Archive for the ‘A conversation with…’ Category

A Conversation With…John Lee

July 16, 2020

“Crispus Attucks-First Patriot Killed in Boston Massacre, March 6, 1770” by Herschel Levit

It was 2000. The tech-bubble was swelling. I was working at a print magazine. And my co-workers were leaving in droves to internet startups: UBO. Volume. 360. Hookt.

The web was the future! Print was dead! Come to the internets or you won’t have a job!

I resisted. I like the feel of magazines in my hand. Still do. Although the internets have me publishing more content in the past sixty days then I have in print in the past year. But that’s another story.

One day, someone told me to log onto a website:

Someone with inside information was throwing up stories about the new urban websites and the print media as well.

And it wasn’t pretty.

The tone was scathing (and sometimes, downright mean). The stories were packed with inside information on what was happening at all of the urban media sites and magazines. And there was a uniform way of posting photos of subjects as disembodied heads that made everyone they covered look weird and goofy:


What really struck me was that all of urban media’s secrets were being exposed. The things we talked about in bars at night over drinks. The things we whispered about in staff meetings. The juicy gossip: who was getting fired; who was sleeping with whom. Which magazines were being shut down. All of that was being published, on a website, using people’s real names.

It set off a maelstrom.

People couldn’t figure out who was behind the site. But it quickly became addictive. If you worked in the industry in the year 2000, you know you logged on to urban expose every single day—twice a day. Or more.

After a year, it was over. The man who posted as Crispus Attucks revealed himself to be John Lee, a former hacker from Brooklyn.

I never knew anything about Lee or why he started the site in the first place. I spoke with him recently to get some insight.

Lee’s complete story was new to me. I didn’t know that he was the first Black kid on the cover of WIRED magazine, in a story on his hacking crew. I didn’t know he’d served time for hacking. His life before urbanexpose is fascinating.

I spoke with John Lee aka John Threat about his backstory, why he looked at urban expose as “an experiment” and how much urbanexpose was worth at its height…

Happy Crispus Attucks Day…

A conversation with…Jermaine Hall

March 4, 2009

photo: Alexander Richter

In 2000, I was ready to leave The Source. I had brief, informational interviews with people who were applying for my job.

I thought Jermaine Hall would be perfect. Jermaine was working at a hip-hop website at the time but he freelanced for The Source often. I was always under the gun and behind schedule when it came to assigning stories. So calling Jermaine to give him a story usually went something like this:

Me: J, You busy?
Jermaine: I’m eating lunch. What’s up?
Me: Your flight’s leaving at 4. Write this story on Xzibit. Make it good. I’m emailing instructions and flight info. Gotta go. Bye!
Jermaine: Wait. Today?! But I-
Me: There’s a car waiting outside your office to take you to the airport. Call me with any problems. Love ya!

And Jermaine always got the job done. Even if I gave him thirty minutes to prepare.

He came in to talk to me about the gig. And after he left, I was convinced he was the man for the job. (My main concern? I thought he might be too fabulous for The Source, a place where Timberlands and Air Force Ones were the only acceptable footwear. Jermaine has always had an impeccable, classic style. Look at him up there! He puts 50 to shame!)

Today, Jermaine is the editor-in-chief of KING magazine. (And he’s still the best dressed man I know…) Launched by founding editor-in-chief Datwon Thomas, (now e-i-c at XXL), the magazine has always been known for scantily clad women with voluptuous bodies. There’s no Playboy-style full-on nudity here. But KING regularly receives more online searches than Newsweek or Reader’s Digest. Whoa.

But the magazine, which launched in 2002, isn’t all T&A. Every time I crack the magazine open, I remember all over again that they actually assign real stories that are thoroughly researched and well-written.

But yeah. It’s got a hell of a lot of T&A too.

In honor of the magazine’s 50th anniversary issue, I spoke with Jermaine Hall this morning to get the scoop behind his favorite cover subjects, his surprising celebrity crush, the actress he turned down for the cover (!!!!) and how he defends KING and their mission to please…


A Conversation with…Mike Schreiber

February 10, 2009
courtesy of Mike Schreiber. No stealing!

courtesy of Mike Schreiber.

Ten years ago, I had to interview Common for The Source. The interview took place at the legendary Electric Lady Studios in the Village. Mike Schreiber was the photographer assigned for the story and we ended up talking while we waited for Common. After five minutes of conversation, I decided that Mike was arrogant, cocky and annoying. Ten years later, he still is. He’s also one of my favorite photographers. He’s completely self-taught, has shot everything from dogs to prisoners to rappers for everyone from The Source to Vibe and GIANT. (Check out his website) I called Mike up this morning and asked him to tell me about his ten favorite photographs and the stories behind them. Here’s how the conversation went down.