When Biba Adams asked me for an interview, I truly felt honored. This skilled Detroit lady is not just anybody: she has made a name in Detroit for her work and engagement towards her City and Detroit hip hop. If you come accross her articles, she will manage to raise emotions and transport you into her universe…many thanks, Biba, you are a great writer and journalist:)
1. What motivated you at first to become a writer?
I have always been a writer. I wrote my first short story at 9, and I would write a lot of stories and little novels most of my early life. However, I happened to luck up on doing a hip-hop column for Real Detroit Weekly (a newspaper here in Detroit) in November of 2003. I was trying to get a job as an advertising sales person, but I got the job of a hip-hop columnist instead. My first article was a cover story on Jay-Z.
2. According to you what are your main strengths as a person and as a writer?
I think my main strengths as a writer are the same as my main strength as a person. I am a very emotional and sensitive woman. I think my emotion and sensitivity make me a great writer because it makes people feel my words. I think people feel what I am saying and the feeling with which I write. I have the ability to help people feel my passion. I think that is a great strength, of course, it can be a weakness too, I could probably never write about politics, or sports, I am not a numbers person, I am not cut and dried. Music is emotional, and so am I. So, that’s why I do so well with music/entertainment journalism.
3. Did the city of Detroit influence your writing style? If so, to what extent?
I think Detroit definitely influenced me in general. Except for a short time here and there, I have always lived here. Being in Detroit, from Detroit, is a really cool experience. Detroiters are definitely underdogs, we are not very well-respected in national and even international media. People have this misconception of my city that we are all being held hostage, surrounded by criminals, that Detroit is an extraordinarily violent place. It can be a dangerous place, but can all urban centers. I have had a very happy and peaceful life here. There are a lot of abandoned buildings, but there are also a lot of extraordinarily beautiful homes. There are mansions in Detroit, in the city limits. There is a lot of water, so we enjoy beautiful shore lines and the serenity of living off a large river. We are a border city, so we can stand and stare into Canada. Detroit has so much culture, so much history, it is a beautiful place to live. That is what influenced me. I live in a really wonderful city. Detroit has influenced me, specifically, Detroit hip-hop has influenced me because it’s hard to hear so much amazing music and know that the world may never hear it. That’s painful, it hurts, and so, I’m driven to get the word out about my friends.
4. Not only are you an excellent writer, but you are also pretty much involved into the Detroit hip hop scene. What do you like in particular with the Detroit scene?
What’s not to like?! Like I said in one of my posts, and I say all the time, it’s a great blessing to be friends with and fans of a musical artist. I get to do that with dozens of people. These are people that I truly love. This is my extended family. My love for many of Detroit’s music artists is beyond superficial, many of us have been friends for ten years. We love each other, we love each other’s families, and children. We have dated each other, had kids with each other, we are all so interwoven and interconnected, we have been having one long connected experience. What we have here in Detroit is very special. It’s something most people could probably never understand.
5. Who is your favorite local artist and why?
My favorite local artist is Royce Da 5’9â€. I think Royce is the best that Detroit has to offer lyrically. Royce is a consummate artist. He can be a battle rapper, he can be a skilled lyricist, he can slice with his words like a surgeons scalpel or like a chainsaw. He can also be a storyteller and is just an incredible artist. I also love him dearly as a person. I value his friendship, he is very funny, and very genuine. He is just an incredible person. I think he will be huge very soon. I envision him being a Grammy award winner. I want that for him.
6. You have known Deshaun Holton aka Proof personally. You are also the author of a very moving article about RIP Proof.
A few words about the man and the artist?
Proof was a wonderful person. He was the funniest man I knew. He had such an inner light. When he would walk into a room, people would just light up being in his presence. He could make a boring party, a better party. He was very sweet and very affectionate. He loved to kiss. He would kiss everyone on their cheek. And he knew so much about everyone, he was a secret-keeper, and he was not judgmental at all, I loved that about him. He was very genuine and a very good person. He is very much missed. As an artist, Proof was an incredible wordsmith, he would rhyme any word and he was a freestyler the likes of which most people could never understand. I remember that he would rap for hours. He was great. He was a good person. He was good to everyone and he made everyone feel special. I miss that.
7. As a testimony to your presence to Eminem’s recent come back concert in Detroit, you have written a very moving article entitled â€œ Relapseâ€ in which you are exploring Marshall Mathers’ emotional side at the concert. Would you mind sharing your emotions/ impressions about the show with all of us?
Marshall is a very interesting person. He is very shy, actually, very reserved when you are around him. Because of how huge he got in such a short time, it affected him a lot of different ways. I didn’t know him before he was famous, when I met him, it was just before his second album, he was still somewhat easy to get close to, but even then he wasn’t very trusting, but he respects people who respect him. As far as the show and the album, I think it’s a great project. I know that it had to be hard for him to write and record without drugs, because they were such a big part of his life. Now not only is he drug free, but he doesn’t have Proof to lean on, he is in the midst of a new life. I think that Relapse is less about going back to drugs, but relapsing into his musical life. Relapsing into being a rapper and everything that comes with it. He is a good person, and I care for him deeply. I would love to work with Shady Records in a larger capacity. I hope that we get the chance to work on some projects together soon.
8. Who would you consider a model in terms of writing? Do you have a local or national / foreign writer who is a great source of inspiration to you?
I don’t really have a model in terms of writing. I am an avid reader. I read a lot. I love fiction, and I am a huge Stephen King fan. I love Harry Potter, I think those books changed my life. The visual quality of the work, made me want to raise the bar. I like to read music biographies about all different kinds of artists. I think that in terms of Journalists that I look up to, I would have to say, Nelson George, Bakari Kitwana, Anselm Samuel, Dream Hampton, Aliya S. King, and Kim Osorio, would have to be some that I really admire because they write about black music and they were very influential at a time when we, as fans, needed them the most.
9. Which publications/ books do you currently have at your active?
I am currently reading a lot of spiritual books because I am trying to be a better person. I read a lot of Deepak Chopra, I love his work and his teaching, I would love to spend time with him. His work taught me a lot. I am planning to start a new Stephen King, and I just pick up stuff. I am kinda reading a book called The Tipping Point, planning to revisit The Celestine Prophecy, and planning to read Conversations with God, and all of Paulo Coehlo books. That’s a goal. This summer, I will be teaching reading and writing to high schoolers, after that, I plan to build my business and travel. I hope to go to Brazil for three weeks, and plan to read a lot then.
10. What are your future writing projects for 2009/2010?
I am hoping that I get a grant to write a book documenting Detroit’s hip-hop history. This has been a goal of mine for about five years. Hopefully, I will get enough money to take a year off work and just focus on getting the book done. I am also working on some historical projects. Trying to have St. Andrews Hall declared a historic landmark, and get a mural done on the side of the building. I am trying to do a Detroit photojournalism exhibit. Just focus on preserving, promoting, and protecting Detroit hip-hop, that’s my life’s goal.
11. What would be your advice to aspiring journalists/ writers?
My advice to aspiring writers would just be…write. There are so many outlets for writers now with the internet. You can be a successful blogger, you can get in with a good site. I say just read a lot and work on your craft. I’ve been as successful as I have because I chose a niche, I focus on Detroit and because of that specialty, I get a lot of opportunity.
12. Where would you envision yourself-professionally speaking- within the next 5 years?
I would have to answer the question from the personal side first, I hope to marry the man I love and have his children, I hope we can build his business, and make that the center of our family life. Meanwhile, I would continue to work on my writing career and my music publicity career. In five years, I hope to have published my Detroit hip-hop music book, a novel or two, I would like to have been featured in all the major music publications as a writer and or interview subject. I hope to lecture about Detroit hip-hop history and enlighten people all over the world about the rich musical legacy of my hometown. Detroit, there is no place like my home. Peace, Isabelle, thank you.
Copyright by Isabelle Esling
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