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Latinos at Helm of Scratch Magazine
8/18/04 - exclusive interview


scratch magazine

XXL and King are two of the hottest magazines out right now, thanks to Harris Publications. Well, they've outdone themselves again with the introduction of a new quarterly mag entitled Scratch, an inside guide to hip hop production and DJing.  Also noteworthy is the fact that both Scratch's Editor and Chief, Andre Torres, and Associate Editor, Jesus Triviño, are Latinos. Jesus Triviño, a writer who has contributed to a variety of Urban magazines and e-zines, also serves as a musical editor for the new publication.

Triviño took time out of his busy afternoon at the Scratch office to speak with LR and shed some light on the new magazine. For those readers who haven't picked up a copy of Scratch yet, what can they expect from the mag?

Well, they can expect it's a music magazine that actually is about music, you have all these other mags that claim to be music magazines, but its about the artist. We give you an in depth look at not only opinions but its behind the scenes. What I've been telling everyone is that we are the KRS-Ones of the hip hop magazines, we're the teachers and we're here to inform on how to make rap music. Like the tagline says, "the science of hip hop".

With so many hip hop mags that already cover producing and DJing, what motivated Harris to dedicate an entire mag just to those aspects of music, and why now?

Before everyone wanted to be an MC, now any kid can buy a piece of equipment and be a producer. Now people see producers like Kanye and Dre, they can be a producer but also a celebrity. I don't think there is a magazine out there that covers hip hop producers and DJs, you got other DJ magazines but they cover house music and techno. They have a dash of hip hop in there but its not truly written from that perspective. Vibe, Source, they cover how the producers came up and their background, but we talk about how they create their music as well. With the emergence of superproducers like Kanye and Just Blaze... and the DJs of course with the mixtape scene being so big right now, artists getting signed from mixtapes like 50. Even though the FCC has clamped down on it, it makes it seem like that's the way to get signed. As an aspiring artist you cant go up to a label and get signed like that, the A&R's listen to the mixtapes, the DJs hold a lot of power in the industry.

How do you think Scratch will differ from existing magazines that are related to beatmaking and turntablism of various genres?

I don't see any other mag really covering hip hop producers, everything in our book is Hip Hop.

As one of Scratch's editors, you've earned your stripes, how long have you been involved with Harris mags?

I've been writing for King and Rides for maybe a year, and XXL, I've never written for until I got here. I've written more for Vibe and the Source before I got here.

What are some of the other publications that you've contributed to in the past?

Vibe, the Source, King, Ride, XXL, and I've also written for,, and And I guess I've been writing since I was 19, at least professionally.

What were some of your more memorable writing assignments or interviews?

The most memorable had to be when I interviewed Willie Colon, not just because I grew up on his music, but he's mad relaxed, mad open. It was actually funny because it was towards the end of my internship at Vibe, and I needed to pitch a story idea. Until then they had just given me little things to write up, this was my first one-pager. So I pitched it to my editor, his name is Hyun, I pitched him Ruben Blades, Celia Cruz, Willie Colon. They picked Willie, I met with him at a restaurant and talked to him for 3 hours. His music was sociopolitical, everything going on with the Latin community, I've been quite informed about it. I try to stay with what's going on in the Latin community, I still live there. We talked about how Hip Hop changed liked his music has.

Another was a chance meeting, we met Jay-Z and hung out from an assignment with the Source. We met outside Bassline for about an hour, we just hung out, he was like a regular Brooklyn cat. Four people including myself and him, it was cool. That was it besides the whole spat with Nas when I quoted him as saying that he looked up to Hitler. Kind of a good memory and bad memory, it showed me that rappers aren't supposed to be your friends. I happen to be objective. I can't stand that groupie sh*t, 'cause at the end of the day you're just a dude that could have been on my block.

Latinos are the largest minority in the U.S., but there doesn't seem to be too many Latino editors at most Urban magazines. Have you ever felt that Latinos are under represented in hip hop mags with respect to contributing staff or editors?

Until recently its gotten a lot better, you got two Latinas at Vibe and the Source. That's the one thing about urban journalism I gotta give it, its really diverse. I saw Asians, Latinos, Blacks, its all united in urban journalism. There are Latinos in the top positions, but as far as writers I think there aren't a lot of contributors. Newspapers at big metropolitan cities, they don't have one single Latino, that's horrible. I'm also part of NAHJ, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, they keep us up on that. Magazines like Rolling Stone, they do tend to be purely staffed by whites. I saw it first hand, besides the mail room there was no color. But Harris, you see every kind of race and culture, I love working here and that's the one thing they have a good reputation about doing. But were getting there, still long ways to go. I'm first generation, I was born here, a lot of us are just coming into our own. I grew up with hip hop, but some are just discovering it.

Were there any writers that you looked up to when you first started out?

One guy, I was inspired more that he was in a high position, Carlitos Rodriguez at the Source. I remember reading his story "Vamos a Rapear", I remember it having an impact on me that I can actually do this. I was more inspired by people like Jose Marti, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And as far as hip hop journalism, when I was growing up I didn't look at the bylines too much, but now I look. Before I just read the article until I went to college for my journalism degree to see how they wrote. Journalism is about reading and adapting the style into your own style, like a gumbo.

Have you considered the possibility of starting your own magazine in the future?

That was a plan when I was a kid, I don't know about now. Right now I'm in a good position because of Scratch, but also because they want to do a Latin mag. They are giving me the chance as a founding editor, Scratch is making a lot of noise. It's giving me an outlet to be creative, I don't know, maybe down the line, but I do feel like being part of something original.

Harris Publications is doing a Latin mag?

It's like a Latin version of Esquire. I don't want to put out so many details, but you're gonna be hearing about it before the end of the year. All I gotta says is, its gonna be hot. You know, we need this.

I'm sure a few readers are interested in the possibility of becoming a magazine contributor in the future, what tips could you offer them on how to get started?

The only thing I can say is like I got in, start early. I was coming from Brooklyn college which was a city school, knowing l had to compete with guys from Harvard and NYU, I knew I had to bust my butt. I did four internships, taking advice from my elders, always returning emails and calls because you never know when you might need that person. That's for journalists, publicists, anything. Once you do get good with an editor, drop him an email, drop him a call, even if you don't have an idea. Never underestimate how lazy an editor is, if you keep dropping by you might get a story. Editors, whoever is in front of them, they will give them the story, as long as they are there. I used to call all these editors to say what's up, just to b.s.

And always meet your deadlines, that another big thing. There's not a lot of good writers out there, if you are a superb writer, they will work with you, if not don't run the risk. And also when you do talk for the first time to an editor, or email them, have a couple of ideas with you, be aware of what magazine you're pitching to. 



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