I recently sat down for an interview with Mechanical Dummy to discuss my career so far, including setting up Viper Magazine and appearing on Beats1 and Rinse FM.
Being true to one self is one of life’s hardest challenges, especially in the entertainment business because to do what you want to is to go to war with everyone doing the opposite. Before going into the business one must understand that the entertainment business is a business of compromise. Corporations don’t want the inspiring letters and uplifting quotes anymore, they want traffic and subtotals. Many journalists were inspired by writers who were able to connect with the masses because they said something that related to them directly. Doing what you want is the longer way to achieve goals and you won’t win right away, in fact you’ll lose a lot but in the end you will triumph. It’s like boxing, one can put on a really great show and throw fancy jabs all twelve rounds and trick the crowd into thinking they’re winning, but in reality if they don’t connect then they lose. Journalism in the world of today is slowly not connecting with the people and in turn the consumer is buying the product but they aren’t emotionally invested into what’s being written. There are but a few writers that do whatever it takes to spread an intellectual message to the masses in order to build awareness. So with all that, how can one handle the pressure of being true to their self and standing alone against the world?
Meet Lily Mercer, she’s a young entrepreneur from North London, United Kingdom who has her hands in every pot in regards to hip hop. She started her own print publication Viper Magazine after not being able to find a decent publication about the genre that helped shape her as a person. This magazine speaks to generation Y and has hundreds of pages of original content which includes: news articles, interviews, original photos and much more. Since starting the magazine she’s had the likes of ScHool Boy Q, Kali Uchis and Dej Loaf on the covers. She also has a weekly radio show called The Lily Mercer Show which showcases noteworthy underground talent in the hip hop and r&b world. Her name has been making a lot of noise in the industry, so much so that Apple recruited her to become a host for their new streaming service Beats 1. Even before starting her magazine her resume was already extensive, interviewing the likes of Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, Mary J Blige and A$AP Rocky just to name a few. Speaking to her was like speaking to a martyr who is willing to die for what they believe in. She is motivated by her desire for success and the blind faith that there’s a happy ending ahead of her that seems to be written already.
Words By: Roger Kimbeni
Mechanical Dummy: What drew you in to hip hop?
Lily Mercer: Honestly it was Bone Thugs & Harmony so that goes back, way back from when I was eight. There were two videos that impacted me early on; it was “Crossroads” by Bone Thugs & Harmony and “Wishing on a Star” by Jay-Z. Those were the two artists that I basically felt some kind of attraction to. Bone Thugs stayed with me forever, I bought the album and I religiously listened to them. Jay-Z too, I got way more into Jay-Z over the years and I think that for me there was an immediate attraction to the sound but it wasn’t necessarily something that I understood; it’s not like my life reflected that. But at the same time I grew up in a city where there’s lots going on and a lot of that did reflect in the music. So yeah I identified with it really early on without really knowing why. Then work [hip hop journalism] came early on so I guess I got more into it with the work and I mean I’ve just always been quite an obsessive person with what I’m into and I was so obsessed with hip hop growing up. Like I was buying The Source Magazine at twelve, going into school and all the guys in my class used to like take it off me and read it before I got the chance to and then hand it back at the end. And I wasn’t bullied but it sounds like I was [chuckles]. But that’s the thing though, in a weird way it kind of like helped me make a lot of friends early on because maybe I identify with people that were into hip-hop that wouldn’t of ever spoken to me had I not brought The Source Magazine in and I made friends out of that.
MD: No doubt, was your family cool with you being into hip hop?
LM: Yeah the funny thing is I have a half brother who’s eight years older than me so when I was eight he was sixteen and UK Garage became the cool music to listen to in London, so finally enough he just gave me all of his hip hop albums. Like he got out of hip hop as I got into it. Weirdly enough though my mom who is also white [chuckles]; my mom was really into hip-hop and she actually bought this compilation tape which was called “The Best Rap Album in the World Ever”. It had like Ice Cube’s “Today was a Good Day” , “Feel my Flow” by Naughty by Nature, it even had PM Dawn on it, it was really versatile but that was really like the project that made me realize that I loved hip hop. My mom let me have control of the tape player in the car so I would actually make compilation tapes and my mom would listen to them with me and love the music. She never had a problem with me playing [music with bad language]. I had the Death Row’s Greatest Hits album because I was too young to be into them the first time around but then the Greatest Hits album came out and I would play that in the car and she didn’t even blink when I played “Ain’t No Fun” by Snoop Dogg, “Shit on You” by D12 and she had no problems with these songs. I think really she just didn’t understand what they were about but she actually was just as passionate about hip hop as I was in a weird way and that helped me understand that [ her mother was into music]. She was really into Motown Records before, she just loves music and so she saw that passion in me and she encouraged that and let me have full reign of whatever I wanted to play because she didn’t want to cut me off and say “that’s bad” [chuckles].
MD: So would you say that’s where a lot of your creativeness came from?
Yeah I think so, to be honest both my parents are like really-really big on music and they religiously listen to music but at the same time they both work in creative fields. My dad is a landscape gardener, he works with gardens and stones and my mom has a film library; so my mom sells film clips of like Marilyn Munroe and street scenes in New York and she’ll sell those to people making documentaries and she’s made documentaries herself. She put on her own vintage film festival which has all documentary footage. So yeah I’ve got like two very independent creative parents who kind of think outside the box. Both of their industries aren’t mainstream but they’re creative and they do these really cool jobs that I kind of watched them do. My dad worked for himself my entire life, my mom worked for herself since I was eleven so I grew up watching my parents work for themselves and have this independence and drive for what they loved. Honestly I can’t do a job that I don’t love, like every day I wake up and I basically don’t think of it as work, and I always say that, like my job is to interview people’s favorite musicians like that’s not a job but I work really-really hard to make sure that’s why I do it so it balances out.
Read the full interview here.