Beef is not what’s
going on between hip-hop magazines XXL and The Source. But, it truly is a rivalry
never seen before between a pair of hip-hop magazines and journalists. XXL has
finally, and legitimately challenged the monarch, however not without widespread
effect. But, when Nas dissed both publications, claiming they were not playing
their positions, XXL editor-in-chief Elliot Wilson saw an opportunity to examine
the love/hate relationship between the artist and the media. In a swirl of controversy,
Nas appeared on the cover not only burning The Source, but XXL as well.
While its not beef,
it is a conflict not unlike your average rap squabble. After co-founding hugely
popular zine Ego Trip in the 90s, Wilson went to work for his future adversary,
The Source, as the music editor. His stay would be short-lived and after a dispute
with Source co-owner Dave Mays, he bounced. Wilson soon reemerged as the head
of XXL and eventually adopted a now infamous, personal and reoccurring challenge
with his former employer. The back and forth between the two facets eventually
got Wilson an impromptu visit from Benzino, Source co-owner and lead Made Men
representative, stemming from some personal artwork in XXL. Perhaps, it is beef-just
a bit undercooked.
Basically the first situation came from back in January. The New York times
did an article about the beef between me and the Source at the hype of the whole
Eminem and Benzino thing. In the article they quoted a couple of people. Nas
was quoted in the article and he said something to the effect ‘if these two
idiots want to go at each other, they should both burn down’ or something like
that. People got it twisted thinking that Nas was only going to burn the Source,
it was never intended to be that. Nas doesn’t play favorites like that
and I think that that’s the message that I ‘m trying to put across.
What has the response has been so far?
EW: Its been crazy.
I think people really don’t know what to make of it. I think the Source
was kinda surprised. The most criticism comes from the fact that Nas isn’t
really hitting the point home strong enough in the actual interview. Which I
think is a fair criticism, but I think that’s what Nas kinda does. He doesn’t
allow you to really take him one way. If you ask him a softball question and
try to go one way hell go the other way. He definitely doesn’t like to
be pigeon holed.
HH: You use to
work at The Source.
EW: I was from
the era when Selwyn Hinds hired me to be music editor. I was there where the
Source did growth. Where we became the number one magazine sold out of newsstands.
I was a big part of that era. I was music editor of that magazine during that
AHH: What did you
learn at the source that you plot now.
EW: I learned a
lot and It was a great experience. It was the good and the bad. I took the bad
elements like the fact that I didn’t feel appreciated and I saw shady business
deals. Things like that I took it as what not to do and I applied it and I understood
the weaknesses the Source have. I only get upset when say The Source gave me
my start or is responsible for my success. I had built up Ego Trip before I
went to The Source. To me, I made my own claim in this game from doing Ego Trip
and being a freelance person. The Source holla’d at me because they knew I was
on the come up. I don’t think they really recognized how talented I was.
The fact that I can go to XXL and put together a talented staff and rebuild
this magazine and really be the first true contender to really go against The
Source is a testament to that.
AHH: Are you gonna
continue to go at the source as heavy as you have.?
EW: I’m not gonna
do a lot of personal attacks on them anymore. I’ve proven what I needed to prove
in terms of attacking their credibility. I have to move on and set the standard
and take hip hop journalism to another level, because what they’re doing is
not journalism. Next month we are putting Afeni Shakur on the front cover. It’s
a tupac tribute issue weve done it two years in a row we got an exclusive interview
with her. I feel like the audience who loves Pac will appreciate that and go
out and buy it at. At least I hope they do. I’m tired of saying I’m the best.
AHH: Theres word
that Benzino came in the office with some friends of his.
EW: He was up here
and he was upset about the illustration in the back of the book. We talked it
out. I said to him man to man, I’ll fall back on the personal sh*t because I
have thrown a lot of sh*t their way. At this point I’m not trying to make an
industry conflict. I’m not ignorant. I’m not trying to be a thug or gangsta
or all that kind of sh*t. I never tried to be a faker or be anything that I’m
not. I’m a writer not a fighter. Dudes can try to jump me and all I can do is
defend myself. It’s as simple as that. It aint no need for all that Ra Ra sh*t.
But I do want to smack you on the newsstand. That’s what I wanna do and Imma
keep doing it and if that means that it’s gonna lead to incidents like that
down the line that’s fine. If a dude ask me to fallback on a personal level
and we stand man to man, I’m going to stand by my word. If people think that
makes me a sucker then so be it. I know who I am. I know what I represent. I’m
not trying let sh*t get out of hand with other people . It’s never the main
individuals. It’s always other people getting caught up and trying to be down.
I’m 32 years old. I aint desperate and I’m not angry. They angry. I’m happy
I got a good life. I’m challenging The Source. I’m bringing the (hip-hop) bible
down. I’m HAPPY.
AHH: Did you go
to college and learn journalism?
EW: Nah. I’m not
Mr. Street dude but then again I’m not Mr. Ivy League either, I’m somewhere
in the middle. I went to community college and I went to Queens college for
a semester. I dropped out and started interviewing rappers. I learned from Sasha
Jenkins. I learned from a lot of people at Vibe like Danielle Smith and Rob
AHH: Who is your
EW: I can’t answer
questions like that. I love the game. I love all the artists and their art.
I can’t give nobody the title like that. I think Eminem is killing it right
now in the game and I think Em, Jay and Nas are the top dudes of the game in
terms of career wise and revelancy now. 50 is a phenomenon. Imma see if he has
legs. Everybody is tying to say he’s overexposing himself. Biggie and Pac, to
these generation of kids are the top. I’m from the old school so I can appreciate
the Rakim’s and Kane’s and all those cats. If you keep putting out poor material
in this modern day era you kind of ruin your legacy. Its like Jordan coming
back with the Wizards. I don’t wanna hear another KRS album. I love the guy.
But you cant compete with the nonsense that’s going on now.
AHH: Do artists
get offended by the sections you guys have?
EW: They definitely
do. I think XXL is one of the few books that the artists read cover to cover.
They fear being in the Step Your Rap Game Up column. Nas was still salty about
some Negro Please he got a while back. Negro Please was actually a creative
idea and was made before I go there. I kept that going and I added the Step
Ya Ra Game Up and the Heard It All Before section. I thought it was all important
to show these kids that the game has changed to where artists now quote other
artists. That use to be called biting.
.AHH: How can XXL
EW: I’m the worst.
Everything has to come together. The story and the artists have to forthcoming
and the photos gotta be right. The layouts gotta be good. There are so many
different elements that are outside of me, so I’m very critical. I’m not satisfied
with everything that comes out that we do, but I think that the good outweighs
the bad and thanks to our competition it’s stronger. You have to constantly
keep your edge because nothing is ever good enough. The main challenge is that
you always have to be two months ahead of the game.
AHH: In Rolling
Stone you might see an in depth future on who killed Tupac where Russell Poole
is airing it out. Then GQ did something on Benzino and his federal probes. Why
cant you do that in your magazine?
EW: I try to do
that. It’s hard. I think that at certain times there is a problem though where
you deal with an industry that favors those magazines over us and they get more
access. Another issue is is there is a lack of experience. There is a lack of
quality writers in our game. A lack of experience and how to put a story together.