Saturday, January 9, 2010

My bio (laid back version)

Kevin Benoit...
I started Parlé when I was 17 years old in my first year of college. The only real print media experience I had was from starting my own high school newspaper and the summer after h.s. graduation I interned with a startup magazine basically helping him get contacts and try to get the publication off the ground. That magazine never launched.

I was in school for legal studies and never intended for a career in media, but while at John Jay I was getting a financial aid refund check every month I was in school. It was a good look, but I was spending the money without a care. After I’d spent the first few checks I stopped myself and told myself that I need to invest it in something that would impact my future once I was out of college. I was sitting in English class one day in early April 2004 and it all came together in that hour. I came up with the name, the concept, the slogan (not your average) and all I had to do was figure out how much it would cost.

By May 4, 2004 my first issue was out on the streets. A lot of the contacts I had found while I was interning for that other publication turned out to be the contacts for most of the features early on, and a lot of those same people are still in touch with me. Even though I had the refund check I had to have my girlfriend at the time, put the cost of the issue on her credit card. I think I gave her a couple hundred but she paid for a majority of it.

When I first started I had no idea what I was doing. I used to cut and paste my articles onto a sheet of paper because I didn’t know what photoshop was or how to graphic design. I didn’t have a camera or photographer so the companies had to provide everything. It was just a really big learning process for me. I’m still learning. I believe that you shouldn’t think too long or hard about things though, if you want to do it, just do it!!! Make mistakes, learn from them but keep doing. I know people who were talking about starting something around the same time I started Parlé…and their still talking. All that talking is for losers!

I just turned 23 in 2010, and I've been doing the mag almost 6 years. Not quite where I wanted to after 5+ years, but its here, and I’m not stopping until I am where I want to be, and even then…can’t stop, wont stop.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My apologies

I'm sorry for being so neglectful towards the blog, things are just sooo busy right now with the magazine. If you follow the blog and look forward to my posts please check out the website as it has been getting most of my attention and will get a majority of my posts.
Thank you
-Kevin Benoit

Annual Parlé State of Affairs Address

Every year around this time I do the annual Parlé address on the state of things with the magazine, the poetry tour and my life hoping to give people some insight on things. This year the address is slightly different, but just as important. I'd like ot think you can get something from it.

Anyone who knows me personally, I mean really knows me, knows I have a tendency to be quite weird. While everyone approaches a new year with positivity and with a fresh outlook, the first thing I think about when New Years comes around is 'whether this will be the year I die.' I constantly remind myself that the next day isn't promised, that old age isn't to be automatically expected. That might not be the best approach for everyone but for me its what keeps me going even when I may want to quit.

This year death got closer and closer to home, though it decided to skip our door once again. I still saw a lot of people pass and saw people get sick that may not recover. It's a sad world like that and any day it may be my turn, but everyday I ask myself what I'm doing to impact the world before it is my turn.

Every year I do this hoping that maybe a few people will be impacted and motivated to do something. Most of the time you never get a chance to realize who you impact, but in the last week alone I spoke to someone in prison that found Parlé and became inspired, and I also spoke to a magazine editor out in CANADA that read my address last year and used that as inspiration to create their own. It doesn't take much to make me happy, and those 2 things were more than enough to make the end to my year spectacular.

This Parlé grind has been good this year. Issues dropped on time, changed the look, got a few ads, visited a few states, met some nice people, made some new friends. I'm STILL not where I want to be, but I'm progressing everyday. Hopefully I'm making the people around me better too. Opening up doors for them that they didn't know were possible, showing the fam the potential, showing my team that the grind is all worth it. At the end of the day I don't do this for me, I do it for all those people around me, those I can see and touch on every given day as well as those I haven't met yet but may know of me or might get to know me. It's true, life is short, and we are small specs in the overall of things but our impact and our ability to reach grows a lot further than we could ever imagine and ever see. May I impact you and may you take that and impact as many people as you possibly can.

-Kevin Benoit

2009's highlights
~Went from printing a total black and white issue in Jan/Feb on newsprint to save money to printing 2 issues in full color on magazine quality paper by December

~Parlé celebrated its 5th Anniversary in May of this year

~Interviewed Birdman in Miami, best weekend in Parlé history

~The Parlé Poetry Tour expanded its reach to several new states including California, Michigan, and Texas

~Returning to HarlemLIVE, though briefly happy to have gone full circle

~Launched Parlé's Females of Poetry Tour, a 3 year goal finally achieved

~Interviewed R. Kelly and got him on a cover

~Launching the website

In 2010 I'm going to interview Diddy, you can tell him I said it

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Thinking Mans Guide to the Failures of the Urban Music Scene Pt. 2

This music thing is actually a lot simpler than it seems for the people who think about it from the business prospective. That’s why I know the people behind the desks are fine with urban music reaching it’s inevitable demise. Here are some of the reasons urban music is dying and just some of the things that can be done to save it.

1. The most obvious answer is for the channels that were dedicated to playing music to go back to playing music! MTV, BET, and VH1 were all created to promote artists and promote music. Now they promote reality shows and garbage. Serve your purpose, please!

2. The most necessary change is the least likely. Regardless of what you want to believe, ipods created this problem. Five years ago, sure people were downloading music, but they were doing it to create mix CD’s. when ipods became a necessity in every person’s daily life, downloading became necessary instead of just an option. If you never need a CD then you can get all your music from the damn computer and pay for it only if you want to be nice. It’s obvious and everyone knows it. Without ipods we would still need CDs! But the solution doesn’t involve the complete destruction of ipods, that would be stupid, it just demands more use of technology. CDs can be watermarked, which means they cannot be played in a computer and therefore they cannot be downloaded. It can be done because every time I get an album in advance from a record label it is watermarked so I can’t make bootleg copies before it is released. It may cost more money to produce but it would make CDs a necessity again and it would bring money back into the industry. Imagine if the new Jay album dropped without the possibility of a leak because everyone who had it on CD couldn’t burn it and put it in their itunes. Sure they wouldn’t be able to play it on their ipod but they could get the singles online if they really wanted it. Smarten up!

3. Anyone remember back when half the videos you saw had movie clips through them? It was because they were on the soundtrack for some movie. When was the last time you saw something like that. Now, undoubtedly there aren’t as much movies with African American casts but we need to get in where we fit in and need to get these soundtracks going. The movie companies and the labels need to get a partnership back up. That gives the artist and the movie double promotion. It worked so well years ago, where did we go wrong?

4. Artists need to come into the game with a crew. A team that will hold you down and keep your buzz up, not hold you back. Every artist who does it properly succeeds, from Jay to Nas to Nelly to 50 and even more recently with Young Jeezy and DJ Khaled. All these new artists are out here looking lonely and scared. The fewer moves you make, the easier it is to be forgotten when you are quiet.

5. Now this one might sound stupid, but ain’t nothing wrong with a good old fashioned hip-hop beef if it is done properly. Just attacking everyone in your path is ridiculous…what Charles Hamilton as a new artist with no real industry co-sign was simply silly, you don’t want to make enemies before you even have built your buzz, you just want to make it known that you are better than the next man lyrically. It keeps your name in the press and if your diss record is good enough you might end someone’s career and cement a legacy. It’s a business, challenge the competition but play it smart.

Those are just the basics. If you want a more detailed list we can sit down for lunch and talk tactics. I wish I had a record label, it would be the truth, believe that!!!

A Thinking Mans Guide to the Failures of the Urban Music Scene Pt. 1

For the last five, six years or so music and entertainment have become a major part of my life. There was so much excitement when I stepped into the business, eager to get those interviews with the hottest celebs and to just learn more about the art. Now the excitement has all but fizzled. Urban entertainment and music appears to be a dying cause and I’m left carrying a magazine I can only hope will be able to hold on until things get better.

It took a while for me to understand why people were all over Jay-z these last few years. It’s true he represents the golden era of hip-hop and yes he is one of the best to ever do it, but that was never enough for me. I’ve made it my duty to go out and get every Jay-z album and certainly there is no doubt that the man makes hits, I just don’t think those hits always result in hit/classic albums. Bigger than that I am honest with my music and Jay has been in a decline. His music is not nearly where it used to be. Still it seems that any bad talk about Jay automatically makes you a hater. All that said, I finally realize that Jay-z is probably the last hip-hop artist to garner attention the way he does, and most certainly the last to move an audience at this rate. People like Lil’ Wayne and T.I. can move the units but I doubt they’ll ever be able to look back at a career as illustrious as Hov’s. That’s quite unfortunate for music.

The way it looks, hip-hop and urban music is just a few short years away from becoming an old man’s tale that we’ll tell our children. With the way music is going and CD sales are plummeting I seriously doubt artists will put out albums at all in the next two to three years. It just wont be necessary. I know people who haven’t brought an album in the last 5 years, but have every track on their favorite albums. You probably know people who haven’t brought albums in longer! Record labels are losing faith and losing money and they won’t stand for it too much longer.

All the while, people like me who live off the business have to watch in hopes that this last of the dying breed provides some sort of breath of air for the game.

Parlé has had its share of ups and downs, but never because the pool of talent wasn’t available…not until now at least. I sit around flipping through cover concepts in my head and not one makes sense in the long run. Even the ones I eventually run are questionable. Then we get people like Kanye West who actually have a position in the upper echelon of entertainment and he decides he wants to make a fool of himself every chance he gets.

Music and urban entertainment needs a savior, but unfortunately its not going to happen. We’re so far gone that there is no bringing us back. Sadly, people like me who have invested so much into this life have almost no choice but to sit around and watch it crumble…and because we love it so much we’re too stubborn to jump shit before it goes all the way down.

Friday, September 11, 2009

...lonely living

When I was 15 years old I had my first “semi” serious relationship. Six to eight months into it I found out the girl was cheating on me. Three days later I was in another relationship, with just as much invested in it. I stayed with her for a year and a half or so until it just felt like it had run its course. We broke up on Monday and I was locked into another situation by Friday. I think it was then that I realized I had a problem.

My problem is shared by millions of people across the globe, but everyone has a different way of handling it. My problem? A fear of being alone. I like company, preferably a female “like” interest. Early on that “like” interest would quickly become “the love of my life” and we’d be in a relationship for the title and the benefits. It seems a lot of people , more women from what I see, are fine with that solution to the problem, but personally that solution has come to disgust me, so much so that these days I prefer to be the complete opposite.

Believe me, I still like company—preferably a female like interest—but a relationship takes building up to. I’m 22 and have already had 2 very serious relationships along with a handful of meaningful situations. They have all taught me a lot, but above all have taught me patience, especially when dealing with the opposite sex. I’m so patient that I’ve already made the decision that I need to be with a woman at least 7 long years before we get married. And I take the 7-year plan quite seriously. With that said I feel like if I’m looking at a 7-year journey towards a strong future, I can wait as long as I want before I’m locked into a relationship. If we are going to work I don’t see why six months, nine months or even a year is too long of a trial period before a relationship. Sure it may be prolonging the inevitable, but I might also save us many months of unhappiness.

I’ve learned to cope with m problem, women on the other hand haven’t been so receptive to my solution. I’m still a work in progress, I have yet to be perfected, but one day I hope to be.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Life isn’t all about side kicks, video games and myspace…or is it?

For the past 11 months, I’ve worked with teens in a couple of very hands on positions. Over that period of time I learned so much about myself and about people, and though I will continue to learn, this piece of life helped me understand just where I stand in the world.

I first worked as a mentor and a motivator of teens in a high school after school program for about 9 months. Then immediately after I was an assistant coordinator and editor of content for an online teen news magazine.

I can’t say I knew what to expect when I started looking for jobs that involved working with teens. My degree is in legal studies but my background in writing is what led me to young adults. I figure I have something valuable I can teach them and the fact that I’m considerably young myself, it might be a lot easier to get the message across.

Once working with teens in any capacity, it doesn’t take long to realize how much they are being short changed by the system. They say in life you get what you pay for, so I guess it makes sense that the free public education these students are receiving is serving up the least amount of education legally possible. It’s so bad, I’d like to get a civil class action negligence case against the mayor and the entire education system. I’ll save the exact problems for another entry, but what puzzled me most was that none of the young teens seemed to recognize the issues. I met more young adults in the last 11 months who don’t know how to read and write on at least a 9th grade level than I think I’ve ever met in my life. The number of people who couldn’t write a proper complete sentence, much less a complete paragraph was quite astonishing. So I quickly began to understand why they didn’t want to write. And who wants to read when you don’t know what half the words mean. Maybe its always been this bad and I was just one of the lucky few to make the best of it, but I feel like its gotten much worse.

These young adults are faced with more problems than they could ever comprehend at such a young age, but they have found ways to cope with their issues. For the boys, games serve as the perfect escape from the world. There is a new video game every week to take your mind off the fact that you can’t write in script and by the time you realize you can’t sign your own working papers the good folks at Nintendo or Sony introduce a completely new system. For the girls, it's sidekicks, smart phones, youtube, and meebo to distract them from the fact that they can’t spell Tuesday or Wednesday, considering electronically all you need is T-day or W-day to get by. I honestly believe some of these kids wouldn’t be able to spell their own names if they didn’t have it memorized from seeing it so much.

For most of the last 10 years I’ve been told that other people aren’t like me and that I can’t expect people to be as motivated as me or as advanced as I was. It never made sense to me until recently. Most people are content with themselves and rather be oblivious to their setbacks. Ignorance is truly bliss. After learning all this, ironically, I’m not even mad any more. Yes, they are going to get older and will be forced to deal with grown situations sooner than they can imagine, but that’s just it…they shouldn’t have to deal with anything more than the next video game or puppy love in these early teen years. It’s our job as responsible adults to try to teach them through everyday life, but these children are exposed to way too many things beyond their years already anyway, no need to rush them anymore. I intend on trying to make young adults more progressive and hopefully I can help some more students write a complete sentence, work on their spelling and even write in script but I can't expect them to understand how far behind they actually are. They shouldn't be held responsible for other people's short comings, it just not fair.

SO next time you see some child enjoying their childhood…let them be, because for them, at that age, life is really all about video games and myspace.