Urban Magazine shared their candid interview with the co-creators of the “Behind Those Books” documentary, Kaven Brown (producer) and Mills Miller (director) discussing their upcoming film which dishes on the publishing industry’s newest and most controversial genre, urban fiction aka hip-hop or street-lit.
The documentary is produced by The Urban Book Source in association with Kaven Brown and Mills Miller
Why did you want to spend the time and money to put this documentary together?
Kaven:Behind Those Books is an overview of urban literature, it chronicles the evolution of the gritty street tale, more commonly known as “street lit,” told through in-depth interviews with pioneer authors, publishers, editors, literary agents, industry insiders, activists, hip-hop artists, philosophers, professors and more.
Mills: I felt like this subject was very important and should be included into the history of blacks and literature. The money wasn’t a real concern, we already had the necessary equipment to produced a decent film. With technology advancing it has allowed for film making to be less expensive now. I think its all about drive and determination and not giving up. And once we started the project, I didn’t want to stop until to was complete. So here we are 3-years later.
In the trailer Dr. Cornel West says in order for a person to be “dumbed down,” we would have to assume that they were “up” first. What did you take from the statement as it
relates to him speaking about urban fiction?
Kaven: I greatly appreciated that comment. Everyone who opposed “street lit” always said that it “dumbs you down.” So when Dr. West made that statement it was heard loud and clear. It was obvious that in order for a person to be “dumbed down” you would have to assume the person started “up” first, otherwise its nothing to dumb down, they’ll already down. And I don’t think that reading can ultimately “dumb” anyone down. Vocabulary, fluency and thinking –all come from reading.
Before this project, had you read any urban fiction books? If yes, who?
Kaven: Yes. I’ve read all 13 of Donald Goines books, most of Robert Beck aka Iceberg Slim. I’ve read Teri Woods, Shannon Holmes, K’wan, Kwame Teague and Vickie Stringer to name a few.
What was one of the most shocking comments you heard in the 3 years of filming?
Kaven: There were many, but the one that sticks out the most is when Treasure E. Blue (Harlem Girl Lost), said that his mother was a “whore.” Here is the exact quote: “I am a abandoned child. My
mother was a whore. And the things I saw through these eyes, no child should have to witness or experience. So am I wrong for writing about my life that I saw?”
What do you think the genre of urban fiction brings to the publishing industry?
Kaven: I think of urban fiction authors as the “rebel,” who went against the grain to get their story published and read by the masses. They bring a gritty “non-traditional” edge to the publishing world. Who would have ever thought that selling your book out the trunk of your car or on subways would be good for business?
The trailer features a clip with Professor Michael Eric Dyson posing this question, “How does urban literature play a role in facilitating greater learning?” Please answer that as you see it?
Kaven: I’d say that Dyson’s comment translates into: reading urban fiction can be used as a starter for those who may have never read a book before. It can be used as a way to make reading attractive to those who may think “reading” is boring. Sadly, some of our youth were not engaged in reading,until urban fiction.
Mills, you and Kaven also direct music videos. Who are some of the artist that you have worked with under Mills Miller Media?
Mills: Fabolous, Jadakiss, Lloyd Banks, Fred The Godson, Vado, Bun B, The Dream and Chrissette Michelle just to name a few. All which can be view on: www.millsmiller.com
It’s no secret that there are more than a few authors who write urban fiction books who have also served time in prison. Whether, local, state, or federal. From drugs to identity theft and credit card fraud.
Wahida Clark is another urban fiction author who has made the NY Times Bestsellers list with her title “Pay with Ya Life”. Does prison add to the creditability of urban fiction authors story/ book?
Kaven: What’s crazy is that sometimes it takes for a person to land in prison before they realize what they should be doing with their life and realize they have a talent. These people arrive in prison as criminals and exit as authors and publishers. As far as prison lending “creditability” to urban fiction? I’m not sure. There are several authors who have never done prison time and have written great work. But I guess as far as subject matter, I can see how prison could add some creditability.
Michele Fletcher (Charge it to the Game), went to prison for credit card fraud, came out and self-published a book about it. Since then, she has served as an expert on identity theft. Her story definitely makes her creditable on the subject.
What you would like the viewer to take away from this documentary after watching it?
Kaven: If you opposed the genre, I just want you to view it from another vantage point– the authors, the one’s who have worked hard to publish a book without corporate guidance. Understand that these authors have made a way for themselves when no one else would give them a chance. Some have come from prison and have made legitimate livings telling their stories.
Mills: If you are constantly complaining and insulting the artists because of the quality of their books, I’d hope that you are inspired to lend a helping hand. “Each one teach” applies here. Offer them help via editing services, graphics, promotional services, etc. Hire them. If your not giving any of these authors a job, then realize that most “street lit” was created in prison and society is not giving them a job or a genuine helping hand, therefore they have created a way for themselves. It’s legal.