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The Death of XXL Magazine & The Quest for Internet Immortality

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I don’t know when my lust for immortality begun, likely around the time of my first midlife crisis at the tender age of 18, but I knew eternal life for a writer wouldn’t be achieved on the internet. Writing words that defy decay and defeats the law of time would be the ultimate satisfaction, but the worldwide web that connects us moves too quickly, birthing attention deficits that only have time to read headlines and find humor in overweight midgets dancing for eight second increments. It’s a clustered junkyard of opinions and rumors that are forgotten with the beginning of each new scandal. Since the beginning of my journey I knew where the exit sign resided, where I would ascend to timelessness; between the pages of my favorite magazines. 

Before the brutal realities of politics assassinated my innocence, I believed hip-hop magazines were road maps that lead directly to the holy land. The cover graced by the most deserving, reviews handled by journalists who immersed themselves in the heart and soul of the genre, and interviews sketching portraits of the artist that megapixels still aren’t able to achieve. The Source was my 106 & Park, XXL was my Rap City, Complex was my MTV, and only a fire engulfing the entire planet could burn away what these pages offered.

Magazines exist in the physical; they will be discovered in the dens that father’s escape to, passed down by uncles when they “outgrow” the music, in the back of studios in the hands of new artists reminiscing on these time capsules that represented their adolescence. We read them at Wal-Mart in the lines that never end, we read them in classrooms tucked inside of textbooks, and used them as sources for fashion and uncovering the hottest prospects. This is part of the culture I connected most to. 

Even with Complex, The Source, Mass Appeal, and Fader fighting against the winds of change – it feels like the last days of an era is upon us. First Spin, then Vibe, and now the announcement that XXL will be releasing its final print issue in October is disheartening. 17 years of service, supplying a hunger for hip-hop comes to a close. The new owners, Townsquare Media doesn’t see a vision outside of online domination. The audience might be larger, the content might be delivered quicker, but there’s an experience with the magazine that can’t be digitized. There’s a level of human interaction that technology fails to fill - the text message will never trump a phone call, Skype will never be a suitable substitute for flesh, and no amount of free porn or nude pictures will equate to the act of knocking boots.  

There’s a 12th year Anniversary XXL issue sitting by my computer as I type this, Jeezy is on the cover promoting TM103. The year is 2009, this is before age snuffed him; it’s still acceptable to call "Young" Jeezy. I’m flipping through the pages, not worried about battery life woes or arguing dimwits in comment sections. To think this will be considered retro in a few years, attached to the phrase, “back in my day.” 

There’s a bittersweet 50 Cent quote on page 47. He was asked, “Where do you see XXL in the upcoming 12 years?" 

“I think it’ll be one of the last publications standing. They should broaden it a little from covering hip-hop – probably start covering some of the R&B that Vibe used to cover. Hip-hop as a genre isn’t producing any really big stars, just guys that have things happening for the moment.” 

This is the age of the moment, the temporal star, and the microwave merry-go-round. We will be dizzy drunk overdosing on “content,” while the trees breathe a sigh of relief, and I continue to try and write the immortal article. Welcome to the new era. 

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R.I.P. XXL Magazine, 1997-2013

[By Yoh, AKA 2 Vowelz, AKA @Yoh31]



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