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Get Your Sniff On

Like the porn star who switches to mainstream roles, a process is under way to upgrade the scandalous image of the locally produced Booty Crack magazine.

By Todd S. Inoue

IN THE PAST, Booty Crack has entertained folks and outraged others with over-the-top headlines like "White Bitch Gets Arrested" and "Tricked a Trick out of a Piece of Ass and a Chunk of Cash." But readers who pick up the paper now will find a massive graphic face lift, a sobering shift in the racier commentary and little of the notorious local gossip. The magazine unveils its first 56-page issue, glossy cover included, this month.

It's a concentrated effort, according to BC editor-in-chief Andre Barefield, to attract a new readership. His original target audience--young, uneducated black males, gangbangers sippin' on 40 oz's--weren't buying the magazine but were still finding ways to read it. Booty Crack was on its way to the poorhouse.

"The 'hood liked to see it but there was no way they were going to pay for it," explains the 28-year-old San Jose resident. "At that point, we decided to cater to those who respected us. We couldn't cater to people who didn't see we needed finances. The 'hood wasn't financing this magazine."

As Booty Crack's print run hit a low of 5,000, Barefield says he did some impromptu research among subscribers and learned that more than half of Booty Crack's actual audience are white women over 35. The results, justifiably, blew his mind.

"I didn't know where it came from, then all kinds of people suggested things that made sense," Barefield recalls. "These women got 13-year-old sons who walk around with their hat backwards, coming in and quoting Ice Cube. Maybe they see it at the store. Maybe they subscribe to it. We found we had a lucrative, intelligent audience."

Barefield couldn't provide Metro with much data verifying his findings, which he says were derived from written surveys. But he's banking on the results.

Is Barefield worried that old school, hard-core Booty Crack fans will jeer "sellout"?

"Yeah, and I've already gotten some of that," concedes Barefield. "But for the people who haven't seen us, they have no reason to criticize, they'll just enjoy. It takes awhile to adjust to change. I'm not adjusted quite yet."

Interestingly enough, it was the advertising sellout of esteemed rapper KRS-One that set things straight for Barefield. The highly ethical rapper for Boogie Down Productions recorded a Sprite commercial and a Nike ad which Booty Crack denounced in an early issue.

"If KRS hadn't done that Sprite commercial, I wouldn't be going in this direction," said Barefield. "He's been a mentor of mine on wax for years. I analyzed what he did [the Sprite and Nike ads] and he hurt my feelings. He's been the most consistent emcee of all time, but he's probably the most broke emcee of all time. It made me justify. People justify why they take drugs, why they drink, why they sell out. And I chose him as a justification of why I ..."

Andre pauses. The words "sold out" taste bitter on the tip of his tongue. "It's not about keeping it real," Barefield decides, flatly. "It's about business."

Barefield knows plenty about business. After moving to San Jose from Fresno as a child, Andre attended Oak Grove High School and San Diego State and graduated from Phoenix University with a degree in business.

He knows where he wants to be in three issues and in three years. Barefield ballparks his current Booty Crack circulation at around 25,000. The magazine is available at record stores and mom-and-pop magazine racks. There's even a Web site.

Barefield maintains that Booty Crack's more salty side will remain, but with a "national, global appeal." For instance, the "Buster of the Month," normally a rant ranking on some local individual, is Shaquille O'Neal. The current "Nympho Info," usually a curt gossip sheet of somebody's proclivities, name-calls Tisha Campbell. The new Booty Crack aims to be political, too. "We want to have interviews with Willie Brown," Barefield says. "We want covers that aren't hip-hop. We can have a Cunanan cover, a Timothy McVeigh cover, a Geronimo Pratt."

Profanity is another issue Barefield figures he'll have to tone down. Funny coming from a magazine whose Editor's Note has maintained the intro "Fuck you, and your momma" since its inception. "We won't be saying 'motherfuck' as much," Barefield concedes. "Sure we're going to say 'motherfuck,' but we're not going to say, 'Man, I saw that motherfucker chilling with that motherfuckin' bitch down the street.' We're going to open it up where the 'motherfuck' can grab somebody else. We're not trying to be cool. Sure, we want Vibe readers, but don't come here thinking it's Vibe. It's a harsh magazine."

The back of Barefield's shirt reads "Been There, Done That." After moderate success on the street, it's on to a worldwide audience.

"We want to shock the world," Barefield says. "If you can appeal to the 'hood, you can appeal to anybody, because they're the hardest crowd to write for. I did my benevolent side. Now I have to do the lucrative side."

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From the Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 1997 issue of Metro.

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