Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of monster:
1 a: an animal or plant of abnormal form or structure
b: one who deviates from normal or acceptable behavior or character
2: a threatening force
3 a: an animal of strange or terrifying shape
b: one unusually large for its kind
4: something monstrous; especially : a person of unnatural or extreme ugliness, deformity, wickedness, or cruelty
5: one that is highly successful
I have never experienced anything like what we just went through with this new issue. I don’t think anyone at Harris Publications has, let alone anyone at XXL. Having Kanye West host 40 pages of a magazine is like being forced to listen to Afroman’s first album. At first the idea was brilliant. Halfway through, we were wondering if we’d made the right decision. At 75 percent done we began to tear our hair out. By 90 percent we were leaning toward the “Hate Kanye West” side of our cover. By 100 percent we’d spun that cover right around to “Love.” Not because we all totally understood or related to Kanye’s editorial and creative thoughts or processes, but because ’Ye respected XXL enough to come to us with his vision and voice.
Is Kanye a monster? Yes. (See evidence above: 1b, 2, 5.) But quite a lot of us are, in our own way, so it’s all good. You need all types of monsters to get things done. To make the world go ’round. But you have to give the guy credit for being interested and spending time on this project. In my history at XXL, we’ve never had a rapper so dedicated to being involved in an issue of the magazine. Or a rapper that took the opportunity and really made the most of it.
We spent hours with Kanye and crew at his apartment, in our offices, at photo studios. I mean hours. (Fun KW fact No. 1: He loves Jamba Juice’s Strawberries Wild.) And what’s in ’Ye’s 40 pages is a glimpse into his Rosewood aesthetic, which you’ll hear more about and see more of as he gets ready for the release of his new album this November. (Fun KW fact No. 2: He really drinks out of goblets, and attends meetings with them. And he encourages you to drink from the goblets what his crew pours.)
Most important in ’Ye’s XXL package is his cover story. Not only is this the first time since the Taylor Swift/MTV VMAs debacle that he’s really spoken publicly on some of the issues he touches on but he also wrote it himself, and it’s really something powerful. (Sorry if that sounds corny, but read it and then get back to me: @VSattenXXL.) It’s more than I could ever have hoped for. (Thank you, Kanye, for real, for the opportunity and for just being you, even though you are a little difficult sometimes.)
If you get anything from this story (and there’s a lot to get), you should see that Kanye West is a pretty honest guy. And isn’t honesty a good quality to have? Or not anymore in hip-hop? You all tell me, ’cause I get so confused sometimes. (Fun KW fact No. 3: The roses you’ll see are from Kanye’s apartment, and he has dozens of them delivered every week as beautiful arrangements.)
Our cover is dope—no question about it. A big thank you and welcome goes out to our new creative director, Paul Scirecalabrisotto, who has his own sharp aesthetic you will all start seeing in XXL soon. Also, our photo editor, Rebecca Fain, killed it with patience and a great eye. But this ambitious, overwhelmingly exhausting and amazing package would not exist without XXL’s creative and supportive publisher, Dennis Page, and Yeezy’s Def Jam publicist, Gabe Tesoriero, who’s a beast, not a monster, and also an all-around good dude. (Those two kept me sane.) I’m not going to tell you what’s in ’Ye’s pages, because it’s way more interesting to see and read for yourself. (Fun KW fact No. 4: Kanye is chauffeured around New York City in a white Maybach.)
But this issue isn’t all Kanye West related (and neither are the shout-outs). We’ve got a story on Pittsburgh’s new star, one of our 10 Freshmen for ’10, Wiz Khalifa; the second installment of our three-part Shyne series; and then we go in and rank the top 10 producers turned rappers in hip-hop. (Guess who No. 1 is.) And thanks to Laura Hatmaker for helping us out in a pinch.
And with that, I’m out. I’m done. It’s a wrap. I can’t take anymore. Time to put this book to bed. Or I’ma start rocking gold teeth and fangs.
October 2010 issue hits newsstands nationally September 28th!!!