Exclusive: The Rahsaan Ali Interview
Another best-selling author has spoken out against Black Pearl Books’s reluctance to pay their authors royalty checks for their works. You’ve heard from Brenda M. Hampton, now Mr. Rahsaan Ali, another Black Pearl author and subject of a very heated exchange on a message board, has agreed to be interviewed for Authors N Focus as we continue to hear from the authors who help generate the interest in ‘Ghetto Lit’ and now find themselves part of a much larger, tragic story. Mr. Ali has agreed along with me to conduct a ‘no holds barred’ interview where anything goes! As always, Authors N Focus welcomes a response from a representative of Black Pearl Books to share with the readers their side of the story. We appreciate hearing from all sides of this very difficult issue.
Before we start, let me just add this: there are no winners here. Period.
Charles: Mr. Ali, how are you doing sir?
Rahsaan: Hello Charles and all supporters of urban lit and any other type of genre that exceeds the plight of the hue-man race.
Charles: Rahsaan, thanks for agreeing to post your side of the story. Tell me, how did you get involved with Black Pearl Books and when did you find out you were not receiving your royalties from them?
Rahsaan: I discovered Black Pearl through a book vendor on Jamaica Avenue, based in New York City. I’d been trying to get a book deal for many years and didn’t quite know how to go about it. Getting signed that is! Any which way, this particular book vendor in which I worked with told me he knew of a credible publishing company looking for fresh, solid, new material. Two weeks after sending my copyrighted manuscript off to God knows where, Winston Chapman showed up. We began talking before either one of us knew who the other were. The next night, over steak, potatoes and Gin & Juice, I became part of the dysfunctional Black Pearl Family. That was June 26, 2005. I received my first royalty check for one thousand six hundred and sixty three dollars, oh let me not forget the fifty four cents. Ahem. I got that on the first or second of February. That’s the last royalty check I’ve seen up to date. The explanation for that were private legal matters which were not divulged to any of us. Up to this day, I still do not know.
Charles: In an email you sent me, you said you gave up ninety three percent of your sales to Black Pearl? That’s an unusual percentage for a publisher – author relationship. I don’t know if any publisher would take that much. I have to ask you point blank, why did you accept that in the first place?
Rahsaan: I have to laugh at that one Charles. My contract stated that I was receiving ten percent and them ninety, but when my masters went on a rampage to publicly decimate my character and sales for themselves, it was stated I was only seeing seven percent. Low blow. As far as why I’d settle for such robbery? I’m still asking myself that very same question but I will tell you this…you can only be hungry, but before long, you’ll soon eat what’s on that plate in front of you. For instance, remember when you were a child and big momma would make liver for dinner and you’d just sit at the table staring at it. Then she’d say that plate will be there Monday-Friday until it’s cleaned off. Sooner than later, you will eat that liver if there is nothing else. I’d been hungry for far too long.
Charles: Rahsaan, I have to ask you the same question I asked Brenda M. Hampton, as many authors as BPB has in its stable, why are there a small percentage of you, maybe one or two authors, speaking out about this? Have other authors you know of expressed the same complaints as you?
Rahsaan: I can’t speak for the rest of my fellow authors. I myself have not spoken but to a few. Those are the one’s who are speaking now.
Charles: What is your response to those individuals who say, ‘you should have done your homework, you should have checked out BPB a bit more closely’? What do you say to that?
Rahsaan: I say everybody gets in a predicament in which if you would’ve done this, that, or the other, things would be different. There’s not one author out who hasn’t experienced a similar scenario. Whether it be through literary or the legal system, we all make mistakes. So I say to them, in the process of leaving the house in the morning, looking at the fuck up’s of others, be sure to pack your pocket mirror cause often you may find your own reflection.
Charles: Let me play Devil’s Advocate Rahsaan and ask how did you know if a poster who called you a ‘slave’ on Essence.com’s message boards was really Ms. Hurst? Could it be that you just overreacted to that comment?
Rahsaan: You make a very valid point. But!!!!!! Certain people have outstanding characteristics in their verbal and written responses. Only someone trying to hide would initial their full names. If it were an imposter trying to stir trouble, better yet bring turmoil, they would’ve maliciously wrote out Felicia Hurst@Winston Chapman, instead of W.C.
Charles: Do you think that the company should get some type of credit? I mean, after all, didn’t they help you become the best selling author you are today? Aren’t you ‘biting the hand that feeds you’?
Rahsaan: At the end of the day, they did provide me the spring board to bounce into a world I once only dreamed of. I believe in dreams and this one finally came true. But does that give them right to now not only hold me hostage in a contract that is bullshit, but also attempt to black ball me before they kick me off the contract? Hell no! If you owe, you owe. Pay that man what he’s worked for. So you’re damn right I’m going to continue bitching and moaning about monies owed. Maybe the IRS is saying the same thing to them too. Monies are owed. Pay us!
Charles: This ongoing conflict with Black Pearl would cause someone to say ‘this is all a publicity stunt. There aren’t any problems with royalties being paid to BPB authors. I imagine if Chapman and Ali saw each other, it’ll be all cool’. What do you say to that?
Rahsaan: I wish it were only a publicity stunt, but then I’d only be participating in the same nonsense as they. Which would be making money off of lies, manipulation, fraud and hold up’s on the freeway. That means highway robbery.
Charles: What has been the response so far from your fans as far as telling them not to buy any more copies of your work via Black Pearl?
Rahsaan: I can honestly say that there has been no response.
Charles: What is the future of Rahsaan Ali’s writing career? I assume your association with BPB is over and done with.
Rahsaan: Me and Black Pearl Books are a wrap. Their aluminum plans have been foiled. My new book titled “CARMELLO” A FAMILY AFFAIR will be out by mid October. Early November.
Charles: I’m going ask you another question I asked Brenda earlier. You are a best-selling author, yet does it feel like all that you’ve accomplished means nothing at this point?
Rahsaan: I feel like I still may have a while to go because the fans are looking forward to the next book and I do not posses the essentials to get it popping the way they have. But fortunately, some deals are in the works. And in the infamous words of the last man standing, you have not heard the last of me.
Charles: Rahsaan, based on your experience, what advice can you give to the new and beginning authors out there? What are the signs to look out for when you deal with a company such as Black Pearl?
Rahsaan: To all the up and coming authors, please try to self publish. You will never see a company like Black Pearl coming. But you will see your money going toward their summer vacation in Rome or wherever
thieves stash stolen money in their dens. Just always continue to write and always remember that dreams do come true.
Charles: Like I told Brenda, I wish this interview was under better circumstances but I do wish you well in your future projects and thanks for the interview. I’m sure a lot of folks know your story now, as well they should.
Rahsaan: Thank you for providing us the opportunity to share this insightful exposure. Readers, Brenda and I love you all and thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You can see more on www.rahsaanali.blogspot.com
Ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. It is my understanding that this issue will be solved through different channels outside the internet but as readers and supporters of urban literature, you have the final say with your pocketbooks. That’s how it should always be.