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* Among the many new periodicals giving voice to urban sounds, Vibe is by far the glossiest, prettiest, and most mature of the bunch.

Since its debut over a year ago, this solid presence on newsstands puts a stamp on the prominence of black culture in mainstream music today, and points to the shrunken stature of rock-and-roll.

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In the lofty vision of Editor in Chief Jonathan Van Meter, Vibe aims to be ``the Rolling Stone of urban music.'' Since the magazine was conceived, financed, and launched by musician Quincy Jones and Time Warner Inc. Mr. Van Meter certainly has the backing to talk big.

According to Van Meter, a 31-year-old white from New York City, ``There's always been a part of a generation that grew up with [music] that has nothing to do with rock-and-roll.''

The music he's speaking of has been bred, for well over 50 years, on city streets - soul, rhythm & blues, funk, and disco, as well as more recent hybrids: rap, hip hop, and acid jazz.

Vibe includes lengthy artist interviews (a mix of the famous and not-so-famous), shorter news items on the urban music scene, as well as TV, film, and sports commentaries that spotlight minorities and the issue of racism in America.

While the larger features by outside writers sing with clarity, in the smaller, staff-written items attitude and adjectives too often hold sway over coherence and continuity.

One oddball streak: For a magazine keen on representing people of color, Vibe's collection of expensive ads is loaded with whites.

Van Meter says his readers are racially split: 50 percent black and 50 percent mixed (white, Hispanic, and Asian). Circulation hovers at 100,000. The pretty monthly sells for a reasonable $2.50.

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