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Keith Clinkscales
President and CEO (and HNIC) of Vibe magazine - Spring'97

(since this interview, Keith has left Vibe and now heads Vanguarde Media, which publishes Honey and other magazines)

When did Vibe get started?

Well, there was a test issue, in September of 1992, with Treach on the cover and that was done by Quincy Jones going to Time Warner and saying there needs to be a magazine that deals with one of the biggest cultures in America that has been completely overlooked, and we need to do this right form Hip Hop to R&B to Jazz to classic Soul. All the flavors of the music need to get covered, and thanks to Quincy we were able to get this test issue done. It sold exceptionally well, and about a year later I got with the publication and a bunch of other people came together, and we were able to go ahead and launch the initial issue in September of 1993 with a then little known rapper in the world named Snoop Doggy Dogg on our cover.

Dealing with Quincy, he gave people a lot of leeway, because his presence is so large, he has some 50 yearsexperience in the entertainment business, so when he says this is the way something should be,you get a lot of leeway. Now the thing you have to do with that leeway is produce. So I give Quincy basically all credit for the start and the vision behind that magazine.

Kevin Powell said that there were not enough Black people in senior editorial positions at Vibe, he has a problem with that, and he leaves Vibe. What's your reaction to that?

I would be sad about that, I mean Kevin's a talented person, I was glad to have him when I had him. My first responsibilityat Vibe is to make sure that all 60 people in there can draw a paycheck every other thursday. That's my first responsibility,and then along the way I'm gonna always make sure that we represent and put people of color in positions - not because they're people of color but because they are the best people to be there, period. If you look at my editorial staff now I have 24 people on my editorial staff, of which 19 are African Americans, and that's something I'm very proud of. There's no other magazine in the country thathas the size and scope that Vibe has and has that kind of representation. We have people of all races, all creeds, all sexual orientations, we're like the United Nations in there.

Now the thing about it , I'm not the CEO for Black people, I'm the CEO for all people at Vibe, and I'm gonna run that magazine as I see fit. I'm not gonna be pushed around bypolitical correctness, I'm gonna make it work. If you make it work and you're making ends, making money, then I have the ability to do all kind of things. I also run a major internprogram and all my interns happen to be African American. That's something that provides, not just at the top level, that provides us with a whole level of people that are coming up, that get an opportunity to get this job.

Now, I appreciate , without the Kevin Powells of the world, without agitation, nothing great in this world would happen, so I encourage that. And being a Black man, if I'm not prepared to take the criticism, "you need more Bleck people", I gotta beready to deal with that. But I'm also ready to take props from people that say "look, he addressed the problem, looked at the problem and did his thing".

Now you guys are branching out into a lot of different things. First of all your website. You were one of the first major magazines to have a presence on the web.

Yes sir. Our website does about 1,500,000 hits a week. While we were with Time Warner we were one of the top 3 websites in the Time Warner family, and we have continues at that level. Guys like Blackspot and Reggie Miller really do their thing night after night.They're basically running a little mini-CNN down there, and I appreciate the work they do. They translate Vibe magazine proper, the paper version, into the cyberworld without missing a trick. They pull out what's good from Vibe, then they add their own little thing cuz they're web guys and they know what to do.

You have a TV show. Vibe TV. Replacing Arsenio.

Well, we're trying to replace Leno, that's what we're trying to do

You heard it here first on the Underground Railroad! Takin out Jay Leno!

Naw, not taking him out, that's a mistake. But when Vibe the magazine came out, we didn't try to replace Rapsheet and the Source, we tried to fit in against Rolling Stone, Spin, and Details. And in this game we're trying to do the same thing, not so much trying to replace Arsenio - Arsenio really paved the way so people could even visualizea show like this. We're coming out to be an alternative to Letterman and Leno, cuz there's a lot of young people who are really not feeling that show a lot of women not feeling that show.

Can you tell us some details about it?

Yeah, in New York it comes on WOR, starts in August, 5 nights a week at 11 PM. It is an entertainment talk show, which means 2 to 3 guests, maybe 1 or 2 musical acts. There will be a band, and the band will also have a DJ, so there will be a lot of flavor. There'll be a good amount of Hip Hop but that won't be all you see, you'll seea complete diversification of music. Keep in mind the musical director is Quincy Jones, so you're gonna see everything.

You also have a big concert tour coming up.

Yeah, we got together with Magic Johnson and Miller brewing company to do a concert in 35 cities, New York included. The headliners right now are Mary J, Keith Sweat, and right now we're going through all the Hip Hop things, and we're looking at DJ's.

And the last thing is the Vibe Music Seminar.

We're going into our third year, and we think it's one of the more respected music seminars in the game. The reason why is we focus very hard on making sure people learn something. This music is serious, this culture is serious, and people need to meet people. So, every body knows Vibe can throw a joint, we can throw a party, but during the day it's all serious. No fronting, no profiling,if you want to hang in the lobby you have to get out of the Vibe Music Seminar. All the fun stuff comes at night. This year again it's at the Waldorf Astoria. You know how we do. It'll be from August 19th to the 21st, then on the 22nd is the big concert, which will be the Miller tour.

Mr. Keith Clinkscales, Thank you very much for coming. This man right here, a Black man, is the right hand man of another Black man who owns this magazine called Vibe. Some people have a misconception that it's white owned or white controlled, but that's not the case.

Quincy made sure when we bought Vibe back from Time Warner that I was not just the president but an owner. And that's what it's all about. Some people have different perceptions, but the thing that we try to do, I believe that the music we cover is not just the best Black music, it's the the best music in the world. And because of that we should have the best music magazine.

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