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Ben Merlis talks new ‘Goin’ Off’ book, and Cold Chillin’ Records (Includes interview)

Regarding his inspiration to write this book, he said, “I grew up listening to hip-hop, and I specifically had an affinity for the records Cold Chillin’ was putting out. It was one of the most consistent labels and it has a fascinating backstory. It seemed like a no brainer.”

“The theme is influence,” he said. “Between the production techniques pioneered by Marley Marl, the advent of the diss record in Hip-Hop by Roxanne Shante, the lyricism of Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap, and the zaniness of Biz Markie, the impact of the Juice Crew/Cold Chillin’ is still felt to this day,” he explained.

On being an author in the digital age, he said, “It feels great.” “I have nothing else to compare it to, being that this is my first book. Was it easier or more difficult for authors 40 years ago? I have no idea.”

Merlis was drawn to the hip hop label, Cold Chillin’ Records, due to its “great sounding records made by larger-than-life personalities, with colorful album covers compliments of photographer George DuBose.” “Cold Chillin’ also leaned funky — it was the Stax to Def Jam’s Motown,” he said.

His favorite part of writing this book involved “having conversations with people whose music he has been listening to for more than 30 years. “That was a thrill. Talking to people I never thought I would cross paths with, like Kool G Rap. He really is a national treasure,” he said.

On his plans for the future for the book, he said, “In November, I did a book signing events in LA, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia. This April, I’m going to Europe and meeting up with photographer George DuBose, and we will be doing photo/book events in the Netherlands, Germany, and the UK.”

For young and aspiring authors, Merlis encouraged them to “make connections.” “If an opportunity presents itself, take it even if you aren’t sure how prepared you are. Jump into the fire and you’ll figure it out as you go along,” he said.

He concluded about Goin’ Off: The Story of the Juice Crew & Cold Chillin’ Records, “You don’t have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of hip-hop to enjoy the book.”

Goin’ Off: The Story of the Juice Crew & Cold Chillin’ Records is available on Amazing by clicking here.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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