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A Critical Beat•Down

Nas -- The Firebug

"Vibe don't know what the fuck hip-hop is . . .
The Source and XXL are barely on it, you know what I'm saying?
Hip-hop has been misrepresented since it's been on the scene.
Hip-hop has never be properly represented 100 percent."

– Nas

The state of hip-hop journalism has come under fire – literally.

Embattled rhyme-spitter Nas is featured on the cover of XXL's sixth anniversary issue, burning in effigy hip-hop/urban magazines The Source and XXL, two magazines that are at war with each other. Inside the magazine, Nas is burning Fader, Vibe, Blaze (now defunct) and other music publications. The reason: To make a statement that all of those aforementioned hip-hop/urban magazines do a horrible job of covering hip-hop music and culture.

Writer/editor-extraordinaire Jermaine Hall conducted the interview with Nas and he pretty much asked the spiritual rhyme-spitter all of the right questions. Some of the highlights in the article include:

• Nas defending record executive Steve Stoute's reputation. (The Source magazine recently published an unflattering report on Steve's alleged unscrupulous business practices.)

• His love for Kelis ("She's smart, original and creative").

• And his viewpoints on Amerikkka ("America is so scared of Black power so much. They're so scared of this shit. Not just hip-hop, but just true shit. They really fear the results of a black power movement").

XXL: Now that your own situation with [Jay-Z] seems to [have] calm down, would you ever do a song with him?
Nas: Next question, B.
XXL: No? So I thought that when [the diss war] was all over, you two would probably come together and do some music.
Nas: I don't want nothing to do with him.

As far as Nas' gripe with magazines, I have to agree with him. I feel some of these so-called hip-hop magazines are negligent when it comes to thoroughly reporting on hip-hop music and its culture. But much like the record industry, the publishing game is also a business, meaning, whoever is hot – gets the covers, and those who are not, get 500 –word write-ups if any coverage at all. The record industry is not artist-friendly and lately, neither are hip-hop magazines.

I think Editor-in-Chief Elliott Wilson is doing a great job over there at XXL. [And big-ups to his whole editorial staff, as well.] Elliott's monthly antagonistic rants against The Source have erupted in a magazine war between the two powerhouse publications. Elliott's beef nearly went cataclysmic when the magazine’s August issue feature a caricature of The Source co-founder Raymond "Wack-Zino" Scott and his son. An angered Wack-Zino charged up to the office of Harris Publications to bust some heads – mainly Elliott's dome.

In a recent interview with, XXL Editor-in-Chief Elliott Wilson talks candidly about the incident with Wack-zino, the idea behind the Nas cover and the state of hip-hop journalism.

Hip Hop Magazine Beatdown: We Interview XXL's Editor Elliott Wilson

Elliott also is setting some lofty goals for the magazine. "I'm giving myself until next September to be number one," he says. "And if it doesn't happen I can kiss Dave Mays' seat, but it will happen."

We will have to wait and see . . .

In The Source's defense, CNN did interview with The Source founder David Mays. Although David didn't talk about his beef with XXL, he did speak on the magazine's 15-year history and the future for hip-hop culture.

Deconstructing hip-hop from its Source

Here's an interesting statement from David Mays on the future of hip-hop music:

"In order to preserve its cultural validity, going forward, it's a crucial time for the music. I think it will go back to the streets a little more. It's gotten to this peak commercial saturation point. We just came out of a party and "bling bling" era of the music. I think it's heading back to more socially conscious perspectives and points in the music. "

While it's nice for David Mays to make a comment like that, it's very sad that his magazine doesn't reflect rap music's pendulum towards "the socially conscious perspectives and points in the music." It's also a damn shame that Wack-zino and David don't have any respect for the magazine's editors and writers. It's evident by the way Wack-Zino and David tamper with the editorials in the magazine every month.

Meanwhile, Vibe magazine is going to sell a "ba-dunka-dunk-dunk" worth of issues with this:

Vibe plans to premiere ten commemorative covers [in August] displaying some of the top artists in urban music history including Jay-Z, TLC, P. Diddy, Aaliyah, Dr. Dre, R. Kelly (!!) and a shared Tupac and Biggie cover.

Oh boy, now that's going to be a seller!

"Life comes before the music – people should always remember that."
– Nas


Editor's Note: Speaking of beefs, Jon of Hip-Hop Anonymous posted a story about the DVD documentary Beef, which chronicles the history of "dis-a-thons" in hip-hop (from Kool Moe Dee Vs. Busy Bee to the Tupac Vs. Biggie battle).