Recently, Vibe Magazine closed its doors, at least in print form. For those who never ventured into black publication, Vibe Magazine was a Black-based magazine started by Quincy Jones last decade. The ostensible vision of the pub was to highlight Black culture, but with a bit of a White lens. It mainly featured R&B and hip-hop acts while also dipping into some rock and dance artists from time to time. While the racial aspect of the magazine’s foreclosure has been done almost to death in blogs and other chat venues, I consider this turn of events truly irking.
Here’s why: growing up (and growing up literate), hip-hop and R&B magazines kept me abreast of all that happened in the hip-hop community in ways I wasn’t really allowed to explore in my youth. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go to my favorite artists’ concerts because I couldn’t really afford to. I was also very limited in my exposure to rappers until high school when I found out the Roc-A-Fella Records offices (the former home to artists like Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, and Memphis Bleek) were a block away from my high school. I still have high stacks of magazines from the Source, Blaze, Vibe, and XXL that I’ve kept over the years.
Comparable to the way we used to be fascinated by time capsules, these publications represented everything that was hot and cold during my lifetime. While not everything resonated with me (Cash Money articles, here’s looking at you), I found myself taking whole days out just reading the latest cover with DMX or Eminem on the cover, and wanted to collect every cover Jay-Z or Roc-a-Fella ever appeared on. And forget about Biggie and 2Pac covers; they never got old to me. Every little detail was important to me, from the producers and managers to how one rapper’s style differed from the other and the creation of that rappers’ music.
Those publications brought a certain amount of access to the artists I obviously couldn’t get anywhere else. Plus, the writers who’d bring those stories didn’t have their names all over the piece, but brought a certain style, grit, and fluidity to their pieces that parachuted us into their subject matter that made me want to become a writer secretly. And I guess without these publications, we don’t get the opportunity to see that type of writing in full bloom. In the digital world, people often say that sohh.com and sandrarose.com will replace the need for the aforementioned publications, and in a way, I see that as a valid point. On the other hand, though, I have yet to see the caliber of writing like we’ll see in those publications. Many of the bits we see look more like AP pieces or, in other cases, just crap.
And that leads me to the present situation. Where do all the writers that have followed the Raquel Cepedas, Toures, and Dream Hamptons of the world go? The ones who want to be the Edward Murrow, William Lloyd Garrison, or Bob Woodwards of their time? It’s a really shaky time for those who want to take that profession as their full-time position, and make those of us with day jobs, like me, wonder what becomes of those in the writing profession. Where do the future stories about our favorite mainstream and underground artists come from? Where do the good, in-depth stories come from?
No way am I saying it’s Armaggedon for the business of journalism / investigative writing is dead. There must be change for people to keep up with the new demands on information. Yet, I strongly feel that the pickings will be much slimmer, and the panorama of memories and experiences with the writing may become more limited. And a small part of me feels like we’ll have to settle for the obscure quip. That is, if the newer blood doesn’t get a chance to start. For urban youth, Vibe was a good place to start, much like Spin, The Daily News, or Ebony would be a good place to start for burgeoning writers in that niche.
What do you guys think?
Jose, who wants to re-read his old magazines now …