R.I.P VIBE Magazine 1993-2009

Despite boasting a circulation in the region of 818,000 in 2008, a spokesperson for VIBE magazine has announced that they are to close down with immediate effect. The magazine was established by Quincy Jones in 1993 and had enjoyed 16 years as a leading urban music publication. VIBE Media Group was acquired by Wicks Group in 2006 and has suffered a reduction in both size and circulation since the take over.

 According to Editor in Chief Danyel Smith, the editorial team were working on an issue dedicated to the late superstar Michael Jackson when the news broke, as she explained in the following statement:

“We were assigning and editing a Michael Jackson tribute issue when we got the news. It’s a tragic week in overall, but as the doors of VIBE Media Group close, on the eve of the magazine’s sixteenth 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.”

Smith stated that the Content Team could leave the building with their ‘heads held high,’ a sentiment that was clearly shared by the former VIBE Media Group CEO Steve Aaron, who expressed his pride and affection for the publication in his memo to the VIBE staff. Aaron named financial difficulty and the collapse in print advertising as the primary reasons for the decision.

VIBE built a reputation as a pioneering and original market leader in the field of urban music journalism and will be remembered for its innovative and sometimes risqué covers and diverse, insightful content. A prime example of such innovation was the infamous topical yet light-hearted TLC cover, where the girls dressed as fire-fighters, following the Left-eye fire controversy. VIBE will also be remembered for a number of memorable covers and articles featuring some of the biggest urban music stars.

It is currently unclear whether the brand will continue to exist as an online publication, although it has been confirmed that there will not be another print edition of the magazine. Once thought of as the most well-written and enriched music publications, VIBE Magazine will be sorely missed by both the industry and the hip hop community.

© Hannah O’Connor (3threat Media)

To be continued exclusively in the next edition of Street Cred Magazine…the home of Info.

Thriller!

A Tribute to Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

He thrilled the world in every way you could imagine. Between his unworldly stage presence and turbulent personal life, nobody had anticipated the greatest shock that Michael Jackson gave the world; the greatest entertainer of our time died yesterday in Los Angeles. Tributes from fans and celebrities alike have flooded the media after Jackson passed away, aged only 50 years old. The exact details surrounding the superstar’s death remain a mystery. It is believed that Jackson suffered a heart attack at his Los Angeles home, although the true cause of death will not be clear until the post-mortem takes place.  According to his older brother Jermaine, Jackson was reported dead at 2.26pm (Pacific Time) at UCLA medical centre.

In true star fashion, he didn’t go quietly, according to reports, news of Jackson’s death caused websites such as TMZ, which first broke the news, Wikipedia, Google and Twitter to crash due to huge surges of traffic. Twitter even reported on average 5000 tweets per minute discussing Jackson’s death. Internet Retail giant Amazon has announced that following the star’s untimely demise, their top 15 album sales slots are now already occupied by the late singer. Music channels, including MTV and radio stations across the globe abandoned regular programming to pay tribute to great entertainer, who was affectionately dubbed the king of pop.

Jackson’s influence on the music world was unrivalled; urban music artists from Usher and Justin Timberlake to Diddy and Lil Wayne have listed him as an inspiration.  The superstar confessed to being a fan of hip hop and worked with many urban music producers, such as Swizz Beatz, Will.I.Am, Mel-man, Teddy Riley and Quincy Jones. Jackson’s music has been sampled and covered by a huge range of artists spanning every imaginable genre. His phenomenal sophomore solo album ‘Thriller’ is currently the best-selling album of all time, sparking no less than 7 hit singles including the eponymous hit ‘Thriller’ and the infectious ‘Billie Jean.’ ‘Thriller’ amazingly sold over 100 million copies worldwide, an outstanding sales figure to which no other album has even come close.

Many failed to find the words to express their true feelings regarding this tragic loss, although sombre tributes have poured out from family and friends.  Madonna expressed her grief, stating, ‘I can’t stop crying over the sad news…the world has lost one of the greats.’  Similarly, hip hop mogul Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs praised Jackson, exclaiming ‘he made the music come to life!’ Legendary producer Quincy Jones merely stated, ‘I just don’t have the words’ and continued to explain that he felt like he had lost a ‘little brother.’ Rapper Lil Wayne then described Jackson’s death as ‘a sad day in history.’ His older brother Jermaine Jackson spoke on behalf of the family, explaining how medical professionals had attempted to resuscitate him but to no avail.  He concluded his statement tearfully with the words, ‘I love you.’

Although family, friends and fans worldwide are mourning Jackson’s death, perhaps it is also important to celebrate the life of this great man and contributions he made to the entertainment world. Michael Jackson’s music was a brilliant blend of addictive melodies and memorable lyrics that should be remembered as the greatest sound of our time.  The award-winning artist sold an estimated 750 million records in his lifetime and won no less than 13 Grammy awards. Michael Joseph Jackson is survived by his three children and leaves a legacy that will never be forgotten.

© Hannah O’Connor (3threat Media)

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Info.

Auto-tune Hip Hop Is Dead?

When Nas proclaimed that hip hop was dead, protests rang from all corners of the urban music world; it would seem, however, that few artists are quite so keen to speak up for Auto-tune after hip hop giant Jay-Z called for its immediate demise. Auto-tune, originally intended to correct slight pitch inconsistencies, is often used by hip hop and r’n’b artists to achieve an ‘over-tuned’ digitalised vocal effect. This practise was popularised by artists, such as Akon, T-Pain, Lil Wayne, The Dream and Kanye West, but after becoming a trend in the urban music scene, many feel it has been over-used.

In his battle-cry to the seemingly Auto-tune obsessed hip hop world, Jay-Z expressed his distaste for not only the ‘over-tuned’ style but also iTunes, ringtone sales and the general commercialisation of hip hop. It could be argued that Jigga’s street anthem ‘D.O.A. (Death of Auto-tune)’ is particularly hypocritical, especially considering that his forthcoming album ‘The Blueprint 3’ will be produced almost entirely by self-proclaimed Auto-tune fanatic Kanye West. Although it is questionable whether or not Jay’s track will have any true impact on the trend, it is likely that the influence of one of hip hop’s biggest names will separate the urban music community when it comes to Auto-tune usage. Many r’n’b artists will most likely continue using the technology to varying degrees, whereas the majority of rappers may now attempt to distance themselves from the style.

Whilst there are many who feel that the Auto-tune phenomenon has been predominantly a curse for the hip hop world, rather than a blessing, it must be said that initially some classic, innovative sounds emerged from it. T-Pain’s pioneering use of the over-tuned vocal style provided an exciting and distinctive new sound, which many rappers were keen to incorporate into their work, leading to a number of collaborations. A shared love of Auto-tune sparked the highly-anticipated ‘T-Wayne’ project between T-Pain and Lil Wayne, which is reportedly scheduled for release later this year.

Love it or hate it, another prime example of this unique strain of hip hop is Kanye West’s masterwork ‘Heartless.’ West’s haunting melody coupled with his robotic over-tuned vocals perfectly mirrored the cold, metallic feelings of heartbreak. Released after a number of personal disasters, the album ‘808s & Heartbreak,’ which received mixed critical response, succeeded in providing a rare insight into his vulnerability, a theme that has become a taboo for many rap artists. His so-called ‘heartbreak effect’ was a refreshing break from the swagger and ego usually associated with Kanye and also hip hop in general.

Whether or not you agree that Jay-Z should have the right to condemn Auto-tune to death, it is clear that the sound has become a gimmick in the urban music industry. In a recent interview with a Chicago radio station, Jay stated that it was ‘time to move on’ from the trend, which is currently just contributing to evidence for the age-old argument that hip hop ‘just sounds the same.’ When will hip hop artists learn that evolution is the key to success in the music world? Surely it would be better to move on from current trends and develop new styles than to fall prey to the stagnant cycle of tedium that Nas warned about. Therefore, perhaps the real question should be, is it hip hop that is in danger of dying rather than Auto-tune?

© Hannah O’Connor (3threat Media)

Chris Brown: Innocent Even When Proven Guilty?

Chris Brown has been the subject of extensive media interest since accusations of making criminal threats and felony assault against him arose. The young r&b star, who has previously enjoyed success largely due to his squeaky-clean image and teenage fan base, yesterday pleaded guilty to beating his then girlfriend Rihanna after a pre-Grammy party in February.

A judge ruled that Brown must spend 180 days performing community service in Virginia and will spend the next five years in probation.  In addition, Brown was also ordered to stay a minimum of fifty yards away from Rihanna during this time, although the order was reduced to ten yards at any industry events.  According to AP reports, Rihanna did not testify in the hearing.

Although it was commendable for Brown to admit his guilt, perhaps his punishment was a little too lenient.  Surely by allowing Brown such a good plea bargain, it may send the message that domestic abuse is actually acceptable in modern society, which on the contrary it most certainly is not.  The long and difficult battle against domestic abuse will continue until true justice prevails in the cases of people like Chris Brown.

© Hannah O’Connor (3threat Media)

Tupac Resurrected Again in 2010?

After acquiring Death Row Records and their entire catalogue for c. $18million earlier this year, the next steps by Canadian entertainment giant WIDEawake Entertainment Group have been the subject of much speculation.

According to several reports Evergreen Copyrights have inked a deal with WIDEawake, allowing them to release Death Row’s material, including any unreleased tracks by artists such as the late Tupac Shakur.

WIDEawake have announced plans to re-release classic Death Row albums, like ‘The Chronic,’ as collectors’ edition box-sets in winter 2009, ready for the holiday period.  Other reported releases include a 4-disc collection of unreleased Death Row material and also a set of ‘lost’ recordings by 2pac, which is allegedly due to drop in June 2010.

The album, which is yet to be named, will reportedly be released next year to mark the anniversary of Shakur’s birthday.  Tupac Shakur, who was murdered in a Las Vegas drive-by shooting in September 1996, would have been 39 next June.

Many 2pac fans will await the release with conflicting feelings, after the disappointment of previous posthumous albums, which due to the involvement of artists hungry to collaborate with the late rap legend, have bared no resemblance to Shakur’s style.  Hopefully these so-called ‘lost’ recordings will be released as Shakur intended and will not serve to alienate his fans, unlike ‘Loyal to the Game’ or ‘Pac’s Life.’

© Hannah O’Connor (3threat Media)

The Chris Brown Show Must Go On…

RECAP

The California Supreme Court has denied a request to delay R&B superstar Chris Brown’s preliminary hearing. The petition, which was filed by Brown’s lawyer, had previously also been denied by the appeals court.  The 20 year old singer is due to appear in court for the hearing next Monday (22nd June), where the judge will decide if there is sufficient evidence to proceed with the case.

Brown was arrested earlier this year for allegedly assaulting his then girlfriend Rihanna, after an argument between the pair escalated following a pre-Grammy party at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  Rihanna was treated for a number of injuries, allegedly including cuts, bruises and bite wounds, at the Cedars Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles.  There has been a significant media interest following the incident, although it would seem that the assault accusations have done Brown’s career little damage, aside from the loss of several endorsements.

Brown and Rihanna were both in attendance during the NBA Finals game 4 in Orlando last week, therefore sparking rumours of a reunion, despite the fact that they did not show up nor sit together. It is likely that Rihanna will be called on to testify during the hearing next week.

Info.

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