INTERVIEW: Andrew Barber, creator of Chicago-focused blog FakeShoreDrive and Redbull Sound Select curator, talks about his come-up, and shares legendary moments with Chance The Rapper, G Herbo and Twista.
If you're an up-and-coming rapper from Chicago, your first goal in your come-up is to get the support of FakeShoreDrive. You may vie for national coverage quickly after that, but any artist from the Chi that's made it onto the mainstream rap scene, or better yet, into the pop stratosphere, has first graced FSD's pages, likely before anyone else's Internet pages. You know the artists I'm referring to, Chief Keef, Chance the Rapper, G Herbo, Lil Bibby, the list goes on. While each of these artists has since gained national exposure, if it weren't for the initial push and by extension, co-sign, from Andrew Barber, FSD's creator, we may not be as familiar with them as we are today. Locally, he seems to be a bit of a celebrity. When I stopped by Portage Theatre to interview him before the Big Tymers reunion and 10-year anniversary event for FSD, we were interrupted many a time, whether it was Tee Grizzley, someone offering their congratulations and a beautifully embroidered, custom-made leather FSD jacket, or else, someone trying to finagle last minute passes to the show-- it seems like everyone knows who he is in the Chi, and knows his value.
In case you are not yet familiar though, read our interview about the creation of his blog, with tips from an insider, and much more, below.
Please note, the interview has been edited down for clarity's sake.
HNHH: This is crazy, is this like bigger than any birthday party you've had personally?
Andrew Barber: Ah for sure, I’ve never had anything like this, ever.
Yeah, like I walked in, I wasn’t even expecting…It already looks sick and they haven’t even finished setting shit up.
I wanna start at the beginning, and I feel like, I’ve just read a bunch of interviews recently and I listened to the whole No Jumper podcast, and so I’m sorry if some of this stuff is gunna be repetitive for you to answer.
Thank you, no it’s all good, it’s all good.
Basically, it’s been 10 years. What inspired it…[*interruptions from people congratulating Andrew Barber, coming up to shake his hand* a common occurrence during our interview]
Alright go ahead.
Yeah so just tell me what inspired the creation of FakeShoreDrive, and how did you start it, the first iteration of FakeShoreDrive, what platform were you using?
Man, when I started it, it was Blogspot.
Everything was blogspot.
Everything was blogspot — I literally started it from my living room, I had no money, I didn’t know anything about buying a domain name or anything like that, I just saw that everyone was kinda using .blogspot.com and I knew it was a free thing, and you could literally start it and call it whatever you wanted, right, people were just coming up with ridiculous names just to secure the blogspots so, FakeShoreDrive just popped up in my head.
It was really just a play on words, know what I mean, we just wanted to do something different and make it memorable. So that whole thing has been a gift and a curse [*more interruptions from people who know Barber*] Sorry man, my bad.
Can you describe the blog scene at the time you started FakeShoreDrive versus what the blog scene is like today, any comparisons or contrast.
Yeah, it was um, ten years ago, it was like only a few blogs around. I think about five years ago it started to get really saturated because people saw it as a point of entry, at the time when I first started, it wasn’t necessarily a cool thing to do, it was kinda like, who is this computer dork, who is this nerdy internet writer guy? But then I think a lot of people saw it as a come-up, so a lot of people who may not have been that invested in the culture or the genre were just getting in it, like, maybe they didn’t have a love for it how other people in that first generation did, they just saw it as a come-up or a way to get notoriety, because people were starting to build twitter personas and social media personas and things of that nature. So I think that early wave were people who were knowledgeable and knew what was going on and knew everything that was happening, I think that was something that happened early.
But how important was writing to you, I mean, like you could be a ‘blogger,’ and not necessarily be a great writer.
Right, cause I wasn’t a writer.
But, I mean, you don’t have to be a ‘writer’ to still enjoy writing and be able to put words together, was that something you liked to do, or it just came second [with the blog]?
I was reading, there were so many other blogs and things coming up around that time, and I was like, man, these people are not necessarily more knowledgeable about it than I am, and they’re getting popular, a lot of people are reading these, and I’m like I know what they’re talking about—
But you still have a way with words.
Well it took some time, I guess, I was naturally good at it, but I certainly wasn’t pursuing it, I took a couple of journalism classes in college but it wasn’t my major.
Yeah, what was?
Management— like public management. I was like at a school of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University.
So you did get a degree, like a bachelor’s?
I did yeah, and I had a minor in Music. I always had a heavy interest in music, and I took enough music classes that I was able to get a minor in it.
What does a minor in Music entail?
Everything, I was taking like, History of Hip-Hop, History of the Beatles, History of Rock n Roll, History of Jazz.
That’s why you’re so knowledgeable?
It wasn’t necessarily — I took one hip-hop class, and I got like 100% in it.
Whatever you learned in school is one thing, but just learning everything that you know— how did you get all that knowledge?
I think maybe part of the success was that I was the ultimate consumer — so I just grew up as a fan, and I would read every Source magazine that came out, every XXL magazine that came out, I would watch Rap City every day, I would watch MTV Raps every day, so I knew…In order to sit at the table with the hip-hop kids at school, like you had to know. Like you could just be a casual fan, but you wouldn’t be accepted by the hip-hop heads. To sit with them, especially as a white guy, you had to know extra more— you had to prove yourself. So I just immersed myself in it and studied, and read those magazines front to back, and watch the shows, the whole thing, it was crazy.
And in terms of FakeShoreDrive’s come-up, you just started it, was it just a place for you to post songs you liked personally, but then like, what were next the steps, like, ‘now I wanna do an interview with an artist I like.’
Well, I knew it would have to grow, you can just post songs but people are only so engaged, so what kind of content are you gunna give them? At the time it was expensive to get a camera and edit, and I didn’t know how to do any of that stuff— video wasn’t the thing yet, it was still written, right, so I was writing everything down, and I thought it was good for posterity— some of the things I liked were the interviews with people and reading all about them and this and that, so that’s what I was doing.
How were you able to make it profitable so you were able to quit your day job, and how far along into it did you quit?
I quit my day job about six years ago. So I was working, doing advertising sales, doing that during the day.
So for four years—
For four years I did it and made almost no money, I did it for basically free. I mean, I made a couple hundred bucks here and there but it certainly wasn’t anything I was making a second living off. But it was more the opportunities I was starting to miss. Like MTV, or somebody in New York would call me, like, 'hey I need you to come to New York,' or 'can you come here and do this,' 'this artist is in town and wants to link up with you and do an interview,' and I’m like, 'no I can’t, I gotta work.' And that looked bad. My wife now, who was my girlfriend at the time, she was like, you gotta quit. She was like we don’t have kids now, we’re not married, she was like if you don’t do this and take this leap now, you’re never gunna do it. So everybody was tryna talk me out of it, she was the one that really pushed me to do it.
Now you have so many [roles], I wanted to ask you about all the roles that you have and what’s your favourite aspect, I don’t know what you do exactly with the Grammys, and Redbull, which sounds super cool, and now Apple Music, what is your favourite aspect?
I think to me, it’s still meeting new people — meeting somebody like you who shares a common love of hip-hop, and just getting to be able to touch people. Now it’s kinda weird, I’ve become like an OG —
Like a celebrity, low-key…
No, no not at all — but like, I’m like an OG now, so people are like, 'dude I looked up to you when I was coming up,' and, 'when I was in high school or I was in middle school I used to read FakeShoreDrive,' and, 'you inspired me to wanna get into this,' or to wanna rap or to wanna write or to start a blog. So that was like really cool, to me, and it’s still cool to me when people tell me that so I love it.
What’s the most important skillset, that you’ve developed over the years, to have in the music industry in general? Like, a skillset, or a personality trait, something that is important for someone who wants to work in the industry?
Umm, it’s not just one thing, it’s a number of things. It’s being present, you gotta be there. It’s being knowledgeable, being trustworthy, and being reliable, you know what I mean, you need to be somebody that people can rely on and trust, because you're building trust. You have to build an audience. And we know that audiences are super fickle, they like something one day, the next they don’t like it. So how can you keep your audience happy, but also go with your gut and do what you like. Because if you’re doing stuff that you don’t like, what’s the point? You don’t wanna make it ‘work.’ That’s always been my thing, like, this is not work to me— I mean, this is work, but I love doing it, so I’m gunna do whatever I have to do to keep it going.
Just working with Redbull specifically, how did that happen, and when did that relationship start, and what’s it like? I feel like, not just with you, but with artists in general, they let them maintain so much creative control, it seems like their whole thing is letting the artist do their thing.
Yeah, I mean, they’re the greatest. They came to me about Sound Select before it even started it, like five years ago.
Ok, like we’re starting it…
Yeah they came to me, like, we’re starting this thing…They all flew in from LA, and a guy that I knew named Matt, he’s like my OG journalist, from Texas, he was like, 'hey, I’m working with Redbull on this, come to this meeting today,' so I had to go to this meeting and it was all serious, and by the end of the meeting we were all cracking jokes, having fun. So they were like, 'hey, you should come do this with us, we’re starting this program, you seem to know your market well, this is what we’re tryna do, do you think you could do it?' And I was like, 'yeah, let’s do it.'
So you were really in from the ground up.
Yeah, I was one of the first curators. They started it in like five cities, there was like I think, three curators in every city at the time, so there was only a very small amount of curators. In fact, when we went out to our first trip in LA, we could all fit in one bus. Now it’s all over the world, and it’s in all these cities, and they have all these curators, so it’s grown to be this huge thing now. But at the time, when it first started, it was very small. So I’ve seen this thing grow from an idea in a boardroom, to here we are, five years later.
And they’re doing 30 Days in your city.
They’re doing 30 Days in Chicago and they’re celebrating 10 years of FakeShoreDrive.
It’s just amazing.
Have there been companies that wanted to work with you that you turned down?
Yeah I mean, I’m not gunna work with anybody that’s in the realm of Redbull. Because they’re the greatest company to work with ever. They’re like super hands-on as you can see, they put this all together, but they’re also super hands-off, and they trust what we try to do. We could say, ‘no idea is ever too crazy.’ So we could say, ‘ok, we wanna do a birthday theme and have the Big Tymers reunite.’ And they’re not like, ‘no that’s too crazy.’ They’re like, ‘yes let’s do it, how can we amplify it?’ So they’re great.
I wanted to ask about the Big Tymers, was that your idea, or who put together the line-up kinda thing.
Um, I did all the undercard, and Tee Grizzley, cause I’m a big fan of Tee Grizzley. And then, the Big Tymers, I mean I’ve booked so many of the Cash Money guys in the past, and No Limit, I was a big fan of New Orleans rap. I did a Master P show, I did a Juvenile show, I did a Mannie Fresh show, so it was only right to do the Big Tymers.
*further interruptions and interactions, as Ty Howard of FSD blog also pops up*
One thing I wanted to ask, what are your top 3 experiences or memories, in the past ten years, since you started FakeShoreDrive, if could narrow it down to a top 3.
I’ll give you three funny ones that I have, or ones that stick out initially. One is, I went to the world series with G Herbo, last year, when the Cubs won, but it wasn’t the game the Cubs won -- we got beat. And we were sitting in the second row, and it was Herb’s first baseball game that he ever went to, and we were literally sitting behind home plate, we were sitting a row in front of Bill Murray. So Bill Murray is sitting behind us, Herb is getting calls, everyone is seeing Herb on TV, but they're knowing him, they don't know me they know Herb. Lil Yachty is face-timing him, Soulja is face-timing him, all these people, Lil Bibby, like, 'we see you on TV,' which is really funny.
Do you chill with Herb like that?
I mean, not like that, we’re cool, we’re friends, we know each other, I’ve done a number of events with him. One time, Twista got me birthday cake, and it had my name on it and the logo.
How old were you turning?
I don’t wanna say, but it was a couple of years ago. But it was really cool, I was like okay, I made it. This is great.
And where did you get the birthday cake, like how was it presented to you, he just brought it to you?
It was his birthday party, and it was actually on my birthday, our birthdays are like a week apart, and he invited me to come his birthday party and they had it there waiting for me, so it was really cool.
And probably, when Chance gave me a shout out at The Grammys.
Makes sense, that was crazy.
That was it.
What’s next for FakeShoreDrive, how do you continue to expand yet stay the same?
It’s just continuing to elevate, and what’s the evolution of what we’re doing? Is it playlisting, yeah, so we got with Apple Music to do the New Chicago playlist, which is great, doing the radio show, doing artist management.
So are you managing?
I’m managing this artist named Valee.
So that’s a new experience for you, you’ve never managed before?
I’ve managed an artist named Lucki for a little bit.
Yeah yeah, like a few months, it just didn’t work out, that was like three or four years, but now I’ve been working with Valee for the past few months, we got some good stuff.
I need to check him out.
GOOD Music tweeted him out the other day…
Okay! Thank you. I think that’s about it. Thanks so much.
No, thank you, I love HotNewHipHop, so it’s fantastic.