When you left XXL, I think a lot of people expected to not see much of you. Were people wrong to assume that?
After XXL, I kept a low profile. I had nothing really to promote. Now Miss Rap Supreme is out. It’s on VH1 at 10 on Monday nights. I’m very proud of the show and me and my crew ego trip worked hard on it. I have to be out here and hawk the damn thing. Why would I be out here just to save face? I feel like people always had crazy thoughts about me and what I should be doing and where my career was going? I’ve been really smart about the moves I’ve made and I’ve been all over the internet to push my show. I have something that I’m proud of and it’s another important product and another important part of my legacy and something important that I’m bringing to hip-hop. It’s doing very well and I’m excited about it.
How did you and the rest of ego trip come up with the concept for Miss Rap Supreme?
Through conversations with the network. The White Rapper Show did well and we were going back and forth. It comes down to VH1 doing reality shows and they have a very large female demographic. So they put it out that what if we did females. So we went back to the lab and put it together and said that it does make some sense in a lot of ways. White rappers are an endangered species in hip-hop but with the female rappers, it’s pretty much the same thing. When you think of female rappers, you think of all the drama they have. This one is coming out of jail and this one is going into jail. It’s a sad state, actually. We were taking the show in another direction from The White Rapper Show. It kind of was a mutual discussion. It’s about the execution of the idea. I feel like this is a very creative way to cover females in hip-hop with this show and it seems like it’s really connecting to the audience.
Whenever female MCs are interviewed, they are asked about females’ presence in hip-hop, but you never hear guys talk about females in hip-hop.
That’s why I think it’s very fascinating. I’m glad you brought that out. I started doing this rap compilation called Hardbody Female Spit. I’m going to other sites and creating compilations with the sites. I did one with Lokey. I did one with Eskay. I did one with Robbie and Unkut from Australia. Dudes never want to really admit that they like female hip-hop. They want to put that kind of hip-hop down and not remember the great Salt N Pepa and great MC Lyte songs and the impact they had and the impact Foxy Brown and Lil’ Kim had. Those were great times in hip-hop. I think it’s hard for dudes to give it up for these great, historical moments in hip-hop that involve females. You know, females have contributed a lot to the culture and yeah, I think it does get lost and I think that’s fascinating.
Why do you think female rappers don’t have a presence in the game today?
Well, you have to look at what happened after Lauryn Hill lost her relevancy. I think record labels are down on trying to cultivate female talent and sign them and really put the work in. It just seems like it’s not working out and now the game is in another direction and there isn’t really a generation of female rappers embracing the challenge of working in a male-dominated industry.
Now Jean Grae is saying that she’s retiring and that’s crazy. Why is this girl retiring when she got singed to Kweli and is finally coming out on a major label? She’s probably tired of the drama. I remember writing about her when she was in Natural Resources back in my days at The Source and that was over 10 years ago. You can say why is this girl retiring, but she’s been in the game for 10 years. I think it’s hard if you’re a white male or a white female or a female in general to break into the rap game and get respect. It’s a hard road to travel. The biggest impact has obviously been the rise and fall of Lauryn Hill. A lot of people believed in Lauryn Hill and she was getting the respect from men and I think that some of her pitfalls and the things that have happened to her have really impacted the female rap game in a bad way.
Can you blame Jean Grae for wanting to retire?
No. You can’t blame anybody. It’s a frustrating game. There are a lot of males going through that too., I tell that to my little brother. He wants to be a rapper and he’s out there grinding. Look at Joe Budden. You can not deny his skill, but what is success to him? How is he going to achieve on a level that really matches his skills? It’s not just about talent and skills. It’s about everything coming together and having that mentality to want to be successful and to want to be a star and to deal with all of the hang-ups and pitfalls and want to grow. Look at Lupe talking about retiring. They’re in it for the short term. They want to make their money, build their brand and keep it moving.
Me, myself, I’ve been in it for a long time and I’m staying in hip-hop. I’m not really down with people retiring from hip-hop. We’re in it! (laughs) With Jean Grae, I think she’s more retiring form the business of hip-hop and I don’t think she’s going to stop creating but I think it speaks to what’s going on in her career professionally.
A lot of artists retire or threaten to retire for hype. Do you think some of these artists talking about retirement are faking it?
I thinks sometimes they do, but I think if you look at someone like Jay-Z, who said he was going to retire since his first record, and look at the way Beyonce retired Destiny’s Child, there’s also this idea of wanting to sustain your brand and wanting to maintain your legacy and not doing anything to diminish it and to go out on a high note. Everybody wants to go out on a high note. If you make one great album and never make another album, there’s a great allure and mystery to it. Look at ego trip magazine. We didn’t see much of a future in publishing it so we can do a final farewell issue and bring our own closure to the table.
It’s really that so much of hip-hop is documented right now that you really get access to the person as they go through their emotions. Lupe could get in a fight with his record label A&R and he could say he doesn’t need that headache and all of a sudden that’s news. Everything is news in this culture that we live in. I think every artist wants to quit and gets frustrated at one point. I’m sure Fat Joe was like, ‘Fuck this rap shit’ when he saw his first week sales, but you recapture your hunger and you stay in it.
Have you ever felt like quitting the game?
All the time. Yeah. All the time, I was thinking of days when I should quit XXL because I couldn’t do nothing else and it was a great time to walk away. There’s such a part about being a part of this culture when you love it and hate it. Sometimes you feel like this rap shit doesn’t love you back. But if you’re really dedicated to it and it’s really a part of your life, then it’s something that you can’t quit and you’re really in it. I haven’t been able to quit it! (laughs)
Are you happy with the response to Miss Rap Supreme so far?
I think that it’s doing well, but I always want something to do as incredible as it could and be the biggest thing ever. I think there’s still some work that I could do individually or with ego trip that will be more greater successes down the road. I think I’m just getting started in the TV world and learning the process and paying my dues. Eventually I want to have something that reaches a higher level and gets The Chappelle Show type of attention and grabs pop culture by the throat and chokes the shit out of it! (laughs) And have the biggest thing. Of course. But I think it’s doing really well and we’ll probably have an option to figure out if this is a concept that we want to do again. I think our relationship is good with VH1, but we also want to explore relationships with other networks and continue to build ego trip as a brand and build myself as a brand.
Do you see any potential superstars in Miss Rap Supreme?
It depends how you measure superstars. I don’t want to hedge and say all of the different individual names, but I think that Biata has a lot of talent. I think Miss Cherry has talent. I think Chiba has talent. Obviously when you’re in the early stages of this show, you have some who are clearly going to be the weaker members of the cast, but as you get down to the final four, in the right situation, you look at them like they could make a hot record. We show them growing as artists and put them in real situations.
We’re not saying this is the ultimate competition. No. This is about people who have talent and skills but also have character and also have personalities and are also willing to go through the craziness of being a part of a reality show. Some people say these girls are wack and that they know a girl who can rip someone’s head off in 28 bars, but does that person want to be a part of a reality show and have a camera in their face for 20 hours a day and live with strangers for a month and a half? It’s a lot of control to let go of. But the thing about these shows is that we’re giving people an opportunity to express themselves as brand. All we’re doing is giving them an opportunity and allowing them to grow but it’s up to them to make themselves superstars. Being a female rap superstar, it’s probably even a harder road to travel, but it’s up to them to make this show work for them and take their career to the next level.
It’s not our fault Shamrock isn’t the biggest rapper on the planet. That’s no diss to him, but it’s up to him to use that opportunity. We’re not trying to sign him to ego trip records and take all of his publishing. All we’re doing is creating great television with them and giving them the opportunity.
Why was Khia involved in Miss Rap Supreme?
Well, Khia, we obviously knew that she was a dramatic person and that she would be a crazy character. We didn’t do the cast and then say that we should get Khia in there just to make it crazy. She went out there and she auditioned just like every other female rapper on the show. She went to Atlanta to audition. There are other females that tried out. I think Miss Jade tried out and another female who I can’t remember but she had a record out before. We were surprised that Khia wanted to go through the process but she did. We were like, ‘She’s established so maybe we shouldn’t put her on the show, but we didn’t say it had to be a straight amateur competition.’ We liked her and she did everything and then we cast her.
When she got in the house, I think that’s when she flipped out and realized that she didn’t want to be a part of it and that’s when she started spitting old rhymes and being a destructive force. And ultimately we had to get rid of her. The second episode was all on the first night. It’s kind of crazy. Only in reality show world with ego trip justice would the biggest person get knocked off first. But she broke the rules in a blatant way and we had to get rid of her.
She’s promoting herself like she got over on us and gets to promote herself. No shit but you could have promoted yourself even more if you stayed on the show and you could have been on eight episodes instead of two and 88 repeats instead of 22. You could have proven to the world that you weren’t someone who could just write hooks and was a one-hit wonder. You could have won the damn thing and proved to the people that you had something special. But she basically blew this opportunity, which was very disappointed because at first it seemed like she was willing to humble herself for this, but then once she got in the house, it’s like her light switch went off and she didn’t want to be part of it. She started acting in a real reckless way.
Are you ever surprised by the poor choices rappers make?
Oh, I’m never surprised by that. Rappers are their own worst enemy! (laughs) Self-destruction! I think in hip-hop, artists do the same thing that they say they’re not going to do. They put themselves around all yes-people and try to put all their boys on and then get mad when they get bigger than them. It’s the same pattern of self-destructive behavior that all rappers go through. I think it’s fascinating that the script is still in existence and these rappers, no matter what generation, still try to follow the script. I think that’s fascinating.
What’s been your craziest experience with rappers?
(laughs) You don’t want to wait for my memoirs, man? I don’t know. There’s too many to name. I think one day I’m going to write it all down and hopefully people still care at that point. I’m still working, man. I’m lucky to be at a level where I have the freedom to say what I want and I’m not really super-duper hands-on with rappers, but a lot of them recognize my body of work and what I’ve done and I respect their art at the end of the day. I’m not trying to be a rapper and I respect the artform and I respect the artists. My job as a journalist is to criticize them and document this culture, so there’s always going to be this love/hate relationship. I’m not influenced by them. I’m going to write what I want and back it up. That’s just being a man. That’s not even trying to be a tough cat. That’s just taking whatever comes from whatever my actions are.
Do you think writers today are as objective as they should be?
I mean, I think it’s more objective now. I think now what we have, because we have the internet, I remember when there used to be a time when it was a big deal if I shitted on somebody’s record because I was the first person to say that their shit was wack and now there are 27 blogs saying their shit is wack. I feel like the blog world has allowed everybody to feel like they could take shots and be snarky and say crazy shit about rappers, but people are just low-blowing and taking potshots and they’re not really backing it up. That’s what I do. Even when I throw a crazy jab, at least I’m doing it in a clever way and I don’t just point out the negative stuff in hip-hop.
There’s a lot of voices and a lot of opinions out there, but there’s a lack of experience out there, so the writing isn’t as dimensional as it should be. But that’s the way hip-hop is when you first get into the game. Hopefully they can get with other writers and get better.
And the artist has to be more thick-skinned about it. You can’t beat up everybody. It used to be on if someone saw you in the club. You have to accept that everyone has the power and now artists are trying to compete in the world with social networking sites and Kanye has a blog. They want to at least get their opinion out there because everyone else has an opinion and they want to be the guide to what’s going on in hip-hop. I think it’s like a crazy time. It’s like wrestling in the sense that there’s just craziness and it’s no-holds barred and it’s a cage match and anything happens now because so much of what happens in hip-hop happens on the internet first. Everyone has a platform and we’re all in the pit slugging it out. Nobody’s untouchable anymore, man.
You used to get a lot of hate in your blog on XXLMag.com. Did that ever bother you?
I think the worst thing people can feel about you is indifference. I’m a controversial figure and I know some people are going to love me and some people are going to hate me. There are certain jabs I’m not going to like and you only know it when you read it and that one sits with you and you want to respond to the person, but most of the time it’s the same typical nonsense and I think I’m known for it. I have to accept it and wear it. But I’ve always been the one who’s been able to rise above it in the sense that I’m going to hit it head on. I would still run letters in my own magazine that said that I sucked dick or was wack or was a jerk. I don’t think you would see many magazines where you would see letters like that. I could have easily edited that off of the page, but I said let’s rock with it because that’s how people feel and I think I deserve props for that and I allowed people to react fairly and be a part of that exchange. People have a right to feel the way they want, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a right to fire back at their ass! (laughs)
Why do you think XXL chose not to renew your contract?
Who said that was the exact story? The decision has been made and a lot of things have been written on the Internet and I haven't confirmed that any of that is true. But I will say that a decision was made and we decided to part ways and I'm okay and they're okay and I moved on with the next part of my career. I have a legacy and I'm going to keep being a part of history. I'm a hall of famer in this and I feel like if you look back on what I did with XXL, you have to give me my props because I did what I said I would I beat The Source and I did over 80 issues. People get so caught up in the ending, but you have to look at what I did. What I did is undeniable and you have to give me my props.
Do you get the props you deserve today?
Sometimes, but people get so caught up in the drama and caught up in the now that they don't want to say that this guy did an amazing job and what else could he accomplish there? It wasn't something I was going to be doing when I was 50 years-old, running that magazine. But I think not being there now, I can really look back on the experience and really appreciate what I accomplished. I put my heart and soul into it but I'm multifaceted and multitalented. I've always done other projects with ego trip and I'm not limited to anything and I don't want people to get that twisted. But I kind of like how people say I think I'm hot shit and now that I'm not on the throne and yada, yada, yada because now I'm the underdog again and I like that position. Now it's up to me to create more great history and create more great products and take the challenge of all of this with my career. I don't feel like this is it for me. The end of my XXL reign is not the end of my history. I still have more great things to achieve and it's up to me to prove that to people if they have any doubt about it.
It sounds like you’re saying it was more of a mutual decision for you to leave XXL.
I'm saying that it's nobody's fucking business! (laughs) I'm saying it's my business and their business and it's no one else's business. And at the end of the day, life goes on and we move on. And yeah, don't believe everything you read on the internet. (laughs)
Looking back on your time at XXL, you made a lot of big moves. Will we see you back in the magazine game?
It depends. I love the internet now too. I don’t believe the internet is always going to kill magazines and a sign of me not being there is magazines being over. I don’t believe that. I believe magazines still have a place. I think it’s harder now to get advertisers for magazines, which is affecting the magazines. I still believe in magazines and I have offers on the table regarding magazines and regarding the internet and TV options, obviously, also. It all depends on what makes the most sense. I have to figure out what my next project is going to be but I’m not closing the door in terms of me being involved in magazines.
Where do you see the internet going in the future?
I mean, it’s the ultimate now. I don’t know where else it could go. I think it’s in the top position. They’re saying that one day the FCC is going to have to get involved and regulating it and I like it the way it is. It’s all over the place and you get to connect with people. I’ve been on social networking sites and I’ve been getting in touch with people. I had the same job for nine years and now people don’t know how to get in touch with me. Now I’m fucking with people and sending them Facebook and MySpace friend requests and they’re like, ‘What does this mean?’
I don’t think the game is limited to the internet. Magazines are always going to be in that equation and I’m excited about the craziness in hip-hop and how many records Lil’ Wayne is going to sell and is Eminem really going to put an album out and how long Jay-Z can be a grown-ass man and still put records out and stay at the top of the game. All of these things fascinate me and I don’t have the answers for them, but I’m along for the ride and hopefully I’ll see the answers before other people see them.
What do magazines have to do to get their advertisers back?
I think there’s a lot of people that want to be me but there’s not a lot of people that want to be Steve Stoute. I think we need more young people of color to be excited about the business again. There can be more Dame Dash’s than Jay-Z’s. Everybody can’t be a star. Now at 16 you can write your own blog and get your opinion out, but some people need to understand that they would be better suited going to business school instead of journalism school and that there are a lot of opportunities to be successful here. And a lot of successful businessmen are not international superstars and we need more people coming in on that side of it instead of on the writing side.
When you were at XXL, you put a lot into XXLMag.com. Are you happy with how far you were able to take the site while you were there?
Yeah. I was very proud. I had Brendan Frederick there and he was telling me who Byron Crawford was and he was educating me as to who those guys were. I wasn’t following it as closely and Brendan played a huge part in educating me as far as what was going on online and we really documented the culture. I think we built a great team and it was very impactful. When we first started, I had clashes with SOHH and this guy Hashim was taking shots at me and I started saying, “Fuck bloggers!” Then I did a 180 and had the best bloggers working for me. It’s kind of funny to see that turnaround and have everybody bug out over it.
How much writing will you be doing online in the future?
Now what I’m doing is I’m just trying to do the Hardbody Female Spit compilation every Monday with a new site and I’m doing a regular column with OnSmash every Monday for the next five weeks until my show wraps. There’s only eight episodes and then I’ll probably disappear again. But right now I’m whoring it up for Miss Rap Supreme and trying to get the word out on the promotion and trying to get people to check it out.
A lot of times with VH1, because of the repeats, they feel like they don’t have to catch the show when it’s on because they’ll catch the reruns. I’m trying to get people to watch it when it’s on and watch the reruns and really get into it and really keep an open mind and watch the reruns when they run back-to-back and really get into the arc of the story. And you can’t judge it off of one episode. You have to watch the whole thing and really catch the arc of the show. I’m trying got get the word out there as much as I can and inform people as much as I can. That’s why I’m using the internet as a tool to get the message out there. I’m a pretty good marketer and promoter! (laughs)
MC Serch hosted and judged The White Rapper Show and having him there made sense. Why keep him on as a judge on Miss Rap Supreme?
We are doing a new White Rapper Show, we’re just changing the premise of it. We wanted to keep Serch and he is a white man. We had to balance it out that it was going to seem weird that he was the only one talking to a bunch of females. So we got Yoyo to balance it out. We were shooting it on the West Coast and it made sense. They ended up being a great team. We had Prince Paul on The White Rapper Show as Serch’s sidekick but we wanted the co-host to be much more involved this time.
Serch and Yoyo had great chemistry and it seemed to work great for us. I think the girls right away felt like Serch was the authority figure and he ultimately makes the decisions about who stays and who goes. Khia even looks at it that way. She’s dissing Serch and calling him a hater. We ride with Serch. He’s able to take our humor and add his little twist to it and he understands our vision. We knew that Serch would still be a focal point when we were planning the show.
What’s the next move for Elliott Wilson?
(laughs) Well, I have a lot of offers on the table. I have to figure out what my next move is going to be. I definitely want to be at the top of the game again by the end of the year .I don’t know in what capacity. I miss documenting the culture and I miss the day-to-day grind of it. I’m going to take my time with it. I’m not going to rush into anything. I’m going to take my time and explore my options. I’m not starving out here. I’m doing pretty good so I can afford to take my time. I’m enjoying my time off and taking some meetings and exploring what my next move should be. When I choose to do something, I like to give 110% and I’m not going to jump towards it unless I feel like it’s something that I can give 110% to it and I got standards to uphold and if I’m going to do something, it’s gotta be on a major level.