As he cruises through his old 'hood in East L.A. in an "inferno red" Dodge Charger, Myles Kovacs marvels at all the everyday cars riding on 50cm rims known as DUBs. Once street slang for a "double dime" bag of pot, the term DUB became the name of the hip-hop car magazine Kovacs founded five years ago that has transformed car-tuner subculture into Main Street fashion. "This is not just urban culture," he says, sporting baggy jeans and a $14,000 diamond-encrusted watch. "This is pop culture."
No longer fearful of the street life DUB glamorizes, Detroit is now looking to Kovacs, 31, to pimp its rides. His stars-and-their-cars glossy has become the place automakers go for tips on the youth demographic. Kovacs has built a $50 million empire that now includes toys, rims, concerts, car shows, MTV "Whips, Rides & Dubs" specials and the hot-selling Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition videogame. That Charger he's in comes compliments of Chrysler, which hopes he'll do for it what he did for its 300C last year. Kovacs hooked up 50 Cent with a 300C, who cast it in a video, making it a monster hit. "If your car is in DUB, it has street cred," says Chrysler marketing exec B. J. Birtwell. "Myles doesn't just put any whack car on the cover."
Kovacs embodies the idea of blending different worlds. Three-quarters Japanese and one-quarter Hungarian, he grew up speaking Spanish in tough East L.A. His first brush with cars and stars came as a high-school delivery boy at a rim shop frequented by Tupac. The idea for DUB came as Kovacs watched a car auction on TV in 1999 when country singer Alan Jackson's Mercedes fetched an extraordinary price. "At first I thought, 'Who's Alan Jackson?' " he recalls. "Then I went, 'Wow, there's that much value in celebrities?' " By then Kovacs was editing an entertainment magazine. He persuaded two colleagues to jump ship and use their celebrity connections to start DUB. Unlike typical car mags, there are no critical reviews. Kobe Bryant and Mike Tyson have been cover boys, with nary a mention of their legal difficulties. "We treat people like human beings," says Kovacs, "and give them the privacy they deserve."
Kovacs is gunning to make DUB the next Playboy, a launch pad for a lifestyle. That's why he's now working with companies like Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo. He's teaching corporate America Street Cred 101, telling them it's old school to portray urban culture with ghetto imagery. Preppy is the new urban trend, so Kovacs says the next wicked whip will be the Range Rover Sport. "It's all about aspiration," he says. "Instead of chain-link fences, they need to show the Hamptons." Like Kovacs, the street is heading uptown.
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