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Be Specific: Darn Good on killing trees for the good of DMV hip-hop

Local rapper Darn Good is getting into the magazine business. (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Darnelle Hines, AKA Darn Good, is a solo hip-hop artist who just released his first EP, “Young Black and Gifted,” is one half of the rap duo/production team D en’D Productions and a magazine publisher.

At a time when tons of hip-hop titles are either folding or moving to online-only formats, Hines’ “The Kapital" magazine is a quarterly DMV hip-hop-focused print publication, available at local record stores and by subscription only. The mag just celebrated its one-year anniversary with a “Hip-Hop Meets Go-Go” issue featuring UCB.

Click Track talked to the Northeast rapper/publisher (who performs tonight at U Street NW’s Almaz with Princess of Controversy and Enoch 7th Prophet) about his devotion to keeping dead-tree rap mags alive.

With so many print publications struggling, how did you decide to launch a print-only hip-hop magazine?

It started out as just looking at other publications, from XXL to Ozone, and saying, "Hey, why don’t we start something hip-hop musicians in this area can benefit from?" I think people like being able to see someone they can relate to, or someone they actually know, in a magazine. We definitely heard a lot of that with the most recent issue, which has UCB on the cover. We also wanted to stand out from the rest of the magazines out there. And I’m kind of old school with stuff -- I still like to touch the item, read through the item, so I said, “Hey, let’s not do an e-zine," which is the direction everyone else is going in.

(Old inspirations and new business models, after the jump.)

What has the feedback been from readers -- are they happy to have a tangible product, or do they want something online as well?

I’d say it’s about a 70/30 split: 70 percent are happy with product, 30 percent say, “Well, I kinda would like to see it on the Internet.” But the 70 outweighs the 30. And we’ve been doing very well. We’re in Kemp Mill -- we might be the only local magazine in Kemp Mill -- going against Don Diva, XXL, The Source. That’s a really big statement. We’re also in Field’s Record Shop on Alabama Avenue, SE, in Iverson Mall, PG Plaza, some stores in Baltimore, some stores in Virginia, and you can subscribe through the Web site. Our mission is to cover the DMV.

I assume you grew up on rap magazines, like Rap Pages, The Source…

Yes, I did. My favorite was The Source, because of Dave Mays, who is a local District person -- he’s a big inspiration for me, as far as starting the magazine. He started from Rap Pages, went to The Source, which eventually became a big conglomerate. I spent my life wanting to get in The Source. (Laughs.)

Do you think it's sad that so many of those magazines you grew up on are non-existent or online-only or, in some cases, just greatly diminished in terms of quality?

I think it’s a sad thing. They've been forced to change because of economic issues and also people are just moving more toward digital formats. Major magazines have been put in situations where they have to go online because folks aren't buying ads. But at the same time, it's a great moment for us -- being a smaller business we can control things more and not have to worry about reporting to others. It's a sad time for others, but a great time for Kapital.

How has being an artist yourself shaped the magazine and the pieces you write?

I knew what sort of content people were yearning for. I knew what others wanted to see as far as articles about musicians, and also about the business side of things -- I didn’t feel we were getting that. We have a “Business 101” section that tells artists how to copyright their music, how to go down to K Street to get a business license -- all things that were missing from other publications.

What are some of your favorite stories or issues that you've put together?

One of them would definitely be our all-female hip-hop edition. A lot of female hip-hop artists don’t get the exposure and coverage they need to get -- it has always been a problem throughout the industry. It was one of my favorite issues because we got to talk to female rap artists about why they weren’t getting coverage and what they do to expose more people to their music.

I know at one point, there was a CD spotlighting local music with every issue -- are you still doing that?

We started with CDs, and we got very good feedback, but as a small magazine we’re constantly trying to figure out how to keep costs to a minimum. Now we do digital downloads every issue. It was hard at first -- people were used to the CDs with the first few issues, so they were saying, “Where’s my CD?” Now, the magazine has a link to a digital download, with a code -- people have gotten used to it.”

By Sarah Godfrey  |  May 5, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  Be specific  | Tags: Darn Good, Kapital Magazine, Young Black & Gifted  
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Darn Good is continuing to "hold the fort" regarding hip hop music in the Washington metropolitan area. Keep up the good work.

Tommy D.R.E.A.D. from Insomniac Magazine.

Posted by: insomniac40 | May 7, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Nice post.

Posted by: outsider8 | May 9, 2010 11:03 PM | Report abuse

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