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KRISTINA GRAAFF: What were the reasons for naming your company GHETTOHEAT®?


HICKSON: I named my independent company GHETTOHEAT® for identification purposes. It was important for myself to be recognized by readers, writers and everyday people from the inner-city streets as a publishing house that created great quality works, material they could relate to, by one of their own—a Black man from their urban world. There’s always been a negative connotation of the word “ghetto”, yet I’ve put a spin on it, showing everyone that greatness can come from such an “unexpected” place. The ghetto is a location as well as a state-of-mind, but me being a product of it doesn’t mean I’m limited in any capacity. My range is broad, and it reflects in my works and operations—GHETTOHEAT® producing material on the level as the major publishing houses, if not better.

GHETTOHEAT® is intensified energy from the urban streets spreading rapidly worldwide. It’s ambition, creativity, desire, excitement, force, hotness, love, lust, passion, power, strength, and at times, trouble; all wrapped into one. It’s extreme, unexpected, and rises at any given moment without warning—existing before, during and after the fire. But, at all times, GHETTOHEAT® is what remains.


KRISTINA GRAAFF: What would you say are the major differences between your company and others that are currently publishing Urban Fiction/Street Lit?


HICKSON: For one, GHETTOHEAT® isn’t an urban publishing company, it’s a publishing house that creates works of different genres: poetry, urban fiction and street lit, contemporary, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender tales, science fiction, politics, relationship issues, and books on spirituality and wellness, to name a few. Many have tried to sum me up, because of the name chosen for my company, not realizing it’s much more than what they’d assumed—like judging a book by its cover. 

Although I’m happy that other independent publishers are producing urban fiction and street lit, genres that have grown phenomenally since Donald Goines, Chester Himes and Iceberg Slim works in the 70’s, I’m not thrilled about the lack of quality in content and packaging, the explicit imagery, and poor editing at times. I feel that a lot of the stories have become redundant, and some publishers have become complacent and extremely irresponsible, opting solely to produce books for capital gain. I have a greater role and responsibility at GHETTOHEAT®. It’s not just about making profits, it’s about dealing with the issue at hand, finding solutions, and relaying important messages to the masses, in hopes that the messages will help people deal with certain life situations.
KRISTINA GRAAFF: Do you want to see your company as part of the Urban Fiction/Street Lit movement?


HICKSON: GHETTOHEAT® is a movement! It’s about educating, empowering enlivening, and elevating everyone through entertainment. At GHETTOHEAT®, it’s beyond great storytelling, it’s about reality, social awareness and a search for a better outcome and quality of life. 


KRISTINA GRAAFF: You point out your former career in the fashion industry. To what extent are these experiences necessary to/helpful for GHETTOHEAT®?


HICKSON: My indicating working in fashion prior to publishing was basically showing the transition I made from one arena to the next. It wasn’t a goal I’d always dreamed about—situations forced the career move. I’d become unhappy with certain elements and “politics” within the fashion world, and had quit the day before 9/11, being booked for 89 shows stemming from London, Milan, Paris and New York. Of course the tragedy wasn’t foreseen, yet, it led me to a different path in life, to become a business owner, one who’s now a publisher of a great publishing company.

I went into publishing blindly, having no real knowledge of it. I mainly learned by doing research and through trial and error, but I’d learned the basics quickly—the rest is history. One thing that has definitely traveled over from me being in fashion to publishing is being highly recognized for individualism—I never follow the cattle. Ever.   


KRISTINA GRAAFF: You mention that you are fighting illiteracy worldwide, what are the countries that the program covers?


HICKSON: My online marketing and promotion allows me to reach many across the globe, as well as the use of various social networks. I always encourage all everywhere to read more, and do my best to get others excited about reading GHETTOHEAT® books in general. Due to having worldwide distribution, my books are placed in stores internationally, which is another way of being part of the solution to fighting illiteracy. 


KRISTINA GRAAFF: How do you select your authors? What are the criteria?


HICKSON: I handpick all of my artists. I have a reader who reviews the manuscripts I receive, they tell me which ones are great and those who have potential, and I review and make the final decision. They must all produce works that are fully relevant, intriguing and purposeful, ones in time, will become classics. They must also write them as if their lives depend upon them, if not, the material isn’t accepted at GHETTOHEAT®. If my writers don’t believe in the work, I won’t believe in it, nor will the world whom I introduce it to. So producing well-written works is key with me.  As I said before, it’s about having vital messages—I’ve turned away tons of thousands of dollars, due to not printing typical, mediocre material, which in turn cheapens the name of GHETTOHEAT®

Yet, you have to also have drive, personality, a great sense of business, a need to be better than the day before, and wanting to make a difference in life—yours and with others. Again, it’s not about being a revolving door-structured company—many of my artists have lifetime contracts, the writers wanting to be housed here, permanently. If they don’t identify with me or with the philosophy of GHETTOHEAT®, then potential writers can’t be signed here. Simple. If I solely sign writers just to make profits, then I’m no different than the others who do.


KRISTINA GRAAFF: What are the advantages and disadvantages of working with incarcerated authors (in terms of production, marketing etc.)?


HICKSON: Most of my clientele come from state and federal correctional facilities, and in my opinion, they’re the most brilliant and dedicated of writers. I think it’s due to their focus, routine, and desire to achieve while being incarcerated. I work closely with all writers, so the process is easy for me—I get to know them all on a personal and professional level. I edit all the works in addition, so I always know all artists’ writing styles, characters and storylines. 


One disadvantage is when an incarcerated artist can’t tour, due to their situation. But, I’ve toured for all of my authors whether imprisoned, or civilians who aren’t able to tour for whatever reason. I’m fully involved in every aspect of my company, so nothing is foreign to me.  


KRISTINA GRAAFF: What are your particular distribution/marketing practices that are related to the streets and prison? (which areas do you cover? how do the daily practices vary from commercial publishers and book distribution firms?)


HICKSON: There aren’t any marketing practices that differ from any other I normally use, just because some of my writers are incarcerated. I push books—period! Whether doing street marketing, handing out flyers to people one at a time, posting posters, e-mail blasting, sending out my newsletter via postal mail or online, or using social media networks to spread the word. It’s all the same approach. Yet, I have a huge base and following throughout the male and female prison system: state, federal as well as correctional camps. I keep in touch with my “CONNECT” (convicts) regularly. We hand write each other often, in addition to them receiving my newsletters and announcements. Weekly, I receive approximately 50 to 100 letters, depending on where we’re at in life with each other, which stems beyond business. Having worldwide distribution, also allows my products to reach places that I, nor my writers wouldn’t normally, whether being incarcerated or a civilian. 


KRISTINA GRAAFF: I saw that one of the vendors on 125th Street carries a GHETTOHEAT® banner. Is that the street representation of GHETTOHEAT®? How is the cooperation with street vendors in general?


HICKSON: Yes, that’s one aspect of street representation of GHETTOHEAT®. Another form is myself being on the streets. If you’re not actively advertising, marketing and promoting yourself or your product, than how do you exist on the streets or within the industry as a whole? You don’t! So, yes, I remain visible on different levels.

I have great relationships with different street vendors, due to my professionalism, and them knowing how much business I draw. They understand my work ethic, and normally allow me to do street signings and marketing as I wish. I’m at a point in life and business where I pick and choose whom I’m doing business with, oppose to being forced to deal with certain individuals. So I only deal with those who are reputable and upstanding—all aren’t, including certain independent storeowners, also. 


KRISTINA GRAAFF: You use the term ‘Hip-Hopreneur’, how would you define it? What are the differences to other entrepreneurs? What is ‘Hip-Hop’ about it? 


HICKSON: Joe Connelly, Stephen King, David Balducci and Patricia Cromwell wouldn’t market their products the same way I would at GHETTOHEAT®. I don’t just do book signings at traditional bookstores and settings, I go where the people are, many of them being from the urban streets, but not limited to, also. “Hip-Hopreneur”—me being hip-hop and an entrepreneur simultaneously. Hip-Hop isn’t just music: it’s life, a way of life, a culture; mainly starting from the pure essence of the hardcore, gritty streets. Hip-Hop is my life, I am Hip-Hop, and GHETTOHEAT® is my world. 

Kristina Graaff is a Doctoral Fellow at the Transatlantic Graduate Research Program Berlin – New York at the Center for Metropolitan Studies in Berlin. She is writing her PhD Thesis on Street Literature.








GHETTOHEAT® | P.O. BOX 2746 | NEW YORK, NY 10027 


































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Guest Champagne Rain

I think Mr Hickson is a man with a purpose and mission; and one day it will pay off for him. Champagne Rain

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