Interview: Arri Hoover
Born in London, Lily Mercer studied Journalism at the prestigious London College of Fashion. Whilst there, she created a magazine called Viper which explored the anger and social issues surrounding young people. She graduated with a First-Class Honors Degree. Go Girl! Fascinated by rebels and revolutionaries, Lily is a unique character. She greets all her adventures with an individual attitude, something which has surely played a big role in her success.
A passionate hip hop head, Lily is the current Editor-in Chief of SB.TV, the revolutionary youth broadcaster storming the UK quicker than yo’ average (see what I did there). Lily splits her time between running the SB.TV blog, producing for the channel and interviewing some of the biggest names in hip hop.
As part of our #WomenWithBalls interviews, Arri Hoover of KidsOfGrime caught up with Lily Mercer for an interview about her successful role as a woman in the hip hop world, her crazy year at the hottest UK broadcaster and her dreams of owning Lil Kim’s wardrobe.
Arri: Besides your mother or grandmother, which women have been most inspirational in your life?
Lily: My tutor at LCF Brenda Polan, was the best. She’s one of the biggest female journalists in the UK and encouraged all of my projects. I’ve worked for some pretty inspirational women too, including Sharmadean Reid of WAH Nails. She has her own business, styling portfolio, magazine, plus a baby and she’s not even 30; I rate her for that. And I can’t forget Lil Kim aka the baddest bitch in the game. My wardrobe aspires to be hers.
Arri: On your website bio it says that you write about revolutionaries and rebels; who is your favourite rebel?
Lily: Rosa Parks was a pretty revolutionary rebel; she changed the world in a positive way. Coincidentally I was born 32 years to the day after she refused to give up her seat. I love all rebels, anyone that goes against the grain or does the unexpected.
Arri: Is Lily Mercer a rebel?
Lily: I’m definitely rebellious by nature. There’s a quote from an old film, “Rebellion is the only thing that keeps you alive.” I think there’s a lot of truth in that.
Arri: How did you get to working at SB.TV and what’s it like?
Lily: I’d recently graduated and Georgia, who I’ve been friends with for years, told me they needed a blogger. I had a meeting with Liam and began working from there, a few months later Liam asked me to be editor.
It’s a great job for any music fan, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of my favourite artists and ask them things that I want to know more about. I think my geekiness makes the experience more interesting for both the artist and me as it’s a chat about music, not a bland excuse to plug something as many interviews come across.
Arri: What is it like going from journalism student to meeting some of the biggest names in hip hop?
Lily: Crazy. Shout out to Georgia LA for that! I haven’t really had time to take it all in to be honest, last year was intense. I’m very lucky to have not only found myself a job so well suited to me, but also to have it happen so soon after studying.
Arri: What’s it like working with so many men? How do you girls show you have balls?
Lily: The SB guys aren’t hard to work with; a couple of them are fairly feminist in perspective. Plus there are a lot of powerful women working in UK music and media that the guys look up to, such as Hattie Collins. Though there are more men working at SB, us women aren’t shy about expressing our opinions so we don’t need to show we have balls. They already know!
Arri: Did you find it difficult as a female trying to get where you are?
Lily: I haven’t found it that difficult; in fact, sometimes being a female gets me further. Interviews are quite intimate situations and I sense that some rappers feel more comfortable looking to the eyes of a female rather than a male. Some have even said it can feel more confrontational being interviewed by a man as they may interpret questions differently. I do think that being female forces them to perceive me differently and maybe assume I’m not that knowledgeable about their music or Hip Hop. But I usually fix that with my first few questions.
Arri: Who is your favourite artist in the UK hip hop and grime scene? And in the US?
Lily: I have so many! The UK has great MCs I’ve grown up listening to scenes, like Dizzee Rascal and Roots Manuva. Then there’s the new generation with Piff Gang, ItsNate, Ash Catch’Em, the list goes on.
Right now, I love ScHoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar. I’m a big fan of the New York Hip Hop scene particularly golden era artists like Wu Tang, Nas and Mobb Deep. There are some great rappers coming out of the city at the moment like World’s Fair, Children of the Night, Action Bronson, Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire and others. I also like Danny Brown, Spaceghostpurpp, Main Attrakionz, Vince Staples, Chuuwee, Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y and so many more.
Arri: What do you think are the biggest differences between the UK and US music scene?
Lily: The size is the biggest difference as New York alone probably has a bigger scene than the UK as a whole. I envy their live scene, there seems to be a good show almost every night. The underground US artists never make it over here, but they regularly do shows in New York.
Arri: Who have you been most excited to interview?
Lily: Raekwon was exciting, I had to sit on my hands to stop them shaking. He was the first legendary artist I interviewed so I was calmer a few months later when it came to Pete Rock, Mary J. Blige and Ghostface, which were all very exciting for me on a personal level.
Raekwon – http://www.lilymercer.co.uk/interview-raekwon/
Pete Rock – http://www.lilymercer.co.uk/interview-pete-rock/
Mary J. Blige – http://www.lilymercer.co.uk/interview-mary-j-blige/
Ghostface – http://www.lilymercer.co.uk/interview-ghostface-killah/
These ones are my favorite ones:
Bone Thugs N Harmony – http://www.lilymercer.co.uk/interview-bone-thugs-n-harmony/
Just Blaze & Alchemist – http://www.lilymercer.co.uk/interview-just-blaze-alchemist/
Arri: Who is your dream interview with?
Lily: There are too many to choose just one, but 50 Cent is definitely up there plus MF Doom, Nas, KRS One, Chris Lighty and Jay Z. Plus RZA and the other 2 members of Wu Tang that I’m yet to interview. Right now I’d love to interview both ScHoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar. I think they’re the most interesting guys rapping today.
Arri: What about your worst, can you say?
Lily: I’ve had very few bad ones but I was disappointed after interviewing one of my favourite rappers last year. He was distracted, barely looked me in the eye and he didn’t seem to trust me. By the time he started to, my time was almost up and I was left with fairly paranoid answers.
During another interview, one of my favourite rappers said he was gonna kidnap me. Scary.
Arri: What’s next for Lily Mercer?
Lily: Lots of adventures, I hope. Through www.lilymercer.co.uk, I’ll be interviewing the underground artists that I think deserve some exposure in the UK and US Hip Hop scene. Plus continuing in my role as editor at SB.TV and writing entertaining but obscure articles for various publications. This year I’ll be working on a few projects which I’m excited for the world to see.
Arri: What advice do you have for women who want to be successful? What would be your #WomenWithBalls motto?
Lily: Stay focused and work hard. Never give up, never get distracted by those you consider competitors and never take business personally.
It’s not mine but it’s one I jacked from Marilyn Monroe: “I don’t mind living in a man’s world as long as I can be a woman in it.” I think it applies well to the world I work in.
Arri: And lastly; do you like Pineapple’s?
Lily: Yes, they’re tropical. Tropical is always good.