Images Jonathan Mannion

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of XXL Magazine.

I can’t believe XXL has reached the 150th issue. Obviously, we have and accomplished a lot along the way, with many different people’s help. Our wins have been glorious, and our fails have been a little disappointing, but no matter what, XXL has tried to give you the best magazine possible every time one came out. This issue is a big one, and it’s the right time to show appreciation.

So thank you to all the editors and writers that have contributed to this brand, past and present. Thank you to all the publicists and industry folk for helping us make the impossible happen. Thank you to the photographers and stylists for delivering the best hip-hop photos possible. Thank you to the industry heavyweights and label folk for supporting us. And thank you to all the artists for giving XXL the opportunity to document your journey.

We are proud of what we have done these past 150 issues and in our 16 years of existence. (It’s our 16th anniversary also, so it’s a double happy birthday to us.) In honor of this special achievement, this issue is a bit untraditional. Inside, we made the ultimate list that takes up most of the issue. We bring you the 150 most important people, places and things in hip-hop during the XXL era. This list isn’t ranked—that would’ve been impossible, and I just couldn’t even handle that drama. (I hate ranking.) It was well discussed and researched as we spoke to anyone and everyone to get their input.

Important note: If a person, place or thing didn’t make it on the list, that doesn’t mean we don’t think they or it wasn’t important or impactful to hip-hop, so don’t get your boxers in a bunch.

Anyway, for this issue we also switched up the X-Rated section to feature rappers reviewing classic albums that celebrate major cake days this year. Jean Grae reviews Salt-N-Pepa’s A Salt With A Deadly Pepa. Macklemore looks back on Wu-Tang’s Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and B.o.B. critiques OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below plus several more (see page 93). The package also extends to where more MCs will be reviewing classic albums.

And finally, this is a special issue for us also because of the guy on the front. It’s XXL’s first Drake solo cover, and it’s about time. Thomas Golianopoulos caught up with the Toronto terror in his hometown, and Drizzy got open (see page 40). But also don’t ignore the fact that Mr. OVO is holding a live owl. I was so into Boo, the Eurasian Eagle-Owl. Shout out to Hawkeye Bird And Animal Control for taking such good care of that beautiful creature.

This photo shoot wasn’t easy, and Boo had nothing to do with the drama. We shot the day after a major storm in Toronto, and the studio we used (Westside Studio, which was great especially under the circumstances) lost power that afternoon.

In true superhero form, famed photographer Jonathan Mannion spent four hours snapping dope photos of Drake (and Boo) with one light and some computers powered by a rental car. An easy-going Drake actually got styled by candlelight, but that kinda seems like it fits him, no? And the cover image was even shot on film, a rarity these days.

Thank you Drake, Oliver and team, and Mannion for making it happen that day. It is the perfect memory of the 150th.

“It’s my birthday, I’ll get high if I want to”

Vanessa Satten