Danyel Smith and Elliot Wilson are two individuals whose names have to be mentioned when you talk about Hip Hop journalism. The husband and wife team have been at it for a minute and have covered a lot of ground.
Danyel, a former classmate at UC Berkeley and a long time fixture in her native Oakland here in the Bay Area, cut her teeth as a writer for the SF Bay Guardian and the Eastbay Express. She later went on to make noise as a music editor for SF Weekly. There she kept her finger on the pulse as she played a key role in shining important lights on local artists.
She would later to go on to knock down doors as she became editors at Vibe Magazine on two separate occasions and at Time Magazine. She also relocated from the Bay Area to Brooklyn. the past few months Danyel has been making the rounds back here in the Bay thanks to her being named a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford.
Her husband Elliot Wilson is powerhouse in his own right.. Most people know him as the former editor of XXL Magazine where he penned popular and often controversial and bodacious columns under the name Yellow N–. Currently heads up the website Rap Radar and does the widely listened to CRWN interview series.
Prior to that Wilson cut his teeth as music editor for Beat Down magazine. later he made noise as being part of the famed Ego Trip squad, where they had a magazine bearing their name . As a member of that crew he co authored two books Book of Rap Lists and Big Book of Racism‘
We caught up with both Danyel and Elliot the other day and spoke to them about their humble beginnings and the current state of Hip Hop journalism and where it intersects with journalism in general. We spoke at length about and how much things have evolved and in some cases devolved over the years and how to turn things around and move this profession to the next level.
Danyel noted that there’s a lot we in Hip Hop can learn from traditional journalism but at the same time there has been a lot that has been picked up from Hip Hop and reflected in the mainstream.
We talked to them about the adjustments magazines and newspapers had to make in the digital age and what its been like for them to be married and at times run competing publications. Elliot noted that when Danyel was editor at Vibe and he was editor at XXL, they had to establish ground rules in the home to make sure work didn’t spill over into their marriage. Both seemed to have a good sense of humor about it..We also talked about their personal journeys, triumphs and challenges over the years in this often times hectic industry.
Lastly we talked to the pair about their new venture HRD CVR.. Believe it or not in the almost 10 years they have been married, the two have never worked with each other on a project until now. This new project is a hard covered magazine that will come out 3 to 4 times year that’s designed to be aesthetically pleasing, high-end in its design, cutting edge in its content and change the soul of journalism.
The pair sees a need to tap into market that is being underserved in terms of its diversity..Far too often readers/ listeners are pigeon-holed into simplistic categories that do very little to reflect our collective complexities. As was noted in their press release, In their press release they note
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.
Below is our insightful Hard Knock Radio conversation with Danyel and Elliot. You can get more info on HRD CVR by clicking HERE