How three street-smart guys with no publishing experience, no money and no distribution launched a high-gloss magazine that's actually making it.
"That whole Lil Wayne thing introduced us to a lot more people. It helped speed things," says Mack.
With their name suddenly ringing bells throughout the industry, they quickly secured T.I. for their next cover.
"We like being in Philly," Mack says when asked if it would be easier to run the operation from New York, where the hip-hop industry lives. "Philly is an objective view of New York. New York is the mecca of hip-hop, so they have a lot of ego about themselves."
He says Foundation tries to support the local mixtape scene, featuring a Philly artist/DJ in each issue--including Tone Trump, DJ Omega, DJ No Frills, Diamond Kuts, Gillie the Kid, Peedi Crakk and--next issue--DJ Amir.
But they're also sensitive to the risk of getting pigeonholed as a Philadelphia-only publication.
"The problem with Philly is there's no record labels here--no majors--no real PR reps repping big names," says Mack. "And the radio ... the hip-hop on Power 99 and the Beat is horrible. There isn't one DJ who's connected to the streets in Philadelphia who has a radio spot."
According to Mack, Foundation is the unofficial bridge to New York for Philly artists and DJs who are willing to put in the work.
"It's the city's responsibility to make the 90-minute trip up north instead of hanging here just trying to get on Cosmic Kev's radio show," he says.
Malo says that there's a lack of professionalism in Philly hip-hop, and the work ethic is often lagging: "New York, L.A. and Down South guys realize it's important to branch out and grow. It almost seems like Philly cats get stuck in Philly. We've attempted at times to bridge that gap, but for whatever reason they're not willing to explore that route."
Still, they agree the local scene has serious talent.
"In 2001 Jay-Z came here and snatched up like 10 rappers," says Mack. "There are guys in this city right now in the same position, but there's no Jay-Z to come snatch them."
It's near closing time at Club Plush on Eighth and Callowhill.
The crowd is sparse and it's uncertain whether the featured guest--West Philly rapper Sandman--will still perform.
Mack is waiting out the night. He'd hoped to hand out copies of the new issue, but was hassled at the door.
The poorly attended rap event appears to be a bust.
"We'll just show our face and wear the T-shirt," Mack says, unfazed and unwavering in his commitment to promote the magazine whenever and wherever possible.
The improvements in the magazine--from early issues to the current G Unit cover--are unmistakable. There's a higher page count, more circulation, better paper quality, cleaner design, more professional writing and a higher caliber of artists showcased.
In recent months the magazine has even begun paying freelance writers, and the business partners have begun carving out modest salaries for themselves.
Geek Invasion 2013