Michael Namikas, who grew up in a Los Angeles suburb, studied history and law in New York City before deciding to put his legal career on hold in order to pursue his true passion: listening to, researching, and writing about Hip Hop music and culture. In addition to writing published articles about rap giants like Tupac Shakur, Kendrick Lamar, and N.W.A, Michael has also edited a coffee table book about Ronald "Riskie" Brent, an artist who designed the cover artwork for a number of classic rap albums. Michael is nearly finished writing volume one of Lost in the Whirlwind, a comprehensive guide to Tupac's music and life.
You can follow Michael at his website (www.michaelnamikas.com), on Twitter (@mikeaveli2682), and on Reddit (www.reddit.com/user/mikeaveli2682).
Marina Raydun: What is the first experience you had when you learned that language had power?
Michael Namikas: It’s hard for me to recall the specific incident where I first learned that important lesson. If I had to guess, it would probably be a time when my older sister obeyed one of my parents’ “commands.”
MR: What is your favorite genre to read?
MN: My favorite genre would have to be non-fiction. Is that a genre? It seems pretty broad. The history of World War II, if I had to be more specific.
MR: What are you currently reading?
MN: I’m currently reading The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen and Richard Nixon: The Life by John A. Farrell. Because I no longer get to read as often as I would like, I have to be pretty selective. Lucky for me, both books are excellent so far. I frequently find that when I’m discouraged or frustrated with my own writing, reading the work of great authors inspires me to continue working.
MR: What is your favorite underappreciated novel?
MN: I mostly read non-fiction so it’s difficult for me to think of a novel that is underappreciated. When I do read them, I tend to either read ones that have already been accepted as “classics” or more recent ones, like Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, which have won awards or received great reviews. I’m not an ideal person to answer this question, unfortunately.
MR: What does literary success look like to you?
MN: I don’t have many expectations for success. All I really want is a decent return on the time that I’ve invested. More important than money, however, is that people read, learn from, and enjoy what I’ve written.
MR: What is the most difficult part about your artistic process?
MN: Two things. The first is the discipline required to get up, sit at my desk, and write every day without a boss or a firm deadline in front of me. The second is the will that I need to resist the urge to pointlessly edit something that I’ve already written. I really enjoy editing, probably more than writing, and it can be a challenge to keep myself from continuously tinkering.
MR: If you could have drinks with any person, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
MN: It would have to be Tupac Shakur, the subject of my upcoming book. I have a lot of questions that only he could answer. He was such a complicated person. Although he only lived for twenty-five years, each of those years was so full. He led an endlessly fascinating life that I hope to help illuminate.
MR: Is there one topic you would never write about as an author? Why?
MN: I can’t think of any topic that I would never write about, although I admit that it would be more difficult for me to write about things that I have no personal experience with unless I did a lot of research beforehand.
MR: What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
MN: Not many, although I have visited parts of Las Vegas that are important to Tupac’s death. Recently, I’ve visited the hotel that Tupac was staying at the night that he was murdered, the nightclub that he was driving to when he was gunned down, and the traffic intersection where the drive-by shooting that took his life occurred.
MR: What literary character is most like you?
MN: I’ve never really thought about that because I don’t think about myself when I read. I want to learn about the experiences of others, not make connections between my own experiences and the characters or people I am reading about. That’s one thing I’ve noticed about myself that differs from a lot of people who I talk to, particularly when the subject is music. Many people become fans of artists who they feel they can relate to on a personal level. I tend to favor artists whose lives have been very different than my own. Any personal connection that I have to them or the characters they depict is on a very basic level, involving emotions that almost anyone can empathize with.