[Venus] Erin Ashley: A Rawe & Uncut Cutie
Music has always been a part of this VENUS’s life since the beginning. The Oakland, California native nursed a healthy love affair with melody since a young age even attempting a career as a hip-hop violinist. A true hip-hop head loving everyone from Warren G to Little Brother, Erin Ashley started Rawe Magazine in December 2009 to bring back writing to the blogosphere. Showcasing a uniquely “rare and wonderful eye,” Ms. Ashley chops it up with The Well Versed about who’s raw in 2011, Kool Herc’s current woes, and why you can’t sacrifice her to Lil B.
The Well Versed: In your own opinion — what does it mean to have raw style in 2011?
Erin Ashley: I think in order to have raw style in 2011 that means you have to be authentic in whatever you do. Standing out, being you, whether it’s cool or in style. Who are the top three most stylish of this year so far? The first would have to be Rihanna. I’ve never really been a fan of hers, but she’s been taking so many risks with her style lately. From the red hair to her S&M video with the costuming — she may be known for her music but her style definitely outshines her vocal abilities. Oddly enough, I’d say second on my list would be Michelle Obama, a complete contrast to Rihanna.
I’m a fan of simplicity with one’s style. A basic clothing item like a cardigan or something you can use to make your look expand can be the key to unlocking a fabulous closet. With Michelle, I love that she has an easy look to follow, it’s pretty simple: J. Crew meets Gap. The last would be a toss-up between two of my favorite bloggers: Karla at KarlasCloset.com or Rumi at FashionToast.com. I love their style. Karla plays with urban and vintage; really feminine. Rumi, she takes a very unconventional take on trends.
TWV: How did the Digital Revolution help give birth to Rawe Mag and what have you figured out about its waters that others haven’t yet?
EA: Rawe Mag came along because I actually went to school for Journalism, always hoping to start a magazine. When I started it it was around the time when VIBE folded and I was pretty upset. I was also interning at a local hip-hop magazine here in the Bay and they kind of just let all of us go. I felt kind of defeated because I was putting in a lot of time transcribing interviews done with artists only to get no recognition for it. So I felt it was better to start my own thing. I’m a hip-hop head, so I know the kind of content we’d like, the people who we like, and so that pretty much birthed that within itself.
I also wanted to start it because I feel like, especially in the Bay Area, there’s a lot of really dope artists who are underground who don’t always get the best exposure. I wanted to use Rawe Mag as a platform to give all artists some shine… not just from the Bay Area. I think the biggest things I’ve learned about the Digital Revolution that could help other people is that networking is definitely something you need to do. You should communicate with other bloggers. They help you get exposure. Always build your rapport with the publicists, artists, promoters, sheesh… everyone! Hand out business cards because honestly you never really know who you’ll meet out there in these e-Streets. You never know when someone will send you that exclusive song or interview, press opportunities, anything, so always have a yes mentality.
You can’t take “no” personally. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to speak with someone’s publicist or to an artist and got no response. I know some people would take that as a slap in the face and be really mad about it but you kind of have to look at it as a hurdle and jump over it. Lastly, one of the biggest things I learned is that social networks like Twitter and Facebook are your savior. I use them to promote everything, literally, but I also use them as a way to brand myself. If you’re working at a job and your boss has your Twitter or Facebook, you wouldn’t necessarily write lots of crazy vulgar things on there; you have to use your Twitter like that for your site.
TWV: As a hip-hop head — what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I say Kool Herc?
Let’s see… I mean the scenario is sad. On the flip-side, it’s their money and they [Rick Ross, Diddy, Pharrell] can spend it on what they want. You’d think that they’d spend it on something beneficial though. Kool Herc is definitely a legend so you’d think all rappers, if they could, would try to help him out because without his contributions to hip-hop they really wouldn’t have a career. Even if they didn’t give him a million dollars, if they all contributed a hundred dollars, which is like a penny to them, it’d go a long way in helping out.
Helping with education would also be something you’d think they’d want to help out with or creating some foundation benefiting children. I feel like when you’re an icon, a legend, all this mega-celebrity can be used to help out the people who look up to you as their role model. I know it’s cliche to say, “I’m not trying to be a role model,” but honestly, it’s a huge cop-out to say. Nowadays, children are easily influenced by any and everything. Creating opportunities with after-school programs would help keep a lot of these kids off the streets and growing within their own communities.
It makes me pretty sick when all of us are trying to help other’s out and aren’t even really rich, while people who have hella money would rather spend it on buffoonery. Sure, having some female gyrate on you or flash a titty for a few minutes may be worth it to some, but having Kool Herc in a hospital bed fighting for his life is crazy and not hip-hop at all.
TWV: I saw that you dig The Black Keys too! The Midwest’s own, Akron, Ohio music group has their own style. Is it true that a man with a big “heartland” can woo a Bay Area beauty’s heart?
EA: [Laughs] It could be true. I’m sure there’s a lot of interesting people in Ohio. The Black Keys are so dope — that’s mainly the reason why I wanted to go to Coachella.
TWV: You’re not interested in sacrificing yourself to Lil B at Coachella instead?
EA: Funny you should mention that [laughs]. Lil B and I are from the same area actually and I’ve still never seen him. I think he’s funny… the whole cooking thing. Plus, he’s really odd and for some reason that’s really worked for him. I mess with Lil B, contrary to people’s opinions on him, people are still speaking of him, so I can’t really look down on his hustle [laughs].
TWV: So, if you finally got a chance to see a Lil B show, and your mate/lover sacrificed you to the Based One — how would you react?
EA: I’d be offended. How are you going to sacrifice me?! I’d probably dance in anger because I love music… but that’d be pretty rude [laughs].
TWV: Dancing is just one of the few things the Bay is known for. What is it about there that has so much originality?
EA: I think that the Bay Area is a melting pot. We have so much culture here like the Jazz District in the Fillmore District of San Francisco just for example. All the cultures here, the eclectic people, the energy here really creates this whole originality thing.
TWV: Name three dances in the Bay that should never be done ever again.
EA: Oh, my gosh! The biggest one I could think of is Going Dumb! That was cool during the “hyphy” days, but people, please… if you live in the Bay Area and are reading this… let’s cut that out! Going Dumb is dangerous. I don’t know how many times I’ve almost fallen on dance floors, broke make-up, messed up my hair, all from people doing that, and I really want that to stop. I think people should also stop Turf Dancing. I just don’t like it. Those are like the only two big dances we’ve had here. I’m not trying to partake in any of those activities any longer.
TWV: Last question. Is Tyler Perry qualified to play anyone other than Madea?
EA: No! Well… yes and no. I believe Madea is just not funny at all. To replace Idris Elba, a really good and attractive actor, he just does not fit the part. When I’ve seen Perry in movies he’s over-dramatic. He is just not a convincing actor. It’s really a confusing thing as to how he’s in movies.