New Novel “Platinum” Sheds Light on Hip-Hop Industry

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MN: Has there ever been anything that you’ve seen or encountered during an interview that you thought the readers didn’t need to know?

ASK: Nope. I’m honest.

Well, let me double-back. With the Malcolm Shabazz piece I was very protective of him and that was difficult for me. As a reporter I lost my credibility on that story. A reporter is not supposed to… you’re not there for your subjects, you’re there for your story. He didn’t hire me to write a story on him. Smokey Fontaine from Giant Magazine did. So my responsibility was to Smokey to get the best story. And not protect Malcolm.

If you get in too deep you can end up losing your credibility as a journalist. And I think I crossed a line with that story. But with this story, yes. There were times and things that I’m probably gonna keep close to my desk, because they were personal. But for the most part– the novel– that’s really the reason why I wanted to fictionalize it. So I wouldn’t have to be concerned about: oh, I don’t wanna put this person’s business in the street…and oh, I don’t want to hurt this person’s feelings. I can just say, it’s a novel! [Laugh] It’s fiction!

MN: Why do you think artists open up to you?

ASK: I think that I’m very unassuming. I’m not that person trying to get something bad, I’m not out in the club scene. I’m just a writer. I’m not coming to wanting to tour with you or wanting to party with you. I’m not drinking or smoking with you. I’m really there to just do my job. So I think that helps. And I think that it helps that I do a lot of research on my subjects before I show up.

I remember writing about Mariah Carey and I wasn’t sure if she was going to be that open with me. But I showed her my little dossier on her. I had 500 pages…literally. And I told her, yesterday I was in your hometown and spoke to your high school English teacher. And she was kind of like, ‘what?’. And I think that helps people open up to you when you show that you’ve done your homework and are genuinely interested in their story.

MN: Who have you never interviewed that you’d like to?

ASK: Well the people I’d like to interview, they probably wouldn’t open up. Beyonce would be one. I interviewed her when she was young, like 16. But she wouldn’t open up now. I’d like to interview Jay[Z], but he’s too protected. I wouldn’t get the interview I want. It would be a noble feat. I think that he’s at a level where he can kind of answer what he wants to and not answer other things. He wouldn’t have to go into his past, because it’s already known.

I like really hardcore, hard-hitting interviews. I’d love to interview Will Smith, but again I’d want a hard-hitting interview–not about whatever movie is coming out. Of course Oprah, I just want to be in the same room as her.

MN: Is writing fiction more or less of a challenge than journalism?

ASK: That’s a good question. They’re probably equally as challenging. Writing an article is almost like putting a puzzle together where they’re parts and quotes that need to be added. Fiction is a little bit more open, but the momentum has to be built.

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