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A Conversation with Hawai'i Mike Salman

One of the deepest rooted personas in sneaker, music and lifestyle culture for years, Hawai’i Mike Salman has made a name for himself through his acute curation of LTD Magazine and INKED Magazine – two successful print publications that he founded/co-founded. After creating inroads with LTD during the print magazine hayday, the venture developed into Salman’s current focus, LTD+ – a marketing expansion of the mainstay magazine. In addition to his extensive entrepreneurial experience that has afforded opportunities to work alongside an expansive resume of brands and companies, Hawai’i Mike’s history has also seen a stint as Lifestyle/Tech Editor for The Source as well as holding down a Road Manager position for Mobb Deep during the ’90s. A testament to the select remainder of genuine individuals who progressed rather organically through an innate passion to do what they love and do it well, Salman continues to push the boundaries of creativity across a range of lifestyle and cultural mediums. Balancing a demanding work life and family life, Salman speaks out on his sentiments towards the rapidly changing print environment, the flippant usage of the term “sneakerhead,” as well as likening the process of building a brand to making friends in school.

For the past decade… I have been focused on family, work and enjoying life on this big circle. I’ve watched my family grow with a new kid and my oldest starting college last year (that still doesn’t sound right cause I still feel like I’m in high school). I’ve worked on LTD as a magazine, agency, and now management company. Hopefully, I’ve grown as a human being, father and husband.

The current state of print… is disheartening to a magazine guy such as myself. But the ways information is shared and by whom it’s reported is even scarier. Coming from a magazine background we had to do real research and fact check before we put stories out AND we were held accountable. Unlike today where anyone with a website can say whatever they want with minimal repercussions, everything is about first and shocking not well-written and true.

I honestly miss having to wait for news or read about someone I’m interested in through an in-depth interview. You can still get them but there’s so much other ancillary noise distorting it that it’s not the same experience anymore.

Connecting the dots… is one of the things I’m best at. I’ve always had a knack for seeing things a little different than my peers. Traveling as a kid helped me a lot, seeing different places, cultures and people broadened my outlook in life. Lucky for me, the dots keep lining up.

Building a brand… is like making friends at a new school. You have to find your circle (target consumer), make them notice you (PR), show them why you should be down (marketing), and get them to invite you to the party (sales). Then rinse, progress and repeat. Once you stop progressing, either with design or your consumer, it’s hard to compete.

When I’m not in work mode… I’m in family mode. You can usually find me in the kitchen or on the grill getting my iron chef on. Growing up my father always cooked and taught me how at a very young age and it’s stayed with me. Something about food just makes me smile, I can definitely see myself with a restaurant in the future.

Current trends in NYC… are pretty much the same as everywhere else. It’s kind of a shame ’cause NYC used to inspire the world when it came to music and fashion. It’s not just the speed that information travels through the interwebs, NYC has become soft – there’s no edge to the city anymore. Not that I want people to get robbed or struggle but there’s something to be said about that feeling of always having to watch your back in the city, it created a different swagger and creativity.

My background in music… started with my father. He’s a musician and there was always music in our house when I was growing up, I also played drums in school from 6th-12th grade. Somehow, not on purpose, I ended up starting my career in the music business (I connected the dots). The first record I did promotions for was Diamond D’s “Best Kept Secret” back when all we had was college radio and mixshows, no stations dedicated to hip-hop. In my music days I was also road manager for Mobb Deep during the Infamous album and Mobile Promotions manager for The Source magazine. Getting to start my career in hip-hop in NYC during the ’90s, invaluable, wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. Best time ever!

Tattoo art… is addictive, intriguing and extremely interesting to me. It’s one of the rare things that you can do to express yourself in a permanent way – you can’t change your tattoo everyday like your shirt, pants or even hairstyle. I love the fact that people, at least most, are taking their time to come up with art they really love, no more just looking through a book and saying “I want that one.” That’s probably the biggest reason we were able to create Inked Magazine, the stereotype of tattoo only being bikers, bimbos and gang bangers changed over to being art, expression and part of pop culture.

Managing talent… is adult babysitting at its finest. J/K (kind of). It’s actually something that happened in my life recently and I have taken an extreme liking to. It feels like a lot of the work I’ve been doing in my career has lead me to this, as everything else before it has. I have a great partner, DJ Clark Kent, with LTD+ MGMT and we’ve started with a great roster. I’m lucky that hard work has paid off and that I get to lead a life I love and get paid for it, same as the talent that I work with.

Kicks… are not what they used to be. It used to be fun running into other people that were obsessed with kicks, like a secret society; nowadays everyone is a self-proclaimed sneaker head. I never did it for anyone but myself, I was young and stupid for having all these sneakers. Now I guess, it’s cool to be stupid. Can’t blame the kids though, the companies found a way to just recycle their inventory to make retros, hybrids and keep lowering the quality to raise margins yet everyone talks innovation. Just not fun anymore but I still wear sneakers 98% of the time cause that’s just me.

Photography: Isabel LaSala

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