With “Mosaic”, rap launches into magazines

After several years covering the rap news via their online media, Lise Lacombe and Thibaud Hue, both journalists, took the plunge and launched the production of a magazine entirely devoted to this genre usually neglected by paper media.

In a quarterly format, which they wanted to be as close to a book as a magazine, they explore the musical milieu of which they are fans through reports, portraits and album reviews.

For their first issue, with a double cover, Prince Waly on side A and BabySolo33 on side B are a showcase for this hybrid object which aims to address several generations, while respecting parity. There is a complete file on deafness and rap with a portrait of Erremsi, rapper born to deaf parents, a report on Moroccan rap or a talk on the place of beatmakers in rap.

At a time when everything is announced, revealed and broadcast online, on social networks, particularly in the rap world, the two founders of the magazine, Lise Lacombe and Thibaud Hue, have agreed to tell us how born this project.

You are embarking on an amazing adventure at the end of 2022. What prompted you to give a chance today to a paper magazine dedicated exclusively to rap?

Lise Lacombe – In reality, the medium has existed since 2020 and when we created it, we already had the idea of ​​making it a magazine. We knew we wanted to do it, but we wanted to gradually settle into the rap landscape and exist a bit before arriving immediately with a magazine. When you start, you have this desire to go back to paper and write long articles, to go a little further. We started via the website and social networks by telling ourselves that, when the opportunity presented itself, we would get started.

Thibaud Hue – In addition, we are very fond of vinyls, merchandise, and we really had the approach of doing what we would have liked to buy: both for the return to the object, to paper, and for the return of a rap magazine. Rap magazines have disappeared, we were in a market where there were only one or two left. There are still some, we are not the only ones still today, but in any case the economy has really disappeared and we said to ourselves that all of this was quite a coherent approach.

Do you have the impression of responding to your desire or to a request from the public?

Thibaud- When we started things this year, it was because we were convinced that there was an audience for it. We are the first concerned by what we do and we felt that we just had to find him, go to meet him.

Afterwards, we launched ourselves a little blind at first, but we thought that there were necessarily hundreds of listeners who were ready to buy it, like us. And it’s true that in addition, we had the feeling of a somewhat empty market and a real shortage. We were asking for that, to buy a magazine with our favorite artists on it.

And this is confirmed by the first returns.

Lisa – We didn’t do any market research, but we knew by knowing this audience that they would be ready to follow us. And we underestimated the expectation: from the first announcements, the reception was positive. Afterwards, of course, we remain a small media with a measured audience, but we were surprised all the same. And even if we are not the first, we may have had an audience that did not have access to this information until now.

Thibaud- On the networks, we noticed it very quickly, since we doubled our number of subscribers on Instagram and on Twitter, people came especially because there was this ad from the magazine. It proves, in fact, that there was a real expectation.

You talk about a somewhat empty market in which you couldn’t necessarily find what you would have liked to read. You had models, younger?

Lisa – We’re too young to have known the classics, RapMag, The Posterbut our inspirations are rather The Fader [revue musicale américaine fondée en 1998, ndlr.], which for us really represents this idea of ​​highlighting people before they explode in a very mainstream way. Our other source was also, on the long format, The Abcdr of sound [magazine en ligne dédié au rap créé en 2000, ndlr.]a medium that we have always followed and which has accustomed us to very long formats.

How did the transition from web to paper come about?

Thibaud- Initially, the entire editorial was on the web, which presented far fewer constraints. When we seriously considered the paper release, we saw it as a business, a commitment to something regular – knowing that we work on the side, we are volunteers. We were incubated last March by Hotel 71, which is based in Lyon. They helped us to realize that it was possible and that by activating certain levers, we could achieve this much more quickly than we would have imagined.

The fact of having a paper quarterly allowed you to affirm editorial choices, to prioritize information by leaving the horizontality of flows.

Lisa – It’s quite satisfying to be able to select. It’s much more engaging and much more interesting to choose topics. Typically, for this first issue, we have a file on rap and deafness, which is not topical in itself but rather represents a theme that lasts over time. As for the reviews, it’s pure news concerning the releases of the last three months: in fact, we can have very different temporalities.

Thibaud- The idea for us is to share what, for the drafting of Mosaic, have been the highlights of the last three months. For us, it’s much more interesting editorially speaking than surfing on releases and focusing on artists who have news. Certainly, it pushes us to make choices, and at the same time, it refines our editorial line and builds the loyalty of a more specific readership.

You present the mag, which is quite long, almost like a book.

Thibaud- We built the mag on our reading habits, whether it’s magazines that are monthly or mooks, much thicker, like America [mook français fondé en 2017, ndlr.]. Mosaic, it’s 116 pages. It’s halfway between a mook, with a very airy layout, and a magazine, a little more classic, that you could find every month, with sections.

For the first issue, you offer a double cover, Prince Waly on one side and BabySolo33 on the other. Is it the idea of ​​two generations confronting each other?

Lisa – We have a very inclusive ambition in the way we approach the media. We knew we wanted to do a double cover with a rapper and a rapper, it happened a bit naturally. In addition, we were very happy, precisely, to highlight the generation represented by Prince Waly, who knew the rap magazines, and on the other hand, people like the audience of BabySolo33, who didn’t never really had this type of object in my hands. So there’s a bit of both in this choice, and then it’s quite simply what we like, what we listen to, what we want people to discover.

They were easy to contact? Open to your approach?

Lisa – BabySolo33, we already knew her, we had already done things with her, so it was quite simple. Prince Waly, it was a bit of a coincidence: we posted an update on him on our account and he replied. Prince Waly is certainly the most accessible person in this environment, he is extremely friendly and he immediately told us that he was ready.

Thibaud- In any case, they trusted us because it’s true that we had nothing to offer them apart from a few images, a few ideas, but they saw that we had a serious approach.

Your desire to write (and read) long papers and slightly detailed reports led to your way of structuring the magazine?

Lisa – Yes, we compared the way we made the magazine to an object: like a book, you’ll put it down, you’ll pick it up, read it several times. For the cover, it was like a vinyl, we wanted both sides, side A and side B. Afterwards, we also tried to adapt to the evolution of the way we appropriate a magazine. The readership is different, so we wanted to create airy things as well. I’m thinking of indoor games, participatory pages, so that visually too, it breathes.

You oscillate between magazine and book; do you imagine yourself in kiosks or is it contradictory with your vision?

Lisa – Regardless of how one perceives it, the process of selling at newsstands is quite complicated. And apart from these technical constraints (particularly the quantity to be produced, the management of unsold items), our audience is not really an audience that goes to newsstands. This is also why we are in partnership with the hip-hop cultural center La Place in Paris. [au Forum des Halles, ndlr.], because our magazine will be sold there at targeted events. Our audience is there. It’s more of a bookstore object than a kiosk. Hybrid anyway.

You will have a double face to each number?

Thibaud- Yes of course. A man and a woman each time.

Lisa – The mag is inclusive on social networks, we have a playlist dedicated to female rappers. We have been involved in this subject for a long time, at least with the media.

In parallel with this inclusiveness, you communicate on ecology. Is that a question you had in mind from the start?

Thibaud- We didn’t really have the feeling that we were expected on this question, but what is certain is that we saw that some readers were sensitive to that. We had it in mind, because indeed, it’s fine to go back to paper, but insofar as we have the means to do it well, going all the way and taking into taking into account this question of ecology, vegetable ink, it is difficult to do otherwise. We studied the question and we saw that it was economically accessible to us, so we didn’t hesitate.

What’s next for Mosaic ?

Thibaud- We’re posting all the magazines we’ve received and, starting next week, we’re starting to think about number two, which will be out around mid-March. We already have 400 people who have come forward for the 2e copy. That’s the balance sheet, reassuring: people read!

Mosaic is available here and at the cultural center The placein Paris.

Interview by Sophie Miliotis.


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