Stanford Fellow's “Book-Shaped Magazine” Reimagines Print Experience

Music journalist Danyel Smith spearheads HRDCVR

East Oakland native Danyel Smith got her first byline at East Bay Express before becoming the music editor at SF Weekly in 1990. She eventually relocated to New York, where she became the first female editor at Vibe and a published novelist. More recently, she was an editor at Billboard and is currently working on a history of African-American women in pop music.

Smith has returned back to the Bay Area to begin what might be her most special and personal project to date: HRDCVR, a print publication she and husband Elliott Wilson describe as a "book-shaped magazine by and for the new everyone."

As a 2013-14 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University, Smith says she's spent "an incredible year of being nurtured and learning here." She has taken classes at the Graduate School of Business, the Institute of Design and other university departments while developing the idea of HRDCVR as her fellowship project.

Elliott Wilson, based in New York, is the founder of the influential and has a web series called The Truth on Jay Z's Life + Times YouTube channel. He is also the host of CRWN, a live interview series that has quickly become rap's answer to Inside The Actor's Studio. Though the couple have been married for almost nine years and both have been heavily involved in the world of music for more than two decades, it's significant and surprising to note that HRDCVR is their first media collaboration.

"We've always competed," Smith laughs. "When he was the editor-in-chief at XXL, I was the editor-in-chief at Vibe. When he was the music editor at The Source, I was the music editor at Vibe — so it hasn't been pretty."

The idea behind HRDCVR is to create a magazine with special permanence in this digital age, something that could easily be mistaken for a beautiful coffee table book. 

"We’re thinking about dry-transfer and dye-transfer," Smith and Wilson write in their Kickstarter campaign that they hope will make the project a stunning reality. "Art hand-colored, and handwritten. Bespoke typefaces Garamond-y and Le Monde and Bauhaus and bow wow wow. We're thinking about metaphoric lettering. Memento mori. Emblems. Iconography. Poster styles. Stencil. Massive bylines. Text as image. Sticker paper. Monumentality. Entire stories built in pull-quote. Wide-width satin ribbon bookmark. Matte paper and glossy paper, at the same damn time."

"A lot of writers haven't had the experience of being an editor and a lot of writers haven't had the experience of seeing their name printed on beautiful paper or having a meeting with an art illustrator," says Smith. "We know what that feels like and we want more people to be able to experience and feel that as well."

HRDCVR is not intended to explicitly be a music magazine, though it will be a natural component to the project. "We believe one can adore DJ Snake and Cloud Nothings and Gerardo Ortiz and Nicki Minaj and still want to get deep into how things are moving at the protests in Venezuela, want to know who the humans are behind the net neutrality battles, want to prep for the 2016 elections."

This sort of diversity reflects the cut-and-paste nature that gave rise to hip-hop.

"Hip-hop is in our culture," says Wilson. "From the fact that we galvanized to elect Barack Obama to everything, it's all hip-hop still. To me, it's really important to capture 2014 and what's going on right now, and when I go to newsstands and see magazines and see books, I don't get that feeling."

There may only be one edition of HRDCVR (which they're presently calling Issue 1nce), but they're not opposed to the possibility of more in the future.

The HRDCVR team seeks to raise $30,000 on Kickstarter. Watch their first campaign video below:

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