Name, age, occupation, where do you live and where are you from.
Elliott Jesse Wilson Jr., 35, editor-in-chief of XXL magazine; co-author (ego trip's Book of Rap Lists, St. Martin's, 1999; ego trip's Big Book of Racism!, Regan, 2002); and television producer (including ego trip's Illest Minority Moments, and the series, ego trip's Race-O-Rama, as aired on VH-1). Born in Woodside Queens, I now reside with my wife Danyel in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
As the editor of XXL Magazine, what do you think the biggest story in hip-hop was this year? What do you think it will be next year?
I think it was the break-up of Roc-a-fella Records which led to Jay-Z's ascension to the presidency of Def Jam Records. We first spoke to Dame Dash in the June issue of XXL on longer being part of the label he helped build. Two months later, we hit pay dirt getting Jay-Z himself to address the matter along with a star-studded cover that included Lebron James. I think in the upcoming year everyone's interested in what Mase has to say. The retired rapper turned Pastor is now a devoted solider in 50's Cent G-Unit army. What gives?
What do you say to people that feel XXL Magazine is in bed with certain record companies like Interscope?
I've obviously benefited from my old rival publication's on-going feud with the house that Jimmy Iovine built. I now have access to the top artists in hip-hop today (Eminem, Dr. Dre, Game, 50 Cent) who are all signed to one label. Everytime I've put one or more of these individuals on the cover my magazine has sold and sold well. My relationship with Interscope is strictly business like EPMD. They like when I give their artists covers and they hate when I put Suge Knight on the cover. I formed a business relationship with 50 Cent a year before he signed with Eminem and have benefited greatly from it as he became one of hip-hop's biggest stars to emerge in the last few years. I've only met 50 once recently when I was at G-Unit radio program to promote my XXL Raps CD. To this day, I've never met Eminem, Dr. Dre or The Game (I ducked him at a Miami airport). I've met the aforementioned Mr. Iovine once at his offices in California, he was playing a horrible Black Eyed Peas track loudly and I was happy he didn't ask me what I thought of it. BEP are one of the wackest groups in the history of hip-hop. They really suck.
XXL is the best selling hip-hop magazine right now. How do you plan to stay on top?
Being on top of all the big stories first. Covering them better than any other magazine that's out there. You know it's not just about some hip-hop or urban magazine battle. I want XXL to be recognized and revered like a Rolling Stone. You know we did an investigative piece on the B.I.G. civil trial months before Rolling Stone did. Ours was shorter and more concise. The kids today have ADD and they ain't reading no 14, 000 word pieces. Joe Levy is still my peoples, though. I see you, playboy!
You recently released a compilation album, XXL Raps Volume 1, how did you determine which songs made the album. Is there anything you couldn't fit onto the album?
No there were no leftovers. The 18 songs we cleared are the ones that made the CD. There is a special Best Buy version with a bonus cut from a promising new artist named Saigon. Basically, I decided to because of the Now's series stronghold on singles, I would go for a slept-on but strong albums tracks that I personally think represent some of the past year's hottest rap music. I personally sequenced the record myself and I believe that like my review says on allmusic.com that it "flows extremely well." Stop hating and buy my record you bums. It's a stocking stuffer!
In an interview with AllHipHop.com, you said, "The Now series is basically White people mixtapes for middle-America." In releasing a compilation album, do you think that XXL will become like Now? Mixtapes for white people in middle-America – bringing "hidden" music to the forefront?
Maybe so. I think more importantly it will establish XXL as one of the top brands in hip-hop and open Middle America's eyes to the magazine. I think the really informed rap fans at this point are buying the book every month but we must know reach the casual fan. The one who maybe bought an issue once or twice when I had Eminem or Outkast on the cover. I'm never gonna lose sight that our bread and butter is the magazine. The other album or TV projects (we now have a show with the MTV Jams network) we get involved in our just to utilize other outlets to help the publication grow.
Who are your favorite hip-hop artists? Non hip-hop? And who are your musical influences?
I think Jay-Z is the best rapper today and will one day be looked as the undisputed greatest of all time. I discovered the Beatles a few years ago when I used to live with my ego trip homie Gabriel Alvarez. I never believed the hype that they were the best until I really sat with their catalogue. They really were fuckin' phenomenal and the most influential. I basically learned about other music through hip-hop and its use of sampling. My other ego trip colleague Jeff Mao is a DJ who owns a shitload of records. I remember loving songs in the early 90's like Pharcyde's "Passing Me By" and Mao would play me Quincy Jones "Summertime in the City," the original they lifted the beat from. I'm obsessed with sites like the-breaks.com and collecting every record that's ever been sampled in hip-hop. My dream is to one day be rich enough that I can retire and just sit in my little music room and listen to stuff all day. Hopefully I wouldn't suffer some Burgess Meredith in Twilight Zone-type fate.
What place or thing would you declare a landmark?
My partner Sacha Jenkin's old bedroom in his mama's apt in Astoria Queens. That's where my career literally started.
What advice, if any, would you give to Mayor Bloomberg?
Who's that? Oh, the substitute teacher! I don't know; I changed the channel when Guiliani departed. That fucker shut down all the good strip clubs in NYC!
When you just need to get away from it all, where is your favorite place in NYC to be alone?
I just aimlessly walk the streets back in my old neighborhood of Queens like a mental patient. There's some bizarre comfort I feel in that. One should never forget where they come from.
XXL Magazine's XXL Raps Volume 1 can be purchased on Amazon.