A tastemaker is someone who's opinion we trust, so much so that we let them set the bar for popular trends and fashions. So if you're paying any attention to Hip-Hop right now, Lily Mercer is the tastemaker you should be watching. When it comes to Hip-Hop she's the girl to put you on, whether you're listening to her on Beats1 radio or scrolling through her blog (www.lilymercer.co.uk) trust and believe that she'll provide you with the newest talents in the game, searching through the underground to give us that raw Hip-Hop we as music lovers truly appreciate. We got a chance to speak to Lily to find out what drives her hunt for new music, her passions and future plans.
Photography by Christian Cassiel.
What attracted you to music so much that you've decide to make it your career?
"I’ve always been drawn to music and started collecting The Source magazine at 12 so journalism attracted me early. I originally wanted to be an A&R once I found out what it was but didn’t see a future career in the US rap market as a white girl from the UK. I think I’ve always been into music discovery since a teenager so it makes sense that I do this now rather than only being able to play music to my friends. I’ve always had a good ear for music and most people I meet are surprised by my knowledge and passion for music so it was definitely a natural path for me to follow. I very nearly ended up in fashion but I’m glad I didn’t as music is far more interesting to me."
It seems labels are missing out because the role of A&R would be fitting, Lily has an ear for spotting the ones worth listening to which goes in hand with her passion for pushing the culture. Luckily for us, she chose to bring the music directly to the fans through her multiple platforms instead of pursuing that career choice. If you didn't know, she hosts her own weekly radio show on Rinse FM titled "The Lily Mercer Show" - it's the place to be put on so make sure your tuning in.
Who or What Inspires your creativity?
"Everything, I get inspired easily. I was never really encouraged to be creative because I wasn’t naturally good at making music or art but I was always drawn to writing. I’m inspired by writers like Hunter S. Thompson, magazine editors like Diana Vreeland and music moguls like Russell Simmons. I’d love to be a combination of the three."
We've seen your career grow from SB.TV to being a part of Beats1 Radio, your publication "Viper" and your self-titled blog/site etc… What does it all mean to you to have achieved so much and What's you're future career plans?
"It means a lot to me, I’ve had so many incredible opportunities and I’m lucky to have worked for inspiring people that trusted me. For example, Jamal Edwards let me interview Mary J. Blige for SB.TV at 23, that’s still crazy to me. Obviously the days are long and I work unsociable hours but my job is a lot of fun and has amazing perks from getting to meet and interview your favourite artists to hearing music before it gets released. There are a lot of career plans in my future, especially when it comes to Viper. I’m going to be doing more fashion stuff alongside the music too. My jewellery collaboration with LA brand Vida Kush is coming out soon."
Lily's magazine "Viper" (vipermag.com) was "born out of frustration" and made to feature underground Hip-Hop artists as well as the surrounding culture that are forging a path for the genre without the necessary platform and voice, so Viper is providing that. It's a tasteful magazine that truly focuses on content - it's quite frankly a breath of fresh air compared to many 'music' publications in recent times that seem to forget about artistry and focus on gossip or trends. Viper is for the culture and by nature, manages to feel extremely current while providing detailed insight that is more familiar of yesteryears. Pree the artists that have graced the covers of Viper in the galley below, they're on job!
How do you feel social media has affected music, especially considering you’re always searching for underground artists?
"It’s had a huge impact, mostly for the best. I personally wouldn’t have got where I am in my career without it, the first real interview I did with an artist came about when I DM’d Danny Brown on Twitter in 2010 for an interview. I also think it’s a great way for artists to see how far their music’s spreading, I always tag artists when I play their music on my radio show or blog it and some are surprised because it’s not even being played on US radio yet but it’s on Rinse FM in the UK. Social media allows artists to share what they listen to and put people on. There are a bunch of artists I discovered through another artist sharing a video link, Danny Brown put me onto Odd Future, A$AP Rocky, Mr Muthafuckin eXquire, a bunch of people!”
You can keep up with Lily Mercer / Viper on Twitter and Instagram at @Lilymercer & @vipermagazine
How would you like to see underground music (or music in general) develop over the coming years?
"I’d like it to continue being great, I love the fact there are opportunities for underground artists to capitalise on their music without being mainstream. I think that’s because of the Internet linking all these modern sound-subcultures. I’d like to see more longevity though, I think the amount of music and our immediacy for it makes music less permanent. A lot of music I was blogging in 2010/2011 does’t get spins now because I forget about the tunes that artists threw out on soundcloud early in their career. Back when I would listen to albums, the songs were more memorable."
It's pretty clear why we at 94Five have Lily on our radar, her passion for Hip-Hop is undeniable, she's done a lot by simply sharing all her music finds. Lily has been the one to shed light on the many talented artists in the underground / independent scene, so it's only right we give her the title 'Tastemaker'. Amongst many achievements, she's interviewed several of your favourite artists like Kehlani, A$AP Rocky and Naughty By Nature against a whole host of others, on top of running her publication "Viper" as we mentioned - have to plug that one more time for the culture! The mag prints only 2 issues a year (limited to 500 copies per issue) so getting that subscription is almost like a collectable. Lily has also contributed to various publications including Noisey, i-D Online and Dazed to name a few. We're excited to see what's next for Lily in the coming years, the culture needs more of her - she's truly inspiring.