Image by Perou

After the last issue, I wasn’t sure what we were going to do. We were all wiped out from Kanye West and crew and needed a vacation (but ours doesn’t come until that fun week between Christmas and New Year’s). Nothing we were going to do was gonna be nearly as intense as KW’s 40 pages of power, but we needed to do something hot. And then it hit us—it actually hit digital content director Anslem Samuel and co-deputy editor Rondell Conway at the exact same time (great minds think alike)—50 Cent and Soulja Boy mean muggin’ and half-huggin’ (okay, I just wrote that last part so I could rhyme). I can’t take credit for it, but I love it! Sure, we’ve done almost a dozen 50 covers over the years (this one makes 12), but with the two old buddies (old being a relative term in this case) tweeting up a storm lately (they have yet to get at me @VSattenXXL once, just to beef for second), and even making that “Mean Muggin’” collabo, it made sense. 50 and SB loved the idea, and we were soon on the set with one of my favorite photogs, Perou, who just happened to be visiting from England (he’d come here to pick up chopped-and-screwed mixtapes he can’t get back at home—okay, not really, but R.I.P. DJ Screw).

Some of you might be questioning what the mask is on 50’s face. You could be wondering what to call it. We’ve decided it’s a ninja’s mask, and it looks crazy on the cover, with Soulja Boy all tatted up like that, with those kinda-back-in-the-day yellow-gold (ridiculous) pieces, and with Fif all bare armed, tattoos removed. We know a ton of you will hate on this cover (feel free to continuing to comment here at, and I can and can’t understand why. I can, because most of you have a love/hate/hate/love/hate/love relationship with Fif, but with SB, well, all that just confuses me. Okay, I admit you won’t find too much Soulja Boy in my iTunes playlists [but] if I’ve had enough to drink at the club (rarely happens), then I might dance along to a hit Soulja song (I don’t bird walk, though).

There are so many wannabe rappers out there trying to do just what Soulja Boy did. They’re making beats and songs with equipment at home, then performing locally and plugging their MySpace (or whatever) pages, all in the effort of trying to get a record deal and become a rap star. Makes sense, ’cause he succeeded, we tear him down, right? (Just like 50, right?) It’s not like a lot of you haven’t tried a little coke (or worse) yourself. Just kidding…? Needless to say, check out what Fif and SB had to say when the two got together, starting on page 42. I am gonna diss Soulja Boy, though, and say I think his eyebrow tattoos are dumb, but this really is coming from a selfish place. He was not supposed to go and tweet pics from our cover shoot then leak video!

But this issue is a good one, if I do say so myself. Sure, there are no pictures of chairs or speakers, and we’re back to using our regular paper in the whole book, but the stories are dope this month. Our new features editor, Thomas Golianopoulos (welcome, Thomas G.!), investigated the phenomenon of albums leaking. It’s something we can count on at this point, but how does it actually happen, and how can you fight it (page 60)? Lloyd Banks is back and has been bringing some heat, so we had Ben Detrick catch up with Blue Hefner to see where he’s been the past couple of years (page 74). And I caught up with Shyne for the final installment of our three-part Po series (page 78). (Between Shyne and Kanye, I am almost, but not quite, knocked the hell out!) Last but not least, I can’t leave out the hip-hop-soul special. It’s the 10th anniversary of one of hip-hop’s most loved R&B albums, R. Kelly’s (always funny to me that the title was “.com” way back then). Kells broke down the making of his classic LP, and it’s definitely an interesting read for any of his true fans. And you know most of y’all love the Pied Piper. (Trey Songz, this one’s for you.)

Before I’m out of here, I want to say goodbye to Taiia Smart Young, our former managing editor, who is leaving us for our sister magazine, Juicy, and Matt Barone, our senior editor, who is leaving us to seek new horizons. Thank you for your dedication, and I wish you the best of luck. Also, another welcome, this one to our new ME, Laura Hatmaker. Okay team, let’s go!

Blunts in the air (again and always),

Vanessa Satten