Over twenty years ago, a new Hip Hop magazine arrived on the landscape. Unlike other popular publications emerging during the same era, Murder Dog separated itself by not just focusing on the big named stars, but also highlighting the lesser known underground/local talent generating buzz at the time.
Raw is the best way to describe the general aesthetic of Murder Dog. The Bay Area magazine was an unyielding representation of Hip Hop from a street view. Non-commercial rap representatives - such as E-40, Mac Dre, Yukmouth, and Soulja Slim - were usually regulated to the back pages of other rap periodicals, but those unheralded entertainers were the focal point for Murder Dog readers by appearing on the front cover.
The Sri Lankan born founder of Murder Dog is just as unconventional as his magazine. Despite putting out a highly influential product which featured Q&A's with Hip Hop heavyweights like Ice Cube, Lil Wayne, and Young Jeezy, the world still only knows the man behind the brand as Black Dog Bone.
It's not even clear exactly what year Black Dog Bone was born. Some of the only information about Bone's biography that has made its way to the public sphere is he was once a student at The Art Institute of California – San Francisco, he identifies himself as a photographer, and he is a longtime fan of Hip Hop culture.
The 25th year of Murder Dog is approaching. But before Black Dog Bone celebrates his silver anniversary, the former punk band member is reflecting back on his magazine's legacy with two new books. Bone connected with co-editor Paul Stewart to release Murder Dog The Interviews Vol. 1 and Murder Dog The Covers Vol. 1 through Over The Edge Books.
The Murder Dog/Over The Edge partnership is collaborating to produce future works covering Tech N9ne, The Jacka, Master P, and Hip Hop producers. Books on the rap scenes of the Bay Area, Detroit, Atlanta, and Memphis are in the pipeline as well.
AllHipHop.com was able to interview Black Dog Bone via email to get his thoughts on the Murder Dog book collections. The well-traveled CEO also addressed some of his favorite interviews, modern Hip Hop media, and his plan to shine a light on rap artists from the African continent.
How did the relationship between Over The Edge and Murder Dog start?
It was through Matt Sonzala, who was one of our main writers. I did an interview with Red Bull Music, and Paul Stewart read it. Paul got a hold of Matt Sonzala and asked him to connect him to me. And that’s how we got connected.
What inspired you to put these books together?
We've been publishing Murder Dog for 24 years, and we have thousands and thousands of interviews and photos. Some of the artists that we have in Murder Dog, no one has ever done interviews or done photos of.
When we do an article - say like about Jackson, Mississippi Hip Hop - we are not just doing the artists that are popular now. I'm more of an investigative reporter. Before I do the article, I talk to everyone in that town and find out how it all started, who were the pioneers, how did the Jackson, Mississippi sound evolve, talk to the producers, go to the independent record stores, connect with all the independent record labels, go to the clubs.
I mean we cover everything, and what we did no one has done. We have photos and interviews of artists who are locked up or got killed, artists that started Hip Hop in their town and had a big influence on the other rappers from that area, but they have never been interviewed in any other magazine.
And there is a big demand for back issues of Murder Dog. Some of the back issues go for like $150 to $200, and most of our back issues are getting sold out. We get people asking for Murder Dog from India or Norway or Japan or Mexico. I mean from everywhere.
We always wanted to put out Murder Dog books. When Paul Stewart contacted us from Over The Edge publishing to do the books, we were more than happy. We knew what Paul was doing and what Paul has done at Over The Edge and also with Delicious Vinyl.
What do you hope readers take away from reading the Murder Dog books?
I really don't know what they would take away, but I hope it'll inspire them to do what they want to do. We always like to highlight the art, the creative aspect of rap music and culture.
Were there any particular artist interviews that stood out for you as you reflected back on over two decades of being in business?
There are so many! Some of the best interviews were with underground artists like Soulja Slim, Thugged Out, C-Bo, The Jacka, Esham, DJ Screw, Ap.9, Keak Da Sneak, Brother Lynch Hung, Messy Marv, Yukmouth, Mac Dre, X-Raided, Freddie Gibbs, Dayton Family, Project Pat, Telly Mac, Pastor Troy, Beeda Weeda, Ax Murder Boyz, Matty Wack, and Dem Hoodstarz.
But we had many good interviews with known artists like Wiz Khalifa, Scarface, K’naan, Ice Cube, Waka Flocka Flame, Master P, Notorious B.I.G, Too Short, C-Murder, Ice-T, Rye Rye, Fugees, Lil Wayne, Insane Clown Posse, Snoop Dogg, Ol Dirty Bastard, Santigold, Jay Z, Pusha T, Geto Boys, Trick Daddy, 2 Chainz, UGK, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, Tech N9ne, Mobb Deep, Yelawolf, Salem, DJ Diplo, Wale, Three 6 Mafia, and E-40.
I mean there has been so many and we have done them all. I especially love when an artist talks about their feelings and what they're thinking about, what inspires them to rap.
Murder Dog is known for having kind of a non-traditional, non-corporate approach. Was it ever difficult working with major labels when it came to getting access to their artists?
It was never a problem to get whoever we wanted, because Murder Dog was really popular in the streets and the people at the major labels knew that. We were the most hardcore, gangster, street magazine, and they all wanted to be in Murder Dog.
Another thing that happened was the rappers themselves loved Murder Dog. They would tell their record label that they wanted to be in Murder Dog, so the major labels would call us up to get articles for their artists.
But with us it was another story. When major labels wanted a story in Murder Dog, we would say we would only cover their artist if we get ads, because we didn't really care to have major label artists. We were good as we were just covering underground artists that we really liked. We sold out every time. We couldn’t keep up with it.
We would say we wanted two or three ads, and the major labels would put ads. And they were paying like $3200 to $3600 each ad. We were in big demand. The major labels could see the artists that were big at that time like Master P, Cash Money Records, or Suave House had like 6 to 7 ads in every Murder Dog.
Another thing is even from our very first issue, we had major label artists. Artists like Wu-Tang Clan, Fugees, Onyx, and a lot more major label artists were even in our very first issue.
What are your thoughts about the state of Hip Hop media today?
When we first started Murder Dog, there was not much Hip Hop media, only a few Hip Hop magazines. There was Rap Pages, Rap Sheet, and The Source. That was it and a few independent magazines.
But now there are so many websites and blogs that cover Hip Hop. It's not exciting right now. There is so much information out there on the internet, it's overwhelming. It zeros everything out.
I hardly ever read Hip Hop magazines then, and I never read anything about Hip Hop now either. At least not the Hip Hop happening here [in America]. I read about what is going on in Africa or other parts of the world, because there is so much interesting Hip Hop out there, some very creative music. And most of it is all independent.
What advice would you give to a young person interested in getting involved in the media business?
What you want, you can make it happen, but you can't tell the same story that everyone is telling. You have to tell your own story. To be a writer, there is no one right way. You have to just do it, you have to give it your all, you have to give 100%, and it’ll happen. It's nothing really.
What I know from running Murder Dog is if you're a fan of the music, you will do good. Everyone that did interviews for Murder Dog were fans of the music. They were people who were like 17 or 18 years old and were fans of Murder Dog magazine and Hip Hop.
They were not people who had gone to school and got a degree in journalism. I found that the people who had degrees were not creative or interesting. They all did the same thing, but the ones that were fans of Hip Hop were the best. All of our writers were like that, people who never had any degrees in journalism. And each one had their own voice. They were all unique and different.
What else do you and the Murder Dog brand have planned for the near future?
We have so much going on at Murder Dog right now. We are not doing too much here in America, we have done all we wanted to do here. The music that is happening here right now I'm not too excited about, and there is so much of it on the Internet. We are oversaturated with information. I find music that is obscure to be more interesting and exciting.
What I'm doing now is focusing on Hip Hop that's going on in other countries. Last year I went to Uganda, and I was living there. I got back only this year. I pretty much interviewed all the artists in Uganda from the biggest artists to the most underground. I traveled everywhere from the north to the east and west. I did thousands of photos and many videos too.
While I was there, I got a lot of Hip Hop artists to do songs for me. I got the beats sent from here. I’m doing it with DLK Entertainment. We recorded like 15 songs with like 30 different rappers, and now I’m going to get some artists from here to do a verse on each song. It’s like a collaborative project of Ugandan Hip Hop artists and artists from the United States.
I'm working on a book and a CD on Ugandan rap, and we are going to have videos and a website too. While I was there, I traveled to Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. There is so much exciting music happening in Africa. When I’m done with what I’m doing now, I’m going to go back again. There is also a lot of unique music happening in the Congo, Nigeria, Senegal, and Ghana, pretty much everywhere in Africa.
Also, I'm working with these real radical, tribal, Hip Hop artists from Jinja, Uganda. They’re called Black Race. They’re like nothing you ever heard of. In the group there is like 20 to 30 people, aged from 17 to 26. I’m helping them to get a recording studio down there, and we are doing many other projects.
Purchase Murder Dog The Interviews Vol. 1 on Amazon.
Purchase Murder Dog The Covers Vol. 1 on Amazon.
Watch the Murder Dog book trailer below.
All photos courtesy of Supreme Republic Entertainment