A New Documentary Shows How F.E.D.S. Became The Source Of Street Knowledge (Video)

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Hip-Hop Fans, we need your help...We recently launched AFH TV, a streaming video service focused on Hip-Hop culture. We already have exclusive interviews, documentaries, and rare freestyles featuring some of Rap’s most iconic artists and personalities. But, there is so much more to come--movies, TV series, talk shows--and we need your support to make it a reality. Please subscribe to AFH TV. It is only $1.99/month or $12/year, and offers 30-day free trials. Thank you.

Since the late 1990s, publisher and writer Antoine Clark had a vision for a magazine. “Finally Every Dimension of the Streets” filled a void not represented at newsstands and in bookstores. F.E.D.S. magazine was born, and told the stories of street culture from those closes to it. This vision is why the mag is active today, at a time when many periodicals are dropping print frequency, if not closing their doors entirely. In a way, F.E.D.S does not want to be found—there are no available subscriptions, no website, or social media presence. This mag’ exists hand-to-hand, as underground as the people it covers.

In a Vice documentary, Clark says, “I knew I had a good item; I was putting the [truth] about the ghetto into this. I said, ‘If all else fails, as long as I make this magazine cheaper than every other magazine, I can sell this shit to the people in the neighborhoods that I go to.” Following a 1990s shooting that left Antoine paralyzed from the waist down, he germinated his idea. Noting the popularity of magazines being sent to inmates, Clark wanted to offer the audience an alternative to just pornography and pictorials. “I put all the different elements [the inmates I knew would] want,” he says of the F.E.D.S. vision.

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In the Vice vignette, Antoine is seen immersing himself with dirt-bike, motorcycle and ATV street club, Go Hard Boyz. In his interview with leaders of the org, Clark presents a platform for the group to promote their daredevil, stunt activities as an alternative to violence, street gangs, and other criminal activity—despite breaking traffic laws. Fetty Wap, a supporter of the Go Hard Boyz’s who plans to build a safe facility, also appears in the doc’. “[F.E.D.S. magazine] is what it was on my block,” Fetty says, of the publication’s popularity in Patterson, New Jersey.

“I started with 3,000 copies in issue #1; I did not invest any money in it,” recalls Clark. “It was a total ‘flip,’ like hustler’s do with drug games—how you flip it, and flip it, and flip it. Issue #5—which was an all-women’s issue, had 75,000 copies printed. And we were independently owned.”

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Notably, the publication, based on its arguable glorification of crime and sex, was banned by many prisons. Antoine Clark believes that only drove up circulation. “That didn’t hurt F.E.D.S.; that helped F.E.D.S. ‘It’s banned. I want this. I want to show this.'”

The doc’ also examines F.E.D.S. facing challenges in a digital age, given its decision to remain underground. Speaking with a printer, Clark describes declining sales of one recent issue—which featured a white criminal’s cover story.

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F.E.D.S. is part of the culture; F.E.D.S. is part of the community,” says the founder. “It’s everything that goes on in a lower class and poor environment. I gave people a voice when they didn’t have a voice. I believed in the people that was not believable. I stayed in the ghetto and wrote about the ghetto, when I no longer had to write about the ghetto.” He elaborates on the threats and consequences he sometimes faced over the last 18 years.

While to some, it glorifies crime, Clark also believes it actually fights against it. “Our people are not reading. From 25 to 45, we were not reading anything.” Vice interjects that data suggests literacy decreases the likelihood of incarceration. “F.E.D.S. magazine busted the door wide open, ’cause now they wanted to read. Some people’s gonna take caution from [what they read]; some people’s gonna take glory from it.”