Confession time: Even though I spend as much time thinking and writing about hip-hop as anyone, I hardly ever get around to reading hip-hop magazines. I have the first issue of XXL, with Jay-Z on the cover, and the second one, with D'Angelo (nullus), but that's about the extent of my knowledge of the actual print version of XXL.

Also, I subscribed to the Source for three years, from 1994 (right around the time of the original Benzino dust-up) to 1997, and then bought it occasionally up through about 1999. But for the most part, there was a serious decline in my hip-hop magazine reading that began around the time hip-hop started to suck balls (i.e. 1998) and has persisted to this day.

The other day, for shits and giggles, I figured I'd stop off at the local Barnes & Noble, cop one of those $6 coffee milkshakes (which is like drinking a Big Mac) and grab whatever hip-hop magazines they carry. Come to find out, you can't really get hip-hop magazines at a Barnes & Noble, or at least not this one [1].

Granted, this isn't the kind of neighborhood where I'd imagine very many people would be interested in reading about hip-hop. (For my St. Louis peeps, Ladue Crossing.) Still, it's not like they have book stores anywhere other than decent neighborhoods, which makes me wonder: How do magazines like Rime and Elemental stay in business if you can't buy them anywhere?

Aside from the Source and XXL, it was slim pickins. There was an issue of URB, that magazine that once had Slug on the cover, but I think that might be more of a gay-ass techno magazine. And there was an issue of VIBE there, but I couldn't get myself to spring for it. Cover girl Keyshia Cole has ridonkulously large boobs, which is one of the things I look for in a woman, but otherwise she's the definition of busted.

So I ended up copping this month's issues of the Source and XXL. The Source I got is that special 200th issue, with Ice Cube on the cover. The XXL is the one with Jay-Z on the cover and the making of Reasonable Doubt, Jay-Z's best album.

I was all prepared to write about how the Source had been turned around ever since Dave Mays and Benzino had been fired from their own company, but clearly this isn't the case. I picked up copies of the Source once or twice during their "baroque" period, and they were way better than this bullshit. Some of the regular sections, like the record report, the artist interviews and what have you weren't any better or worse than you'd expect, but the actual anniversary package itself was one huge shit sandwich.

It would be unfair to compare XXL to the Source, given all the bullshit the Source has been through, but it's worth noting that I found XXL rather impressive in its own right. Aside from the Reasonable Doubt features, very little of the content interested me on a personal level, but you can hardly fault them on the execution and the overall presentation. The spelling and grammar was even on point, which is impressive for an "urban" magazine. The broad in their monthly Eye Candy section was remarkably almost-not-fat!

If I can't talk Elliott or whoever's in charge into getting me a free subscription, I might go ahead and drop the $12 or whatever it costs. I'd do the same for the Source, but I heard they've had problems mailing out issues because they can't afford the postage or some shit. Do you 'bags know any other hip-hop magazines worth checking out?

[1] It should be noted that for about ten years before this, I went to a Borders near where I grew up (Olive and New Ballas) and, now that I think about it, I don't think they ever carried much other than the Source and XXL, either.