it comes to any future endeavors. Also, just having a basic understanding of how the industry works is always a huge plus. I met Jay Holz about a year ago during a panel series and his name was one that constantly came up on my social media when it came to music related topics and inside stories related to the industry.

Jay formerly held a position as the Managing Editor for Karen Civil’s website but recently parted ways with them to focus on his own brand, Positive Vibe Ent., a management, marketing and PR company structured to help emerging artists.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Jay to talk about Positive Vibe Ent., the main goal for expanding the brand, his take on journalism and what he considers a good PR person and music manager. Check out our full interview below.

1 – What inspired you to be a part of the music industry?

Ever since I was a young kid, I always looked up to entertainers and athletes and I think it just stuck with me my whole life. By the time I was ready to graduate high school and go to college, a lot of rappers were coming up through the Internet and you could start to see how all of the success was happening. I watched people like Will Dzombak (Wiz’s manager) and Quentin Cuff (Mac Miller’s business partner) be so important to Wiz and Mac’s success that I thought, ‘Shit, I can do this too!’

2 – How did you get involved in the industry?

It all started in 2009/2010 when I met my brother Malik Ferraud (@MalikFerraud). At the time, he was going by the rap name Money and he and his old crew had a song called “B4LT1M0RE” that was really popular in the city. I instantly became a fan and started reaching out to him. We met in Ocean City, MD in the summer of 2010 and we connected right away. We put in work! From there, I started to network with a ton of different people in the industry and the rest is kind of history. Malik and I are still working together till this day, as well as our other day 1 homies Donate Benjamin (@TaysWorld410) and Charlie Peacher (@CharliePeacher).

3 – I know you previously worked as the Managing Editor for Karen Civil’s website. What made you want to get into journalism? Was that something you always wanted to do?

To keep it 100 with you….I never had a true passion for journalism. I just knew that if I could get some type of job/position in the industry, I could eventually build up a nice network and get back to my management/PR roots, which was always my long-term goal. That being said, once I got into the journalism game, I started to really love it. In 2012, my good friend Sermon gave me a chance of a lifetime and allowed me to start writing for his site — with literally 0 experience. A year later, after Sermon taught me a bunch of stuff, I landed a job with HipHop-N-More, thanks to the blog gawd Navjosh. He turned me into a blog monster. Then of course in 2014, I started working for Karen Civil as a contributor. A year later, I was the managing editor for the site and serving as her number 2. We did some amazing things together. Forever appreciative of her allowing me to grow and accomplish some bucket list items of mine. Major shout out to Niki McGloster for believing in me, and to my team Shawn Grant, Ayanna Sinclair, Alley Olivier, Lindsey India, Keith Reid-Cleveland, Kia Imani, Lupe Llerenas, Travis Grier, Michelle Locke, Pennie, Micia and anyone else I forgot.

4 – You’re currently running your own business, Positive Vibe Ent, which is a management and PR company. What inspired you to launch this business?

They say it’s not as fun working for someone else, so I decided to work for me! After I quit my job with the Baltimore Orioles in 2016 (thank god I did that, by the way), I was ready to start a company and get back to managing and doing PR/marketing full time. Wallah, Positive Vibe Entertainment was born. I owe a big thanks to Malik and Dontae for coming up with the idea/concept behind PV a long time ago. And I give myself thanks for bringing it to life.

5 – What is Positive Vibe Ent’s main objective?

Our main goal is to help launch careers for our clients and spread positive energy to the world in the process. The nuts and bolts of our business are Management, PR, Marketing, and Consulting, however, I want PV to grow into its own platform that promotes positivity every day. We’ll be creating empowering content via our website and social media accounts, releasing thoughtful merchandise, hosting events, and much further down the line. I gotta get my baby off the ground before we can take over. We will though!

6 – In your opinion, what do you think makes a good PR person? What do you think makes a good music manager?

Consistency, timeliness and the willingness to do whatever for your clients. That goes for both PR and management. Being a good PR person entails having great networking and communication skills, and always being up-to-date on the trends of whatever industry you’re doing PR in. As for management, you have to have an enormous amount of patience, great negotiation skills, confidence and most importantly, the ability to see the bigger picture.

7 – You’re also the road manager for rising act Tate Kobang. How did you land that position?

That’s my dawg! Shout out to Tate and shout out to our big homie Shawn Caesar. Shawn runs DTLR + DTLR Radio and at the beginning of 2017, he started working closely with Tate. They were gearing up to drop Tate’s mixtape Silent Waves (hosted by DJ Flow) around that time and they wanted to bring me on to do PR for it. From there, Tate, Shawn and I got extremely close and I started doing more than just PR for Tate. As we were all progressing and making moves, we realized he needed a day-to-day road manager and it just made sense for me to take that role. To be honest, though, I don’t look at Tate as a “client”. That’s my brother and I’ll go to war for him.

8 – What struggles did you face and/or still going through as you make your way through this industry?

The oversaturation makes it tough to break through and a lot of the corny/goofy behavior from the industry as of late makes it hard to stay motivated sometimes. That being said, my dreams and goals are sky high, so whenever I have that down moment, I just think about why I’m doing this in the first place, and then I quickly snap out of it. Positive Vibe, ya dig?

9 – What are you currently using as your source of inspiration?

My clients, my city, my family. Everything around me inspires me. Seeing different parts of the country and the world, meeting different people, etc. If you allow yourself to, you can find inspiration almost anywhere.

10 – What type of advice would you give to the aspiring business owner, publicist, and music manager?

Never ever give up. Remove the words, “can’t” and “won’t” from your vocabulary. Always remember your “why” and your purpose in life. And the biggest piece of advice that I give to every single person I meet is to make happiness your number 1 priority. There is not one thing more important in this world than finding happiness and peace. Make that your top goal every day, and you can’t possibly lose.

11 – What’s next for Jay Holz for the second half of 2018? What can we expect from Positive Vibe Ent as well as the acts you’re managing?

I have some exciting things I’m working on for the rest of the year. One of which is another showcase in Baltimore to follow up my one from last year. I’ll be launching PV’s website very very soon. You’re going to see a bunch of great content, partnerships and overall excitement from the likes of Da Kid Gowie, Tate Kobang, Young Money Yawn, Malik Ferraud, Charlie Peacher, Dontae Benjamin, Tracksmith, my Swisher Sweets family and much more. Most importantly, you can expect a boatload of positive energy for as long as I’m breathing.

Cris Speaks On Music and Journalism Inspirations, Creating Her ‘RnBae Collective’ Artist Showcase, Starting the RnBae Record Label, Tips for the Emerging Event Producer and More.

The sound of music is constantly changing before our eyes. New genres as well we sub-genres are being created every day but along with that, we are now living in the age where genres are being combined and certain sounds are beginning to intertwine. One particular genre of music that is constantly taking on a new sound is R&B. The traditional sound of R&B is no more but the great thing about it is that emerging R&B artists are starting to engage with other sounds from trap, hip-hop, soul, pop and more to create the new sounds we are currently hearing today. Cris, a Virginia native now living in Miami, has used this newfound sound to her advantage and began to showcase this on her well-known artist showcase which has spread through multiple cities country-wide. The young creative also took what she knew about R&B music and launched her very own record label which is meant to help mentor and manage rising R&B acts.

I had the chance to catch up with Cris to talk about her popular R&B function, why she decided to start the record label, how she got into event production, working with rising R&B acts and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get into event production?

Event production was never my mind. I didn’t really care to produce events and I actually talked a lot of shit about it in the past because the ones I went to were so shitty. After pretty much restarting my life in Miami from moving from VA in 2014, I started working with Yes Julz as a content manager. There, I was required to lend a helping hand with all of the parties and activations we did. After leaving, I started my own brand, RnBae Collective which is was Miami’s best artist showcase in 2017 named by Miami New Times.

2 – How did you get into music journalism?

I actually majored in English/ Journalism. It was my minor was my Mass Communication. I started a blog in 2013 named after a radio show I had with my friends called Da Decipher. It was pretty much Rap Genius before they went on to video. The blog deciphered rap lyrics from mainstream and local artists. I interviewed a lot of Miami rappers/singers at the time. From there, I applied to freelance at my local weekly, Miami New Times in 2015. From there, I wrote for Yes Julz, Vashtie, and HypeBae.

3 – What were some of your main inspirations to get involved in both music writing and event production?

With music writing, I felt like artists weren’t represented well. I saw a lot of backlash from artists having their words twisted in interviews or the entire story not being told. I wanted to create the liaison between the artist’s music and the audience allowing them to tell their truths. As far a event production, my main fuel in anything is seeing someone do a shitty job with something and feeling I can do better, or giving a platform to someone who doesn’t have one. Here I am 🙂

4 – In regards to event production, what was the first event you either threw yourself or were a part of helping put together? Did this particular event catch people the way you thought it would?

My first event was with RnBae Collective. I was doing PR for a local artist, Aleicia Nicole and realized there was no outlet for R&B singers. They were often thrown under the bus, put early on during rap shows, or used as an intermission so no one paid attention. She deserved better. At the time, her manager and I created RnBae, a platform for her to showcase her music. We did a small line up of three artists and an all R&B DJ set. I honestly didn’t expect anyone to come. I just wanted to give Aleicia a stage. Sure enough, people showed up. Not a lot, but it was a good attentive crowd and that’s what I wanted. We had a few vendors, I hosted along with a friend. Here’s the recap to it: https://www.rnbae.com/rnbae-showcase-may-2016/ In all, I did this whole event behind my employer, Yes Julz’s back. At the time, we were planning the 1am vibes party tour, a partnership with Puma and New Music Mondays was a hit, so there wasn’t much time to focus on team passion projects. Planned and had the event and didn’t even tell her. To say she was pissed after is, to say the least.

R&B is not dead. It transformed into this @rnbaecollective 💜 📹: @lizzmatic

A post shared by Cris (@crisdacat) on

 

5 – You created a party called R&Bae. Explain how you came up with that?

Ha, I actually answered that 🙂 But, RnBae Collective is its official legal name. It’s also a showcase, I haven’t had the pleasure of really throwing a party yet, but I’m planning on it this year.

6 – In your opinion, what makes a great event?

The experience makes a great event. How people feel walking through the door, maneuvering through the venue, enjoying the drinks, music, and atmosphere. You know you had a great event when you see the IG and facebook photos after.

7 – You also just launched R&Bae Records. Talk a little bit about that.\

RnBae Records is currently a passion project of mine. Right now, we have an R&B duo, BluLine, who I also manage, signed under the label and we’re currently creating new music. Next year, I want to officially give it more attention and sign and create with more artists.

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8 – What inspired you to create the record label and running with the same name as the event?

The label is a reflection of the talent we book. All of R&B. While R&B music has changed from the 80s to today, we now celebrate all of its sub-genres. Like trap&B, neo-soul, pop-infused, alternative R&B. This is what the label will represent. R&B is not dead, it transformed into “this”

9 – What type of influence do you want the record label to have on emerging artists in Florida, especially those who work behind the scenes? Secondly, are you only going to focus on Florida based artists?

The label will give resources to artists who don’t have to create. Recording, mixing, mastering, content creation, PR services etc. All of that is under my wing along with a few partners. And no, R&B is everywhere.

10 – In your opinion, how would explain the effectiveness of social media when it comes to the businesses you’re involved in?

In reality, social media makes everything look good, but word of mouth is where businesses stick. Yeah, our social media accounts look amazing, thanks to our manager Esther, but in all, people find out about RnBae Collective by friends, artists, radio, labels, blogs etc. Having a good business rapport to me, is more effective than social media because nowadays everything is smoke and mirrors.

11 – With everything that you currently have on your plate when do you find time to do your journalism work? Has event curation and owning a label make it easier to write?

I’m a passionate writer. A passionate anything really. When something sparks my interest, It flows out easily. Since the label is still in its passion project stages, i don’t name it as my inspo to write, but actually sitting down and spending time with the artists gives me that drive.

12 – What type of advice would you give to those who are looking to get into event curation? What about starting a record label?

Have a purpose. Anyone can throw a party. The last thing a city needs is another pointless party. Have a theme or a goal you’re trying to reach and execute. You will feel more fulfilled seeing people enjoy the experience rather than wasted in the bathroom.

13 – What’s next for Cristina, her team and the RnBae movement?

This year, we’re planning our first party, our first out of state show(s) and working hard to shed light on BluLine, the artists we manage. Every year, we take on a new venture. Last year, we completed a year of 12 monthly showcases along with throwing our first concert with Kyle Dion. This year, we’re working on moving towards the artist development stages which will end us next year with a full-fledged label.

Billboard’s Associate Editor Bianca Gracie Speaks on Writing Inspirations, What Makes A Great Music Journalist, Landing Her Position at Billboard, Tips for the Emerging Journalist and More.

Being a journalist or just a writer in general is difficult at times because it’s not easy providing exciting news or any type of content for your audience. Writing is a challenging profession and despite having to be grammatically trained to put a full length article together based on opening statements, transitions, supporting details and such, just being able to find your own voice and display that within words is a challenge on its own. Some writers have a hard time adjusting to this but the ones who find that voice are normally the ones who end up exceeding all expectations within the writing space. Bianca Gracie didn’t only find her voice throughout her years of writing and creating digital content but is now displaying that voice and talent on the biggest music platform in the world – Billboard.

I had the chance to catch up with Bianca to take about her come up in journalism, her journalistic inspirations, her struggles with deadlines, how she landed her Associate Editor position over at Billboard and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get into journalism?

Well, I’ve always loved writing and reading books since I was a kid, and I later began to write poetry in high school and college. Some of it got published but I knew I couldn’t make a living off poems. So I picked up a journalism minor in college to see if I’d like it, and that’s when my passion for it really blossomed. My program required students to take two six-month internships before graduating, and one of my internships was for a pop website called Idolator. This was back in 2013. That was my first taste of the music industry and I was able to not only work on my writing but to interview people as well. I kept that connection once my internship was finished, and the rest is history!

2 – What would you say was your main source of inspiration to get into music journalism?

Not many people know this, but I actually wanted to work in fashion. But after a few internships and freelance jobs, I realized that industry was too fickle for me. I always loved music — specifically dancehall and pop — and I grew up with a lot of DJs in my family, which I’d say was my biggest inspiration. So the passion for it was always there. I kind of had a wake-up call after leaving the fashion world and was like, “Hey, why don’t I try this music thing out?”

3 – When did you realize that music journalism was something you could actually make a career out of?

That lightbulb moment occurred once I got the internship at Idolator, and I continued to work with them afterward as a freelancer and later as their editorial assistant for two years. At the time, I thought it was incredible that the people around me had a career that could also be so much fun.

4 – Do you remember the first article you did that contributed to your come up?

Man, I have to go back to the archives for this one! Many people who follow my work are aware of my love for ‘90s and ‘00s nostalgia and I began crafting that niche really early. I remember writing long-form articles for the 10th anniversary of Jay-Z’s The Black Album and the 15th anniversary of TLC’s Fanmail. Social media wasn’t as wildly significant at the time, but those kinds of articles received a lot of love from the right people — the fans and other industry folks. I think they helped prove that I could be a beast in the writing game if I really wanted to! [laughs]

5 – In your opinion, aside from being a music connoisseur, what else makes a great writer/music journalist?

One of the biggest parts of the music industry are the fanbases, so for me, it’s always been important for me to keep my ear close to what they’re listening and thinking. It’s also key to read beyond your own work. You can learn so much from other journalists both through their writing and also making direct connections with them. Honestly, just reading in general: the newspaper, song lyrics, music history books, essays from professors…everything.

6 – You’ve done a lot of different types of writing so far but which type of article do you prefer – interviews, op-ed’s, daily news articles? Why?

I love to talk my shit in think pieces here and there, but interviews will forever have my heart. There’s something really special about forming a connection with an artist, record executive or composer — whether it’s just for 15 minutes or an hour. I’ve realized it’s become somewhat of my mission to help tell people’s stories in a genuine way, and interviews are the perfect way to do so.

7 – Talk to us a little bit about your Billboard come up. How did you manage to land a position there as the Associate Editor?

Connections, connections, connections!! I cannot stress enough how important it is to network and maintain a relationship with industry colleagues you meet along the way. So the reason I got my previous job at Fuse is because a fellow writer knew of my work through Twitter and later emailed me about a position there (he was the managing editor at the time). Fast forward two years later, and that same editor (who moved to Billboard a little after I began working at Fuse) hit me up about a Billboard offer about three months ago. If I never kept in contact with him throughout all these years and kept him up to date with my career goals, I don’t think I would’ve gotten this associate editor job so quickly. I’m super thankful.

8 – Working in publication there are always deadlines for an article to go up. Yoh Phillips, a popular music writer that I’m sure you know said “Don’t die for the deadline” in one of his interviews. What are your thoughts on deadlines and the pressures of putting a piece out that’s probably not 100%? Have you ever put something out that you felt was sub-par?

Ughhhh deadlines are the worst! They are very necessary to keep you on top of your game, especially now that I work for a print magazine. But man they can often be a major headache. Deadlines used to give me a lot of anxiety since I love to procrastinate (I still do honestly haha), but I’ve learned to handle my time. But there’s definitely been long-form articles and breaking news stories that I’ve rushed because I was too close to the deadline, so I said “fuck it,” published it and hoped for the best!

9 – There are so many good writers and journalists out there who are putting out great content daily. Aside from the fact that you write for one of the most prominent music platforms in the country, how do you maintain your originality and voice in your writing?

I think because I work for Billboard, there are obviously more eyes on my writing. So I have no choice to stand out. But that doesn’t mean for me to shell out against the grain hot takes just for the hell of it. I’ve always been confident in the way I write, especially since I love nostalgia so much. That right there is my voice, and it’s only gotten stronger. So I use that to my advantage and stick to my quirky thoughts on certain artists and genres, and that hasn’t really failed me yet.

10 – Who are some of the journalists you currently admire? Why?

Wow, there’s so many! A few of my favorites who I think are killing the game are Eve Barlow, Anne Donahue, Yoh Phillips, Craig Jenkins, Da’Shan Smith, Gary Suarez, David Marchese, Ivie Ani, Sharine Taylor…my list goes on! I respect writers who stay true to their voice and don’t stray away from their point of view to float alongside bandwagonists. These guys always bring a fresh perspective to the hot topics in music, some of which are funny, scathing or just an educated read. It definitely inspires me!

11 – What are some tips you would give to the new blogger, aspiring music writer and/or music journalist?

My main advice would be to never forget why you got into this industry in the first place. So many people will try to break you down or attempt to poach your ideas, especially if you’re a double-minority like myself: a Black woman. But your passion and drive will win in the end and is proof that you’re good enough to stick around. Because this industry definitely isn’t always pretty! Please don’t let these listening events and free happy hours or dinners from record labels that you see on popular influencers’ social media fool you. It’s a lot of hard work and long hours. But if your heart is truly in this, then it’ll give you the fuel to stay determined.

12 – What are some tips that have been given to you by your peers in regards to your career?

I was very shy at the beginning of my career, especially when I had to meet celebrities in person. But I’ve learned from my peers to stay professional and to not be afraid to go the extra mile or ask that tough question that you know others won’t. I’ve also been taught to not get too comfortable and to always challenge yourself to become a better writer. That’s helped me to not get caught up in the hype and glitz of the industry, and it’s kept me driven. This is a job, after all.

13 – What can we expect from Bianca Gracie for the rest of 2018?

My goal this year is to publish even more thoughtful, witty profiles and op-eds, so you can look out for that. And I’ve spoken to some really awesome people thus far, so you never know what interview I have up my sleeve next!

Chef Nakai Speaks on Culinary Inspirations, Her Creative Cooking Process, How Food Relates to Culture and Expression, Advice for the Emerging Chef and More.

So, it’s evident that there are multiple areas that contribute to our culture and our everyday well being. We can sit and have conversations all day about music, fashion, media, entertainment, travel and so on but the one area that we all love and enjoy having discussions about is food. Aside from the obvious fact that we need food to survive, every second of the day someone on social media is posting a photo of their plate of deliciousness whether it be homemade or somewhere at a restaurant. It’s no secret that we’re all foodies in some shape, way or form and just how fashion design and creating music takes a certain type of expressive action, so does food. In this particular case, we’re not talking about the savory steak or chicken. We are talking about the sweet brownies, cakes, and cookies!

Chef Nakai, the Brooklyn based pastry chef started her culinary career back in high school and hasn’t taken her foot off the gas pedal since. Using her skill set and her unique sense of creativity to her advantage, the young innovator continues to flourish as a pastry teacher while simultaneously working on her brand.

I had the chance to catch up with Chef Nakai to talk about her culinary inspirations, why she gravitated towards cooking, her creative process when piecing together a dish, her forthcoming events and much more in our full interview below.

1 – How did you get involved in culinary?

I got my start with culinary when I started high school. I went to Food and Finance High School. Getting my start in the industry that early did a lot for my career, skills, and confidence.

2 – What inspired you to be a chef?

I gained an interest in culinary from watching the Food Network with my mom in middle school. She has her own passion for baking and I’d watch her write down recipes from shows like Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals, buy the ingredients, and try them out at home. From that point on, I started testing the waters myself. The first thing I’d ever made from scratch was a lemon cheesecake. I had to be about 12 or 13 years old asking my mom to buy a pre-made graham cracker crust from the grocery store so that I could come home and make the filling from scratch. Today, I wouldn’t even glance at a pre-made crust, but back then I thought I was top notch!

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3 – What was the first dish you ever made that started grabbing people’s attention that you really can cook?

In my freshman year of college I would go out on a whim and make items that weren’t necessarily a part of our curriculum and they’d come out successful. For instance, I was very interested in classic French pastries, so I tried making Macarons and a Soufflé. Both items have a reputation for being very technical and difficult to perfect, but they came out successful for me. From that point on I’d realized that I grabbed my Chef instructor’s attention because he’d come to me and ask for my opinion on dessert ideas and flavor pairings that he had in mind. I also noticed that my classmates would come to me and ask me for tips on how to perfect macarons when they made it themselves.

4 – Out of all of the industries you could’ve been a part of why do you think you gravitated towards culinary, pastry cooking in particular?

As I get older I realize that I gravitate towards things that are practical and get to the point. A lot of kitchens have the mindset of “okay throw on your chef coat and let’s see what you can do”. Not only that but there’s something so rewarding about taking a dish from the stage of it being an idea or sketch and developing it to the stage of someone consuming it and giving you compliments and feedback.

I think I made the decision to commit 100% to the culinary world when I was choosing the college that I wanted to attend. When I started searching for colleges to attend, I realized that the Culinary based Colleges didn’t care much for SAT and ACT scores, and one school, in particular, would give me the opportunity to jump straight into the kitchen, have all food industry based classes (no liberal arts) and have a degree in two years. By that time in High School, I had already gained my Food Handler’s License and ServSafe Certificate, so it just made sense to dive even more into Culinary.

As for why I chose Pastry, I think that there’s a certain type of art skill and “je ne sais quoi” that can be expressed through pastry as opposed to savory dishes. When it comes to the art of designing plated desserts, just think about how excited you get when you’ve had a great dinner and then finish it off with an amazing dessert. As a Pastry Chef, I see a lot of opportunity in that time slot to give a guest an amazing experience.

5 – How do you come up with the ideas for some of your creations? For example, ideas like your Pink Starburst Strawberry cake or your Honey Comb Honey Jack cake?

I honestly just keep my eyes and ears open to what people are talking about and I explore how I can incorporate it into food. We all know that the Pink Starburst is equivalent to the blue candy in a pack of Scooby Snacks. It’s just the best one, hands down. I knew I wanted a Strawberry Cake on my menu, but instead of going with a traditional flavor like a Strawberries & Cream Cake, I developed the idea until I could be proud of what I was presenting to my audience. If you notice, I don’t have any Red Velvet cakes on my menu at the moment, but I brought out the flavor in Macaron form for my Mother’s Day sale. When creating my Honey Comb Honey Jack cake, I wanted to channel the demand for the Hennessy flavored cakes that we see, but in my own way. 

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6 – On average, how long does it normally take you to “perfect” a creation? In other words, what steps do you take in order to make a creation of yours just the way you want it, both taste and presentation wise.

With my creative process, it can sometimes take me a while to settle on a new dessert idea. My first step is deciding what direction I want to go in, then I do a good ol’ Google and Instagram search to see if my ideas are on the radar and if so how they’ve been done. From there I sit back and brainstorm how I can be different and incorporate my brand of allowing colors to pop, designing original flavors/flavor pairings, and making eating dessert an experience. I personally love that I give my customers the experience of eating brand new flavors in the same way that you would eat a Push Pop Icee as a kid.

7 – In your opinion, do you believe that food, being a chef, in particular, resonates with our culture as heavily as things like music and fashion do? Why or why not?

I think that food resonates within our culture just as heavily as music and fashion because they are all forms of expression. Within each of these industries, you can tell when people view it as a hustle and when they view it as an art.

8 – I noticed from your website that you’ve taught some classes on pastry cooking. Why do you think it’s important to give back to those aspiring to be pastry chefs or just a chef in general? Are you teaching any forthcoming classes?

I think its super important to show aspiring chefs up close that they can achieve all of the things that they have in their mind. My most recent class was the most rewarding because I was invited to teach at my high school where I got my own early start. We had conversations during the class about my journey and I explained to my students that they can maneuver the industry to work in their favor and that they don’t have to spend years and years in kitchens that don’t pay well just to receive proper recognition.

Right now I’m focusing more on the catering aspect of my business, but I’m exploring the possibility of doing baking classes with the youth at a few day camps this summer.

9 – You’re going to be a guest speaking at an upcoming event happening in June. Talk a little bit about that.

An organization called She Will Mentoring reached out to me to be apart of a panel discussion called Making HERStory. The intention is for students of all ages to hear 5 panelists speak on our unique professional journeys. This panel is a little special to me because all 5 panelists are making ourselves available to keep in contact and become mentors to the students way after the event. I’m excited because this is an opportunity to provide someone with a role model and guidance. I want to push myself to be a role model or mentor overall just as a Black Woman coming up in our communities, even if it has nothing to do with Pastry or the Food industry as a whole.

10 – How do you view food? Secondly, how do you want people to view your food?

Food is an experience. It’s a piece of art that satisfies with its appearance, scent, aromas, textures, and taste. I want people to always feel like they got an experience with me that they couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

11 – In regards to your profession, what has been the biggest piece of advice anyone has given you?

Be ready for opportunities when they come. This resonates with me in the same way as hearing “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready” growing up. I think its extremely important to be established in some way when you step into certain rooms. It’s a little easier to navigate and secure opportunities when you can show a person all of the work that you’ve done and easily prove that endorsing you will be a reflection of their good judgment.

12 – What piece of advice would you give to the emerging pastry chef?

I would tell any emerging Pastry Chef to learn about all the areas of pastry. The comfort food, Grandma’s recipes, baking trends, food blogging, catering, the classic arts of the French Pastry Chefs, even the Japanese influence on desserts. When I was just starting out, all the only vision I had in my mind was to work in bakeries, gain skill and either compete or be on a show at the Food Network. I’ve gained so much knowledge and inspiration since then. There’s still a lot to be uncovered in our field and we have the great opportunity to still be groundbreakers and be considered special because this field isn’t one that’s been oversaturated.

13 – What other moves can we expect from Chef Nakai as we move into the second half of 2018?

Mark your calendars for July 21st. I’m teaming up with 2 Savory chefs and 1 other Pastry chef to bring a comfortable evening of fine dining. Our goal is to showcase our professional kitchen skills in an affluent and cultured, yet comfortable experience. We’re spending the evening celebrating fellowship, food, culture and the natural finesse that we bring to our industry as Black Chefs. We’ll be designing and serving 5 courses with the compliments of an open bar. We’ll also have “Litty Bags” available for purchase, these include two gourmet THC infused pastries by myself and my fellow Pastry chef and possibly upcoming merch by yours truly. Keep an eye out on www.chef-nakai.com, Tickets and more information will be available soon.

Mouse Jones Speaks on being a Media Personality, Top Media Inspirations, His Brand New BET Show ‘I’ll Apologize Later,’ The State of Today’s Music Industry and More.

In a world where people want or choose to be politically correct because they’re afraid of saying what’s really on their mind, you’ll always find a few people who aren’t opposed to going against the grain. When it comes to media, people tend to always spin and twist every story instead of telling it how it really is or even better, saying what they may think about the situation to stir up an interesting debate. These type of people are highly respected because of how unfiltered they are and if there were ever a club consisting of rising talents who honestly and truly do not care what other people think, Mouse Jones would be the president.

Emerging on to the scene as a guy who kept himself in the mix of what was current, Mouse found himself in multiple circles which contributed to the success that he has been able to see over the course of the last few years. The young media maven continues to build his brand as an outspoken personality along with brutally honest opinions and a firm “IDGAF” attitude.

I had the chance to catch up with Mouse to talk about a lot of things such as his top media inspirations, his brand new BET show, the heated J. Cole debate between him and Styles P, the current state of hip-hop and much more in our interview below.

1 – How did you get in the industry?

A mix of Luck, pissing the right ppl off & other nigga’s girlfriends lmao. No, but seriously I was doing stand up clean from like 2011 when I got out of the NAVY up until 2014 when I just realized it wasn’t for me. Right before I completely gave up, I was talking to my brother and he reminded me that people care about what I say and my opinion, at least the people were always around. He told me “Do something, don’t do nothing.” Around that time is when I discovered “The Read” podcast as well as “Combat Jack” (RIP OG REG) and “The Brilliant Idiots” podcasts. So it only made sense to me to start a podcast, “The He-Man Woman Haters Club” podcast. I also began to utilize my twitter more to voice my opinion. I also started going outside to “cultural” events like the InHouse, Hennypaloozas, and showcases. In 2015 everybody was rapping and performing like 20x a week, which led to me hosting events. Also, shoutout to VH1’s digital team and Blogxilla & GlobalGrind’s Socially Decoded for putting me on camera 1st.

2 – What inspired you to get into media and commentary work?

I’ve always enjoyed having conversation and I’ve always looked up and admired Angie Martinez, Ed Lover & Dr. Dre, Donnie Simpson, Michael Baisden, Martin Payne (the character), Stretch & Bobbito, Petey Greene, Isaac Hayes, Ms. Jones, Starr, Charlamagne, Howard Stern, Big Tigger, AJ & Free, Cousin Jeff, Teen Summit, anyone that could pull something out of a person just through conversation. The way Combat or even Jeff & Eric from ItsTheReal are able to use the words of others’ to tell their own story, it’s always been so dope to me and I’d sit in front of the radio, TV, and youtube just soaking in all the content and just wanting to be able to do that in my own way. I just wanted to be able to leave my mark on the culture that means EVERYTHING to me by using the talents God granted me.

3 – Do you remember the first event that you covered? How did you manage to land that opportunity?

Idk if I’ve ever “covered” an event. I do remember getting an opportunity to interview Kevin Hart in 2016 on the red carpet for What Now? That was dope. Blogxilla called me while I was in Atlanta @ A3C and told me about the opportunity and I JETTED back to the city! Shoutout to Brodie Fresh lmao.

4 – It seems like you dabble in a lot of different professions. What exactly would you consider yourself to be? In other words, if someone were to ask you what do you do, what would be your response?

I’m a personality. Point blank. My brand is my personality. Not a persona cause this is me. But yeah, my personality and my ability to showcase it allows my opportunities. So I’m a personality, I host events, and I’m an on-air host. That’s what I’m most known for, but I’m also an actor. S/O AfterHours on Tidal & Appropriate Culture on youtube. I’m able to do all of these things because of my personality.

5 – Out of everything that you’re currently involved in, is there anything that you enjoy doing the most? Why?

My new show on BET, I’ll Apologize Later by far. I literally have a show on BET, well 2, but this one, in particular, is my brainchild. From the format of the show, the set, the title, it’s like “OH SHIT!” I told everyone this was going to happen in 2015 when I began this journey and it’s here. I love talking a ton of shit and then backing it up. Seeing the guests enjoy themselves and sometimes be on the edge of their seats or even uncomfortable. It’s mad fun. But, I’m also now with a machine, a huge brand. So, I still have to move within certain parameters and be me but a BET friendly me. It’s like a mental exercise. Crafting my skill.

6 – How did you get yourself involved in being an event host?

Well, I always looked up to Bugsy B & Pretty Lou growing up and how they MC’d the culture.  I believe it was my first time attending a Hennypalooza at The Well. I really didn’t know anyone outside of who I’d been researching on twitter and I saw the control that Lowkey had over the crowd and said to myself “Oh, I can do some FLY shit with this.” Also, once I came on the scene people would always ask me to host shit without ever seeing me actually host. I believe the 1st event I hosted was “EIM” for Jumz & Terrell Blair, some OG’s from the BX. It was on the LES and Lowkey pulled up and probably realized I had no idea wtf I was doing. Just yelling, the sound system was crap, but Low pulled up and gave me some on the fly coaching. From there I was just committed to making my stamp and making sure that when I’m in front of a crowd I’m keeping them entertained and engaged.

7 – Social media plays a huge role in what you do as a commentator towards anything happening in our culture. Over the years, explain how social media has helped catapult you to where you are today.

I owe EVERYTHING I have to social media, Twitter in particular. I just hopped on in 2015 and started stating my opinion, no matter if I was right, wrong, or ignorant. I was me & unapologetic. I think people connected with that from early on. Twitter has seen pretty much ALL my growth from 2015 until now. Homeless, sleeping on my brother’s couch, hopping turnstiles to host events for free, introspection about dating, being a man, a father, dealing with success. I understand the doors my followers have allowed me to walk through so I do my best to share 90% of everything via social media. It’s the least I could do. Up until a few months ago, Twitter is where people came to find out about this kid who’s pissing people off or talking shit about this. I’ve seen entire email threads from some big media companies discussing my Twitter and how everyone should go follow me. So, shout out to Twitter. I’m still tryna figure out Instagram.

8 – So, you’ve landed this dope show on B.E.T.’s Youtube channel called I’ll Apologize Later. Explain how that opportunity came about.

So, I was working on MTV’s TRL at the top of the year and when that opportunity was over my mgmt was contacted by BET’s digital team who I’d previously worked with on a project called The Double Standard and a few other social pieces. They knew what I was capable of. So, when they decided it was time for them to get a little more edgy and actually lean into some opinions, they reached out to me. I was talking CASH SHIT in that initial meeting. I told them when asked what could they gain from adding me, “I’m the person that’s going to bring BET back!” (WTF is wrong with me?) But they must’ve believed me because that turned into me pitching “I.A.L” and not only them greenlighting that, they also made me the permanent host of their interview series “PULL UP.” which has been going since February. So, I have two shows on a network that I’ve been dreaming about being a part of since I was 12yrs old.

All i ever wanted from the time I watched the debut of 106 & Park, was to have a show on @BET. I remember watching 106, Cita, Hitz From The Streets, Hell Date, Rap City, i even watched Baldwin Hills…don’t judge. Now, i get my own show to add to that list of historic shows. #ILLAPOLOGIZELATER debuts tomorrow @ 10:30am via all BET social networks, feat. My brother @mackwilds as my 1st guest. Just know, it gets ignant! So if you get offended by anything I say while watching this, i promise…I’ll apologize later.😉 (thank you to my MGMT @maxoctober @kristinjmeyers & @hmplushr thank you @karasmatic1001 for being the super producer you are, thank you @the_constantine_lens & @jdm_ceo for keeping me honest and catching my good sides. Thank you BET for trusting me with such an opportunity.)

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9 – What’s the main purpose of I’ll Apologize Later?

To piss people off. LMAO. No, the purpose is to shake things up @ BET. I think everyone can see that BET is very “safe” right now & has been for some years. I think with me & I.A.L over there, you’ll get to see this artist or celebs challenged on things they usually wouldn’t if I.A.L wouldn’t be there. I also want it to be an example that there’s a space for you to be you. Before Tax (FREE TAXSTONE!) media didn’t have too many “opposing views.” It was just Charlamegne and I guess you could say Flex if you consider him bozo’ing an “opposing view” and then you’d have Ebro just sounding like an angry out of touch old nigga. Outside of that, media was really a contest of who can kiss the artists & labels ass the most. When you do that, you do the audience a disservice and your brand a huge disservice because now no one knows who anyone is. I always want to humanize whomever I’m sitting in front of. Tax showed us with Tax Season and his other platforms that you don’t have to be an ass kisser to these niggas and labels. Fuck them. They gonna have to fuck with your product regardless or be looked at like a bozo for not. So, I just hope I’m keeping that same energy with I.A.L.

10 – How do you think this type of opportunity with B.E.T. measures up to everything else you’ve done over the years?

It’s a culmination. It’s not “THE” payoff but its a payoff for all the work I’ve been putting in over the past 2.5/3yrs. It makes everything else I’ve done before worth it.

11 – The video of you and Styles P arguing about J. Cole on Rosenberg’s Open Late show was spread all over social media. How did you land that opportunity to be on the show? Secondly, what are your honest thoughts on today’s music?

Shout out to Andrew Goldstein & Brian Mann, two decent white men who don’t use N-Word to my knowledge. But yeah, Andrew hired me at TRL so when he began work on Rosenberg’s show, it was this top secret thing he’d only vaguely allude to when asked: “So what do you have going on?” Brian worked with me at TRL as well before joining Andrew and Open Late so a week before the show was announced they invite me up to Complex and let me know what they’ve been working on and that they’d want me to be a recurring panelist. So, I did a test show and I and Rosenberg hit it off immediately (which I didn’t expect because I’ve hated some of his takes on the radio and Twitter and some of his wrestling takes) but yeah. We had great chemistry and they had me on the Terry Crews episode and the clips from that episode went DUMB!!! (Shoutout to Damien & Miss Info) So, they asked me back a week later when Styles was there and of the fuck course, I was gonna do it. I grew up listening to Styles. I met him and rapped like 2-3 verses of his that changed my life. It was dope. I got to argue with SP The fucking Ghost about sleepy ass J.Cole. Nah lmao, let me stop. I actually don’t dislike Cole’s music at all. I’m just very honest about this latest project which I feel is very lazy as he can be sometimes (i.e. Sideline Story, the last half of Born Sinner and we saw pockets of that on his masterpiece FHD) but yeah. That clip definitely got me some mean mugs and eye rolls from his team @ Rolling Loud backstage a few weeks back. I found it hilarious. As far as my opinion on music, it’s in a pretty great place. Everybody has an opportunity to eat, kind of. I mean we need some more real niggas in these offices & some real gatekeepers to filter out all the fuck shit. But, with streaming services and ultimately the internet as a whole, if you looking for a certain message or type of music, you can find it. So overall, its “ight” right now.

12 – Obviously I’ll Apologize Later is something that you’re currently focusing on but are there any other talents of yours that you’ll be expanding on throughout the course of this year?

Well, there will definitely be some more acting and not the typical “say something rude or funny” shit. Like some real acting. Also, still going strong with my independent podcast He-Man Woman Haters Club and just continuing to grow that audience and reach. I just want to do some dope shit and push the culture forward the way I know how. Through conversation and challenging the “norm” through it.

13 – What has been a valuable piece of advice that anyone has given you in regards to your craft?

My brother told me “do something, don’t do nothing.” It just speaks to my work ethic. There’s always something to be done, whether it’s reading up on something, watching another interview, or watching a documentary or whatever. Just do something. I devour content because it keeps me sharp. So, I’m always doing something.

14 – What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be involved in media?

One, I’d tell them to make sure that this is what they want. Cause this shit is a different monster. I’m still learning the ropes. Always be accountable for your words and know what you say, you’ll eventually have to answer for. How will you be able to handle that? If you can’t stay home, be an accountant. But, if you genuinely want to do this then figure out what it is that you want to represent, what stories you want to tell, what conversations are important to you, and then have them BETTER than anyone else because there are a million others trying to do the same thing.

15 – What can we expect from Mouse Jones for the rest of 2018?

More.