Yep, after all this time we have finally gone ahead with the XXL awards. And we actually have trophies! In my corny mind, I have a photo of Kendrick Lamar cradling all his XXL Awards in his arms à la Lauryn Hill at the Grammy Awards in 1999. The image, shot by Johnny Nuñez (of course), and Kendrick’s big win both go on to be widely circulated and celebrated around the globe. Unfortunately, moments like that don’t come close to happening if you don’t have some big, live show also. Who knows, maybe we will next year. You got to start somewhere.

The awards are a tribute to hip-hop in 2012. The biggest category’s winners were determined by the public. Fans went to and voted on Rapper of the Year,  Album of the Year,  Record of the Year, Breakout Artist of the Year, and Mixtape of the Year. All other winners (and the nominees) were determined by the XXL staff and everyone did their homework. Click here for the big winners.

Moving over to the cover...interesting, right? I must confess that after all the confusion with A$AP Rocky being part of the Freshman class last year, I was feeling some kind of way towards dude. He was supposed to be part of that class. Everyone knew it. And for some reason, I’m not totally clear why, he didn’t end up in it. I won’t rehash what I think happened, but with all the mix up, it did make me feel like there was some sort of beef between XXL and the A$AP Mob. For a little while, I had a Post-it on a wall in my office (right below one of my beloved D’Angelo photos), which read “A$AP Rocky Banned.” I knew that I was going overboard with it. We couldn’t ban Pretty Flaco/Young Lord for good or for real ’cause he was getting bigger and bigger. I was just letting off some steam in my own immature way (common).

I stayed having to explain to folks that Rocky wasn’t really banned, it was just me being tight over Freshmen. Fast-forward a year and it was time to put Rocky on the cover—two covers! I didn’t hate. It’s what’s good for the readers and the mag. But I knew when I interviewed Rocky, I wanted to ask him what was up with Freshmen.

The interview was a little less than an hour and a half and, in the end, I came away seriously into A$AP Rocky. He totally surprised me.

I guess I had built up this whole idea in my head of what he was like and I was either way off or he is an incredible actor. This time I’d like to think I was way off-base. Can you believe that I didn’t even remember to ask him about Freshmen?

Now what can one say about French Montana? The dude is a trip. He’s just the perfect mix of funny, charm and flashy weirdness rolled up into this outlandish  persona who wore a bear to Freshmen last year. I hear about that bear all the damn time.

So is New York back? Y’all can argue over that all you want but we haven’t had two New York rappers making waves on the radio and putting anticipated albums out in a minute.  Feel free to let us know whatyou think.

Shout out to Theola Borden, vice president of publicity at RCA Records, for holding us down the past two issues!

“Puff puff pass/Take a drag just don’t steam it though/Smokin’ on that Captain Kush, this shit is unbelievable”

vanessa satten

P.S. Freshmen’s coming!