This paper is a case study of one Vibe magazine cover. The examination of this cover, which depicts multiplatinum girl band TLC, serves to provide an analytical framework that posits Vibe magazine as a vehicle for disrupting mainstream press visual narratives about African Americans in general and black youth in particular. However, this oppositional reading requires an analysis of not just the cultural artifact, but also a discussion of audience reception as well as the intentions of the media makers. While some have argued that one cannot battle stereotypes from within mainstream media these media makers were able to circulate new ideas and images. Vibe reproduced patriarchal imagery of African American women, yet conversations with media makers indicate a conscious desire to disrupt such images. For this discussion, I draw on my larger analysis of early Vibe magazine covers as well as interviews with Vibe’s founders and current media workers. Discussed here are motivations of the cover makers but also the cover image as a cultural artifact. One of the top fifty magazines in the U.S. in the 90’s, Vibe helped to catapult hip-hop culture into the mainstream. The paper contextualizes Vibe within journalistic and political history, and critical race communication theories.
|Keywords:||Race and Representation, Hip-hop Journalism, Visual Communication, Vibe Magazine|
Assistant Professor, School of Journalism, Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada