JOURNALIST Q&A: Raymond Roker

Urb has grown from a small, free Southern California-focused publication into a national magazine with a concentration on street culture. Its founder, Raymond Roker, talks to PRWeek about his magazine's brief trip through the mainstream and its future outlook.

Urb has grown from a small, free Southern California-focused publication into a national magazine with a concentration on street culture. Its founder, Raymond Roker, talks to PRWeek about his magazine's brief trip through the mainstream and its future outlook.

PRWeek: What makes Urb different from other music magazines on the newsstands? Raymond Roker: We've always been inclusive of anything that's urban. As long as there's the spirit of the urban underground, that's what we cover. We don't see urban as being black or Latino like ad agencies or magazines like Vibe do. We see it as multicultural and multi-musical. Beyond that, we're into emerging music expression, fashion, and lifestyle, and we're not concerned with whether someone is a platinum-selling act or a gold-selling act. In fact, we steer away from those artists. PRWeek: Recent covers have featured everybody from Outkast and Bjork to much lesser-known acts. Is part of the idea to bounce back and forth? Roker: Last year was an interesting year. We tried a few things. Whenever we put a big act like Radiohead or Bjork on the cover, they still were putting out music that's progressive and respected by the street and the underground community. The past four or five covers, we've been focused back on our roots. We've been doing a lot of covers that are more cutting edge. We take artists that are footnotes in other magazines, and we put them on the cover. PRWeek: You ran a profile of DJ Danger Mouse - now infamous for his mixing of Jay-Z's "The Black Album" over The Beatles' "The White Album" - just as that story was breaking. Was that just luck? Roker: I suppose it's always good luck when things get picked up in the mainstream, and we as an underground voice are seen to be prophetic. It's cool, but that's what we try to do every issue - talk about things that are important to the underground and have value-added impact by being in a weekly or being on MTV. But we don't really plan it that way. PRWeek: Do you see the magazine having someone with the mass appeal of Radiohead on the cover again? Roker: We flirted with tossing those artists out there. I don't think you're going to see much from us on that world. The main reason is that it's a very crowded landscape right now. Our usefulness in discussing a band like Outkast right now has been marginalized to some extent. We don't gain as much ground with our audience in bringing in stories like that. Where we make inroads is having a band on the cover that they don't even know. We flirted with the other side, but we're much more committed than ever to our core values - emerging, urban, and alternative culture. PRWeek: Are there ways in which PR people can be more useful to your editorial staff? Roker: One area that's really exciting is consumer-level DJ equipment, mixing equipment, turntables, and video equipment. That territory is exciting, and we're committed to expanding that coverage. Name: Raymond Roker Publication: Urb Title: Founder and creative director Preferred contact method: rroker@urb.comrroker@urb.com Website: www.urb.com

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