So Ashley Outrageous, it’s been six years. How did it all begin?
Oh my time flies! Growing up I was always the one making my friends mixes, asking them if they’d heard of so and so, if they had seen this music video. During my last year of high school, I started to get more involved with the culture as a good friend of mine was rapping and putting out mixtapes locally so I wanted to be apart of that in someway. At that time I wasn’t familiar with blogging at all until my friend Omie introduced me to good ol’ Blogspot. AO! was born in October 2008. In February 2010 I relaunched via WordPress with a new design and the premiere of my mixtape series, “The Playlist” which featured 21 exclusive tracks. From then on I just started to push out interviews, throw events, travel out of state so I wasn’t just some blogger behind a computer screen, I was determined to make something of it.

Who was your first interview with? We’re you nervous at all? 
My first interview was with Shawn Chrystopher and yes I was super nervous. I didn’t even get on camera, that’s how serious it was! But overtime, my friend Jonny Walker, who’s shot the majority of my interviews was the one to finally push me to stop being scared, put a face to my brand and show my personality. I admit I still get camera shy at times but I’m way more comfortable now, it just takes consistency.

Being based in South Florida, not being in the ‘scene’ like New York or L.A, how hard was it to be in the know?
Well, while I feel that it was hard being based in a small market like South Florida, it was also an advantage. At the time when I was starting out their were very few blogs out here based around music, hip hop in particular. While we don’t have a huge scene like NY or LA, I made myself prominent within what was going on here outside of the South Beach clubs by grabbing interviews with artists in town and using social media, Twitter especially, to spread whatever original content I put out. When I had relaunched in 2010, I also traveled a lot, hitting LA, NY, Chicago and Atlanta. I wanted people to see me out and about doing work.

You are very versatile with not only doing interviews but at event planning too. How important is versatility to you? 
Versatility is important as I feel it’s always a plus to be good at more than one thing, but it can get crazy if you don’t manage your time properly. I picked up event planning when I was connected with producer CrackTracks (Lawerence Parker) who wanted to put together a show with Curren$y in Miami during the 2010 SuperBowl. I had one week to plan it all out, leaving me with one week to promote. This would be Spitta’s first headlining show in Miami so I put a ton of pressure on myself making sure everything was perfect and would run smoothly. The story goes into much more detail but everything worked out and I said to myself, “I can totally do this!” and went on to start my first company, Bread and Butter, LLC, later that year. The point of starting the company was to begin bring upcoming acts of the time, like Dom Kennedy, Pac Div and Big Sean, that Miami fans thought they’d never see in the city.

When did you realise that your presence was felt on the Internet as a go-to girl for hip hop? 
I don’t recall the exact moment but I do feel it was when The Source listed me on their first Digital Power 30 list in 2011. I wasn’t expecting that at all and to be acknowledged by a magazine I was an avid reader of since the age of 11 was a huge thing for me!

Were there any challenges for you as a female in the male dominated music industry? 
Of course! Till this day I still get shit but I brush it off. I would peep ridiculous comments left on larger blogs that would post my interviews and so on. I would hear people saying things like, “she only got that because she’s a girl” when at some points, I was looked at like, “well what does this small girl know about hip hop?” I think women in this industry will always be hit with challenges and it’s unfortunate but as long as we continue to prove ourselves, what these people say doesn’t matter.

Six years strong! So what motivates you to keep going?
Simply my passion for music and now, being able to actually work with artists versus just posting their music. I wanted to do more than just blog about what I thought was hot, so I started to research more on the ins and outs of music business, started pitching ideas to artists and things took off.

Compared to when you started, how  much has the the hip hop industry changed?
I don’t feel it’s changed that drastically but things are a lot more digital now than ever. Some print magazines have even gone on to become fully digital such as Vibe.

Has it changed you at all? 
I don’t feel it’s changed me as a person. I’m still me and always will be. What I feel changed was my business sense. Having given up art school to take this on full time, I had to learn a lot of things on my own simply from experience. So it certainly made me smarter. It also made me stronger in a sense of not caring what people think. Growing up I never had problems with people so I’m not used to people who don’t even know me saying mean things or that they don’t like me. At first those type of things used to bother me but I simply ignore all of that nonsense now and I mean, I’m still here.

You are also working with Top Dawg Entertainment. How did that begin? 
Well I kept in contact with Dave Free (President of TDE) from time to time as he used to be the one sending out all their content to blogs. So I’d send him back my links and stuff like that. I then reached out to him for a Kendrick interview which he coordinated for me to do via iChat while Kendrick was in the studio with Dr. Dre back in 2010. Continuing to keep in contact, Dave then randomly reached out to me one day in early 2012 saying they needed some help on the digital side of things and he was aware of my work. I asked if he had called the right Ashley, he said yes, and then it took off from there! I’ve been helping with keeping up social media, developing content, currently re-designing the site, basically all things digital for TDE.

This is an extract from the Spring Issue of Viper Magazine. Read more from the magazine here. Buy physical and digital copies here.

Photo by Devin Christopher
Words by Duke Agyapong

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