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:

  • What other mainstream mag is doing a lengthy Q&A with Michael Moore right now? Putting this outfront before the press blitz really begins for his new film is something of a risk for a readership regularly fed American Idol and Ugly Betty. It’s also a damn good interview.
  • The article on why network TV is failing is pretty comprehensive and cuts through a lot of BS excuses. What’s depressing, though, is that the network execs still don’t get it, and their unwillingness to give new shows a proper chance because of low ad buys shows that they won’t get it for some time.
  • Good Ellen Barkin piece with some hot pictures to boot. I’m good.
  • Lovely Paul Rudd piece, though I was hoping for more focus on his Scarface-esque turn in the Reno 911 movie. Seriously, though, I’m one of 3 people who apparently found that gag funny.

This issue’s weak points:

  • There’s a lot of big music releases dropping right now (Chris Cornell, Queens of the Stone Age, Rufus Wainwright) and you’d never know it from this issue’s anemic coverage. I realize they just did an all-music issue, but they need to follow it up with smaller features on these bands and others. In fact, what happened to the occasional music insert they used to include in certain issues?
  • Not
    worth the time it takes to flip through this over lunch. if you’re an
    Arcade Fire fan, wait for the article to show up online or something.

Overall, it’s a good issue, but they need to spread out the TV, movie, and music goodness more evenly.

Overall: 7.5 out of 10

2. FAIR – JUNE 2007

This is another "super" glossy that can
sometimes surprise with the amount of substance a given issue can have.
Beyond the farfillion fashion ads and such, you can find some great
articles on politics, culture, and entertainment history, plus the eye
candy layouts are pretty top-notch.

This issue’s strong points:

  • Again, this is an extremely political issue. Despite the Willis cover, you’re getting political coverage across the spectrum, across the parties, and throughout history. Willis aint to shy about sharing his half-loony, half-sensible political views either.
  • The Reagan Diaries. Kind of scary in retrospect, given his helming the country at such a dangerous time in terms of potential nuclear war. But beyond that, he’s just a damn compelling figure. How else could he polarize people so?
  • The scariest of the political stuff is the book excerpt looking at parallels between America and Rome. With the middle class disappearing, we are starting to lapse back into the oligarchic caste system we fought so hard to escape with the founding of this country on the principles of democracy, freedom, and equality (Well, for white male landowners, anyway). There is no more important issue in this country, and there is almost no issue less covered or examined by our media.

This issue’s weak points:

  • Yet again, almost nothing.

So very worth the four and a half bucks. This is one of the few mags with a shelf life long beyond the month on the cover.

Overall: 9.0 out of 10


After the swift and tragic 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:

  • Fantastic piece on the "major or indie?" question many unsigned rappers face right now. Lots of pages, facets, and detail to spare. Plus, they finally get the skinny on whether rappers on Koch really get $7 an hour. The majors gotta die for hip-hop to stand a chance to live. The game has to reset to the indie Cold Chillin’/Tommy Boy/Profile label days. Worth the issue alone.
  • Kudos for acknowledging that the much ballyhooed wave of Houston rappers from a few years back are all flopping now. Without a mega-single like "Ridin" or "Still Tippin", none of these guys stand a chance. Speaking of guys hurting without a mega-single…

This issue’s weak points:

  • T.I. vs. TIP. I’m already tired of this dual personality concept, and his album hasn’t even dropped yet, not to mention that alter egos are pretty old hat in hip-hop (Nas Escobar, Makaveli Tha Don, etc.). I actually kinda like T.I……as an actor. His ATL movie was surprisingly great and he has a future onscreen. On the mic and in interviews, however, he’s dull. And without a "What You Know" for his new album, it’s going to fail, Guaranteed.

in all, it’s a good issue. Not great, but solidly good, and there’s no other competition except for a little mag at the end of this media report.

Overall: 7.5 out of 10

4. MAGAZINE – MAY 2007

The title of this baby can sometimes be ironic when the ads and
pictorials overwhelm their meager interviews by celebrities with other
celebrities. But when she’s good, you get unique perspectives that you
can’t find elsewhere.

This issue’s strong points:

  • A strong, strong lineup that pretty much works starting with Keri Russell. Her 50s Pinup-inspired layout is super duper sexy, and I can’t believe any pictures of her, no matter how stylized, could ever make me feel that way. But it’s the goods. I don’t even remember her interview. Who cares?
  • I do, however, remember and love the twin interviews with Rufus Wainwright. I love the guy to no end and while I’d still refuse him the cock if asked, I’d do just about anything else for a truly entertaining artist in print and on record. Guy’s a treasure, and God bless whatever record company fools keep giving him the money to make albums.
  • Lots of other interesting Q&As with Seth Rogen, Eli Roth, and Ellen Barkin amongst others.

This issue’s weak points:

  • As always, there’s a decent bit of flotsam and jetsam to wade through in the form of "hot" and "new" actors and bands. Pretty easy to look past, tho.

A well above-average issue that is worth more than the piddling cover price.

Overall: 8.0 out of 10

5. MAGAZINE – MAY 2007

Right now, the South is running hip-hop and "realness" is in full swing. No magazine gives you both in greater quantities than this essential read. Every interview is raw Q&A with no questions off limits and no PC/diplomatic answers allowed. Plus, there’s great stuff on how the independent music industry works from touring to merch, and the "Confessions" section, which covers everything from infinitely entertaining groupie stories to street survivors.

This issue’s strong points:

  • Hilarious smaller lists like the "Regrettable" quote list where delusional Southern rappers’ quotes from past issue were since objectively proven to be lies or exaggerations. The great thing is that there are so many Q&As with similar rappers and producers in each issue, they could do one every month…using the quotes from last month. A perennial should be any rapper talking about how their one-hit wonder single represents "a movement".
  • Every "next" dude from the South has a small spot in this issue. If you care about this scene, this is the only mag for it.
  • Damn, they’re kicking XXL’s ass with the scope of their coverage. Sure, it’s still based in the South, but they cover almost every sub-scene, plus have good West Coast coverage this ish, too. You want a great Too Short Q&A? Enjoy. But you also get great ones with Manny Fresh (this is one of the most revealing looks into the former Cash Money reign you will ever see), DJ Drama, and Devin the Dude.

This issue’s weak points:

  • Rich Boy is not. interesting. He’s the Magoo to Polow Da Don’s Timbaland.

It’s almost impossible for this mag to have a truly bad issue. There are so many interviews that something has to grab you. My only gripe has to do with their rat-ass website, but that’s another column.

Overall: 8.5 out of 10