Popular Mechanics

Miami is full of hustlers, and Mckenley Joseph is one of them. The 28-year-old runs his own online record store, Undaground Science (www.ugscience.com), from his home in the Design District. He also owns High Level Promotions, a marketing company that counts Colgate and Frito-Lay among its clients.

Undaground Science, however, is the better known of the two. Joseph says he began the site in June 2002 with local hip-hop scribe and enthusiast William Hernandez. "Basically we both had a love for indie hip-hop," says Joseph, adding that it was less expensive to start an online record store than a brick-and-mortar business. Still, the site didn't do well when it was launched, attracting not a single customer for the first six months. It took a year of advertising via flyers and stickers before the store finally began moving product.

Today Undaground Science processes about 400 orders a month. The site specializes in independent hip-hop — J Dilla's Donuts album and The Shining EP are current best sellers — and offers vinyl, CDs, and DVDs. Joseph estimates only five percent of its customers are from Florida cities like Miami, Orlando, and Tampa; meanwhile 90 percent come from European countries like Germany. "I know this DJ [from Germany], and I gave him some flyers," he says. "It just went from there."

Joseph admits that running Undaground Science doesn't take much work. "I just buy the titles [from distributors] and put them online," he says. It's a modest success in comparison to High Level Promotions, which employs about ten people. "I basically go to festivals and have my operatives pass out [samples]," he explains. "Then we take pictures so we can send them back to the [client]."

Nevertheless, promotions companies are a dime a dozen in Miami; there seem to be too many corporate-backed street entrepreneurs littering the streets with flyers. As one of the city's only Internet record outlets, however, Undaground Science is unique for an area more interested in partying than buying music.

"I've been [doing Undaground Science] for four years, so High Level is my main focus right now," says Joseph. But he adds that he continues to run Undaground Science as a hobby. "I do it basically for the love. I have love for underground hip-hop."

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Mosi Reeves
Contact: Mosi Reeves