It seems Kelefa Sanneh‘s thesis in the New York Times that 2007 was the year when “the gleaming hip-hop machine … finally broke down” is being driven home in 2008. Already, Elliott Wilson, the long-time editor and face of XXL magazine, has been canned, to be replaced by deputy editor Vanessa Satten. It’s also being rumored that two other prominent urban magazines are on the verge of closing up shop.
The circumstances surrounding Wilson’s firing are murky. A veteran hip-hop writer who had been with XXL for over a decade, Wilson had come under fire of late for the magazine’s slumping newsstand sales numbers, which dropped between 2005 and 2006 (’07 figures are not yet available). His leadership style was described to Radar by one source as “blustery,” which may have put him at odds with higher-ups at publisher Harris Publications, who is reportedly looking to “expand the scope” of the magazine.
“Hip-hop magazines like XXL can only exist when big stars like Jay-Z and 50 Cent are selling tons of records, and that’s just not happening anymore,” says one industry veteran. “It’s going to be hard for them to go forward.”