Soren Baker is a literary mastermind. The Hip-Hop scribe -- who has documented the culture ever since the 90’s -- has penned features for publications such as The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Rolling Stone and The Source. Aside from his journalism accolades, he also authored an encyclopedia in 2006 called "The Music Library: The History of Rap and Hip-Hop," and wrote, produced and co-directed films for MCs like Tech N9ne and Chingy.
But now, the California-based dynamo is taking his personal experiences and turning them into a book series cleverly entitled “I’m The White Guy.”
“I accumulated hundreds and hundreds of photos with different rappers, so people told me I should write a book about my experiences. Juicy J and DJ Paul from Three Six Mafia said that I was like the dude from the movie Almost Famous, except (they said), ‘You’re the rap version.’ So I had it stuck in my brain that I had to write some sort of book,” Baker says. “Instead of doing a normal autobiography, I could tell my story also through pictures and that would show people that I’ve really been interviewing and doing stuff with a lot of these big rappers.”
The Tech N9ne Edition
The first installment of the series focuses on Tech N9ne, one of the most talented urban music artists in the industry whom Baker has had an extensive working relationship and friendship with since 2001.
Over the past ten years, Baker witnesses firsthand the Midwestern rapper’s struggling rise to stardom. Tech N9ne was an underground artist with a distinct look and musical style that true hip-hop heads gravitated towards. But despite having indie success and an original identity -- both with his music and appearance – the MC was shunned by the mainstream and often felt like an outsider.
Baker, however, never shunned Tech N9ne. In fact, he became one of his biggest allies. For starters, the journalist gave the urban music artist some sound advice on how to better promote himself and his merchandise in interviews. Also, would sell the Midwestern MC music for his upcoming albums and write, produce and co-direct “The Psychumentary” -- a documentary focusing entirely on the rapper.
The biggest thing I learned from Tech is not to compromise who you are or what you wanna do.
Now, in present day 2011, Tech N9ne is a made man. He is the CEO of his own independent label Strange Music, has a roster of talented like-minded artists and is finally getting love from those mainstream outlets that once neglected him. It’s a good thing too because he just unveiled his new studio album “All 6’s and 7’s,” which could very well be one of the best hip-hop albums of the year.
By watching Tech N9ne so closely, Baker gained a valuable lesson. “The biggest thing I learned from Tech is not to compromise who you are or what you wanna do. It may take a little longer to become truly successful and do exactly what you want to do, but you can do it and he’s a testament to that because people were telling him, ‘No,’ or telling him what to do to fit in, and the biggest irony now is people wanna sign to his label,” Baker explains.
"The road wasn’t as direct or as smooth or as easy as Tech N9ne would have liked, but ultimately, he is the winner because he is doing things on his terms and he is successful."
Now that Tech N9ne is successful, the heavyweights of the rap game want to collaborate with him. "When you have people like Lil’ Wayne going on radio stations unsolicited saying they wanna work with Tech N9ne or want Tech N9ne on their song or album, that just lets ya know what he’s been doing since the mid-1990s has paid off and paid off very handsomely. That’s something I admire about him and something I learned about him and try to apply to my own life and my own career.”
The White Minority
Similar to Tech N9ne, Baker too has felt like an outsider to the Hip-Hop culture. As the title of his book states, “I’m The White Guy,” the journalist is a Caucasian and traditionally, Caucasians have been a minority in this particular genre’s industry.
I never wanted someone to legitimately be able to say, ‘He didn’t have any clue what he was talking about.’
As a result, Baker had to work twice as hard to prove that he belonged. “I always had to show I knew above and beyond what most people knew and I was very serious about what I did and always tried to have as much knowledge infused in my writing as possible so somebody couldn’t say I didn’t know what I was talking about,” Baker says.
“They could say they didn’t agree with my opinion if I wrote a review or something, but I never wanted someone to legitimately be able to say, ‘He didn’t have any clue what he was talking about.’ So I always tried to infuse history, perspective and references [to show] that I know what I’m talking about. [Hip-Hop] is more than something I write about it. It’s a real passion and something I am intimately involved with and intimately passionate about.”
While “I’m The White Guy: The Tech N9ne Edition” is the official launching pad of the book series, there are other installments planned. Future editions could include MCs such as Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and Chingy. Although there is no definitive date as to when those books will be available, it will indeed coincide with a release of the respective artist’s upcoming project.
At the end of the day, Baker is living life on his own terms –- just like his buddy Tech N9ne.
You can read all about the duo’s adventures in "I’m The White Guy: The Tech N9ne Edition," which is available on Amazon.com.
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