hrdlife: The first time I met Danyel Smith, she was interviewing...


The first time I met Danyel Smith, she was interviewing me for a job at Vibe magazine, where she was editor-in-chief. Job interviews are always kind of nerve-racking, especially for jobs you really want; what made it worse in this case was that I went in being pretty intimidated by Danyel, who struck me as basically what you think of when you think of an EDITOR in NEW YORK CITY: powerful, fiercely intelligent, full of energy, and eminently cool.

She lived up to that image, too. I walked into her giant, pristine office, which was filled with modern-looking white furniture, and was introduced to this impeccably dressed woman who just radiated authority. This was way back in 2007, but I can still remember the hot-pink and green Post-its stuck to her computer screen, and the way she gazed out the window contemplatively as I nervously told her about my work experience. I’d had editing jobs before, but the energy in that office, and the legacy of the magazine, just felt so much more real to me. I felt like I had finally made it just by sitting in that room, talking to that woman—whether or not I got the job.

Of course, I already knew all about Danyel Smith. She was, and is, one of my favorite music critics, novelists, journalists, and editors. I knew that she grew up in Los Angeles and Oakland, California, and was one of the first nationally renowned hip-hop journalists at a time when the mainstream media couldn’t be bothered with that genre. She went on to become the editor of VibeVibe Vixen, and Billboard magazine, to write two engrossing novels (More Like Wrestling and Bliss), and to teach writing at various colleges in New York. She has interviewed and/or written about just about every pop and hip-hop star you can think of, from the 1990s to now. And she has written so many great pieces of music journalism that I don’t even know what to tell you where to start reading! If you can wait a few months, maybe start with HRDCVR, the new “book-shaped magazine” she is launching with her husband, the writer and editor Elliott Wilson.

I ended up getting that job at Vibe (thank you, Danyel!), and ever since then, Danyel has been a beacon, awesome advice-giver, editor, mentor, and friend to me. I am still in awe of her—even her Wikipedia page is just like whaaaaaat! She inspires me and so many others to accomplish our dreams.

JULIANNE: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?


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