As an addict for print, I’ll get my fix by any means necessary. I’ll die when the stack of free publications I’ve amassed falls down and breaks my hip, leaving me stricken and starving. But in the meantime, I’ll still keep pathologically picking them up. The problem with the best free magazines and zines is that they were stocked in the cooler stores. Because those stores were cool inevitably, nobody else was in there beyond two shop workers, the smell of incense, and some esoteric mix wafting though the speakers. In that environment, avoiding purchase but grabbing a freebie was a definite zero eye contact and headphone move. I might have bought some twelves and mix CDs I never wanted to get hold of the ones kept behind the counter with customers in mind. A few years ago, hunting down the tactile pleasures of FRANK151 in London was a mission — since the pocket-size went to cargo pant size with issue #51 and carried a cover price, I’ve never seen it anywhere in the UK. It’s a shame, because the magazine has had some of the best content out there, and there’s plenty of images I’ve seen in FRANK151 that I’ve never seen since. If you want to get a little extra history on street culture over the last 15 years or so, go check out the magazine’s archive on issuu — you can flip though the lion’s share of the back issues (sadly, the ALIFE/Wu Tang edition is absent), going back to issue #1, when it was an Atlanta-based project with indie-rap and turntablist inclinations through to its switch around issue #10 up until some of the final freebies. All the content, without having to negotiate any moody employees of short-lived shops.
I don’t want this to be one of those blogs where the curator merrily hurls every piece of freebie tat hurled their way into a post, or makes a limp promise to a PR that “coverage” to a handful of readers and friends should warrant a freebie. Nobody needs to be exposed to the work of a lame blogger like that. But you probably know that I like magazines, and my respect for New York’s (formerly ATL’s) FRANK151 has cropped up here time and time before. Back when I posted an ill-fated list of magazines last month I even noted that this publication not making the top ten was something of a bozo move.
I first grabbed a FRANK151 as part of a package from an online rap retailer based on the same city as team FRANK (Sandbox? All I recall is being made to “fax” my Mastercard via an antiquated scanner before they’d treat me as anything more than a criminal before waiting more than a month to grab my vinyl. While the shipping by weight was no joke, the freebies were what made it a superior E-spot. Promo CDs, stickers, XXL tees, hastily signed CD booklets, white labels and occasionally…very occasionally, magazines.
A decent publication called ‘Mugshot’ turned up in a heavily sealed mass of cardboard, but it was FRANK151 that fired my imagination. It seemed utterly self-indulgent and totally focused on specific matters. I can’t even recall the chapter that proved a gateway drug, but it wasn’t until I grabbed a copy of 14 circa 2003 (with SSUR at the helm) that I truly grasped the guest-editorial nature of this project. My experiences with it in London have been fleeting. Beyond DPMHI’s heyday, I’ve never grabbed it in the same location more than once. It seems to deliberately elude me.
While you’re out trying to get your print project off the ground expecting me to high-five you just for picking pulped paper over pixels, whether it’s physical or not, garbage is garbage is garbage. FRANK151 rarely lets me down. It feeds my enquiring mind. I’ve broken out copies copped overseas and opened them back in the UK to reveal French and Spanish language editions. But I’m not mad. I stacked and saved those too.
Some editions have not been entirely themed on subjects I’m barely interested in, but they’ve proved educational regardless. You can’t go and demand your money back either, because it’s free, even if some stores keep ’em so far into the shelves that they’re practically daring you to reach over, look them in the eye, take a copy and wander out without buying a damned thing. Collated, I may well have spent enough time feigning interest in hanging racks of heavily marked-up cotton just to pick my moment to grab a copy and leave to watch Leone’s ‘One Upon a Time in America’ in its entirety again, even if it’s just the butchered VHS version from the ’80s and ’90s. That’s a lot of time spent lurking.
The book’s book-size defies freebie disposability and smuggles itself into lofty company with the books I pretend to read on my book shelf. It’s a survivor in that regard. Somehow I feel the urge to collate them and leave them be while less diminutive perfect-bound magazines in my living space get pulped. I spent a long, long time hunting down the Soul Assassins chapter, only for Estevan Oriol to kindly give me a copy recently, but not having the ALIFE, No Mas and recent Seventh Letter crew editions was eating at me. Until FRANK151’s Managing Editor Adam Pasulka clocked my rambling magazine entry, showed forgiveness for my oversight and sent me a “care package” of 13 FRANKs. It made it from the USA in a matter of days as well, unlike the lengthy vinyl limbo the likes for Sandbox and Hiphopsite used to leave me in.
Chapter 42 is the Cuba edition. For the Mellow Man Ace article and Michael Halsband’s account of Hunter S. Thompson running wild in the heat alone, you need it in your life. Cheers Adam.