How three street-smart guys with no publishing experience, no money and no distribution launched a high-gloss magazine that's actually making it.
For Malo, a lifelong rap fan from upstate New York who moved to Philadelphia "on a whim" 10 years ago, the realities of the proposition were blinding.
"My original position in the company was staff hater," he jokes. "None of us had ever worked for a magazine before. We didn't know a single DJ, artist, manager, publicist or label. We had no type of industry connections. And we had no money."
To prove to Malo they could do it, Mack emailed DJ Vlad, whose The Notorious B.I.G.: Rap Phenomenon mixtape Malo had been listening to. He told DJ Vlad about the magazine startup, offered his phone number and asked him to get in touch. Ten minutes later the phone rang.
Mack went back to Malo and told him the magazine's first interview would be DJ Vlad.
"I was like, 'Wait, you talked to him?'" remembers Malo, saying that was when he started to take the notion of publishing a magazine seriously. "Not that I thought all access would be that easy, but I thought, 'Maybe we've got something.'"
A year and a half later the DJ Vlad interview actually took place.
If Malo is the heart of the magazine and Mack the cojones, Haney is the brains.
Calm, quiet and reticent by nature, Haney defies the boastful hip-hop stereotype. He jumps into whatever role he's given--including photography and graphic design, which he taught himself practically overnight.
At the time of the magazine's inception, Haney was working for an extermination company doing home inspections for termite damage. It was about then that he enrolled in the School of Communications at Temple to study sound engineering and philosophy.
"I've been into music my whole life--all different kinds," he says. "My mom worked in a music school so I played lots of instruments. When we started the magazine I was playing banjo in a band. I knew I wanted to work in music in some capacity. The magazine has been the perfect avenue for that."
Although he used to favor conscious "backpack" rappers like Common and Talib Kweli, Haney's come to fully embrace the hardcore "gatpacker" rap scene.
"Now you can catch him singing Jadakiss lines, or Papoose," says Mack.
In January 2005 Malo, Mack and Haney began lugging their books and laptops to Cos� at Second and Lombard to hatch their plan.
But as with all of Mack's other gimmicks, Haney expected it was only a matter of time before the project would dissolve and they'd go back to their regular lives.
"I didn't take it seriously--I just showed up to humor him," Haney confesses. "But we made some progress, figured out printing and costs, and then it got scary--seeing the amount of work involved and not knowing anything about it."
Fourteen months after their weekly Cos� sessions began, the first issue of Foundation magazine was at the printer. Thanks to some early advertising checks written by Kool cigarettes, the three partners didn't have to borrow money. They'd also been hitting up industry movers and shakers to build a buzz.
With a few phone calls, the trio got on the list for the 10th Annual Justo Mixtape Awards preparty in New York City.
"We'd never been to an industry event," says Haney. "We printed out business cards and had them overnighted."
PW's Summer Guide 2014