Back when I was a young backpacker/aspiring emcee I spent time toiling at an overnight job at Super Star Market stocking the entire goddamn store. I remember starting out facing cookies, stocking the baby food aisle, breaking down all of the carboard and filling a trailer with it then ending the shift by facing the entire frozen food section by getting into the freezers with gloves on. I hated that job with a passion but I was a 23 year old college dropout who needed money to fuel my Hip Hop addiction. I was paid $7.34 an hour back then (1998), since minimum wage was $5.50 and this was my first ever real job I was lucky.
I used to frequent the record stores down the street from my house on my days off and pick up some magazines to read on my breaks. After about three months of my overnight job, I quit after one of the workers at Tower Records/Video said that I should apply there since I knew so much about music. I ended up getting a job on the Videos and Magazines floor instead and after a month there I knew everything there was to know about that floor. Here is a list of some of my favorite magazines from that bygone era that I still have a bunch of to this day in Adidas boxes. Here goes:
Life Sucks Die was a completely off the wall graffiti magazine from Minneapolis, MN that not only covered graf and interviewed and showcased graf writers but it also dealt with underground Hip Hop, indie Rock, Death Metal and whatever the fuck else they thought they could take up pages with. I have old LSD articles memorized even to this very day. There was never a boring issue of Life Sucks Die.
On The Go Magazine was the brainchild of Philly graf legend Stephen "ESPO" Powers. This magazine dealt with all of the aspects of Hip Hop culture with a focus on the underground scene and graffiti/aerosoul art. While it was pretty hard to get issues in the racks every month, when we did get them in we always sold out within a few days. I still have the one with the Mobb Deep Xmas cover and the Cru holding signs that say "Free Mighty Ha!". That was clearly a long time ago.
Scribble Magazine was based in Cincinnati, OH and focused on the underground Hip Hop scene (especially the Midwest) as well as showcasing graf writers. The first Scribble issue I ever bought was number 5 and by the time Scribble 7 was out, I was getting them for free. I know you're probably thinking that I got a cover tear...no, no I didn't. Scribble Magazine still lives on today in the annual Scribble Jam.
While You Were Sleeping was Roger Gastman's graffiti magazine and much, much more. This mag and it's closest competitor "Life Sucks Die" were two sides of the same coin. They were both from Minneapolis but Gastman managed to make his magazine much more diverse and a tad less perverted than LSD even though they originally partnered with a porn company. While You Were Sleeping had some of the funniest features in it and it managed to find an audience. I'll never forget the ones with the Natalie Raitano and Julie Benz covers...ever.
Graphotism was the super glossy, thick graffiti magazine that took no shorts. There were no pictures of TV sirens or porn stars to distract you. Spreads consisted of some ill burner that took up an entire wall and there were a bunch of well written articles and interviews with the giants and legends of graf and aerosoul art. One of my favorite issues of Graphotism is the one with Goldie on the cover where they talk about his transition from graf legend to Drum N' Bass pioneer. Those joints stay underneath my bed to this day.
Mass Appeal started out as a straight up graf mag that also focused on underground Hip Hop but somewhere around issue number 7 it switched up and became more about Hip Hop, urban culture, art and fashion in addition to graf. Mass Appeal really hit it's stride after that and they lasted all the way up until they finally folded back in May. Damn, I miss Mass Appeal!
Elemental Magazine also occupies a fair amount of space in the numerous Adidas boxes beneath my bed since it was all about the underground Hip Hop scene. It covered all of the newest releases and happenings and covered the hell out of them. It really kills me just how many of these smaller Hip Hop publications were kicking The Source's ass on a monthly basis back in the days.
Ego Trip was the be all end all of underground Hip Hop publications during this era. This magazine was so layered and well written with crazy ass design and so many obscure jokes and references that it was THE magazine for Hip Hop nerds and pop culture fanatics alike. The Ego Trip staff was the second coming of the old Source Mind Squad circa '92-'96 to a bunch of folks and when it was a wrap for Ego Trip it kind of signified everything wrong with the magazine game. Little did I know what the Ego Trip brand would become today.
12 oz Prophet was probably one of the hardest to find and most sought after graf mags of this era. You couldn't get copies in fast enough and once they finally showed up they were sold out the day they hit the racks. I only remember six issues being made but 7th Heaven Mailorder got a gang of work selling back issues, graf and B Boy videos, caps, CD's, markers and T shirts. It even started a spinoff magazine and record label (Chocolate Industries) and the website still runs to this very day.
Stress Magazine is hands down my favorite of all of these publications because it not only dealt with every aspect of Hip Hop culture but it was political and smart at the same time. There was no part of Stress Magazine that wasn't airtight thanks to Alain "KET" Madiruena and his staff. If they wrote about graffiti they also addressed the legal side of getting caught. They dealt with real issues affecting urban youth and young adults in addition to the typical fare that other magazines did and they excelled at it. Stress Magazine is sorely missed in this day and age.