Yes, it’s Rick Ross on the cover. You all stay listening to dude and keep him crazy relevant, so we’re just responding. Ross’ first cover was back in July 2008, when he shared the honor with several other rappers and a DJ, all of whom were helping the state of Florida get back on the rap map at the time. I never would’ve thought back then that we’d be here, four years later, doing our fifth Ross cover. But y’all are still really feeling The Bawse, and it seems like he can do no wrong.

I have this theory: Certain folks in the game know how to turn “the rapper” on. They can wear that complete MC costume, work it to their fullest capacity and only get better at the role overtime. Behind closed doors they don’t necessarily take out their grills and put on some Dockers and a golf shirt, but they do shift out of it in privacy. Sometimes hip-hop goes along with it (Lil Jon, Drake, Juicy J), or it doesn’t but the main-stream public might (Flo Rida, Will.I.Am).

These artists have mastered a certain brilliance that they are expertly using on the industry. Not only are they talented at what they do in the studio, but they’ve also managed as businessmen to sell some sort of super-heightened, glamorous version of themselves and their lifestyle to the public. And the masses have eaten it up like free Shady Records barbecue at this year’s Summer Jam. It's like they’re living in a multi million-dollar rap video from the late 1990s.
I think Ricky fits into this category of entertainer perfectly. And the fans are with it all the way. They’re buying it hook, line and sinker. I guess that’s why the ultra-popular MC has been on our cover three times in the past year alone. (In our defense, one month it was a split between Ross by himself and then with his Maybach Music Group team.)

Rick Ross’ continued hype just proves what an interesting and compelling character he’s become in the formerly wild world of hip-hop. I say character because you just can’t tell me that the tatted-up, swagged-out, Buddha-bellied MC struts around 24/7 in jet-black shades with the you-don’t-own-what-I-own and you-can’t-rock-what-I-rock attitude, while puffing a fat blunt.

Maybe he goes home and flicks the off switch. Kicks off the red-bottom Louboutins, yanks off the shades and starts talking in a whole new voice. Gone is the gravelly, low, Godfather-like whisper; it’s replaced by an excited higher-pitched twang, evidence of his Florida and Mississippi roots. Then again, maybe The Bawse falls asleep every night on a 24-karat gold bed, shirtless and rocking a shiny pair of Louis Vuitton sunglasses while clutching an almost empty flute of Rozay. Who knows? He’s so sophisticated.

When it came around to this story, we needed to send in a real soldier to play some mental chess with Ross. So we sent our executive editor, Jayson Rodriguez, down to the Sunshine State to chill with the rapper and pick his brain. (See page 54 for the outcome.)

Also in the mag, we have a trio of special tribute stories on big anniversaries. Wu-Tang Forever turns 15, Paid in Full turns 25, and three of Scarface’s LPs are celebrating birthdays. And we caught up with the new crew bubbling in L.A., Black Hippy. 2 Chainz wrote his own story for us, and Jean Grae turned herself into a comic-book character in her first XXL feature. (Much deserved.)

I’m wrapping this note up with a quick warning: Look out for next month. It’s our 15th anni- versary issue. Enough said.

And I like my marijuana bright,

Vanessa Satten (@VSattenXXL)