Viper’s founder, Lily Mercer, recently caught up with Tom Winslade from The Hundreds for an interview about Viper, plus her radio and journalism career. Read an extract below…

London’s Resident Queen of Hip-Hop :: A Conversation with Lily Mercer

There are so many platforms for sharing and discovering music in the digital age that it can become somewhat overwhelming at times. I mean, how many blogger playlists or ‘Ayy check out my Soundcloud fam’ tweets does the average millennial even have time to sift through on a daily basis? Given the massive amount of music out there on the World Wide Web, it’s important to pay attention to those individuals who have made a profession of seeking out the illest .mp3′s on your behalf — especially those with an unquestionable track record, a keen ear for new talent and a genuinely passionate understanding of the culture that they have submerged themselves within. Naturally, I’m talking about people like ya boy—or more specifically, Lily Mercer.
For the latest entry in my ‘A Conversation With…’ series, I sat down with Miss Mercer AKA London’s resident queen of hip-hop to discuss her relentless hustle and how she has managed to carve out space for herself on multiple levels. From founding her own magazine, to simultaneously hosting radio residencies on both Apple Music’s Beats 1 and iconic London station, Rinse FM — Lily is truly a don of her craft.

TOM WINSLADE: If we go back to your roots, when did you first find an interest in hip-hop?
LILY MERCER: I was really young when I first started listening to hip-hop. In fact, the first record I remember buying was Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, E. 1999 Eternal. I had an older brother who was into it and he put me on in his own way, so when I was like 8 years old I was listening to Bone Thugs, watching Wu Tang videos on TV—it was all mainly East Coast. I actually remember Biggie dying and buying a tribute CD. That whole era, that was when I first started identifying with hip hop.

Was there was a defining moment when you decided to make the transition from simply being a fan to immersing yourself deeper within the culture?

I don’t think I really looked at it as a potential career until after my degree. I did a degree in Fashion Journalism, which is quite funny in retrospect because I was convinced I was going to work in the fashion industry. When I graduated at 21 I kinda realised how elitist that world can be in a negative way, which is true for music too, but at least with music it’s more about people than money, and I can deal well when it comes to connecting with people. So I basically got a degree that taught me how to make a magazine, how to write an article, how to research and be a thorough journalist—but then realised I didn’t want to apply it to fashion, and took it straight to music instead.

I was quite lucky because one of my best friends at the time was Georgia at SBTV, and she asked me if I’d like to blog for them. Having just graduated, I had my website set up with my portfolio and my blog, and I could then put that on a platform that would be read. From there they asked me to start interviewing rappers, as they realised I had an understanding of hip hop that they were perhaps lacking at the time. It was all really organic, but that’s how it’s all kinda worked out. I was working with Wah Nails as an editor back when that was just a blog, so I feel like when you look at them, SBTV and Rinse FM; I’ve grown with some real, cult London brands.
Read the full interview via The Hundreds.
Words by Tom Winslade
Photos by Vicky Grout
Via Lily Mercer.

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