Bonus Drop: "Cover Story" x UpNorthTrips
Also: Evan Auerbach a.k.a. the man behind UpNorthTrips talks about the origin story of his hip-hop archival brand, his upcoming book project, and his favorite magazine covers.
Hi everyone. Welcome to my newsletter companion to “Cover Story,” a basketball book I wrote which is set for release on October 19th and is available for pre-order here. If you want to tell your followers about my book, feel free to share this tweet or this Instagram post. If you’re not a newsletter subscriber, click here to make sure you get every post in your inbox.
A huge part of the era that is mainly covered in “Cover Story” (loosely described as 1984-2003 with some time-traveling elements) is about the rise of hip-hop and basketball, who had very similar paths in reaching the mainstream as influential pop-culture forces together. They were rejected (ie. see: all of the coverage of the early hip-hop basketball teams like UNLV and The Fab Five; see: how people tried to take socially-conscious rap lyrics and misconstrue them as a threat to the larger society; both topics are covered in my book) and then accepted, somewhat begrudgingly even, when everyone realized this was where money was being made.
But the truly influential magazines which covered basketball and hip-hop were created by those who simply loved the subjects they were covering. It is why SLAM and The Source are two of the magazines highlighted in “Cover Story.” In talking to Dave Mays (founder of The Source) for my book, I was also able to get connected with several people who worked on their sports spin-off magazine Source Sports, which created some of the most iconic covers of all-time (see Vince Carter and Eve in the photo above).
Today we have our second “Cover Story” bonus drop courtesy of Evan Auerbach a.k.a. the man behind UpNorthTrips, who grew up in Hudson Valley (a town about 90 miles from Manhattan, New York) and fell in love with hip-hop thanks to Slick Rick. Evan would eventually become a part of the music business and even created his own mixtape brand. He was working in the PR department at a record label in 2009 when the company downsized and eliminated his role. Living in an expensive apartment in Queens at the time, Evan left the city and moved back upstate.
“Having been there as a kid growing up, I was very conscious of the correctional facility systems around there,” he told me. “As a kid, there was a bus stop where I could see dudes that we went from the van from the prison to the bus station.”
At the time, Evan was making an up north trip of his own. It also happened to be the title of a song from one of his favorite rap groups Mobb Deep. So when he decided to start a Tumblr (editor’s note: Shoutout to the Tumblr, where I also started my first blog), it was named UpNorthTrips. The blog has since grown into the go-to hip-hop archival brand on the Internet, and an absolute must-follow on Twitter and Instagram.
Evan is currently working on a book titled “Do Remember!” (with Rizzoli Books; scheduled for a 2022 release) which will cover a period of New York City mixtapes from 1987-2002. “With the exception of a handful of household names, mixtape DJs haven’t gotten the due respect they deserve,” he told me. “My mission statement [for this book] is to preserve the culture and give flowers to the people who deserve it. The intention of this book is to take this subculture, preserve it in time, and to really acknowledge those people who you may not know and give them a chance to tell their story.”
Evan also runs a very cool online shop and today he is releasing a “Cover Story” Source Sports tee + tote which you can order here. It’s a limited run of 24 pieces so make sure you grab it before it’s gone!
The t-shirt design is inspired by a subscription card featuring Mike Tyson which you would find in the magazine. “As much as I am a hip-hop fan,” Evan explained, “I was a sports fan too. Source Sports did a great job of blending the two together. Their curation of artist and athlete together was always so spot on.”
He decided on Mike Tyson as a design because of how he embodied both sports and hip-hop. “He came out to the ring to hip hop,” Evan said. “He was in Harlem with Dapper Dan. He got into street fights. He did all the things my favorite hip-hop heads were doing.”
“This subscription card was a perfect way to tell the story of who I am as a brand, and the way your book was written, it’s from the perspective of people who were so heavily influenced by everything in their lives,” he continued. “I think it is the perfect image to capture UpNorthTrips and “Cover Story.”
Before we go, I wanted to spotlight Evan’s favorite magazine covers. One of the covers he picked is this 1994 cover of The Source featuring Redman. “It was such a perfectly flawed picture,” he explained. “I had never seen anything like that on a magazine cover.” It was a photo which described the rapper’s personal perfectly. He was self-aware and didn’t take himself too seriously.
Next up is photographer Chi Modu’s iconic Source cover featuring The Notorious B.I.G. superimposed next to the Twin Towers wearing a 5001 Flavors jacket. “There's a sports plane in it for me because the thing that stuck out to my mind is that if you look at it aesthetically. It had this blue and orange, this very New York Knicks or New York Mets feel to it,” Evan said. Modu passed away in May. He was one of the best photographers at capturing the essence of the most famous music artists at the time. “These guys were as equally important as visualizing these artists that you heard in a way, “Evan said. “You identified Mobb Deep in the heavy-ass Avirex, 2Pac with the Filas, and so on.”
Evan also wanted to shoutout this Ghostface and RZA cover of The Source. “There was nothing intriguing about the way it was designed,” he said. “It was really the subject matter. To see those guys get that respect, what that did for me was legitimize my taste in a sense. It was like, ‘Wow, The Source is gonna put my favorite guys on the cover, then it means I probably have good taste.”
Although Method Man was the cover star of Blaze’s premiere issue, Evan has a particular affinity to this Jay-Z cover which arrived on newsstands a few months later. “Here was this fly, flashy baller rapper talking about money, cars, and Range Rovers in this chicken spot in Brooklyn working behind the counter,” he explained. “It was a genius thought to say, “Hey, let’s take you to the opposite of what you are and photograph you for this magazine.”
This Blaze cover featuring Nas is Evan’s next pick. “Everyone would have assumed Nas would be wearing a New York jersey,” he said. “I always wore hats representing where I was from. Seeing this cover made me realize that sports teams could be fashionable, that it could be worn for fashion and not just a sense of pride. That was groundbreaking.”
An UpNorthTrips magazine cover list would be incomplete without Mobb Deep, especially the On The Go magazine cover (Shoutout Steve “Espo” Powers and Ari Saal) above. The volt green and bright orange color schemes on the cover is what initially got Evan’s attention. “And let’s talk about the picture,” he continued. “You have Frosty the Snowman with Mobb Deep wearing black leather trench coats. There was a creativity angle and humor that you weren’t seeing from other magazines.”
And finally, Evan picked this Stress magazine cover featuring Eminem from a photoshoot with Jus Ske. The same image actually showed up on this SPIN cover as well. “This is just a great cover. It hit on all the elements visually and stylistically,” Evan said. “For those who don’t know, there was another white rapper whose name was Cage. He was more underground and had this groundbreaking song called Agent Orange. The two had a bit of a feud. Whether this cover was an intentional slight after the fact or if it kicked off the bad blood, I don’t know, but the Agent Orange song actually put me onto Stanley Kubrick and A Clockwork Orange.”
Thanks for reading the newsletter. Feel free to subscribe if it’s your first time reading. You can pre-order “Cover Story” here and find me on Twitter and Instagram. Email me if you want to chat.