Elliott Wilson

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Dissing rappers unapologetically, building a multi-media empire, posing in high-profile clothing ads, and championing competition—these are all part of a rapper’s M.O. But all of the above comes directly from the resume of the esteemed and controversial O.G. hip-hop journalist, Elliott “YN” Wilson. YN has essentially authored the “10 Crack Commandments” on how to document hip-hop culture. Wilson has done it all, from books (Ego Trip’s Big Book of Racism and Book of Rap Lists) to TV shows (Ego Trip’s ‘The (White) Rapper Show’ and ‘Miss Rap Supreme’) to heading up XXL, hip-hop’s undisputed bible. Now, he’s trying his hand in a young man’s game, the internet.

I don’t care how rich you are. You can’t ignore this recession.

Format: When you left your post as Editor-in-Chief at XXL, it kind of shook things up in the game. The hip-hop community was pretty shocked about how it all went down, but was your departure from XXL magazine a blessing in disguise?
Elliott Wilson: [Laughs] I don’t know, man. Who knows? I will say we’re in a tough economic time right now and it’s tough for everybody. I don’t care how rich you are. You can’t ignore this recession. But I’ve always had the belief that everything I’ve done has had an independent spirit. Being an entrepreneur and having this new brand that I’m creating and have ownership of, I just feel like I have to do it by myself this time. I feel like I’m doing the right thing at the right time.

Format: A lot of magazines are getting hit in the pockets right now. How soon do you think it will be before print mags fold up and become completely obsolete?
Elliott Wilson: I don’t think that will ever happen. I mean I’m not anti-print. I do think a lot of books will get eradicated but I think the good books will survive and we’ll get through these hard times and, economically, things will get back to the way they need to be. I think the spirit is dying because everyone is so stressed out about the lack of advertising. So now, you don’t see as much great content in magazines. It’s kind of like a big cloud hanging over the industry, but I think the sun will come out. RapRadar’s plan is to be really supportive of magazines. A lot of times the kids don’t know about what the mags are putting up unless it goes up on a site first, so that can serve as a conduit. And if I see something cool in the magazine I can pick it up on RapRadar. I always want to support magazines. Maybe one day RapRadar will become a magazine. Right now we’re just trying to build a brand, get some different avenues and see what happens in the future.

Format: I’ve heard you speak about the blogosphere and you described it like a community. Say one day your business partner, Paul Rosenberg (the financial muscle behind RapRadar), calls and says, ‘Cut the friendly shit and just focus on the competition.’ Would you be comfortable competing with some of the other established hip-hop blogs?
Elliott Wilson: I’ll go toe-to-toe with anybody [laughs]. Don’t get it twisted! What I’m saying is that no one really benefits. At the end of the day, all of these sites are linked to each other. It’s real different from the magazine scope. That side of it is not competitive, but the crazy thing about the Internet is it’s community-based, but it’s still competitive. It’s still hip-hop! Everyone thinks they’re number one. That’s hip-hop. You shouldn’t be like “my site’s cool but this site is way better than mine.” You wouldn’t say that out loud even if you thought that, and if you thought that it would be motivation for you to get your shit together. So, there’s always that competitive spirit. But I think what I’m trying to say more importantly is that I’m not trying to dead anybody. I think people expect that from me. I’m not trying to start any beef, but if someone wants to beef with me then I’ll respond and it is what it is. But, I’ll take on all challengers [laughs].

Format: What can hip-hop fans get from RapRadar that they cannot get from any of the other hip-hop blogs?
Elliott Wilson: First and foremost, you get me, somebody’s who experienced, someone who has a voice, knowledge of the past, present, and future. And because of the way I put things together, it will be better than most people’s sites. I’ll also aggregate with the best of them. There’s no website that’s balancing aggregating content and creating original content, and I think that’s our bread and butter. It’s just going to be quality work in and of itself. In some ways, the work I’ve done in the past means a lot but in some ways it doesn’t mean shit. So I would just say to anyone who’s wondering, go to RapRadar.com and see what you think and I’ll keep doing things to bring you back.

Format: You have a respected voice in hip-hop so I wanted to ask you about the future of hip-hop and this new wave of rappers. Who do you think is going to snatch the ball and run with it?
Elliott Wilson: Well out of the new guys with potential, the names that come to mind are Asher Roth, Charles Hamilton, B.o.B, Wale, and cats like that; the cats who were on the XXL cover. I’m not familiar with all of the music. I can’t say I’ve downloaded all of their mixtapes. I know there’s a lot of talent there. You still have this old guard sticking around. You get an Eminem album, a Jay album, but [out of those new guys] who’s going to break out? Who’s going to be the one? I don’t know yet. I have a rapport with some of them. With Charles [Hamilton], I have a little rapport. Wale I’m developing a rapport with. I don’t know Asher too well but I think he’s talented. Obviously he’s bringing a different perspective to the game. He’s going to have to deal with being a white emcee like how Eminem had to deal with it. But, I think the lane is open. The hip-hop world and the community are really ready for one of these guys to take the ball. It’s going to take one of them to really do it. Which one out of that batch is going to be the one? I can’t call it yet but hopefully I’ll know at least a couple months before everyone else does [laughs].

“But at the end of the day, I’m trying to leave a legacy. I’m trying to leave a mark.”

Format: Imagine if a few years from now, you wake up and get a call from Harris Publications, your ex-employer, and they want to offer you a really big check, like a fat check, for RapRadar.com. Would you take that check?
Elliott Wilson: I mean I’d take that meeting [laughs]. I take all meetings. This is business, man. EPMD told me business is never personal. I mean I take all meetings. I’m open-minded. It’s a business. I try to approach things straight up and honest. It’s a business game and you have to be smart. I’m always willing to sit down if there’s something higher level there.

Format: When it’s all said and done, is YN the greatest to ever do it? Something like the Hov (Jay-Z) of journalism?
Elliott Wilson: Yeah, that’s my goal. Before, I think I would’ve been too shy to say it but I’ve been feeling it more lately. Just in the sense of Hov as an artist, he has a tremendous track record like I do in my profession. And like him, I’m going to continue on and continue doing it and compete with this new generation. I have two goals and one of them is real selfish and one is on this really kind of warm and fuzzy shit. The selfish one is to be recognized as the greatest of all time at documenting this culture. The mushy one is to also do what no one in hip-hop has successfully done, which is to pass the torch and also to develop other voices and to develop the next generation, because I’m not going to be 50 years old running RapRadar on the 24/7 day-to-day grind. It’s my job to connect with and build voices and teach the next generation. Some of voices out there like Noah Callahan-Bever with Complex, Vanessa Satten of XXL and people like that I’ve obviously helped develop but it’s that continuing thing and that joy; that’s what hip-hop is about because I have a lot to teach and a lot to learn. But at the end of the day, I’m trying to leave a legacy. I’m trying to leave a mark.

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John Burnett

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4 comments

  1. This nigga put tony yayo put on the cover a magazine. He automatically lose any jounalistic credibility. also this nigga old as fuck. looking like splinter from ninja turtles is not hip hop.

  2. Care to back up that pointless (and inaccurate) statement, Akuma? How much of Elliott’s writing have you even read? The egotrip books/magazines contain some of the best hip hop writing ever.

    And Razzie, what’s with the ageism? ‘YN’ is surely younger than Dr. Dre, KRS-1, Large Professor, DJ Premier… should they all leave the game too?

    Clearly, you’re both idiots.

  3. Hi, I am interested in advertising/getting an article done in this magazine, who do i speak to?

    Please contact me.

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