Once upon a time Marc Ecko dreamed of launching his own magazine, mixing and matching street art, hip-hop, fashion, and pop culture without regard to race. What sounded crazy back then now looks like a stroke of genius. Ten years after the first issue hit stands, Complex is both critically acclaimed and widely imitated—with a digital media network that’s second to none. “We worked hard to keep it simple,” says Ecko, “and make it fun.”

“The way Complex was able to respectfully document this cultural stuff, broadcasting it on a mass level without bastardizing, is a real achievement,“ says Sacha Jenkins, a founder of ego trip magazine and part of the original Complex brain trust.

“Marc is a big proponent of doing shit without being afraid,” Jenkins adds. “He took chances your average person wouldn’t have taken. The reason why Complex is still here is because a guy like Marc said, ‘Fuck it, I’m gonna go for mine.’ And he found like-minded people to help make that vision a reality.”

Marc himself is the first to admit that the idea was a long-shot. “History will be good to Complex,” he says now. “But it could have gone so wrong.” Not that he ever entertained second thoughts. Let’s take a trip down memory lane as we recollect the dawn of the Complex era.