[Editor's note: For our 12th-anniversary celebration, XXL speaks with 12 artists who’ve come up, and blown up, with the magazine. 50 Cent, Baby, Shyne, Dame Dash, Crooked I and more reflect on how we’ve affected their careers—and how they’ve affected ours.]
106 & Park has Bow Wow. For XXL, though, no artist has dominated the second half of the magazine’s history like 50 Cent. Since first appearing between co-signers Eminem and Dr. Dre six years ago, on the mag’s memorable March 2003 cover—still among the top-selling issues—the Southside Jamaica, Queens, MC has rocked more XXL fronts than anyone else. When he wasn’t ice-grilling from newsstands, foes were addressing the G-Unit captain between the pages. And the attention is well-deserved. 50 has sold more than 15 million albums nationally and launched a recording empire, all while lyrically slaying rivals left and right. Taking a trip down memory lane, Fif tells what it’s like being familiar with XXL.
There’s only one artist who’s appeared on as many XXL covers as you. Care to take a guess who it is?
That obvious, huh?
That makes sense. Ain’t nobody else to use, really. If you’re looking at the rest of the culture, they’re not being involved in all aspects of the game. Some of them are just artists.
True. Thing is, Jay-Z was XXL’s first cover. You achieved your 10 appearances in only six years.
It’s clear, in the window of time I’ve been active, that I’ve been able to accomplish a lot of things the guys ahead of me have done, [but] in half the time. Both Jay and [Diddy]… I’ve generated more interest through actual music during that time, because that’s what allowed me to create a portfolio that’s equivalent to the guys who were here ahead of me.
Your presence in the magazine caused some readers to accuse XXL of having a deal with Interscope. Did that surprise you?
It’s not really surprising, because people don’t understand. They look from a fan’s perspective and [don’t] understand the dynamics of who is actually selling the magazine. Who the people generally have an interest in and is appropriate in that time frame [is] based on what other business ventures and things they could discuss at that point.
Remember when you were first in the mag?
I don’t remember the first time I was in it, but the first cover was a huge accomplishment. I was like, “Yo, this is hot!” It was so monumental to me. I was on the set of “In Da Club.” A journalist asked what my goals were, and I said, “To fit in with Eminem and Dr. Dre.” And she shook her head and walked off. I don’t think she understood. I meant not to fit in, like, be cool in the crowd; I meant to fit in as an equal party. That required a lot more work. Considering Dre’s body of work, it still isn’t equivalent.
Your entire G-Unit roster was featured on the cover of the January/February 2006 issue. What do you remember about that time?
That was when I was establishing G-Unit as a company, instead of 50 and his homeboys.
You, Lloyd Banks, Young Buck and Tony Yayo graced the cover last year, in the midst of a rift with Buck. What was it like on set?
It wasn’t really an effort to hold it together. But it was the last photoshoot that we all shot together like that. I think I was in the dirt in that actual issue. We had created this set where we was actually burying the competition. That was the theme of it, and it was cool. [With Buck, there] was a discomfort there. He was off to the side because he had already been saying things. I don’t position Buck like an enemy of mine. He’s more like your little brother that didn’t listen to the point where you say, “You know what, since you know how to do it, you go do it.”
Which cover was your favorite?
I liked a lot of them, but the one close to my face [January/February 2009], that was hot. That shit did something for my love life. [Laughs] Just an expression says a lot, you know?
Has XXL ever been on 50’s bad side?
Yeah. After you do the pro–50 Cent magazine with 50 or G-Unit on the cover, you go for the anti magazine…to continue to sell off of 50 Cent. They use the energy developed by 50 Cent then work both angles.
Like when Irv Gotti and Ja Rule were on the cover?
Or Game. Anybody that would say something derogatory toward the project would usually be the cover following. It seemed to be a pattern.
Did you enjoy guest editing the 50th issue?
I remember that. I was really involved. If I put my name on something, I want to actually be into it. Because these books, they sit there forever. Unless they’re going to provide laptops for everybody in the waiting area at the doctor’s office, then the magazine still has value.
Where do you see XXL in the upcoming 12 years?
I think it’ll be one of the last publications standing. They should broaden it a little from just covering hip-hop—probably start covering some of the R&B that Vibe used to cover. Hip-hop as a genre isn’t producing any really big stars, just guys that have things happening for the moment. You’d have to start using multiple people on the cover at the same time, [rather] than one guy that can generate that interest on his own.
To read more on the Definitive Dozen package, make sure to pick up XXL’s September issue on newsstands August 11th.