Julie Beverly (Ozone Magazine) [Interview]
Atlanta, GA – Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Julia Beverly – the owner, founder, publisher, editor-in-chief and chief photographer of Ozone Magazine – a publication that many regard as the definitive source for Southern hip-hop culture-related news. For the last eight years, Ozone Magazine has documented and has provided media coverage for well-known and upcoming hip-hop recording artists within the Southern United States and the publication has recently expanded to the West Coast of the U.S, through Ozone West.
The Southern United States’ hip-hop community was once stigmatized as being of a quality that many East Coast-based hip-hop recording artists, other hip-hop-related professionals and hip-hop enthusiasts felt was inferior to the East Coast hip-hop archetype defined by New York City and other East Coast hip-hop centers.
However, through the hard work of Julia Beverly and Ozone Magazine, countless hip-hop recording artists in the South and now also in the West, that once were not afforded a voice on a national level, now have a media outlet that is comparable to those available to their East Coast counterparts.
Ajani Charles: A lot of people in Canada who are interested in hip-hop aren’t familiar with Ozone Magazine or Southern hip-hop culture in general. However, the idea that Southern hip-hop artists seemed to support and collaborate with one another, to the point that Southern hip-hop reached the mainstream is prevalent (in Canada).
So, how did these collaborations and the support system that defines Southern hip-hop come about?
And also, what role did Ozone Magazine play in building the strong sense of self that’s definitive of Southern hip-hop and Southern hip-hop culture?
Julia Beverly: I think that a lot of us in the South had at least one thing in common during the years before we gained national recognition; and that was defined by a number of us gravitating towards New York and other East Coast media outlets.
At that time, there seemed to be a prevailing attitude in the East Coast that the South wasn’t on the East Coast’s level, musically and otherwise. We felt disrespected or at least overlooked at certain times.
There wasn’t anyone accurately portraying what we had going on down South through the East Coast media outlets. But of course, you had artists such as Slim Thug, Mike Jones and Paul Wall, who had large fan bases in Texas and you also had David Banner in Mississippi and Pitbull in Miami (for example).
All these artists had large fan bases in their areas, but their fan bases weren’t being translated to the rest of the country. I wouldn’t say that Ozone was the cause of that, but we were definitely in the right place at the right time.
We were able to grow with a lot of these artists. Also, because they already had existing fan bases, we were able to expose their music and their fan bases to the rest of the country.
I don’t think that we went into it with the intent that we were going to takeover, but the South was coincidentally making a lot of good music at the time and currently.
It’s not that there weren’t instances here and there, where different artists had problems with one another. A good example would be the beef between T.I and Lil’ Flip.
It’s never been 100% love and unity, but at the end of the day, we were able to put those points of friction aside and focus on a bigger goal, because we had one thing in common – the South was being overlooked.
We had artists such as UGK or 8Ball & MJG who paved the way for today’s artists and who weren’t recognized for the talent that they had, in their time.
Now, we all rally together.
For example, if you go to a video shoot in Miami or a video shoot in Atlanta, a lot of artists come out and support each other. It’s a very community-oriented atmosphere.
Ajani Charles: Right. In Canada, we have the Urban Music Association of Canada, which is an organization that oversees and gives opportunities to established and upcoming hip-hop artists across the nation.
We also have HipHopCanada, which is an online publication and hub for hip-hop artists throughout Canada.
Also and specifically in Toronto, an organization known as the Manifesto exists and what the Manifesto have done, is that they’ve helped build and organize a number of Urban and hip-hop-based community projects and organizations throughout the city, in addition to producing the Manifesto Festival.
The Manifesto Festival is a week-long festival that promotes and supports the Urban Arts throughout Toronto. Every year the Manifesto usually bring up a well-known hip-hop act from the States, for the festival.
For example, this year the Manifesto Festival showcased Reflection Eternal – Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek and the year before, it was DJ Premier battling Pete Rock.
With that being said, over the course of the last half a decade, some major outlets have been established that promote unity throughout Canada, as far as hip-hop is concerned.
But, even still it seems as if we are behind in terms of the sense of community and sense of self that’s definitive of Southern hip-hop and in comparison to other regions in the United States.
So, what suggestions do you have for Toronto’s hip-hop community, other hip-hop communities throughout Canada and even Canada as a whole, in terms of developing a sense of self and a sense of pride, within the context of hip-hop?
Julia Beverly: That’s a difficult thing to pin point and I think that it ultimately boils down to movements.
For example, when the East Coast had their movement, when the West Coast had their movement and when the South had their movement.
For the South, we have so many different sounds that define our hip-hop. The West Coast sometimes gets stereotyped as having that one, G-Funk sound, whereas in the South, we have the Miami bass style, we have all the different dance records that are produced in Atlanta, T-Pain came out of Tallahassee with the auto-tune sound and then we have the Houston sound. The South encompasses a whole lot of different sounds, in terms of hip-hop.
As far as Toronto’s concerned, Drake is from Toronto right?
Ajani Charles: Right.
Julia Beverly: So, he might be the spark plug that might get a movement going for Toronto.
Ajani Charles: I didn’t necessarily mean a single artists perpetuating or creating a buzz or a name for Toronto or Canada as a whole, because I think that our city and our country has an oversaturation of talent.
What I meant was, when I look at Houston, Atlanta or Miami, I see a lot of different hip-hop artists collaborating and building one another up.
For example, if I were to go back ten years ago and I were to buy a Pitbull mixtape, most likely half of all the well-known hip-hop artists in Miami would be on that mixtape, helping Pitbull as a solo artist, but more importantly and ultimately helping Miami as a collective.
Julia Beverly: Sometimes you really need that one breakthrough to really inspire other people to come together and to see what the possibilities are.
That might be a good start for Toronto. I’m not saying that Drake’s responsible for that, but we do need inspiration and we do need to see growth. So, if you’re able to see someone from your city that is able to do it, you may be inspired to do it on a similar level.
However, there’s always going to be petty differences. A lot of cities have that crab in the bucket mentality, where somebody whose attempting to come up is being pulled down by others with similar goals, as opposed to saying “maybe this is someone I can work with, to get to the next level.”
Also, the music definitely plays a big part. Even if you do have unity, if the music isn’t of a quality where it will make noise nation-wise or across the continent, growth isn’t possible.
Talent definitely plays a major part.
I think one thing you’ll find in common with a lot of areas in the States that were able to come up, is that they have a strong concentration of talented producers.
For example, Atlanta was able to get on the hip-hop map because a number of artists came to Atlanta to record, despite not being from Atlanta.
A concentration of musical talent does bring people together, when it comes to hip-hop.
Ajani Charles: In terms of Ozone Magazine, because of the Southern hip-hop focus of the magazine and based on the fact that you’re geographically located in the Southern United States, a number of hip-hop enthusiasts in Canada and specifically in Toronto, aren’t very aware of Ozone Magazine.
I was quite surprised that I hadn’t heard of Ozone Magazine until recently, especially when I discovered the number of well-known hip-hop artists that your publication has covered and has interviewed.
Could you let me know how Ozone Magazine first came about, how it’s evolved over the years and what some of the future plans you have for Ozone Magazine are?
Julia Beverly: We’re coming up on our eight-year anniversary, so it’s been out for quite a while.
Ozone was first founded in Orlando, which is what Ozone stands for. So, initially we started covering the central Florida hip-hop music scene and then we started receiving interest from other cities, such as Atlanta.
It sort of grew on its own, from a half-sized, 48-page publication and as we started making connections with other cities in other parts of the South, we were able to build our reputation organically. That’s how we were able to cover a lot of the up and coming talent in those areas.
I think we’ve done a thorough job of covering the Southern hip-hop scene, and we’ve now launched Ozone West, which covers a lot of the up and coming talent that make up the West Coast hip-hop scene.
We just felt that there were and are a lot of magazines, radio stations and media outlets in general, in New York and in the East Coast. So, there was and is an oversaturation of media outlets in that part of the States.
No disrespect to any East Coast artists, but we felt that there were a lot of ways for them to be heard, whereas an artist in the South or in the West or Mid-West doesn’t have as many ways to get their music out.
We’ve expanded to cover artists that are overlooked and that don’t have many media outlets in their respective regions.
Ajani Charles: Right. What would you say to someone that says that geographic boundaries are insignificant and negate a lack of opportunities for hip-hop artists everywhere, because of the far-reaching capacities one has when implementing the Internet, as a hip-hop artist?
Julia Beverly: I don’t think it negates that at all. People from the West Coast grew up around West Coast music, because it reflects the culture around them.
That’s not to say that people in Norway or Canada don’t like Screwed And Chopped music, but there’ll always be a strong sense of community and representing where you’re from.
In the South, we like to listen to music on the way to the club, so we like really heavy bass – something that you can play in your car. Whereas, East Coast hip-hop listeners may listen to music while they’re riding on a subway system, so their music may have more of an emphasis on lyrics, when it comes to the music they listen to on the subway system (or elsewhere).
I don’t think the Internet negates geographical focuses, but it definitely gives people a wider variety of music to listen to.
Ajani Charles: Right. So, what direction do you plan on taking Ozone Magazine and Ozone West, within the context of this age – the digital age? A lot of publications are in a state of flux right now; mainly because everything seems to be going digital, but a lot of people still want physical copies.
Julia Beverly: Our content has been online every month, since the first issue and in addition to being in print. So, we’ve always been aware that there are some people that want to read online and there are some people that do want to hold something in their hands.
Me personally, if I’m going on an airplane and if I’m reading a lengthy article, I still like to hold something in my hands.
I find that if you read something online, it’s better if it’s short blurbs. Sometimes we’ll take a few quotes from an article and post it online and have the full article available in print.
It’s truly about establishing your brand and being consistent with your brand. It’s important that people know that whether it’s Ozone in print or Ozone online, they know what it represents and that the coverage will be raw, uncut and exclusive.
It’s important to us that we stay true to our brand and what we represent, regardless of what the media format is. Content is relevant, regardless of how you put it out.
Ajani Charles: Great. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me and I’ll be sure to follow Ozone Magazine in the near future.
Written by Ajani Charles for HipHopCanada