I recently spoke to Link Up TV for their Industry Spotlight segment. We recapped on my career so far, the birth of Viper and the differences between doing radio work with both Beats1 and Rinse FM. Read all about it below…
For our next instalment in our “Industry Spotlight” series, we’ve called upon Rinse FM selector Lily Mercer. Her weekly show can be found in the early hours of the week every Monday from 1 – 3 PM where she plays the best in underground rap from across the spectrum. Lily’s musical ventures also involve her own print issue Viper Magazine and more radio duties at the newly founded Beats 1 station on Apple Music. Check out what she’s been up to in our interview below!
1. How did you first enter the music industry?
I graduated in Fashion Journalism in 2010 but by the end of my course at London College of Fashion, I found the industry I was about to work in really elitist and money-driven, which turned me off fashion journalism. I’d always been a fan of music and grew up dreaming of working as a label A&R but back in 2002 I didn’t realistically think a white female would be accepted in the rap industry.
Having interviewed Danny Brown for my final project at university, which was a magazine called Viper. I’d got a taste for interviewing rappers and soon started a blog posting my favourite songs. It was at that point that my friend Georgia LA suggested I join her at SB.TV and before long I was running the online content and interviewing US rappers that I’d always been a fan of. After a couple of years there I branched out on my own and wrote for Dazed, i-D, Wonderland, Clash, RWD and more.
2. You recently joined the Beats 1 London team. How does the experience there differ from your Rinse show?
It’s the total opposite experience, and I love that! At Rinse I select 100% of the music, play explicit versions, set up interviews, ask artists whatever I like; I have complete creative control. At Beats1, I select 0% of the music, play clean versions and don’t do interviews.
I love that I’m able to do both sides of radio, commercial and specialist. Plus Beats1 has opened me up to so many artists and genres that I was unaware of because I live in this hip hop bubble and don’t know who all these rock bands are. Not only has it made me more open minded but it’s made me realise I can be passionate about music in general, not just rap.
Being a tastemaker on Rinse is sick, the station is like an institution in UK music and the fact they trust me to break artists is such a compliment. A lot of artists that are playlisted by Rinse, such as Kali Uchis, Tinashe, Tink, Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa were all played on Rinse for the first time by me. Now those artists get plays on Beats1 and I can say, “I interviewed him three years ago” and even Beats are impressed that I was aware ahead of time.
3. There are countless rap publications out there. How did you differentiate Viper Mag from the rest?
Although there are a lot, I felt there was a huge gap in the market when I started Viper. The Source and XXL are focused on established artists so the only time a new artist makes the cover, it’s on the Freshman list. Kendrick was already a star before he got his first cover from either publication. I remember the days when rappers got a cover near the start of their career and those breaks don’t happen any more. Viper was one of the first to put ScHoolboy Q on a cover and he was already selling out 1,000+ capacity venues in Europe at that point.
I wanted Viper to cater to fans of emerging rap artists because I honestly feel there’s no other magazine showing the next wave of talent these days. I used to open a magazine to discover music not see names I already listened to. Blogs are doing the music discovery element incredibly well but print magazines aren’t willing to take the gamble. Viper is though and that’s why we’ve managed to gain a cult fanbase that aren’t telling them about a “new” rapper that’s been around for years.
Read the rest of the interview here.