After numerous deaths and various acts of violence committed by those associated with the rap and hip-hop community, the art form has been left with a tarnished image. When hip-hop and rap artists do appear in the news, they are often portrayed in a negative light instead of being represented as artistic expression.

But now a publication called Punchline is trying to improve this image. Started in April 2000, Punchline has begun to tap a market generally ignored by other publications. Seeing a void in the free newspapers focusing on the New England urban community, Punchline has tried to reach inner-city youth via stories that cater to their interests.

Punchline staff said that although there are other publications in the area that target the same general demographic, none utilize the particular entertainment angle that Punchline does. Most other publications are not specifically directed toward entertainment. And if these publications are geared towards a younger artistically minded audience, Punchline staff said, they tend to be more involved with alternative music.

Catering to a young group of readers, mostly between the ages of 18 and 35, Punchline focuses exclusively on entertainment, leaving education and other “serious issues” to other publications. Articles generally consist of interviews with and information about popular hip-hop, rap and R & B artists.

Punchline operates on the premise that urban music reaches inner-city youth and that it is not simply about violence and bloodshed. The magazine uses a group of writers from around the world to try gratify the varied needs of the urban community.

According to members of Rhythmic Blue, a Yale R & B dance group, rap does have negative ideas linked to it and could use a facelift. Although it may be enjoyed and respected by younger listeners, they said it is most likely not highly regarded by older generations and that other art forms are often regarded as more legitimate and given more respect.

But the magazine’s formula has so far generated positive responses.

“It sends out a positive message of rap and hip-hop as growing forms of expression to a vast audience,” Leila Rastegar ’05 said. “Those who choose to buy such a magazine obviously have some interest in the field in general, and reading Punchline can only further enhance this curiosity.”

After less than two years in print, Punchline produces 40,000 copies every month, and the publication is growing bigger all the time. Punchline staff said other publications have recognized the strength of the demographic that Punchline has tapped and have begun to try to emulate this achievement. But the staff members are not worried about their continued growth and success. According to them, “The sky’s the limit.”