You’ll see this baby show up more as their coverage isn’t just nerdy articles on how to do wank-off licks faster than ever, but rather broader coverage of guitar-oriented artists in blues, jazz, and rock (My apologies, country fans….for you being country fans, that is).

This issue’s strong points:

  • Fantastic cover story that not only has a substantial look at Slash and his history on the Sunset Strip scene, but also a lengthy sidebar looking back at Appetite For Destruction. They even briefly touch upon the Velvet Revolver/Van Halen/Hall of Fame debacle.
  • Gotta give ‘em props for a long article on The Stooges when most kids reading this mag are gonna scratch their heads and go "Who?" This issue’s pretty chock full of good, non-technical profiles of some badass acts currently nowhere near MTV or the charts.

This issue’s weak points:

  • G3, the annual gods of shred guitar tour, has never been and will never be that interesting. Just the fact that these guys are still planning end-of-the-night jams on Hendrix songs shows how limited this thing has become. With all due respect to Satch, kill it. The only worth they provide here is in their extended lessons in the middle of the mag, and that ain’t for beginners.
  • All-in-all, a solid issue that really emphasizes where their strengths and weaknesses are at. GW needs to continue to evolve into a broader guitar-based music mag.

Overall: 7.5 out of 10

2. WEEKLY #933

Sure, their film reviews are hated by geeks. Yes, they follow trends incessantly. And yes, music coverage is generally an afterthought. But it’s surely the most fun weekly read out there, and they have television on lock. Plus, they’ll surprise with every now and then with a great piece on overlooked entertainment industry plebs like personal assistants and bodyguards. When it’s on, it’s an incredible value. When it’s not…wait a week.

This issue’s strong points:

  • Good Heroes piece chock full of nuggets for fans of the show. It’s disappointing that they didn’t bring up the frequent charges of plagiarism, but Tim Kring’s not going to be fazed by that anyway. However unoriginal and logic-free this show is, it’s still a joy to watch for pleasures intentional and unintentional. And they seem to know what works and will only stress that in the coming season.
  • The "25 Best Sci-Fi" pamphlet in the middle is a little fluffy, but a lot of these shows and movies deserve the highlight, especially the latter-day Star Wars stuff. I’m speaking of the Clone Wars series, of course.
  • Good, and fair, Spidey 3 review.
  • Michael Chabon!

This issue’s weak points:

  • The article on network Standards & Practices executives had potential, but by limiting it strictly to input from the anonymous execs, it just shows how wimpy and clueless they are without highlighting the broader context that keeps this system so jacked up.
  • Another mostly good-to-great issue. This mag is actually becoming underrated.

Overall: 7.5 out of 10

3. – JUNE 2007

After the swift descent of The Source, XXL has ascended to the throne as the king of hip-hop journalism, both in print and online. Sure, they favor the big sellers with their feature stories, but they cover it all from producers to indie dudes to older guys not in the limelight as much any more.

This issue’s strong points:

  • It’s a shame he’s no longer relevant enough to get the cover, but I just loved the Redman article. One of the few mainstream MCs who cares about entertainment and skills instead of posturing. His reward? His album selling double-styrofoam.
  • Lots of good smaller pieces on unsung regional favorites like Eightball & MJG and Evidence.
  • Interesting, if overly fawning article on Eve. When she’s not driving drunk or headlining dull sitcoms, she’s still one of the best female MCs in the game. in fact, these days, she’s one of the very few female MCs in the game at all.
  • My favorite this issue was actually the Killer Mike piece. Only a one-pager, but I was truly curious as to why he split from Outkast, and it gives a good look into why that Purple Ribbon record label is going nowhere fast, despite a hit single or two.

This issue’s weak points:

  • Young Jeezy and his wack crew are heading up a movement? Sure. BOWEL.
  • Polow Da Don. Talented producer. Dull interview.
  • Reviews are pretty bland too, but that’s more of the fault of so many hip-hop albums bricking or being shelved these days. The game needs something badly right now, and it ain’t Juelz Santana.

Overall: 6.5 out of 10