We continue with the three part interview with Omar Tyree that started in February during Black History month and now continues in March 2014.
To find out what Mr. Tyree and I discussed in this enlightened interview you start part two read it here.
This is Part 2 of 3:
Eartha Watts Hicks: You have published books under Omar Tyree and also under the Urban Griot series. What was the reason behind that?
Omar Tyree: The Urban Griot series was all about creating a pseudonym (pen name) for myself, but those books were all originally written (and published) as Omar Tyree. I published those books under the Urban Griot series to differentiate them from the Omar Tyree titles and the feminine audience. After a while, it became very obvious that the reading audience was mostly feminine, and that’s clear across the board for most authors.
As an author of fiction, if you don’t have a feminine audience you do not have an audience, unless you’re an author like Tom Clancy. He writes those military books. And then there is the author of the Bourne Supremacy series, Robert Ludlum; he probably has a heavy masculine audience as well. They write that terror/military stuff that would definitely attract a lot of male readers. Other than that, even most white authors have a largely feminine based audience. That’s just how it is in fiction.
That‘s like R&B music. If you are a balladeer who sings love songs, you are going to have an audience of women. R. Kelly spoke about that years ago.
EWH: It appears that in recent times, the number of African American male authors in the marketplace is dwindling. In your opinion, what are the factors contributing to this decline?
OT: When we discuss the days when black male writers dominated African-American literature, the books were more nationalistic. A lot of it was revolutionary, fight-the-power literature. It was the black man against the world books from Richard Wright, Chester Himes, Ralph Ellison, Donald Goines, Iceberg Slim, James Baldwin. A lot of it was about black manhood in America, and these men were actual Black Nationalist and intellectuals and street survivors with something to say.
But what happened in the 1980s is we developed this thing called hip-hop, where now a lot of these same black men, who could’ve been writers, are now recording records and making a heck of a lot more money for it, and they became rich and powerful doing it.
You had your Kurtis Blow, Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J, Run DMC, Whodini, Public Enemy, KRS-1, X Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, the Jungle Brothers, Tupac Shakur, Biggie, DMX, Jay-Z and many more, including Ice Cube, who writes and produces movies now. And all of these individuals could’ve been book writers, but they are writing and selling records instead. Well, it’s a lot easier to write and sell a record to black men than it is to write and sell a book them. So a lot of the masculine writers that we’ve had over the past 20 years now have been relegated to a more feminine audience.
People want to listen more, especially men and boys. They are pretty much like, ‘I can just put earphones on and listen. I don’t have to read a book.
Women, on the other hand, are still writers. Women are still fiction authors. Women like books. Women like reading. And women support the present-day authors more, while the men—for the most part—are more into music, hip hop and sports. And for that reason, there is a clear deficiency between who could’ve been writing books and who said, “Hey, I’m gonna just put this down on a record, make money, and become an icon in the music industry.” So a lot of those brothers that could’ve been writers and were sitting in the same classrooms as the women, they became rappers instead. Think of all the books that could’ve been.
Jay-z, he’s is a very intelligent dude, an intellectual. A lot of the stuff Jay-Z has said on his albums is genius, absolutely. Mos Def is another one. There are so many brothers who could’ve been great writers. They found another way to express themselves that was a hell of a lot more lucrative. And people responded to it a lot more. They put the earphones on from Beats and go into another world that way. The Beats company is doing it BIG now! People want to listen more, especially men and boys. They are pretty much like, ‘I can just put earphones on and listen. I don’t have to read a book.
That’s what you have more men doing. And they always say to me, ‘Put it on tape. Put it in a movie.’ So you simply have more influence with men in music.
In fact, Beats have the strongest promotions going now if you look at it. I think they’re outdoing doing McDonald’s right now. I’ll see more of those beats commercials than anything else. They’re doing it BIG. Someone caught on to the fact that black people love listening to stuff and they’re hitting millions of us now, who could’ve been reading a book. So every time you see a Beats commercial, that’s another person who won’t be reading. And it not just one, but thousands.
So stay tuned!