Before you even start with the complaining, read the story. Yeah, it’s long as hell, but it’s very entertaining. I was literally LOLing while I sat on my couch in the middle of the night and edited Nas and Tyler, the Creator’s words. It was even funnier when it happened in person, but I didn’t want to interrupt anything, with the tape recorder on then. I died laughing a little bit on the inside when Tyler asked Nas if he liked cheese. And then when Nas asked him why he would ask, that cracked me up even more. This all might make me sound kinda lame, but so what? I’m kinda lame—whatever. Regardless, the Nas and Tyler interview is golden.

It’s not often that a rap legend lets a new artist candidly interview him, asking him whatever he wants for over 90 minutes. Seriously, the two chitchatted for more than an hour and a half, and it was so entertaining it didn’t seem right to cut it so short, so we blew it up and ran it really long in the magazine, so readers could get the full effect.

It’s really a great look at rap 20 years ago and today, almost like a weird sort of time capsule. On one hand, you have Nas, the veteran rap artist with the authentic street background. And then there’s Tyler, who is kind of Nickelodeon on acid. You can compare the two, and then again, doing so seems nuts and maybe kinda wrong. Tyler’s career and achievements can’t be compared with Nas’s at all. Their lyrical content and overall presentation couldn’t be farther apart, but then you remember back to a young Nasty Nas, with his shocking introductory rap lines and untraditional interests, and you understand how Nas could be entertained by a kid like Tyler—how the comparisons could be made between the teen MCs, and their ballsy lyrics and attitudes and two decades between them.

The truth is, Tyler and his Odd Future crew are crossing over into the mainstream world, a place Nas only dipped into occasionally. Yet Nas’s impact on hip-hop is undeniable. He hasn’t needed the mainstream’s accolades and support to carve out a career and reputation that many rappers are and would be jealous of. Instead, he’s used pure lyricism to prove his value and has rested on the fact that that alone would and could prove his worth. And it has. That’s why XXL feels the need to put him on the cover 20 years after he came in and flipped hip-hop on its head. But we wanted to switch it up somehow, so ya got Tyler and Nas… And you’re gonna love it. I sure as hell did. And we pulled it out of nowhere, ’cause we had to. I just love that Mister Cartoon did the background, and I only wish that I could do what he does with some paint cans. I mean, really. I wanted him to just write my name, but I thought that would be a weird thing to ask. I also really wanted a huge back tattoo, for the first time in my life, but that ended when the shoot did.

Now, even though the interview is a million pages long, we still had room for other stories. Yelawolf gets his first big profile (page 84), as he preps for his solo debut. Styles P is back again, with his fourth solo album, so we checked in with him (page 48). Good story, because it really seems like Styles is comfortable with his place in the game. 2 Chainz has been making quite a buzz for himself lately, so we caught up with him (page 82). Thank God he changed that name Tity Boi, ’cause that was awful. I don’t care what it means in Atlanta—it’s not a good name. We had 20 rappers interview Mary J. Blige (page 76), got Maino to host his own roundtable (page 52) and spoke with Busta Rhymes, who’s just really hard to catch up with (page 36). All in all, I’d say this was a dope issue. It whipped my ass.

“I need weed to proceed,”

vanessa satten