The Chickenhead Convention
In this new column, Kathy Iandoli tells behind the scenes tales of her time (past and current) as a music writer.
The start of the new millennium was such a strange time for Hip-Hop. The late ‘90s saw the loss of both the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac, along with the end of the Golden Age and the start of the Shiny Suit Era. Rappers were getting their money up on one end of the spectrum, but the light was dimming for the earlier guys. Jay-Z had this line in “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”: Label owners hate me, I’m raising the status quo up / I’m overcharging n----- for what they did to the Cold Crush basically announcing the shift in Rap’s gears. The new class was going to get paid, while the old class might still be struggling with their earlier mistakes. So yeah, a lot of bitterness-slash-excitement going on. It was an odd moment for Hip-Hop. It was also the time that I was dumb enough to start writing about it.
My first assignment was to interview a legendary Rap group. You know, the kind that VH1’s Hip-Hop Honors gushes about and the kind where ancillary members will say things like “Somebody said Hip-Hop was dead, but it’s not!” knowing damn well the only person who said it was Nas, but these dudes were way too old to be firing shots beyond that. So anyway, I had to interview them about their new album and the fact that they were free agents (their label dropped them but if anyone asks, they “didn’t like how they were being treated”). My new editor said to “find them” for the interview. No publicist contact info, no manager, no grandmother. Just…find them. The Village Voice said they had a show coming up at SOB’s. Fine, I’ll “find them” there. I had to buy my own ticket (WTF?) and head over there for their 9:30pm show (read: 12:45am in Hip-Hop Time). I cleared it with one of the booking people at SOB’s that I’d be heading there to conduct this interview. When I got to the venue, I found out that guy left and never gave anyone else my name. So there I stood at the top of the steps looking like William fucking Miller in Almost Famous waiting to interview Black Sabbath for Cream Magazine. Only I didn’t have a Stillwater and Penny Lane to slide in with backstage. I had myself.
If you’ve ever been to SOBs you know that the same steps that lead to the bathroom also lead to the backstage area. So I walked down those stairs and tapped some random guy on the shoulder. Told him where I was from and what I came to do. He walks me backstage where the legendary Rap group was sitting on folding chairs five feet apart from one another. They didn’t get along. One of the guys was standing, and every time he and I made eye contact, he’d suck his teeth at me. Another member (the most famous one of the bunch) was missing.
The random man walks back into the room, “So uh, she’s here to talk to you guys or some shit.” Or some shit. One of the guys sitting down looks at me and I smiled. “Fuck you,” he replied. His other frenemy chimes in, “Yeah, fuck the media yo! Free agents, fuck all y’all!” It was like I stepped into the He-Man Woman Haters Club from the Little Rascals. What the hell was going on?
So then another random guy comes to me and says, “They’re in a bad mood right now. I’ll get you your interview. Hey, are you on BlackPlanet? You look familiar”(I’m white). Finally, the most famous member of the group walks in with his sunglasses on. The other standing member turns to him and says, “This bitch is trying to interview us.” The man takes his sunglasses off and goes, “Cool, follow me.” I follow, and he brings me to another part of the basement where there are a gaggle of birds wearing cut off skirts and tank tops. Girls who never met before are borrowing each others’ lip gloss and hair spray, talking about who had dibs on which member of the group. Oh my God, he brought me to the groupie den! I race out of the room and head back to the area I started from to find my BlackPlanet friend. Some little loud mouth weed carrier runs up to me and says, “Yo! Don’t you pay attention to directions? The Chickenhead Convention is THAT WAY,” pointing in the way of the other room. The group members start clucking, high fiving each other and laughing. I guess I brought them together that night.
I never got my interview. When I got home, my editor felt so sorry for me that he offered to pay me for the piece I never even wrote. It was a sad first day at work.
Fast forward six years later, and one of the members emails me personally asking for a group interview (he obviously didn’t remember me). I responded, “I don’t work with free agents. You’re too high maintenance.”
Ha ha, fuck you too.
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