Vibe magazine, the urban glossy founded in 1992 by legendary producer Quincy Jones, announced on Tuesday (June 30) that the publication is folding and will no longer produce print issues or publish its Web site, Vibe.com.
With the closing of the title, effective immediately, there now remains no large circulation print publication dedicated to covering hip-hop, R&B and fashion on a mainstream level.
During the magazine's memorable 16-year-run, a number of iconic covers were produced, chief among them images of Suge Knight's Death Row roster adorned all in black, and simple, striking photos of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes and Aaliyah to mark their deaths. The magazine, however, will forever be remembered for its controversial coverage of the East Coast/ West Coast hip-hop rivalry, which inspired many of the scenes from the film
A number of notable editors helmed VIBE over the years, including Alan Light, Emil Wilbekin, Mimi Valdes and current editor-in-chief Danyel Smith. (This reporter and MTV News Hip-Hop Editor Shaheem Reid both spent time on Vibe's staff as well.)
"On behalf of the VIBE CONTENT staff, it is with great sadness, and with heads held high, that we leave the building today," Smith said in a statement. "We were assigning and editing a Michael Jackson tribute issue when we got the news. It's a tragic week overall, but as the doors of VIBE Media Group close, on the eve of the magazine's 16th anniversary, it's a sad day for music, for hip-hop in particular, and for the millions of readers and users who have loved and who continue to love the VIBE brand. We thank you, we have served you with joy, pride and excellence, and we will miss you."
Like most magazines, Vibe has struggled in recent years to transition into the digital realm, as readers flock to the Internet for information. Vibe recently redesigned its Web and print properties. The magazine also began publishing in a smaller format and made the decision to remove album reviews from the title and include the section online only. In addition, a tabloid-like spin-off called The Most was scheduled to be introduced into the market place.
But due to declining readership, the recession, a weakened music industry and a faltering ad market, the magazine could no longer endure a high amount of debt as an independent publishing company, said Vibe Media Group CEO Steve Aaron in remarks sent to the staff.
When the magazine was founded in the early '90s, the upstart title was positioned as a sexier alternative to The Source, at the time the leading publication in hip-hop circles. The magazine then went on to break many barriers — under Wilbekin's tenure as editor, it won an American Society of Magazine Editors award — and reshaped the definition of an urban magazine.
Writers such as Kevin Powell, Dream Hampton and Harry Allen published thought-provoking analysis on hip-hop from within the culture, and the magazine left an indelible mark on countless readers as Vibe helped to launch the careers of many of today's biggest stars, from Jamie Foxx to Diddy to Mariah Carey, all of whom had graced multiple covers.
Vibe's influence and impact on the worlds of hip-hop and R&B has been both immense and enduring.