Complex (magazine)

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Complex magazine logo.png
Editor Noah Callahan-Bever
Categories Magazine
Frequency Bi-monthly
Publisher Rich Antoniello, CEO
Total circulation
500,000[1] in 2012 (self-assessment, may include unsolicited delivery)
Founder Marc Ecko
First issue 2002
Company Complex Media
Austin Ventures
Accel Partners
Iconix Brand Group[2]
Country United States
Based in New York City
Language English
ISSN 1538-6848

Complex is a New York-based bi-monthly magazine founded by the fashion designer Marc Ecko that has expanded into a lifestyle website and media network for young men aged 16–29.[3] Complex reports on trends in fashion, music, art and design, technology, sports and video games with a focus on niche cultures such as streetwear, sneaker culture, hip-hop, and graphic art.

Complex reports a circulation of 500,000[4] and has in excess of 90 million unique monthly views to its site.[5] Complex has won numerous accolades, including several from Business Insider such as Most Valuable Startups in New York[6] and Most Valuable Private Companies in the World,[7] as well as the Sillicon Alley 100 for Complex CEO Rich Antoniello.[8]

The magazine also owns the Complex Media Network which includes online content on websites, such as Four Pins, Pigeons and Planes, and Do Androids Dance. In 2012, the company launched Complex TV, an online broadcasting platform that has produced a number of original shows, such as Mero in the Wild, The Neighborhood, The Combat Jack Show, Complex Individuals and No Debate.


Complex was established in 2002 by the founder of the Ecko Unltd. brand, Marc Ecko, as a print magazine aimed at providing young males a report of the latest in hip-hop, fashion and pop culture without regard to race.[9] The name Complex evolved from a slogan developed to promote the Ecko website: "Ecko.complex".[10] The idea was to create a men's magazine that combined Ecko's streetwear and hip-hop attitude along with the style of Japanese men's magazines by providing consumer guides. This was achieved by creating a magazine in two sections: one traditional magazine, and the other a shopping guide.

In 2005, Complex was joined by the former senior editor of Vibe magazine, Noah Callahan-Bever. He became editor-in-chief and chief content officer a year later; a position he still retains as of February 2014.[11] By 2006, Complex had begun to turn a profit which allowed the magazine to consider an expansion of their online presence. In April 2007, Complex soft-launched a media network with four websites: NahRight, Nice Kicks, SlamxHype and MoeJackson.[12]

In September 2007, Complex launched the Complex Media Network in order to fully capitalize on the trend toward digital content. By 2009, they had raised over $12 million of first-round funding through Austin Ventures and Accel Partners who took the network over from Marc Ecko Enterprises which had been struggling with debts.[13] Since first-round funding, Complex Media Network has expanded rapidly. In 2010, ad sales grew 154%.[14] According to comScore, the Complex Media Network got 12 million unique hits in March 2012. This encouraged large brands such as Coors, AT&T, Ford, McDonald's, Nike, Adidas and Apple to advertise within the collective. Complex Media Network now includes over 100 sites.[15]

In 2011, Complex acquired Pigeons and Planes, an indie music and rap blog. In 2012, Complex launched Four Pins, a humorous menswear site, edited by Fuck Yeah Menswear author Lawrence Schlossman;[16] Sneaker Report, a performance footwear site;[17] and First We Feast, a food culture site edited by former Time Out New York food editor Chris Schonberger.[18] In 2013, Complex launched the dance music site Do Androids Dance[19] and Green Label, a branded content site presented by Mountain Dew.[20] That year, Complex Media also acquired the sneakerhead culture magazine and website Sole Collector.[21]

Nas on the cover of Complex in 2002

In September 2013, Complex secured a second round of funding from Iconix Brand Group, who own Rocawear, Starter, Ecko Unltd. and Umbro, among others.[22] On November 4, 2013, Complex premiered a new logo and cover design on Instagram that would appear online, as well as on the December 2013 Eminem cover issue.[23][24]


Complex became known early on for its double-sided covers and split format.[25] Complex covers often combined celebrities from across music, film and sports. For example, Mos Def and David Bowie appeared together on the cover of the August/September 2003 issue. Some of Complex's early covers included Nas (May 2002), Tony Hawk and Xzibit (June/July 2002), Ludacris and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (April/May 2003), and Mos Def and David Bowie (August/September 2003). In 2007, Complex gave Kim Kardashian her first ever magazine shoot and cover.[26]

Complex TV[edit]

Complex TV launched in 2012 as an online broadcaster of original content. Nathan Brown, a long-time video development and production executive, serves as general manager of Complex TV and Video.[27] In December 2013, a subsidiary of Complex TV, Complex News, was launched, focusing on day-to-day news.[28][29][30] Complex TV has produced more than a dozen original shows,[31][32] which include:

  • Magnum Opus
  • Quickstrike
  • Fashion Bros!
  • Desus vs. Mero
  • This Week on Netflix
  • Mero in the Wild
  • The Neighborhood
  • The Combat Jack Show
  • Complex Individuals
  • No Debate
  • Trailer Hitch
  • Ratchet News Network
  • TBT
  • The Process
  • First Look
  • Riff Raff Realm
  • Complex Kids
  • Tracking
  • Cut & Show
  • C-List
  • Overcranked

Key staff and contributors[edit]

  • Rich Antoniello, CEO[33]
  • Noah Callahan-Bever, editor-in-chief and chief content officer[34]
  • Moksha Fitzgibbons, chief revenue officer[35]
  • Brent Rollins, creative director[36]
  • Joe LaPuma, director of content strategy[37]
  • Nathan Brown, general manager of Complex TV and Video[38]
  • Russ Bengtson, editor of Sneakers
  • Lawrence Schlossman, editor-in-chief of Four Pins[39][40]


Complex Media owned and operated sites[edit]


Sites in the Complex Media Network[edit]



Lil Wayne and Jay-Z[edit]

In the December/January 2007 issue, Lil Wayne announced that he had superseded Jay-Z: "It's not your house anymore and I'm better than you," Lil Wayne said. Jay-Z responded shortly after, discouraging Lil Wayne from smoking "cannabis" on a guest verse on rapper T.I.'s song "Watch What You Say". Lil Wayne responded on a track called "Beat Without Bass", by the rapper Freekey Zekey, saying: "You old-ass rappers better stay on tour. You're like forty-four, I got a .44, I'm twenty-four. I could murk you and come home when I'm forty-four."[41]

Better Business Bureau rating[edit]

The magazine was rated "F" by the Better Business Bureau in 2007, for failure to respond to consumer complaints, mostly concerning the unsolicited sending of the magazine to people and not desisting upon request.[42]

Kim Kardashian photo[edit]

In 2009, reported that Complex had posted a digitally unenhanced version of April/May issue cover star Kim Kardashian. Complex swapped the enhanced image on their site, but not before the unenhanced version had gone viral. Kardashian responded to the incident on her blog, saying: "So what: I have a little cellulite. What curvy girl doesn't!?"[43] She went on to say that she was "proud" of her body, posting behind-the-scenes pictures of the shoot on her website.[44]

Uncovering the whereabouts of Earl Sweatshirt[edit]

In 2011, Odd Future member Thebe Kgositsile, better known by his stage name Earl Sweatshirt, had discontinued making public appearances with the group and making music entirely. His whereabouts remained a mystery with various outlets reporting different stories. In 2011, Complex was the first to report the true location of the missing member of Odd Future. He had been checked into Coral Reef Academy in Samoa, a retreat for at-risk boys. Earl Sweatshirt eventually returned to the United States in 2012.[45][46][47]

Pyrex Vision[edit]

In January, 2013, Four Pins broke the news that the streetwear clothing line of Kanye West's creative director Virgil Abloh had screenprinted blank flannel shirts made by the Rugby Ralph Lauren brand and re-sold them for 700% mark-up, suggesting that some stores had marketed the shirts by photoshopping the Rugby tags out of the images on their online stores.[48][49][50]

Balthazar bathroom attendant scandal[edit]

On November 4, 2013, FirstWeFeast broke news that the proprietor of popular Soho brasserie Balthazar, Keith McNally, would continue employing his bathroom attendants in a different capacity after previously stating they would be relieved of their jobs. The CEO of Business Insider, Henry Blodget, had initially prompted their dismissal in a blog post on his website, but following the deluge of press about the firings, McNally told FirstWeFeast they would remain employees of Balthazar.[51][52][53]

Wale threatens Complex staff[edit]

On December 11, 2013, Complex writer Insanul Ahmed received a call from rapper Wale complaining that his latest album, The Gifted, had not been included on Complex's "50 Best Albums of 2013" list.[54] A portion of the conversation was recorded and posted on the Complex website and on Complex TV on December 13. Wale could be heard threatening: "Get the security ready." According to Complex, Wale refused requests to meet, but he did post a humorous Instagram video that day which made light of the situation. Wale, later appearing on Hot97, said that his fall-out with Kid Cudi had something to do with the snub, and that he was not "begging Williamsburg hipsters" to like his music.[55][56][57][58] Wale was referring to the October/November 2010 issue of Complex in which Kid Cudi said: "We don't fuck with you musically." The quote quickly went viral.[59]

In popular culture[edit]

Complex is referenced frequently in song lyrics:

  • In Tyler, The Creator's "Window", Domo Genesis raps: "It was all a dream, I used to read Complex magazine."[60]
  • Kid Cudi in "Cleveland is the Reason" raps: "They say I'm complex, just like the magazine."[61]
  • Big K.R.I.T. in "Dreamin": "For those that caught me in the Spin, in Complex magazine, XXL, the Vibe and whatever inbetween. It's safe to say that dreams come true I guess."[62]
  • Pusha T in "I'm Good (Remix)": "Stylin' on them fuckers. Can't fade the brothers. G.I. Joe wrap my body on that Complex cover."[63]
  • Complex magazine also features in K-Pop star Lee Hi's music video for the track "It's Over".[64]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "CM Reaches Nearly 45M Uniques & 480M+ Pageviews in January 2012; Reaches 4.7M UVs and 91M PVs". Complex Media. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Chowdry, Amit. "Accel Partners and Austin Ventures Invest $12.8 Million in Marc Ecko's Complex Media". DigiDay. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  3. ^ Sternberg, Josh. "How Complex Straddles The Ad Network Publisher Divide". DigiDay. DigiDay. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  4. ^ "CM Reaches Nearly 45M Uniques & 480M+ Pageviews in January 2012; Reaches 4.7M UVs and 91M PVs". Complex Media. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  5. ^ Spangler, Todd. "Complex Media Expands to Give Dudes Their Due". Variety. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  6. ^ "The 30 Most Valuable Internet Startups in New York". Business Insider. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  7. ^ Shontell, Alyson. "DIGITAL 100 REVISED: The Most Valuable, Private Companies In The World". Business Insider. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  8. ^ Rose Rickey, Megan. "SA 100 2013: The Coolest People in New York Tech". Business Insider. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  9. ^ Sternberg, Josh. "How Complex Straddles The Ad Network Publisher Divide". DigiDay. DigiDay. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  10. ^ Kenner, Rob. "The Oral History of Complex". Complex. Complex Media. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Complex Names New Editor-in-Chief". New York Observer. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  12. ^ Dumenco, Simon. "The Print Guy Who's Going 45% Digital". Ad Age. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  13. ^ Chowdry, Amit. "Accel Partners and Austin Ventures Invest $12.8 Million in Marc Ecko's Complex Media". Pulse 2.0. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  14. ^ Flamm, Matthew. "Web network boosts Complex Media". Crain's. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  15. ^ Sternberg, Josh. "How Complex Straddles The Ad Network Publisher Divide". DigiDay. DigiDay. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  16. ^ Caramanica, Jon. "Hip-Hop Comes to Men's Wear". New York Times. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  17. ^ Bengston, Russ. "Introducing Sneaker Report". Complex. Complex Media. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  18. ^ Merwin, Hugh. "Complex Launches Food Section, 'First We Feast'". Grub Street. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Complex Launches Do Androids Dance, a New EDM Site". Pigeons and Planes. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  20. ^ Elliott, Stuart. "Brought to You by Mountain Dew". New York Times. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  21. ^ Rose Dickey, Megan. "". Business Insider. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  22. ^ Shontell, Alyson. "Complex Media Raises $25 Million From The Powerhouse Behind Umbro And Rocawear, Iconix Brand Group". Business Insider. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  23. ^ Bhuiyan, Johana. "Complex Media gets a new logo and identity". Capital New York. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Noah Callahan-Bever on Eminem's Limited 1992 Edition Cover". Youtube. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  25. ^ Hirschman, David. "So what do you do, Noah Callaghan-Bever, EIC, Complex?". mediabistro. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  26. ^ Denver, Nate. "Kim Kardashian: Almost Famous (2007 Cover Story & Gallery)". Complex. Complex Media. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ Spangler, Todd. "Complex Media Expands to Give Dudes Their Due". Variety. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  29. ^ Patel, Sahil. "Complex Bolsters Originals Slate with Riff Raff-Hosted Variety Show". Video Ink. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  30. ^ Hunte, Justin. ""RiFF RAFF REALM" Debuts on Complex TV". HipHopDX. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ Dumenco, Simon. "The Print Guy Who's Going 45% Digital". Ad Age. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  34. ^ Hirschman, David. "So what do you do, Noah Callaghan-Bever, EIC, Complex?". mediabistro. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  35. ^ Collum, Chase. "Breaking down the Complex: A one-on-one with EVP Moksha Fitzgibbons". Advertising Week. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  36. ^ Rollins, Brent. "16 Behind the Scenes Stories About Complex's 2012 Magazine Covers". Complex. Complex Media. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  37. ^ Infante, Dave. "Style Profile | Joe La Puma". The Crosby Press. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  38. ^
  39. ^ Evans, Jonathan. "Q&A: The guys behind the Fk Yeah Meanswear book". Esquire. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  40. ^ Thoreson, Tyler. "Men of Style: Lawrence Schlossman". GiltManual. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  41. ^ Frere-Jones, Sasha. "HIGH AND MIGHTY". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  42. ^ "Complex". BBB Business Review. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  43. ^ Kardashian, Kim. "Yes, I Am Complex!". Kim Kardashian. Celebuzz. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  44. ^ "Kim Kardashian Airbrushed Thinner, Smoother, Lighter". Huffington Post. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  45. ^ Baker, Ernest. "Complex Exclusive: We Found Earl Sweatshirt". Complex. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  46. ^ Sanneh, Kelefa. "WHERE'S EARL?". New Yorker. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  47. ^ Duncan, Byard. "The GQ&A: Earl Sweatshirt". GQ. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  48. ^ DeLeon, Jian. "No One Pyrex Should Have All Those Rugby Flannels". Four Pins. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  49. ^ Cush, Andy. "Did Kanye's Creative Director Mark Up a Rugby Flannel by $470?". AnimalNewYork. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  50. ^ "Don't Waste Yor Money: Pyrex Vision is as Authentic as Fake Boobs". Ahoodie. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  51. ^ Kamer, Foster. "McNally Responds to the Balthazar Bathroom Attendant Fiasco: Employyes Saved Despite Blodget's Bullying". FirstWeFeast. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  52. ^ Janos, Adam. "Blogger gets eatery's bathroom staff fired". New York Post. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  53. ^ "Balthazar Won't Fire Bathroom Attendants After All! (UPDATE)". Huffington Post. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  54. ^ Ahmed, Insanul. "The 50 Best Albums of 2013". Complex. Complex Media. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  55. ^ Ahmed, Insanul. "Wale Threatens Complex Staff Over Our "50 Best Albums of 2013" List". Complex. Complex Media. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  56. ^ Millard, Drew. "A few words about this whole "Wale threatening Complex" thing". Noisey. Vice Media. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  57. ^ Markman, Rob. "Wale Vs. Complex Magazine: I Won't Apologize To 'Williamsburg Hipsters'". MTV. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  58. ^ Kennedy, Gerrick. "Wale threatens Complex magazine after omission from year-end list". LA Times. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  59. ^ Muhammed, Latifah. "Wale Blames Complex Magazine Snub on Kid Cudi Beef". BET. BET. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  60. ^ "Tyler, The Creator - Window lyrics". RapGenius. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  61. ^ "Kid Cudi - Cleveland lyrics". RapGenius. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  62. ^ "Big KRIT - Dreamin lyrics". RapGenius. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  63. ^ "Clipse - I'm Good remix lyrics". RapGenius. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  64. ^ "LEE HI (이하이) - IT'S OVER M/V". YouTube. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 

External links[edit]