Hype Magazine started by Local girl with a worldwide influence
by Ron Wynn
"Hype" magazine publisher Jameelah Wilkerson really didn't have any grand journalistic ambitions in mind when she started the urban music, Hip-hop and rap publication some 13 years ago. Indeed, to this day she views herself more as a marketer and promotions person than a prototype magazine executive.
But "Hype" is that rare bird in 2015, a successful magazine both on the Web and in print. Wilkerson says the lack of coverage and exposure for entertainment in general, and urban performers in particular, was the motivating factor in starting the publication back in 2002.
"There was just the need for something that put a spotlight on entertainment in this area," Wilkerson said this week during a lengthy phone interview. "There were not a lot of outlets covering urban music. It wasn't like I envisioned myself as some type of great journalist. But I saw a need and thought it was something that really needed to be done."
From that start, "Hype" has evolved into one of the top music publications in the country, and without question the most influential in the Midwest. The print version is issued quarterly, with its latest edition just released March 25.
Meanwhile the digital version (thehypemagazine.com) is updated daily, and represents an ambitious and comprehensive collection of news and information on artists, a section with mixtapes, photos, videos and news about upcoming events, as well as breaking stories and recent features. "We update the digital magazine every day," Wilkerson continued. "We were publishing online from the beginning, long before people even thought that there was an audience out there for this kind of content on the Web."
But "Hype" has also done something that doesn't happen often today: it's gone from being a free publication handed out in small Mom and Pop stores to a glossy, high tech, expertly edited and designed quarterly with lavish photos that's now marketed and available in 3,000 stores, and also distributed overseas to several countries.
"The whole newsstand thing is a different ball game for us," Wilkerson added. "We were the first urban magazine in this area to get on newstands, and we're out here competing with everything else that's out there."
"Even though we were online from the beginning, I also realized there was a readership out there that wanted the physical publication to hold in their hand," Wilkerson said. "There's still a lot of value in print. Not everyone wants to see or access everything digitally. We've been on the newsstands now since 2013 and that has definitely helped elevate our profile."
However Wilkerson is quick to credit her creative zzteam for "Hype's" success. The group includes the managing editor Jerry Doby, fashion editor Daja Marie and music editor Keith McNeil. "Each person takes care of their department and it's a definite team effort," Wilkerson said. "We kind of come together and make it happen."
Wilkerson handles the design and layout, while Doby is responsible for editing and preparation of the copy. She gives him a lot of praise for his efforts, saying that their meeting was one of those storybook things. "He had only been out of the military a couple of weeks when we met," Wilkerson recalled. "He told me that he was looking to get involved with something in journalism. I told him I had just the thing for him." Doby's been on board the past three years.
In the fluid, constantly changing universe "Hype" covers, staying on top of things is critical to any publication. Wilkerson says audience input is a vital component. "Our magazine is for the people," she said. "It's very much one that depends on feedback from the audience. But by the same token we control the content. We don't just put someone on the cover because they want to be on the cover. It's something that has to be earned, and that our audience really demands."
"Hype" has also been on the road quite a bit in the past few months. They were recently at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. They've also been doing a number of events on the road in such cities as Memphis and Charleston, South Carolina. These are a combination of meet-and-greet affairs and showcases, providing a combination of a performance forum for up and coming artists in different cities and also the opportunity for exchange and interaction with various industry people. Their next events are set for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, then a return to the Midwest with a Detroit function.
Wilkerson says that "Hype" will always be an Indianapolis magazine, even though the city remains a tough place for urban and rap artists to flourish. "Things have gotten a bit better, but this is still not the easiest place for entertainment or for the people that we cover. But we're part of the hub of urban entertainment and music in the Midwest and it's a responsibility that we take very seriously."
"We're going to stay here and keep going until the job is done," Wilkerson concludes. "We know that there's a need in the marketplace for what we're doing and every one on the team is committed to keeping things going and seeing the magazine continue to grow and its role in helping urban culture and artists flourish expand."