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If the after-market scene has its own In Style, it would be Dub, which started out as a small-niche magazine in 1999 and has grown into a marketing and publishing mini-empire. In addition to the bimonthly, there are the Dub Super Series, a national touring automotive and lifestyle show that drops in on the Los Angeles Convention Center on May 22; Twenty Inches Strong, a Dub-branded line of wheels and after-market accessories; and Dub City, a line of die-cast toys.
subculture of urban celebrities and their high-end toys and gave it a voice. The stout Kovacs, sporting baggy denim shorts, an oversize T-shirt and a diamond-encrusted Jacob the Jeweler watch, spoke about the genesis of the Dub Generation as he leaned against his own tricked-out black 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air
— on chrome dubs, of course — at the Convention Center during last month’s SEMA show.
“We’re three California kids that grew up here and lived the culture. We all worked in auto-related retail shops selling wheels and stereos and body kits. We saw a growing trend that was not being addressed, nor did it have a voice. So we created Dubmagazine. We’re all car guys, so seeing the car market explode is phenomenal, and knowing we had something to do with that is great. We fulfilled a demand.”
Though the magazine can overwhelm with page after page of displays of monetary and automotive excess, Kovacs is an unapologetic booster. “You could be the most gangsta of gangstas, but when you’re in our magazine, it’s all about the positive.” From the toys they give away from a fleet of semis on Christmas to hiring urban youths to promote events, Dub is all about taking an up-from-the-street approach. And as their empire expands, Kovacs and company manage to keep their focus on the underground while at the same time competing with the big boys at Primedia, the corporate publisher of Hot Rod, Motor Trend and Automobile.
“We run a small company, but it’s tight, like a family, and Dub is still owned by us,” says Kovacs. “We look at what Primedia is doing and say, Oh, yeah, we can compete with them. With the Dub name, we have a huge licensing arm, and we model ourselves after Playboy, Low Riderand The Source.”
One of the reasons both Duband the after-market keep growing is the ever-increasing desire to see what outlandish creations athletes and celebrities come up with next. “It’s all fashion nowadays, who’s wearing this, who’s driving that, and there is a fanatical market that follows particular icons. There are a lot of famous guys involved in fixing up cars now. They have a lot of money and are only limited by their imaginations.
“When they get a car and do something special with it, they start a trend. A lot of celebrities are now starting an automotive line. Tyson Beckford, the Polo model, is endorsing his own line of rims called Beckfords. Outkast is looking into doing a deal. Clothing companies like Ecko are getting involved. It has opened up the whole marketplace.”
Asked where he thinks the celebrity market is headed, Kovacs surprises: “People are going to start moving back to the old hot rods, for a few reasons. From a craftsman point of view, you can go nuts restoring a classic car, and it can either hold or potentially increase in value. But the biggest reason why all the celebrities are doing it is they are tired of having the same cars. Look at the Lakers parking lot before a game: How many Escalades, Bentleys and Rolls-Royces are there? But how many guys can pull up in a fully restored ’57 Chevy or a $350,000 Chip Foose Hot Rod? That’s what the market is turning to.”
On the other hand, there’s a good incentive to stay with the dealer cars. “With a lease, you can write off 80 percent of the monthly payment,” notes Kovacs. “If you lease a Rolls-Royce Phantom, you put down $40,000 or $50,000 and your payments are $5,000 a month, you’re writing off more than $50,000 a year on that car alone. And you get to show off.”
Dub isn’t just all blinged-out hip-hop stars and athletes. A recent issue focused on such X Games athletes as Dave Mirra, Bucky Lasek and Tony Hawk. As with hip-hop itself, a large portion of the audience is young white males. I ask Kovacs where he sees Dub’s crossover with mainstream culture.
“If you’re young and hip and you’ve got the cars, you got the jewelry, you got the money, you got the style, come on in. We’re opening our doors to everybody.”