Meet students Jackson Howard and Rio Viera-Newton. They are lingering around 21 years old, are second semester seniors in college, and are the founders behind Not Mad. And although the two will graduate this year, it seems like the normal graduating panic may not set in. Jackson, the Editor-in-Chief met Rio, Creative Director, when she transferred to his school in Santa Monica in 7th grade. The two bonded over Trillville, and later met many of the same personal goals under the influence of rap and fashion.

Not Mad came into the literary hemisphere a little over a year ago, and has already hit marks that most periodicals don’t see until raising millions. Last year, they covered a story on Hittman that was viewed across a variety of verticals and publications including XXL, AllHipHop, and HipHopDX. This is in great part to Not Mad’s outgoing approach to covering content. For Jackson and Rio, there is nothing too small or too saturated to cover. No rules, no restrictions. Go figure—a liberating and refreshingly boundless approach makes these two editors more refined and unique than their rival publications. Not Mad encourages first-person narratives without a commitment to a column, they write on the absurdities of politics in a way millenials can understand, and they seriously talk about music.

For more on the young entrepreneurs read below and check out Not Mad ASAP!

Twitter: @notmadmag

Photos courtesy of: Dan Regan

Name, age, location
Jackson Howard, 21, Los Angeles, currently living in Ann Arbor – studying
English and Spanish at the University of Michigan – Editor-in-Chief.

Rio Viera-Newton 22, Los Angeles, living in the middle of nowhere upstate New York
studying writing at Bard College – Creative Director.

Why did you start Not Mad—what was it that you weren’t getting from other
online periodicals?

We simply didn’t feel like there was a publication out there catering to smart, engaged, young people that wasn’t super nihilistic and condescending or focused on click-bait. There’s a distinct need for what we’re doing — there’s this massive audience of young adults who don’t want stupid BuzzFeed listicles and who don’t have time to read something super heady or excessively academic; they want something both accessible and intelligent, public and personal, challenging and humorous. We wanted to capture the world through the perspective of the millennial, without subscribing to all the negative connotations or presumptions of that word. But we also realize we’re young and stupid. The content on Not Mad is the stuff Rio and I want to read.

How does Not Mad differ?—You are an urban-based publication but you’re not afraid to cover a variety of topics. How does the versatility act in your favor?
I like to think that we’re more diverse than even being labeled as “urban-based” — though that’s not totally inaccurate because our friendship honestly did come to be through a mutual obsession with hip-hop and R&B. But being a certain “type” of publication makes it easy to get pigeon-holed and that’s something we’ve really tried to avoid, and I think we’ve done it successfully. The versatility of our content allows kids with incredibly wide-reaching and very different tastes to come together over a shared ideal and tone, whether as readers or contributors. We don’t scare anyone off. And the diversity of our content gives us access to writers and audiences who usually would be scared off by a typical “millennial” or “urban” periodical.

Do you have a target demographic?
We started out targeting college kids like our friends but that quickly changed, just because that’s so restricting and kind of elitist. Young people kind of does it, millennials.

Who inspires you?—Which artists have influenced you to pursue your dreams?
JH: From a media standpoint, Grantland influenced me so fucking much — those guys were my biggest role models. I almost cried when that site got shut down. And then I’d say Pharrell, William Burroughs, the dudes from Soulection, Erykah Badu, Krishnamurti, Marcus Haney, my parents so much, my uncle, my friend Nicholas Williams. Rio’s sister. Rio’s cats.

RVN: Both of our moms are total powerhouses who have always pushed us to pursue our dreams and be the best we can. Besides my mom, I’d say probably Barbara Walters and Lori Greiner from Shark Tank have influenced me most.

How did you two meet?
JH: Rio transferred to my school in 7th grade and within like two months we were walking it out at Bar Mitzvahs together.

RVN: The first time we hung out Jackson showed me the music video for Trillville’s “Some Cut”. I think we were 13 or 14. Needless to say our friendship was pretty instantaneous.

Who came up with idea? Who came up with the name?
All Rio. She asked me to do it when we were in my hottub and I half-assed agreed and didn’t take it seriously for a while. The name is 100% a Rio-ism and I die for it.

How has Los Angeles played a part in the work you guys do?
LA is just so full of culture and we’re lucky that we were brought up in families that embraced it. The city is growing a lot right now, it’s a really exciting time to live there, and I think we’ve been able to connect with a lot of people doing shit like ourselves simply due to how big the place is and how excited people are. And we listen to Dr. Dre’s 2001 pretty much every time we’re together.


What’s it like being college students and running this magazine?
Man it’s so hard. We talk on the phone in between classes if we’re lucky… being in different states really sucks. Both of us are full-time students and we’re wholly responsible for every single thing on the site from copy-editing to social media, but somehow we manage to get it done. The biggest bummer is that because we’re so busy with school we don’t really have time to brainstorm and move the site forward the way we want; right now it’s about keeping the publication at the current place it’s at, which we’re super proud of, and then expanding in a major way once we finally graduate.

Anything else?
Starting Not Mad has been the most challenging and most rewarding thing I’ve done so far in my life. And I’m so lucky that I get to work with my best friend every day and that somehow we haven’t killed each other yet.