As with so many music and book publishing projects in these challenging economic times Paul Stewart's small LA based publishing company Over The Edge Books is turning to Kickstarter to help launch the excellent hip-hop photo book West Coast Hip Hop: A History in Pictures by veteran music photographer Michael Miller. The photo-journalist, who was in LA as well as other West Coast spots, during hip-hop's golden era and beyond, has compiled an impressive collection that offers an invaluable view of the key West Coast hip-hop artists of the era including Ice Cube, NWA, Too $hort, Cypress Hill, 2Pac, Snoop Doggy Dogg, House Of Pain, Souls of Mischief, Coolio - most of which were shot for album covers and have gone on to become iconic symbols of that historic era in hip-hop music. The publication of the limited edition book, which has already surpassed its Kickstarter goals, will coincide with many of the book's photos been exhibited in galleries in both California and New York City. This week I caught up with publisher Paul Stewart, who has a long rich music history, and photojournalist Michael Miller, who has also worked with non hip-hop artists, to ask them each about the book and the hip-hop history presents.
Amoeblog: Were most of the images contained in the book ones you initially shot for album covers?
Michael Miller: Yeah 90% for album covers and some for magazines; Rolling Stone, Spin, Raygun, XXL and of course The Source, etc.
Amoeblog: Can you name your personal top five artists that you did album cover art for?
Michael Miller: Cypress Hill, Stan Getz, Snoop, Pantera, and Tupac
Amoeblog: Who were the five best artists to work with and why?
Michael Miller: 1) Muggs: I tagged along to many recording sessions.
2) Snoop: he was the most charismatic and easy going.
3) Tupac: just for how famous he was at the time I shot him
4) DJ Quik: just cool and I am a big fan.
5) Pantera: Phil flew me to New Orleans many times, we got to be friendly and he
would have us over for dinner when I was in town.
Amoeblog: When did you work with Tupac and how was he as a subject?
Michael Miller: In 1994 for the Thug Life cover and in 1996 (just before his death) at Orange studios in
Hollywood for the Volume 1 cover. Actually he was easier than others, sometimes people would show up and were not feeling photo shoots, but Tupac was animated. We went from location to location and didn’t complain.
Amoeblog: What are one or two of the "juicy stories" from back in the day you mention in that Kickstarter video and is there a lot of text in the book?
Michael Miller: Every shoot has a story some were more in detail because I was a friend with the artists.
Amoeblog: From a technical standpoint what type of camera(s) and lenses did you use for most of the photos in the book?
Michael Miller: Mamiya 67, Nikon F2/F3, Polaroid 600se, I liked working with a fisheye and a 35 - 120mm for portraits.
Amoeblog: What galleries and when will photos be on exhibit
Michael Miller: We're in talks for LA, SF AND NY starting in March, no dates set.
Amoeblog: Anything to add?
Michael Miller: Keep on the look out for my next book.
Amoeblog: Can you break down your history in the hip-hop game for those who don't know and how it led to your book company?-
Paul Stewart: I started out as a DJ/Journalist in my hometown of Los Angeles CA and away up in Nor. Cal while at college in approx 1983. I then went on to work at Delicious Vinyl in their early days doing promo work on Tone Loc's and Young MC's first releases at this time I also had a column about the West Coast in new but prestigious magazine the Source. My column detailed what was happening with Hip Hop on the West Coast. . As a DJ my career took me to the set of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air where I was the official DJ for the studio audience,cast & crew for the filming of the TV show during it's first several years of airing. In 1988 I started PMP initially a party/street promotion company we worked the first releases of groups like De La Soul, Pete Rock, Naughty By Nature, Cypress Hill, etc.
PMP then transformed into a music management company and discovered and managed groups like Pharcyde, Warren G, House Of Pain, Coolio, etc. PMP then became a label as I opened up Def Jam's West Coast offices and brought them Montel Jordan among others, PMP then gained distribution through Loud Records and released Cypress Hill spin off Delinquent Habits. I also have music supervised over 30 films starting with Poetic Justice and more recently Hustle & Flow and Next Day Air. I would say my experience in the business was the inspiration for the book company. Of course like any new venture there is a huge learning curve but my career has taught me me a lot and hopefully I can put all of that knowledge into my new venture. It also was a great way to get in business with a super talented artist like Michael Miller who also happened to be a great friend. It was a perfect book to put us on the map and represent what we are about.
Amoeblog: You and Michael go back a long way - Can you tell me how much you guys worked together and specifically some of the projects Michael worked with you on?
Paul Stewart: Me and Mike go way back to when we were both getting our feet wet in the industry. It's been over twenty years since I met Mike through my roommate Skatemaster Tate hanging out in Hollywood. He shot all my clients, Warren G for his debut album cover, He shot Coolio's first album cover. He shot a lot of my management clients some when I managed them and some when I didn't. The only client of mine he never shot was Pharcyde, Delicious Vinyl used their own folks. We have continued to work together recently while I was doing music marketing at Puma I hired Mike to shoot Mike Posner.
Amoeblog: Compared to other photographers you've worked with over the years how is Michael unique?
Paul Stewart: Michael always delivered, he never caught any bricks when we worked together. That is rare, to be able to adapt to so many situations and personality types and come with something unique and creative each time. Mike works very hard, there is a story in the book about the Alkaholiks famous cover shot they were basically done with the shoot stopping to get beer and Mike gets the idea to shoot from inside the freezer. He pays the store owner 50 bucks and a iconic hip hop image is born, classic Michael Miller.
Amoeblog: What will the book entail exactly: how many pages, photos, and how much text is in the book?
Paul Stewart: The book is 172 pages. There are pictures or a picture on every page there are a few double pagers, each artist who was shot has a story attached some are very short, some much longer. The length just depends on Mike's connection to the artists or the stories attached with the shoot etc.
Amoeblog: Is this the first time you have utilized Kickstarter and did you predict that this campaign would be as successful as it is?
Paul Stewart: Yes, a virgin to Kickstarter. I had certainly hoped it would be successful, We set the Kickstarter goal kind of low compared to what we really needed. We were on a mission to make the book by any means necessary, so we are really happy. We are half way to covering our complete manufacturing costs so as a new company that is tremendous. I love Kickstarter and how they have created a great platform to be able to connect straight to consumers/supporters with our product. The support has been incredible, we would be thrilled if we could cover the whole manufacturing cost through Kickstarter!
Amoeblog: Anything to add?
Paul Stewart: I guarantee if you are a fan of hip hop and artists like Tupac, Snoop, N.W.A, etc you will love this book!