Published in Bayview Post. [December 2007]
Local grad gives peace a chance with urban magazine
Early love of music spawns a successful urban magazine
Student: Harris Rosen
Graduated: A.Y. Jackson Secondary School, 1986
Best Subject: History
Worst Subject: Math
Current Job: Publisher of Peace Magazine
The 15th year anniversary of a magazine is a big deal, especially for an independent publication like urban lifestyle magazine Peace. For its publisher, Harris Rosen, it still feels like every day is his first.
"Where did the time go," he asks rhetorically. "It just doesn't seem like it's been 15 years."
For Rosen, the longevity of Peace is proof positive that you can achieve a good life by simply following your passions. The A.Y. Jackson graduate explains that he wasn't a particularly exceptional student.
"I went to my classes," he says. "The ones I enjoyed, I spent a lot of time on the work and tried to do really well. In the ones I didn't like, I caused problems in class."
Fortunately for potential employers, Rosen decided that he had to be his own boss. Working at Seneca College's school newspaper and inspired by music, Rosen struck out on his own as an independent magazine publisher.
After co-starting up two fledgling publications, Rosen found success with the launch of Peace in 1992.
Although the first issue of Peace featured Kurt Cobain on the cover, Rosen couldn't ignore his passion for a then controversial style of music - hip hop.
"I've been totally in love with hip hop since the mid-'80's when I was at A.Y. Jackson. When I first heard Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys, it was game over," Rosen says.
That love grew, and when he began publishing Peace, he couldn't ignore his love any longer.
"It got to the point where it was taking so much of my time and attention that I slipped hip hop content into Peace," he says.
Soon after its launch, Peace became known as one of Canada's foremost hip hop magazines.
Rosen's interview with Notorious B.I.G. has become in Rosen's words, "quite a legendary interview that's been written about a lot online and in books."
For Rosen, having the ability to meet many legendary artists, often before they become popular, was one of the perks of his job. He reminisces about a listening session with Southern rap entrepreneur and one-time Toronto Raptor Master P.
"I remember being in a room with Master P and listening to [his three-million-selling breakthrough album] Ghetto D months before it came out and just knowing that it was going to be a huge record."
Meeting rappers and having a generally good time has helped Rosen stay dedicated as an independent publisher. Although he acknowledges that, "You've got to be on the grind - every day 24/7 - to survive as an independent publisher," Rosen explains that the unique benefits of shaping a magazine outweigh the hardship.
"When you're young and into that stuff, it's amazing. I've been able to travel around the world with the magazine, and I get to see all of these different cultures," he says. "All of the people you meet in between is the spice and body."
However, much like the rap world that he started off covering, Rosen understands the importance of reinvention. As Peace grew older, Rosen made a fundamental decision to change Peace into a lifestyle magazine.
"People don't buy music any more, and to base a magazine on just one thing is dumb," he explains.
It's just one of the many changes that Rosen has noticed in the fifteen years of publishing Peace. He admits that, "When we first started out, it was more like a family, but now that we're older, it's still fun but it feels more like work."
Still. Rosen is making sure that Peace celebrates its 15th birthday in style. There already has been a special anniversary issue, a TV commercial and numerous events that the magazine has sponsored. When asked if he can picture celebrating a 30th anniversary for the magazine, Rosen answers immediately.
"No, I don't even think of that."