Joanna Coles Joanna Coles

Coles' World: Meet 'Cosmopolitan' Editor-In-Chief, Joanna Coles

Editorial queen Joanna Coles on being the boss of 'Cosmopolitan' and the last challenge that made her nervous. 

Joanna Coles is fueled by the unexpected. As the Commander-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan, the Holy Grail of sex tips and style, the U.K.-bred editor has given the publication a new look and feel by incorporating pieces on politics, feminism, career goals and whatever concerns the millennial woman may have. Last year, Cosmo even won its first ever National Magazine Award in the personal service category for its article on birth control called “Your Guide to Contraception,” beating the likes of Money and GQ.

Even before the Internet dictated trends, unprecedented moments flooded Coles' career. A news journalist for 20 years for the likes of The Times of London and The Guardian, she began her editorial journey at 10-years-old by making a magazine with a friend and sending it to the Queen of England (#moreonthislater). She also snagged the first O.J. Simpson interview after he was found not guilty and witnessed him shatter a glass with his bare hands.

Another one of her more recent history-making moments: Cosmo's first Fun Fearless Life conference held last November at New York's David H. Koch Theater. The brand tapped pop culture notables like Gabrielle Union, Kelly Osbourne, Chrissy Teigen, Spanx founder Sara Blakely and other professionals to inspire (badass) women to be the best versions of themselves. Sample quotable from Coles during the weekend affair: "I’ve grown up with a fear of routine."

It was only right that VIBE sit down with Coles for Women's History Month to pick her brain about what makes her tick and how Cosmo thrives in both print and online. Tap open your Evernote app this instant and take notes from her below.

How I got the Queen of England to read my first magazine:
Weirdly, I was just staying at home with my parents in England. My mum had kept a bag of stuff for me and she was like ‘Here, take this,’ and I found the letter from Buckingham Palace, which I’m now going to frame and keep in my office so people don’t think I’m exaggerating. I had actually done [the magazine] with my friend and the two of us used to send it to our neighbors. We sent [a copy] to the Buckingham Palace and we had gotten a letter back from a Lady-In-Waiting, saying that the Queen had really enjoyed reading it. To me, that was a sign that I should carry on doing it. I kept on with my magazine for a couple more issues but I think I had just always wanted to write, have stuff published and mix things together. We had little poems, bits of prose and bogus news stories that we thought were news about our roads [in England] but very early on, I just realized this is what I loved doing.

The moment I knew I was going to work in the magazine industry:
As a user of magazines and a huge reader, I love the journey of discovery that a good magazine will take you. You pick it up, thinking it’s one thing and then you open the pages and discover a whole new world of ideas, stories and narratives that might be fashion, advice and service that you had no idea you were interested in. That’s what I love about being a reader and it’s what I like trying to create. So, for example, in Cosmo's May issue, it is such an exciting mix of the person on the cover and two stories, which you would never predict you would find in Cosmo. I love giving readers a surprise.

My motivation:
Asking questions and being engaged in what’s going on. I don’t have any issues with motivation. I have a lot of energy. I spent 20 years as a news journalist so I’m always interested in what’s going on and always [ask], ‘What is actually happening? What is the real story here? What is the processed version being given?’

The last challenge that made me nervous:
I just came back from a skiing trip and I came down a run a little too fast. Suddenly, I saw a little safety net they had erected at the bottom and was thinking so hard about how to approach it that I fell. I still tried [to ski] but I had no choice or I was going to fall off the edge. I couldn’t ski for two days because of my leg but it’s fine now. My legs are always better when they’re on high heels.

My response to critics who say ‘print is dying’:
I don’t think great content is dying. I think the way people are absorbing content is changing because technology is changing. We have to be more creative in the way we use print. It gives us an opportunity to be bigger, bolder and better. More books are being sold than ever before and Hearst has launched four new magazines in the last five years. I think people say that because they see new things going on on their smartphones but that doesn’t mean print is dead. I also think that with a brand like Cosmo, we want to be everywhere the reader is.

Apps I can't live without:
Snapchat, Twitter, Evernote, Newsstand, Kindle, Tix and BBC News

The key to not burning out:
Well, I like to sleep. Honestly, the key to not burning out is to have fun. If you’re not having fun while doing it, you shouldn’t be doing it. The only times I’ve ever really felt burnt out are when I’m doing jobs I didn’t enjoy but my energy comes from working with people that I love, coming across people that I love and being engaged with what I’m doing so that sort of feeds on itself.

How I balance my personal and professional life:
I have a pretty understanding family. I have a husband who travels a lot and is a writer so he’s flexible. I feel like it all just swirls around in one big mess. I wouldn’t say that I compartmentalize, I’d just say I’m always on the verge of chaos.

My go-to statement piece:
I would say these Sidney Garber rolling cuffs because they stretch and you can wear them with anything. I find they’re an incredible talking point. You can sit on the subway and someone will lean over and say, ‘I really like your bracelets’ or you can talk to someone at a black tie dinner and they will say, ‘Oh I love those bracelets.’ It’s actually three sets of bracelets but it looks like there’s a lot of individual ones. I never go out [while] wearing them without someone wanting to talk about them.

My definition of an effective boss:
An effective boss needs to have clarity of purpose. If you’re working for someone, you need to understand what they want and what they expect. If you don’t have [a boss] with a clear vision, it’s very hard to work for someone because you don’t know what they’re after. You need a boss who has the ability to communicate that purpose and who will listen to you even when they don’t agree with you.

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Derrel Todd

Music Sermon: Forget The King of R&B, Raphael Saadiq Is The Son Of Soul

#MusicSermon is a weekly series by Naima Cochrane that highlights the under-acknowledged and under-appreciated urban artists and sub-genres from the '90s and earlier. The series seeks to tell unknown and/or forgotten stories that connect the dots between current music, culture and the foundations of the past.

This week, Cash Money artist Jacquees set off an internet firestorm when he proclaimed himself to be the “King” of R&B “for (his) generation.” The comment led artists, executives, music fans and #BlackTwitter in general to debate: who is the King of R&B? (Spoiler alert - it’s not Jacquees.)

While a consensus was never reached, the heated discussion illustrated how much the definitions and ideas of R&B and R&B stars varies between age groups. Ironically, one name that seldom appeared in the convo belongs to one of the most consistent and prolific presences in soul and R&B music for the last 30 years: Raphael Saadiq.

Saadiq has become like a stealth superhero of soul for the last several years of his career, moving to the background as more writer/composer/musician, so the impulse for many might be to label him as an “old school” artist. But that’d be a misnomer, as he’s still had his hand in some of the most influential music for the current generation. Perhaps he transcends a simple R&B conversation as a self-identified Son of Soul (the difference between R&B and Soul is a topic for another day), but however you want to categorize him, he is not widely-enough acknowledged for how he’s kept us jamming, constantly, for three decades.

Let’s explore the iterations through which “Ray Ray” has blessed us over the years.

TONY! TONI! TONÉ!

During the birth and rise of New Jack Swing and then the subsequent evolution to Hip-Hop Soul, Tony! Toni! Toné! was one of the last of a dying R&B breed: the band. They – and a few years later Mint Condition - were standouts as live musicians in an R&B landscape turning to sample-based production. This set both groups apart, establishing them early on as serious soul acts, and making them forerunners of the neo soul sound to come in the late ‘90s.

Like almost every black musician and/or producer of note in his peer group, Saadiq developed and honed his musical chops in the church. Exposure to Motown and Stax by his blues singer father led him to the bass and served as inspiration for his future style. But he, brother Dwayne and cousin Timothy Christian received their formal Tony! Toni! Toné! training on the road: Raphael and Christian toured as part of Sheila E’s band on Prince’s Parade Tour and Dwayne with gospel great Tramaine Hawkins.

Having been properly trained, educated and tested in blues, soul, gospel, and funk, the three formed Tony! Toni! Toné!. Their first album was a modest success, achieving gold status from the RIAA, but wasn’t a standout. The trio started taking the reins on writing and production on their sophomore effort, and the Tonys as we now know them showed up. They announced both their musical background and intentions with their album titles: The Revival, Sons of Soul, House of Music. They were not there for catchy, formulaic R&B. They developed a signature blues, soul, gospel and funk hybrid, rolled up in modern R&B and hip-hop fusion.

The Revival is arguably a new jack swing album – “Feels Good” is a must-have on any new jack playlist – but they were taking the existing marriage of R&B and hip-hop and adding an even deeper soul element, reaching back to ‘70s sonic roots. It was the sonic equivalent of taking new jack swing chicken and shaking it in a paper bag of old-school musically-seasoned flour.

The group still had the kind of jammin’ uptempos found on their debut, Who?, but started to establish themselves as producers of some of the greatest R&B ballads of the ‘90s.

When you think of the Tonys’ music, aside from “Feels Good,” the first song that comes to mind is probably a slow jam. Most acts are fortunate to get one true signature song in their career. Tony! Toni! Toné! has several, and they’re timeless. Put them on today and see if you don’t hit a body roll.

They also established themselves as formidable soundtrack players (as any 90s act worth their salt did. Remember soundtracks, by the way?). They had cuts on the House Party II and Boyz in the Hood albums.

By Sons of Soul they’d found their pocket, and they pushed the sonic limits of contemporary R&B to the extent that some outlets classified the album as jazz, it was such an outlier. Saadiq recognized that they were doing something important for genre. Something that was connecting old style and new. In an interview about the album in 1994, he expressed what he saw as the group’s role in music. "We've been very blessed to be able to be a group that writes our own songs and people have accepted us from both sides, hip-hop and the R&B…I feel very fortunate to be able to do that here in 1993-94, because like you know, it was starting to be a dying thing that was happening. But I guess we were like the bridge between hip-hop and soul and R&B.”

Going back to the aforementioned King of R&B discussion, Diddy chimed in the conversation (he knows a little something about the topic) to run down some criterion to even be considered. His list included vulnerability and adoration in the lyrics and subject matter, the ability to sing a woman’s “draws” off, and the pen game to write hits. Check, check and check. Sons of Soul deservedly landed at or near the top of a gang of 1994 year-end lists and the Tonys continued to raise the bar for the ballad game. Real talk, the last four and a half minutes of the “Anniversary” album cut are better than some entire R&B albums.

With House of Music, the group sought to even more fully showcase all their influences and inspirations: the Al Green-esque “Thinking of You;” the Stylistics-inspired “Holy Smokes & Gee Wiz;” the Bay Area connect with DJ Quik for some G-Funk with “Let’s Get Down;” the straight-up church moment of the “Lovin’ You” reprise closing out the album, with Christian putting all that good anointing on the Hammond B3 organ. This was our clearest glimpse what Saadiq had in store for the future.

LUCY PEARL

When Tony! Toni! Toné! broke up and Saadiq put together supergroup Lucy Pearl, we realized he was on some other sh*t. First, the very idea to bring En Vogue’s Dawn Lewis, A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Saadiq together was genius. Then, oh…what’s this sound? Tony! Toni! Toné! with a little somethin’ extra on it? Saadiq revealed his ability to reinvent himself, stylistically and sonically, and play in different music spaces. Successfully. Hits, check.

WRITER/COMPOSER/PRODUCER/MUSICIAN

After Lucy Pearl, Saadiq embarked on his first solo projects. We’ll get to those, but the more remarkable part of this era was his expansive work as a writer, producer and session musician for others. As mentioned earlier, Tony! Toni! Tone! was an inspiration for neo soul (a term Saadiq loathes), which pulled from ‘60s and ‘70s influences, paired with the return to live instrumentation, mixed with hip-hop swag. Saadiq was a sometime member of Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and J Dilla’s Ummah production collective, but had also been working on outside projects since the Tonys were active. Through either the Ummah or alone, Ray was behind hits you may have attributed to someone else.

-D’Angelo, "Lady:" Saadiq co-wrote, co-arranged and co-produced the still-perfect ode to #WCEs (Women Crush Everydays) with D’Angelo.

-Bilal, "Soul Sista:" Soul and R&B great Mtume on the pen, Saadiq on production.

-Angie Stone, "Brotha:" OK, who’s gonna create the 2018 “Unproblematic” edit of the “Brotha” video?

-Total, "Kissing You:" No, this wasn’t Stevie J. Now, imagine this as a Tony! Toni! Toné! song. You can absolutely hear it, right?

-Erykah Badu and Common, "Love Of My Life (An Ode To Hip Hop):" Saadiq again proving he’s a master of the perfect fusion of hip-hop and an old soul groove.

-D’Angelo, "Untitled (How Does It Feel):" Saadiq has admitted he later realized he was channeling Jay Dee’s style throughout the D’Angelo session.

SOLO SAADIQ

As a solo artist, Saadiq has accomplished what few can: continuously evolving his sound and aesthetic while yet managing to still always sound like himself. The retro-influence has been a constant in his work, but that influence ranges between decades and musical eras. He’d given us a taste of solo Ray through “Ask of You” from the Higher Learning soundtrack, but that could easily pass as a Tony! Toni! Toné! song.

With Instant Vintage (again letting you know what he came to do with the title), Saadiq expanded on his existing signature sound of soul, funk, gospel and R&B; a sound he coined “Gospaldelic.”

With Ray Ray, he delivered a modern blaxploitation soundtrack. But then, in 2008, he went all the way back to Motown and the purest soul sound for The Way I See It. Saadiq was committed to an authentic return to ‘60s soul for the entire process. He eschewed slick, modern production techniques for old-school practices, including vintage equipment, all live instrumentation and single-take recordings. He donned slim-cut suits and classic frames for his look, and delivered a retro soul package via the 45 inch LP box set. But it still sounded incredibly fresh and modern, and that is his gift.

His last solo album, 2011’s Stone Rolling, was a progression of The Way I See It, staying in the same retro soul pocket, bringing some funk and rock’n’roll back into.

Or did he?

MILLENNIAL RAY

The thing about Saadiq is that he doesn’t just look a perpetual 30 years old (he’s 52. It don’t crack.). Unlike a lot of “old heads,” he keeps his ear current, as well. Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington, Anderson Paak, and BJ the Chicago Kid are his musical nephews. He praises them and their music often in interviews, heralding them as the current bridge-builders between eras and urban genres. Labelmate Leon Bridges adapted his The Way I See It and Stone Rolling formulas - from the sound to the ‘60s-style dress and imaging - for his own, and had Saadiq’s enthusiastic blessing. He listens to SZA, PJ Morton and Daniel Caesar. And he still has his finger on the pulse of current urban musical movements.

Saadiq was an executive producer on Solange Knowles’ 2016 A Seat at the Table, garnering a Grammy for the anthemic “Cranes in the Sky.”

He’s also helped to bring the full authenticity of the West Coast to Insecure for the past three seasons, serving as the show’s composer.

And he hasn’t abandoned his peers and contemporaries, garnering a “Best Song” Oscar nomination last year with Mary J. Blige for Mudbound’s “Mighty River,” and just recently executive producing John Legend’s first Christmas album, A Legendary Christmas. Only time will tell what he brings on the forthcoming solo album he told VIBE about, titled Jimmy Lee.

Whether his name is included in King of R&B conversations or not, Saadiq has been booked and busy in every area of black music since before 1988, keeping both aunties and nieces grooving, with no signs of slowing or stopping.

RELATED: Raphael Saadiq Talks New Music, 'Insecure,' And Why Tony! Toni! Toné! Won't Reunite

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Nick Rice

25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

The female voice in hip-hop has always been present whether we've noticed it or not. The late Sylvia Robinson birthed the hip-hop music industry with the formation of Sugar Hill Records (and fostering "Rapper's Delight"), Roxanne Shante's 55 lyrical responses to fellow rappers were the first diss tracks and Missy Elliott's bold and striking music and visuals inspired men and women in the game to step outside of their comfort zones.

These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

READ MORE: 15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

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VIBE / Nick Rice

10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

For your enjoyment, VIBE compiled a list of the top 10 most important hip-hop artists of 2018 based on a series of qualifications: 1) public actions - good, bad, and ugly; 2) music releases; 3) philanthropic/humanitarian work; and 4) trending moments.

Be clear: This list isn’t about the most influential, the most talented, who had the best music or tours. While we are commemorating artists for the work they’ve contributed to this year’s music cycle, we’re looking beyond that and evaluating how these particular artists have shaped conversations and pushed hip-hop culture forward.

READ MORE: 15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

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