The game is to be sold, not to be told. That’s the life that Don Diva magazine Co-founder and Hip Hop Weekly Senior Editor, Cavario H. has lived. The Harlem original lived like a king, while he was still a prince. His mother and father were both what he called “professional organized criminals.” Growing up, all he knew was hustling so it’s only natural that he would pick up the game.
What wasn’t natural was how he retired from that game, and with both feet, jumped into another. With hustling in his rearview, the only thing he could do to help him find some clarity was write. The result was his autobiography, “Raised By Wolves,” which he released in 2009. His book took readers deep into his life of growing up in a household full of hardcore hustlers, major narcotic offenders, stone-cold killers, and ultimately, how he pried himself away from the streets for good. In 2012 Cavario released the political thriller “Get SMART!”, the second title under his Body of Power Publishing Inc. company.
Recently, Cavario had an in-depth conversation with Hiphopenquirer.com about his life on the streets, and his jump into the publishing game. He gives us his perspective on what’s more challenging; taking a magazine or a book to print. — Game is about to be told.
Cavario H. Interview Part 1 – Get SMART
Cavario: I am mostly known to the public as the former co-owner/co-founder, and head-writer of Don Diva magazine. For those who aren’t familiar with Don Diva it is the publication from which the BET series, “American Gangster” was adapted. Those first couple of seasons were taken directly from my magazine. I’m also the author of Raised By Wolves, which came out January 29th 2009. I’m the senior editor of hip-hop weekly –and we’re the only publication in the hip-hop genre that comes out 2-3 times a month– and I just released my second book Get SMART!.
Hiphopenquirer.com: I got the chance to read a snippet of “Get Smart.” Explain the concept of the book and what made you choose the topic of a Black President.
Cavario: I credit a friend of mine named Charles. He lived in Harlem, which is where I’m from. When he was a kid, I was in the streets. This was in the early 80’s, we were close so I would put things in his ear from time to time. We re-connected in 2001 in Miami and he told me he had written a book and that it was about a Black President that comes into office through a particular set of circumstances. When I read the book I was blown away by the validity of its premise. Mind you, this is 2001. At this time, Barack Obama was not on the national scene yet but in this book he spoke about Obama. Charlie was in Chicago, so he was aware of Barack Obama was. He also talked about the recession, and how these men were talking about creating in order to undermine the popularity of this fictional black president. And this was in 1999 when he put all of this together. He talked about the killing of Saddam Hussein’s son, as well as several other real things that actually happened. He just created some fictional characters to play out these different scenarios.
When Barack Obama was launched onto the national stage and into the executive office, Charles’ project proved prophetic but he never pursued it. I knew that when I was done with Raised By Wolves, I was going to bring his project to the forefront. “Get SMART!” is just the first part of this multilayered story. If you go to my website (www.cavarioh.com), you can read the excerpts I’ve posted.
Hiphopenquirer: What made you want to write about your own life in “Raised By Wolves”
Cavario: I woke up one day in 1997, at my home in Atlanta, and I just decided that I didn’t want to sell drugs anymore. I didn’t want to be in the streets anymore. I was doing very well, [my life] was very quiet. I had a very peaceful existence, [there was] none one of that usual drama. It was nothing like what was perpetuated in music. I started in 1980; I was doing it up until then. I came before crack. I understood things that a lot of my peers couldn’t understand. My mother and my father were class 1 narcotic offenders and stone cold killers. I’m a genetically engineered hustler. I’m not an accident of geography. I’m not someone who was born into some unfortunate financial circumstances and left to his own devices as a kid, [who found himself] walking around the neighborhood and hooked up with the wrong people. I come from the “wrong people.”
After 17 and half years of wading through blood, mud, and shit, I just realized that I was tired. I had no idea what to do. I never did anything but hustle. I wanted to gain some perspective as to where I was going to go with my life. So I began to write for some introspection. I heard this old adage, “You don’t know where you’re going until you figure out where you’ve been.” I took a good hard look at where I’d been, in an effort to figure out where I was going, as I walked away from the only existence I’d ever known. But I felt if I didn’t make that decision then, at 30, then I wouldn’t have the opportunity later.
So I began to write. It started out as my diary [but then] I started to evolve. I started to take an unbiased look at my life. When I looked back at the story of my life, and the story of my people, it was so unlikely that I would’ve gotten through all that, let alone gotten to the point in my personal development that I wouldn’t want to do it anymore –I was winning; I had the jewelry, furs and cars and homes. I had money to do what I wanted to do, so why would I want to stop? My friends thought I was crazy, [they asked] ‘why you wanna to stop?’ I was like, “Because I want to do something else!”
“Raised by Wolves” was the end result. Turns out, I’m a writer.
Hiphopenquirer.com: Now you have the publishing company Body Of Power. How did that come about?
Cavario: It was from a nickname that I had since I was a little kid, my sister gave it to me. It was because of how I would walk and how I would hit people randomly. I would “bop” down the street and bop people. That [name] was something that was close to me. I took that and made it into an acronym. I felt it was predestined that I use the name.
Hiphopenquirer.com: What’s the difference between publishing a magazine and publishing a book?
Cavario: I learned the difference between publishing a book and publishing a magazine at Don Diva. Don Diva came out every 3 months. It was a lot of work because once it was done, you have to go work on an entirely new one. I wrote and provided the visual content for anywhere between 60 and 100% of Don Diva myself. It was like the adventures of Cavario; whatever I did, whatever I saw, that’s what you got in Don Diva. It was a lot of work. I felt like every time I came out with a new magazine, I had to re-sell people on the brand itself. Some people would buy it because they liked the last one, but each time people were like, “So what’s this one about? Sell it to me.”
Like when I initially released Raised by Wolves, people liked the book tremendously, I have letters and testimony from people who say this book has changed their lives. But then I came out with Get Smart! and they were like, “Well what’s this one about?” When you do the magazine thing, you have to keep creating product and putting it out. The kind of energy that you would put into the sales, marketing and promotion of the product (in order to maximize it’s potential success), you don’t get to fully invest into it because you have to move onto the next one. With books, you can push for years -even as you drop new books. And a book can evolve into a television series, a movie, whatever. You get a chance to nurture the product. With a magazine, you must pretty much nurture the brand. With a book, you get to nurture the product and give it a chance to build. And the people are much more appreciative of your product, where with a magazine it’s just onto the next issue. The book thing was so much more appealing being that it allowed me to continually build on the previous product and push it out as far as my resources would allow me.
Hiphopenquirer: So what’s next for Cavario?
Cavario: I think films are cool, but they really don’t make that much money. Money made in films at this point is from product placement. You’re really not making any money off films unless you got a franchise. For me television makes the most sense, they have the commercial aspect and that’s where the money is. So I want to create a television show based on “Raised By Wolves.” It will be sort like “The Wire”, which is about my Uncle Little Melvin, that series was his actual life. I want to do something that falls under the same lines.
It’ll take place in the 70’s and will have that “Everybody Hates Chris” narrative aspect. You’ll see a representation of me growing up in the seventies in that narco-environment. I grew up around big time drug dealers. Not just around… I grew up under them. They raised me. My life was different than the kids I played with. That time and place is the premise for all that’s represented today in pop culture. The extravagances particular to that life were my part of my everyday existence as a child. You didn’t see every other black person riding around in big cars and/or wearing expensive clothes then. That wasn’t common. That wasn’t the average kid’s life. The average kid wore $12 sneakers and double-knit pants that were passed down to them. I didn’t grow up like that. I grew up having it. That story has never been told, and I’m not talking from the aesthetic, but from the developmental perspective. I mean exhibiting to people what actually makes people like us. It wasn’t an arbitrary decision based on greed or megalomania. It was a result of environmental influence that we had no defense against and we had no idea of any alternative. I never considered being anything else than what I became. My teacher told me in 1st grade, “You write very well, you can be a writer.” I thought to myself, “Writer? I’m gon’ be a gangster!” There was no rap, rap didn’t exist back then. So there were no influences like that. That came from my home. I want to make a TV show based on my book and that will go back to that essence.
People get money now to get esteem, so they need an audience. We didn’t need an audience. Our life was our life. We were really living it, whether you knew or not didn’t make a difference. That’s why I want to bring these real, true-to-life perspectives to the forefront and have some positive change for those who have been and will be coming behind us.
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