A new magazine targets Philly's young trendsetters.
From the July 11, 2007 Philadelphia Weekly
It all began about a year ago when a black guy from North Philly started arguing on a regular basis with a white Jew from West Mt. Airy at a now-defunct coffee shop in Northern Liberties.
"You don't know what the fuck you're talking about," Tayyib Smith would jokingly say to Matt Bacine.
"You don't know what the fuck you're talking about," Bacine would respond.
The playful debates - usually about race or politics in the city - morphed into a mutual lament that Philly's youth culture scene was being ill served by the local media. For too long, they agreed, talented young Philadelphians weren't getting respect and recognition in their own hometown, so they were trucking off to New York, California, Europe and elsewhere, where they became mega-stars.
"There's no medium here to document them," says Smith, a soft-spoken 36-year-old. "There's no medium to highlight them, to have an intellectual discourse with them, to give them a voice."
So Smith and Bacine decided to start their own magazine. They talked to friends, disregarded the naysayers, and assembled a small staff of diverse, aggressive people.
From hipsters to hip-hoppers, skaters to DJs, people making it happen in Philly to Philly people making it happen elsewhere in the world, the mag - and its Web presence - will strive to fill the void in the landscape of glossy Philadelphia publications.
"There's no younger-demographic magazine in Philly right now," says Bacine, 32. "We're not going to have competition because there's nobody doing what we're doing."
The existing mainstream Philly mags, Smith says, appeal to older, wealthy suburbanites, not real Philadelphians.
"They don't care about what happens here; they don't want to know," he says. "They aren't from here. It's almost like they've colonized Philly."
Smith was raised in North Philly, moved to West Philly and illegally attended Cheltenham High School rather than the dangerous Sayre. A recruiter sold him on the Navy, and Smith spent the next four years in Guantanamo Bay, Virginia Beach and at the Panama Canal.
"I hated it, but in retrospect it was a positive experience," he says. "The military is designed to kill your individuality, to make you a drone. But I was busting my ass working 12-on, 12-off. It gave me a better work ethic."
He tried college for a while, but it didn't take. (He considers his year at Temple "the most irrelevant time of my career.") He worked at a Jenkintown restaurant, became a manager there, and then quit to move to Colorado. Out there he booked music shows at a club, he worked as a stagehand, and occasionally he was a doorman.
"I'm from Philly and I'm in Boulder, Colo.," says the affable, average-sized Smith of his bouncer duties. "How intimidating do I have to be?"
When he returned to Philly, he waited tables at Le Bec-Fin. ("It was like working in an opera," Smith says. "French people are real dramatic.") He opened Stephen Starr's Buddakan as a waiter, and began promoting events at Lucy's Hat Shop on the side.
He ultimately left the restaurant industry altogether to work with the Axis Music Group - producers of local talent like Musiq Soulchild, Jill Scott and the Roots. The new magazine's space is immediately adjacent to Axis' studios in Center City.
Bacine grew up in West Mt. Airy, and commuted to Akiba Hebrew Academy in Bala Cynwyd for seven years. After graduating from Temple with a sociology degree, he landed a gig running the AOL Atlantic City website. He quit that job to travel across the country a few times. Three years ago he and a few partners opened Revelations Boutique, a California-style earthy clothing shop on Fourth Street in Queen Village.
Smith is rooted in the culture. Bacine has the business smarts. Between the two of them, they're connected to nearly all of the city's youth culture.
"In New York you have these little scenes - like the literary scene or the sneaker kids," says Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Two.One.Five's editor-at-large. "In Philly it's not so segregated."
She says the magazine will cover the gamut of interests, from street culture and food to music and poetry.
"We're into a little bit of everything," says Ghansah, a 25-year-old Mt. Airy native and Friends Select grad.
The staff declined to offer details of their editorial content, but their press kit teases essays about the MOVE bombing and reform politics. There's an "email exchange" with ?uestlove of the Roots, a cartoon titled "White Guy, Black Guy," and a dominating photo of 17 Philadelphia trendsetters and tastemakers. The image includes clothing designers, bartenders, skaters and musicians.
"There's a whole new wave of people doing stuff," Smith says. "People don't know what we have here."
The free magazine will be available at local shops, coffeehouses, galleries and other gathering places across the city. Copies will also be delivered to hotspots around the world.
Smith and Bacine aren't worried that the mainstream print media is losing circulation and becoming more and more digital. Their product, by contrast, will be printed on thick stock rather than traditional flimsy magazine paper.
"Even in this disposable culture, people want high quality," Smith says. "They'll collect it."
The possibility of failure only urges the crew to work harder, Bacine says.
"In Philly, if you fuck up, people will know you fucked up," he says. "You got to be on your ball all the time."