The Plug: HipHopDX Editor-In-Chief Justin Hunte
It’s said “success” is when preparation meets opportunity and Justin Hunte’s career is a result of strategically ordered steps and an unwavering dedication to greatness. Hunte gives his advice for an effortless career transition and the importance of incremental growth.
Before Justin Hunte was one of the most influential journalists in music, he worked on Wall Street as a Vice President of Investment Banking for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Inspired by the lyrical progressiveness of Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco, Hunte began emailing friends about the Grammy Nominated artist’s transformative rhymes.
After almost a year later, Hunte’s friend set up a blog for him so he could streamline his emailed content. His first site was called TheQuoteable.com where he fell in love with the art of conversation and covering the culture.
Thereafter, Hunte made the strategic decision to quit his job and pursue blogging full time. He shares this advice for aspiring bloggers on preparing for a freelancer’s lifestyle. “Creatively, I had to consider if what I blogged about was competitive to what I was reading? In my case I found that it wasn’t always better than but it wasn’t always worse than which made me feel like there might be a place for me. Creatively, I felt confident.”
He continues, “At the same time I got all of my finances in order. If you’re going to take a risk, be as prepared as possible should difficult obstacles arise. How do you fund your lifestyle doing something you love when there’s no sector in entertainment that doesn’t start off with people working for free? You need financial footing. For me it was imperative that I could spend one hundred percent of my time writing about rap. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to take full advantage of all of the things New York City had to offer.”
In 2009 Hunte met Wes Jackson, Founder and President of Brooklyn Bodega, the organization that produces the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, which is one of the largest Hip-Hop cultural events in New York City. Instead of researching the artists that were performing at the “Show & Prove” MC competition, Hunte thoroughly researched Jackson and went to the event with the intention of meeting him and securing an opportunity to write for his website. His plan was a success. Hunte would eventually go on to become the Editor-In-Chief of BrooklynBodega.com
Two days after meeting Jackson, Hunte saw a post on HipHopDX mentioning the Editor-In-Chief at the time, Jake Paine and Steve “Raze” Julien (Executive VP, Multimedia & Digital Content for AllHipHop.com) were going to be at a new artist showcase in Newark, New Jersey. Unbeknownst to Hunte this was a prime example of the perseverance necessary to be a leader. He didn’t allow the commute from New York to New Jersey in a blizzard, the $50 event cover charge or what seemed like an infinite wait dissuade him from meeting Jake Paine. “I had this approach that I wanted to interview him for The-Quotable, hopefully my questions would be so great that he’d be impressed, we’d establish a relationship and he’d give me the opportunity to pitch stories for HipHopDX and it worked. A month after meeting Jackson and Paine, I had bylines in two of the biggest publications.”
For the next three years Hunte freelanced for HipHopDX where he developed as a writer, covering as many events and new artists showcases possible while continuing to nurture his relationship with Paine. “He’s my mentor. That’s one of the most important relationships I have. Jake and Wes are the first two people to really give me a consistent opportunity with brands that have weight to them. When you get that type of opportunity you do everything you can to preserve the relationship. You don’t want to fuck up the co-sign.” When Paine stepped down, the Founder and CEO of HipHopDX, Tommy Cherian, agreed that Hunte would be the best person to take over and run the publication. “It’s my first dream job in a series of dream jobs.”