Both his name and job are based on phonetics, literally and figuratively. The name – eskay – is the phonetic spelling of “SK,” the tag he used as a graffiti writer years ago. The job – Nah Right (www.NahRight.com) – focuses on up-to-date information on the verbal artistry we have come to know as hip-hop. And although Nah Right has been proclaimed one of the best (or the best, depending on who you ask) hip-hop blog sites on the web, not much else is known about the Godfather of the blogsphere.
Yeah, you’ve seen the name, visit the site three times a day and have probably written a hater comment (or two) about him, but what else? There has to be more, right? Bloggers, you’re in luck. Format had a chance to sit and speak with Ashmi “eskay” Rawlins about the future of hip-hop, what it takes to stand out from the pack and how he built Nah Right into arguably the greatest hip-hop blog ever. You can thank him later.
“Until web writers and editors start demanding more of themselves, and stop dumbing down, they shouldn’t expect the offline competition to go away anytime soon.”
Format: For those who don’t know who you are, can you introduce yourself to Format readers?
eskay: My name is eskay and I own and operate the blog NahRight.com.
Format: Why the name eskay?
eskay: Well, I used to write graffiti during my formative years and my tag was SK. Most people who have known me for a while still call me ‘SK’ or ‘S’ and so eskay is just the phonetic spelling of that.
Format: Nah Right has become the virtual Mecca for all things hip-hop. How have you turned your site into the powerhouse brand that it is?
eskay: I’d say consistency. When I started there were very few, if any, blogs devoted entirely to hip-hop news and media. Now when you look around, there are like five new blogs every day. Blogging takes a lot of time and energy and most people don’t understand that when they get in, and so they end up slacking off or giving up after a while. I’ve just tried to be consistent with it since day one.
Format: What was it like starting out?
eskay: It was fun. Blogging gives a voice to people who might not otherwise have one, and that was a big draw for me. I’ve devoted countless hours to hip-hop over my lifetime, so it was great to share my opinions and thoughts with other like-minded people.
“The last thing we need is 1,000 more shitty blogs regurgitating the same information.”
Format: In blogging years you’re a veteran, what’s your advice to bloggers who are just starting out?
eskay: Be original and study the world you’re about to enter. Since hip-hop blogging started to take off in 2007, I’ve seen an influx of people who seem to be getting into it for money or what little fame it can offer. Leave that hustler mentality behind. If you’re a great blogger and you have something of value to offer, then money and recognition will come your way. But the last thing we need is 1,000 more shitty blogs regurgitating the same information. Also, don’t follow the blueprint of the established hip-hop websites. You’re a blogger, not a journalist, so leave that for the professionals and don’t be afraid to inject your own opinion into whatever you’re posting or writing about.
Format: With hip-hop more web focused now, do you think publications like VIBE, XXL, URB and The FADER will be non-existent soon?
eskay: No, I don’t think print media will ever die. I think these publications will struggle to remain relevant, but they won’t ever go away completely. There are many different reasons why this is true, but first and foremost, the quality of the work on the web right now is just not measuring up to some of what you’ll find in the print publications. Not that everything on the web is shit, but until web writers and editors start demanding more of themselves, and stop dumbing down, they shouldn’t expect the offline competition to go away anytime soon.
Format: You also used to be in charge of XXLMag.com. I know Elliot Wilson, the editor-in-chief, and some others recently left. What was your situation? Why did you leave?
eskay: Without getting to deep into details, I basically needed to make a decision about my future. Balancing my own site and my work for XXL had always been a challenge, and had I remained in my full time position there it wasn’t going to get any easier.
“Balancing my own site and my work for XXL had always been a challenge, and had I remained in my full time position there it wasn’t going to get any easier.”
Format: What are you doing now?
eskay: Right now, I’m still doing some freelance work for XXLMag.com and I’m working full time on Nah Right.
Format: Any big projects in the works?
eskay: I have a few things on my plate, yes. I’m not ready to reveal any details yet, but you’ll be hearing more from me before this year is out.
Format: For a man who seems to know everything about hip-hop, what’s your take on its current state?
eskay: I think hip-hop is in an interesting place. The mainstream stuff is probably 50 percent wack, 50 percent ok, but at the same time the indie scene is thriving. The Internet is playing a big part in that whole revolution and I think we’re going to see a huge shift in what the general public embraces over the next five years.
Format: What rappers do you think are the future of hip-hop?
eskay: That’s a tough one. One of the hardest things to do is predict who will take off and why. Ten years ago, I would have never expected either Jay-Z or 50 Cent to be where they are today. So I’m going to play it safe and just say, I honestly can’t call it.
More Info: http://www.nahright.com