When I was younger, there were two magazines that I always read: Essence and The Source.
Weird combo, right?
I figured Essence could give me my fix of what was going on with black women even though I was way too young to comprehend much of what was said. I read The Source to learn more about the artists my parents didn't allow me to listen to. I learned about their struggles and what they were trying to say in their music.
But eventually, I stopped reading The Source. The artists became, well, wacker and wacker. And I stopped caring. There was no message.
Check out this interview with Elliot Wilson, editor of XXL magazine, one of the last mags left standing in the hip-hop industry. He's pictured with his fabulous wife, Danyel Smith, editor-in-chief of VIBE magazine.
Here's a little snippet of what Wilson has to say regarding hip-hop and what sells on the newsstands:
"Black and Hispanics started Hip-Hop, people of color making something out of nothing and rebelling against the system. Let’s not forget that Hip-Hop is a rebellious music. It’s like if you not going to let us in we are going to break the door down. Now we fight our need to buy into capitalism and our need to make money and be successful but we’re still the ones that have fought against the system. Whether the music is the most political or just party music, it’s our actions. It’s still based on the “rags to riches” and living the American Dream premise."
Very well, Mr. Wilson, but what about putting artists on your covers who don't demean women or use excessive profanity?
"When I’ve done things that have been against the grain—putting Talib, Mos Def and Dave Chappelle on the cover—it doesn’t sell as well as when I put 50 Cent or Lil’Wayne on the cover. We criticize the lack of diversity but we are attracted to certain types of artists who are charismatic, over the edge, drama. The balance comes from the internet and smaller Hip-Hop magazines, which don’t worry as much about sales. On the web there are so many blogs and sites that champion smaller or lesser known artists and bring them to the forefront."
So what does that tell us? There is enough blame to go around: record labels, artists, consumers. We are all a part of the problem.