Swank Culture

If you haven’t heard of Briahna Gatlin then you should take this time to get acquainted

with the publicist who’s making a dynamic impact as a publicist in Chicago. Briahna has

been a writer, publicist, and talent agent before she even acquired it. Her passion for

writing and an ear for music led her to travel around the world and experience cultures

outside of the United States.

Throughout her years writing for publications like Source magazine, XXL magazine, and

being the executive editorial director of True Star magazine Briahna discovered a new

journey to pursue. The ability to set her own rules and denounce reservation and

limitations has opened the window of musical culture. Through her life revolves around

public relations (PR) she had no former teaching in how to be a publicist. She simply

utilize her journalist abilities to pitch a story and her vast networking connections to fuel

her entrepreneurial motive, which gave birth to her company Swank Publishing that was

established in 2006. Listen to how her journey to Swank came about…

WTW: What inspired you to become a writer?

Briahna: “I’ve been writing since high school. I started doing journalism as hobby,

preferably in class where I joined the school year book committee. Then, I realize like

that I had real passion for it. I was about 15 or 16 years old and I told my mother that I

could see myself doing this as a living.”

And that she did, while still in high school Briahna began to research different journalism

school to attend in college. As a result, to her intense diligence she was given an

opportunity, from her school, to study journalism in Oxford, England. There she met

Nelson Mandela and started to embrace the notion of journalism being an occupation.

During her senior year at Columbia College Chicago, Briahna interned for both Vibe

magazine in New York and Indigo magazine. However she didn’t gained employment as

a journalist until after she graduated. A friend of hers informed her about an opportunity

to work for Source magazine.

WTW: Tell us about your first published article?

Briahna: “My friend, who I interned with at Vibe, had started working for Source

magazine. So he called me and asked would like I liked to interview this artist named

Malik Yusef, who had an albumn coming out called The Great Chicago Fire. It was a

dope album. I ended up interviewing him for Source and that’s how I got my first

published article.

“I became the “go-to- person” in Chicago from New York because I had been traveling

back and forth since I was 15 years old. Also, I got a network in New York and I was

networking while I was in college, it just happened that. By this time I had been writing a

little under ten years and it was a very exciting thing for me.”

In using her New York sources and networking them through Chicago publications, she

became known as the ‘go-to girl’ who had resources and intellect to bridge the gap

between Midwest and East coast entertainment. By 2005, Briahna had the advantage to

remain vital among her peers.

But…

WTW: How did Swank Publishing come about?

Briahna: “Swank came out of me working with a after school program called True Star,

which is teen magazine that produce by teenagers who write/edit articles and design the

layout of the magazine. At first, the company published newsletters. I came up with the

bright idea of teens being more interested in publishing magazines than just newsletters.

I, pretty much, became the Editorial Director became I came on board with the

experience of the magazine and knowing what magazine journalism was.

“Alongside True Star came Scream Star magazine. Michael Mauldin, who is Jermaine

Dupri father, hired us to do a custom magazine for the Scream tour. Swank came out of

us realizing we could do a publish magazine and have clientele. We started Swank

publishing because we wanted to do something that was custom, where we could get

clients, as well as, get people to hire us to do catalogs or anything that was custom. We

also wanted to surround it around sponsorship and events.”

Though, highly grateful for Swank Publishing, Briahna openly admits that she wasn’t

focuses on started her own company at first. In fact, when the market crash Briahna’s

position as a grant writer was in jeopardy with the Source. She became more defiant in

her search for employment elsewhere when her writer check from the Source did not

clear and she was left with little to no money to survive on. In desperation for a job,

Briahna took her mother advice in starting her own business as a publicist.

WTW: Did you plan to start your own PR Company?

Briahna: “At first, No! Because I had been working independently with entrepreneurs

before and I was cool with just finding a job and traveling. I was doing PR for True Star

before I acknowledge that I was doing PR. So, I pretty much started this company

because I did not have anything else going on at that moment. And Swank Publishing

was formed of out creative because I could not find employment.

WTW: What tactics do you use to maintain a successful business?

Briahna: “Before us, there really wasn’t a music publicist (per se) in Chicago. There

was Regina Daniels who mostly represented R. Kelly at that time. So she didn’t have the

time to represent many clients like I did. Also, by me being the only person that’s been

doing Hip Hop PR for so long, I got a lot of clients by default because no one had a

company. My first client was GLC, who signed to G.O.O.D Music. Once I had him as a

client and we staring working I was able to pick up more clients, which started a whole

movement of Hip Hop artists and people in the entertainment industry knowing theirs a

go-to publicist in Chicago. But mainly I’m able to sustain my business by being smart.”

WTW: You’ve been around the music industry for years. You’ve seen how the Hip

Hop genre has evolved throughout Chicago. So give me a description of the

Southside versus Westside music in Hip Hop?

Briahna: “Wow, that’s a good question. The Southside definitely has the drill music and

outlet of what is going on in their neighborhoods. From the industry standpoint, when

Chief Keef came out people in the industry was like ‘who is this’. So the fact that this

huge underground movement had been created and nobody in the music business knew

about it, in Chicago, was a scary thing. It literally catapulted and opened up this whole

entire world. The Westside music has more of a party feel to it. Though Westside music

contain the trap lyrics in them, it sounds is more geared toward having fun and enjoying

the moment. Westside music is definitely more fun where you can have a good time and

just kick it. We got DLOW, Kemo, and all these kids that will dance in the middle of the

street if their song is on.”

WTW: With that being said, what talent or attributes are you looking for within an

artist you decide to represent?

Briahna: “I’m looking for content. That’s number one. I’m looking for a message;

something I can pull out of it or a passion I get from it. They have to know how to rap. I

can’t work with anyone who can’t even write a hook because if I try pitch a artist to Sway

in Morning and you don’t know how to rap, then what does that say about me? You have

to know how to make good music, or at least an okay song. If you got something I can

work with, a message, and some good production then we can start working from there.”

WTW: Why do you think Westside artist can’t make it mainstream other than with

Bop music?

Briahna: “Well, I think that question is dumb because there are Westside artist that have

been mainstream. I think, overall, a lot of good artists in Chicago get over looked

because of what is already out. I think Bop music and Drill music are actually even

ground. It’s even ground because there only so far you can go with both of those

categories. What made Drill music more popular were the violence and the media

sensationalizing Southside violence. Now, Bop music is fun and trendy for that moment.

It’s more like ‘young kid’ type music. After awhile you can’t listen to it after you done

heard it five times. There both limited in what they can, so I would say they are even

kill.”

WTW: Last question, In five years where do you expect Swank Publishing to be?

Briahna: “I don’t expect be working with just rappers. I will have one or two locations

in a different city. And I expect to be doing more major concerts and festivals by that

time. Overall, just becoming a brand like a Roc Nation. []

Briahna Gatlin, CEO of Swank Publishing explains the difference between Westside and Southside Chicago hip-hop scene. 

Briahna Gatlin, CEO of Swank Publishing gives advice to independent artists to how to educate themselves on the music business, She also explains why how the internet hurt Journalism. She explains how hiphop is controlled by "white boys" when its an African American Culture.