Now the news comes that Quincy Jones is thinking of “saving” VIBE. “I’m trying to buy my magazine back now,” Jones told EbonyJet.com yesterday. “They just messed my magazine all up, but I’m gonna get it back. You better believe it, I’m’a take it online because print and all that stuff is over.” This could mean a lot of things. The 76-year-old Jones certainly seems to have an accurate picture of the current media landscape. “We gotta get into the 21st century you know,” Jones says, later in that same piece. “Print and all that stuff is over, we gotta remember that. The Chicago Tribune, The Seattle Post Intelligencer. The Miami Herald. They’re over the same way as the record business. We have got to get into this century.”
But anyone who’s seen Rap Radar, the web venture run by former XXL EIC/ego trip veteran Elliott Wilson (and the odds-on favorite for the next job of now-former VIBE EIC Danyel Smith, Wilson’s wife), knows that a rap blog is different animal from a rap mag–as it’s done now, RR works from Nah Right’s template, not XXL‘s. Rap Radar might be a cut above much of the rap blog armada VIBE recently memorialized in their (already infamous) 50 Hottest Blogs list; but those blogs are also their peers and their reality now. Would an online VIBE be the publication we knew it as? Who knows.
Elsewhere, at the Root, Todd Boyd writes perhaps the best piece so far on the legacy and cultural significance of the magazine and its 14-year run, though we’ll refrain from co-signing the obligatory, knee-jerk shots at the more recent VIBE era (which, disclosure, I was very occasionally part of, and which, further disclosure, was in part supervised by a great friend of mine, so there you go)–they worked with what they had, and until they folded yesterday, there was still no better place to read about rap and hip-hop culture in general, period:
To this end, the magazine found itself first reporting on and then being firmly mired in one of the biggest stories in the history of hip-hop, the East Coast/West Coast beef that would eventually claim the lives of the culture’s two most celebrated figures, Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur. There was the Kevin Powell cover story where ‘Pac famously, though prematurely said “thug life is dead;” another red-tinged cover touting “The New and Untouchable Death Row Records” and the classic photo of B.I.G. posed as the “rap Alfred Hitchcock,” among other such prose and portraits during hip-hop’s most tumultuous era. Many at the time accused Vibe of fanning the flames of this unfortunate rivalry. Some even suggested that Vibe had blood on its hands after the two murders went down.
In hindsight though, Vibe‘s place as a nexus in this bi-coastal war cemented the magazine’s status as a relevant chronicle of hip-hop’s rapidly expanding evolution from sub-cultural status to mass cultural behemoth. Vibe, like the Washington Post during Watergate, no longer simply reported on the story; the magazine had at this point become an integral part of the very story that it was supposed to be reporting on. While some more traditionally minded journalists might disparage such things, there is perhaps not more of a ringing endorsement about cultural relevance that a publication can have than to be both an observer and a participant at the same time. In this way, Vibe was like hip-hop itself, constantly moving between first-person and third-person narration, while recognizing that the provocative power of words and images ultimately lie in the presentation.
Exclusive: Vibe Closes Down/Quincy Jones Wants It Back [EbonyJet.com]
R.I.P., Vibe, 1993-2009 [The Root]
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 1, 2009