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Complex (magazine)

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 media platform for youth culture which was founded as a bi-monthly magazine by fashion designer Marc Ecko.[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 Media currently reaches over 120 million unique users per month[4] across its owned and operated and partner sites, socials and YouTube channels.[5][6]

Complex has won numerous accolades, including several from Business Insider such as Most Valuable Startups in New York[7] and Most Valuable Private Companies in the World,[8] as well as the Sillicon Alley 100 for Complex CEO Rich Antoniello.[9] In 2012, the company launched Complex TV, an online broadcasting platform that has won numerous awards and has found great success with original shows, such as Complex News, First Look music videos, Fashion Bros and Sneaker Shopping.


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.[3] 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]

Complex Media

In September 2007, Complex launched the Complex Media in order to fully capitalize on the trend toward digital content.[13] 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.[3]

In 2011, Complex acquired Pigeons and Planes, an indie music and rap blog, and brought their total sites to 51 with monthly traffic of 25 million uniques.[15] 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]

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.[22][23]

In 2013, Complex partnered with Mountain Dew to launch "Green Label" an entertainment and culture website.[24] In 2014, Complex Media launched a NBA-themed website called "Triangle Offense" in a partnership with Bacardi rum.[25]

In August 2014, Complex ranked #3 in the United States in a ComScore survey of unique visitors between the ages of 18 and 34 with 20.3 million in that demographic per month.[26]

In January 2015, Complex announced its acquisition of Collider, the online source for movies, television, breaking news, incisive content, and imminent trends. reaches over 3 million monthly unique readers (comScore, December 2014) powered by a team of ten writers, including founder and Editor in Chief Steve Weintraub.[27]


In 2009, Complex raised $12.8 million from Accel Partners and Austin Ventures.[28]

In September 2013, Complex secured $25 million in a second round of funding from Iconix Brand Group, who own Rocawear, Starter, Ecko Unltd. and Umbro, among others.[29]


Complex became known early on for its double-sided covers and split format.[30] 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.[31] Complex has since expanded to interactive digital covers.[32]

Complex TV

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.[33] In December 2013, a subsidiary of Complex TV, Complex News, was launched, focusing on day-to-day news.[4][34][35] In 2014, added Complex Media as a content partner in an attempt to challenge traditional TV.[5] Complex Content Studio is supported by a 18-person editorial team.[36]

Complex TV has produced more than a dozen original shows,[37][38] 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

Fashion Bros

In 2014, Complex launched "Fashion Bros", featuring Complex style editors Lawrence Schlossman and James Harris as hosts. The show discusses the good and the bad of menswear fashion.[39] The show has drawn attention from The New York Times, Buzzfeed, The Hollywood Reporter, among others.[39][40][41]

In 2014, Complex won "Best Original Non-Scripted Video Series" at the Digiday Video Awards for “Magnum Opus”.[42]

Key staff and contributors

  • Rich Antoniello, CEO[12]
  • Noah Callahan-Bever, editor-in-chief and chief content officer[30]
  • Moksha Fitzgibbons, chief revenue officer[43]
  • Scott Cherkin, EVP, Product & Business Development[44]
  • Brent Rollins, creative director[45]
  • Joe LaPuma, director of content strategy[46]
  • Russ Bengtson, editor of Sneakers
  • Lawrence Schlossman, editor-in-chief of Four Pins[47][48]


Complex owned and operated sites

  •, in partnership with Tony Hawk's 900 Films
  •, in partnership with Mountain Dew

Complex Media partner sites

  •, in partnership with A-trak
  • and many more

Complex Media YouTube O&O and partner channels

  • /ComplexMagazine
  • /RideChannel
  • /ColliderVideos
  • /DjVlad aka VladTV
  • /BaebleMusic
  • /SneakerWatchTV
  • /FirstWeFeast
  • /HesKicks
  • /Kustoo aka Jacques Slade
  • and many more

Brand partnerships

In 2013 Digiday stated Complex was one of the publishers that "acts like an agency" based on their branded content and brand partnerships.[49] In 2013 alone, Complex created an average of 47 pieces of content a month on behalf of major brands, including McDonalds, Gillette, Levi’s, Toyota, Adidas and others.[49] It also partnered with Pepsico to launch, a Mountain Dew branded lifestyle site that’s staffed by Complex’s editorial employees. Green Label currently attracts over twice the traffic as[49] Later in 2013, Complex worked with Dr. Pepper to a series of videos aimed at young males featuring producer/songwriter The-Dream.[50]


In 2011, Complex was named one of "The 30 Most Valuable Internet Startups In New York" by Business Insider.[7] The following year Complex was named one of "The Most Valuable, Private Companies In The World" with an estimated valuation of $250 million.[8]

In 2014, Complex won "Best Original Non-Scripted Video Series" at the Digiday Video Awards for “Magnum Opus”.[42] Later in 2014, Complex Media won a James Beard Foundation for "Best Group Food Blog" for the company's site First We Feast.[51]

In 2015, Complex won "Best Video Destination – Entertainment for Complex TV”.[42]

In popular culture

Lil Wayne and Jay-Z

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."[52]

Kim Kardashian photo

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!?"[53] She went on to say that she was "proud" of her body, posting behind-the-scenes pictures of the shoot on her website.[54] The incident was covered by a variety of online publications including Huffington Post, NY Daily News, Business Insider, Gawker, and others.[54][55]

Uncovering the whereabouts of Earl Sweatshirt

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.[56][57][58]

Pyrex Vision

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.[59][60][61]

Balthazar bathroom attendant scandal

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.[62][63][64]

Wale threatens Complex staff

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.[65] 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.[66][67][68][69] 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.[70]

Music references

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."[71]
  • Kid Cudi in "Cleveland is the Reason" raps: "They say I'm complex, just like the magazine."[72]
  • 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."[73]
  • 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."[74]
  • Das Racist in "Amazing": "I'm Kanye in whiteface on the cover of Complex Magazine.[75]
  • Royce Da 5'9" in "Real Hip Hop": "My brain scheme is complex like the magazine".[76]
  • Hoodie Allen in "Song for an Actress": "Ask me how that works and I admit, it's complex, Well, not like the magazine,"[77]
  • Earl Sweatshirt in "Chum": "Craven and these Complex fuck niggas done track me down."[78]
  • Complex magazine also features in K-Pop star Lee Hi's music video for the track "It's Over".[79]

See also


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  3. ^ a b c Sternberg, Josh. "How Complex Straddles The Ad Network Publisher Divide". DigiDay. DigiDay. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
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  5. ^ a b Robbins, Roni. "Pluto.TV Expands Its Lineup of Web Channels, Including Complex Media Boosts programming as it takes on traditional TV". AdWeek. 
  6. ^ "Premium Content Creators AOL, Network A, Complex Media, Deca, Maker Studio & Whalerock Bring Original Series & Video Libraries to Dailymotion". Daily Motion. 
  7. ^ a b "The 30 Most Valuable Internet Startups in New York". Business Insider. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Shontell, Alyson. "DIGITAL 100 REVISED: The Most Valuable, Private Companies In The World". Business Insider. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  9. ^ Rose Rickey, Megan. "SA 100 2013: The Coolest People in New York Tech". Business Insider. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
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  14. ^ Flamm, Matthew. "Web network boosts Complex Media". Crain's. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  15. ^ Moses, Lucia. "Complex Media Network Relaunches Flagship Site". AdWeek. 
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  40. ^ TREBAY, GUY. "Nick Wooster, One-Man Brand". The New York Times. 
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      Wikilink embedded in URL title (help)
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  67. ^ Millard, Drew. "A few words about this whole "Wale threatening Complex" thing". Noisey. Vice Media. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  68. ^ Markman, Rob. "Wale Vs. Complex Magazine: I Won't Apologize To 'Williamsburg Hipsters'". MTV. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
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  71. ^ "Tyler, The Creator - Window lyrics". RapGenius. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
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  73. ^ "Big KRIT - Dreamin lyrics". RapGenius. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  74. ^ "Clipse - I'm Good remix lyrics". RapGenius. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  75. ^ "Das Racist "Amazing"". RapGenius. 
  76. ^ "Real Hip Hop LYRICS Royce Da 5'9". RapGenius. 
  77. ^ "Song For An Actress LYRICS Hoodie Allen". RapGenius. 
  78. ^ "Earl Sweatshirt "Chum"". 
  79. ^ "LEE HI (이하이) - IT'S OVER M/V". YouTube. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 

External links