XXL: Editor In Chief Elliot Wilson Speaks

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 […]

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.

Elliot Wilson:

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

favorite MC?

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.