Veteran Music Journalists Danyel Smith & Elliott Wilson Take Publishing to a New Level

Danyel Smith is a legend of music journalism. As a former Editor-in-Chief of Vibe  when it was considered a Bible for urban culture and thought in the '90s − her journalistic resume is extensive with bylines appearing in Elle, Time, Cosmopolitan, Essence, The New Yorker, Ebony, NPR, The Village Voice, and The Root, to name a few. Adding a quick stint as Editor-in-Chief of Billboard to her belt, Smith is the blueprint of success in print journalism, practicing her craft at its highest, most esteemed level. Now, she takes her craft to a new level with the upcoming project, HRDCVR

HRDCVR is something that I have been thinking about, in one form or another, for many years without its name being Hardcover,” says Smith, a current Jordan B. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. “It started to take shape while I’ve been here at Stanford. Just being here, having time to think, being influenced by Stanford design students and journalism students. I’m just trying to think of something that was more for the new everyone and written by the new everyone.”

HRDCVR is an experimental new publication that will be as much a work of art as it is a functioning news medium.

“This is about pushing print to its extreme. We’re not trying to bring print back in or act like print is the new frontier, but we do think print has been suffering through a bit of a depression, obviously.  We want to shake it up,” says Smith, regarding the new publication created with her husband, veteran hip hop journalist, Elliott Wilson. “There are all kinds of things that we want to do. Just the fact that it’s a magazine that has a hardcover is pushing print to its extreme. We’re talking about three or four different kinds of paper in the publication. We’re talking about figuring out new ways to use paper and ink and adhesives.  The kinds of things that symbolize beauty and depth and attention to detail.  We do believe that many communities have been journalistically underserved for many years.”

As is often the case with any project worth embarking upon, Smith says there was quite a bit of brainstorming at the beginning of the creative process. But she and her husband, Wilson – a former Editor-in-Chief of XXL – quickly came to a creative consensus.

“My husband believed in the concept, but he didn’t believe in the specific idea until we had a name for it,” she says. “We kept trying to come up with names, and he kept saying, ‘That doesn’t sound good' and 'That doesn’t sound good.’ Then I came up with HRDCVR without the vowels.  I knew all along that I wanted it to be a hardcover.  So when I showed it, he was in without further conversation. That’s pretty much how the whole thing came about.”

Successfully raising funds via a Kickstarter campaign that began in April, HRDCVR is funded by a multitude of friends, former colleagues, and even some of her Jordan B. Knight Journalism Fellows. The original goal of $30,000 has been exceeded by nearly $10,000. And now, with over $39,000 raised, a new goal of $60,000 has been set with a deadline date of June 27.  Fully aware of the shaky, current state of print journalism that’s forced many entities to go completely digital, Smith is not trying to save the print medium with HRDCVR. Its sticking point will be the beauty of aesthetics and all-inclusive content. 

 “To give it a demographic is kind of counter intuitive because it’s nascent.  It’s not the mainstream.  We’re about trying serve the multi-stream. We’re about trying to see, without being too kumbaya about it, if the real multi-stream in this country can be reflected on these pages,” says Smith, who’s also writing a book about the history of African-American women in popular music called She’s Every Woman. “We are of the belief that it’s never been done. We are of the belief that no matter what so-called mainstream magazine blended people in the past, but they have never been serving the real everybody. I would like to see everybody in the same place at the same time.”

The more this intrepid individual explained the sticking points of HRDCVR, the more it sounds like the most creative news publication we’ve ever heard of.  However, when it comes to reinventing the wheel, it helps to be able to visualize it rolling.

“Right now we know there’s a possibility that HRDCVR is only going to be published one time. We don’t know if it can work, but we would like to see it,” says Smith, whose written two fiction novels; Bliss and More Like Wrestling. “Some places have come close on the page, and some places have come as far as the team that’s creating the content. But I have never seen the new everybody all in one place.”

Looking to have HRDCVR in the hands of fans by Thanksgiving, for more information and to support, log on to

Back to top