Over the past 20 years, VIBE has given our readers some of the most revealing interviews from the biggest superstars in music, film and sports. From the jump, with our premiere 1993 Snoop Dogg cover, we were setting the standard for every other cover story to follow. With the help of some of the greatest writers in the business, we've cracked open your favorite celebrities. Flip through to check out 20 of the most memorable VIBE interviews over the past two decades.
Compiled by Terry Carter Jr. (@KINGBeysus) and Shannon Powell (@shannonmichele_)
Issue: Nov. 1994
Story Headline: Fire it Up
Background: The trio of R&B princesses had already made a name for themselves with their debut album, Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip, which garnered a quadruple-platinum standing within a year and several top-10 singles (Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg," "What About Your Friends" and "Baby-Baby-Baby"). Here, T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye were back at it again with their sophomore release, CrazySexyCool. But in the midst of all this success came plenty of drama. In 1994, Lisa, “Left Eye” Lopes faced legal troubles after setting fire to her reportedly abusive NFL boyfriend, Andre Rison’s house. With this fresh on the mind, VIBE poked fun at the incident, calling the article “Fire it Up,” with the girls dressed in firefighters’ gear. It was a way to show the world that even through it all, this talented trio was still burning hot.
Article Excerpt: "The best way for me to get those people back is to succeed," she [Left Eye] says, the determination in her voice filling the room. "I didn't struggle this far to have people tear me down. I came out of some shit where it was, like, I didn't know what I was doing. I finally started looking at myself like I'm worth something, and it's because I've accomplished everything people told me I wouldn't. The best way for me to get people back is to come back out even harder.”
Michael Jackson Interview
Issue: June-July 1995
Story Headline: Michael & Me
Background: In a rare occasion, Quincy Jones convinced Michael to dress up in hip-hop gear as he took part in a photo shoot with the mega-producer/VIBE founder’s daughter, Kidada. Loved ones reflected on Michael’s greatness, something rarely seen while an artist is still living and even more meaningful after his death. At this point in his career, the king of pop only continued to establish himself as one of the greatest to ever do it, dropping HIStory, which ended up becoming the best-selling multiple-disc album of all-time, with 20 million copies sold worldwide.
Memorable Quote: "Michael's just as regular as everyone else. We talked about all the normal stuff guys talk about. He's real smart. People forget that he's the most incredible entertainer we've seen in our lifetime. His name is Michael Jackson, not Super Michael Jackson. He makes mistakes just like all of us.” –Heavy D
Justin Timberlake Interview
Issue: Feb. 2003
Story Headline: Imitation Of Life
Background: The teenage heartthrob/former member of the mega successful boy band N'SYNC was now all grown up and ready to rewrite his story. As Justin was looking forward to solidifying his place as a solo star, VIBE spoke with the "Cry Me a River" singer to get his thoughts on transitioning from boy to man and how his high-profile relationship with pop star Britney Spears inspired his debut album.
Memorable Quote: “I feel I became so consumed with her that I didn't see some things that I should have seen. I don't feel like I'm saying too much by saying she knows why this happened. Britney’s a fire sign, a Sagittarius, and they do things on a whim. I love her; we have a lot of history, and she’s the closest anybody ever got to me... I can't honestly say I've gotten used to it ‘cause the nights are crazy. I've cried myself to sleep looking at the ceiling, missing what we had.”
Janet Jackson Interview
Issue: Sept. 2006
Story Headline: Forever Young
Background: "'Ms. Jackson if you're nasty' had already took on a whole new meaning at this point in the pop star's career. Two years after Justin Timberlake accidentally exposed her pierced nipples to the millions of folks watching the 2004 Super Bowl halftime, Janet was ready to take back control. VIBE was on hand to celebrate 40 years of the seductive singer's legacy as she opened up about her relationship with So So Def's CEO Jermaine Dupri and how she was finally able to learn to love her sometimes curvy, sometimes athletic body.
Memorable Quote: "When I was at my heaviest, he would grab anything that was hanging over and look me right in my eyes, kiss me, and tell me that he loves me. And he would do that all the time. Nobody has ever done that to me. I got teased by certain members of my family when I was a kid, and I was made to feel that I was heavy. I was always told, 'This is what you should look like,' or, 'Your butt is too big, and it should look like this person's.' But I now know there's nothing wrong with my body. A lot of sistas have butts way bigger than mine and smaller than mine."
Whitney Houston Interview
Issue: Dec. 1995-Jan. 1996
Story Headline: Wholly Whitney
Background: People knew her for her angelic voice incomparable to any other artist, but she had recently proven her acting chops with the box office hit, The Bodyguard, released one year prior. This time around, Whitney Houston was back at it again alongside Hollywood heavyweights, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon, bringing the Terry McMillian novel, Waiting to Exhale, to the big screen. VIBE sat down to talk to the emerging diva about her tumultuous marriage, the new film and who the real Whitney was, truly and wholly.
Article Excerpt: "I love my sexy baby,’ she says of Brown, smiling big. ‘And then some.’ Whitney Houston's been got. And it looks like that kind of love that no one else can tell you shit about--'cause you know. Because you're up in it. ‘We got our thing. We do our thing.’ And, she tell me, ‘You can make it work." "The independence of black women," she says in a matter-of-fact tone, ‘is very difficult for black men."
Issue: April 1995
Story Headline: Ready to Live
Background: Everybody knew his name. They knew his music. They knew he was the embodiment of thug life. His recent bouts involving being shot up and locked up on charges of sexual assault further proved it. But in an interview with VIBE, while away at Riker’s Island Correctional Facility, 2Pac seemed to have a change of heart. In this candid face-to-face encounter, Pac recounted the events of the night that left him with wounds to the head and opened up to Kevin Powell about his suspicions that Bad Boy Entertainment had something to do with his being shot. Most surprising, was that he confessed that after what he experienced on that life-altering night, and plenty of deep-thinking in his jail cell, 'Pac vowed to give up the thug lifestyle for good. But not before dropping his best-selling album to date, Me Against the World, which was released while he was still behind bars.
Memorable Quote: "You used to see rappers talking all that hard shit, and then you see them in suits and shit at the American Music Awards. I didn't want to be that type of nigga. I wanted to keep it real, and that's what I thought I was doing. But now that shit is dead. That Thug Life shit...I did it, I put in my work, I laid it down. But now that shit is dead.”
“I don't have no fear of death. My only fear is coming back reincarnated.”
2Pac '96 Interview
Issue: Nov. 1996
Story Headline: Last Testament
Background: In his last interview before his untimely death, 2Pac opened up about his beef with Bad Boy and eerily prophesied his own murder. Just a couple months before, Puffy begged for things to come to an end and peacefully, but only half of this wish came true. In the same month VIBE released the Biggie/Puff article, 'Pac was murdered after leaving a Mike Tyson fight in Vegas. In this interview, 'Pac was clearly more aggressive and vengeful than the imprisoned 2Pac to whom Kevin Powell had spoken. After his release from prison, 'Pac joined forces with the notorious Suge Knight and Death Row Records and began going twice as hard with his unforgiving verses and threats toward Bad Boy and the East Coast.
Memorable Quotes: "I lived and almost died for Thug Life. And after that VIBE article, people said "Tupac, I thought Thug Life was dead." Yeah, but read the rest of the article. Puffy, in that letter in VIBE, gave me some advice that brought me back to the Thug Life shit. He said you can't be a thug for a second or a minute and get in and out of it, you gotta be in it forever. He didn't mean it as advice at the time, he said it to dampen things. So now, when I'm whoopin' his ' muthafuckin ass, and it hurts, and all these people talkin' about "Stop, now," remember what he told me. These words came out of his mouth.
“Every time I go platinum, somebody's getting' a big check. I feel like an elected official. You know what I thought when I was in jail, I was, like, No politician is even getting' at us. I represent five million fuckin' sales. And no politician is even checkin' for us. But by the next election I promise I'll be sitting across from all the candidates. I promise you! I'm a be so far from where I am now in four years-God willin' I'm alive-it's on! I guarantee we will have our own political party. It won't just be for blacks. It's goin' be for Mexicans, for Armenians, all you lost-tribe muthafuckas. We need to have our own political party 'cause we have the same muthafuckin' problems. We built this nation and we get none of the benefits.”
Kanye, Common, John Legend Interview
Issue: July 2005
Story Headline: The Last Laugh
Background: Mr. West was now one of the most sought after producers-turnt rappers, John Legend was also emerging as one of R&B's newest beloved voices. Common, the veteran among the three, had earned his respect in hip-hop but still struggled to achieve mainstream success. With the birth of Ye's new G.O.O.D music record label, they promised to put out what Kanye described as "divine" music. VIBE spoke with all three musical geniuses to find out how they planned to change the game, for good.
Memorable Quotes:John Legend: "I think that the three of us complement one another really well. With me as the singer and the musician, Kanye as the singsongy rapper/producer with the overtly pop sensibility, and Common as, like, the old wise man."
Common: "Erykah [Badu] was the first woman I was in love with--who I didn't cheat on. I thought I was going to be with her forever. She was a catalyst for change, she pushed me to find myself. But I learned that I can't look to anyone else for light, I need to shine regardless."
Kanye: "My whole thing with the media was that the fans were, like, walking in at the end of an argument. You know, like, if you step in an argument, domestic abuse, or something like that, and you hear 'Fuck you, I fucked your friends. Your mama's a bitch.' And you see that, and you're like, 'Man, that person is wildin'.' But you didn't see the person smack the other just before you stepped into the room. It's the don't -argue-with-fools-'cause- from-a-distance-you-won't know-who-is-who thing. And by me wildin' out, like when I said that artists should get paid to be on covers, the fans didn't know who was who. But I'm not afraid to fight the press. Ask Mos Def. Ask Q tip. I'm like the 'Pac for them."
Issue: April 2000
Story Headline: Soul Man
Background: Sex sells. Ladies, just watch all four minutes and 20 seconds of D'Angelo's "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" video and try to resist the urge to buy whatever he's selling. Impossible. All eyes were on D'Angelo, literally. After releasing his sophomore LP (which took five years to make), D spoke with writer dream hampton about how his religious upbringing inspired his new sound.
Memorable Quote: "When D'Angelo's older brother Rodney was 9, he caught the Holy Ghost. Began speaking in ancient tongues. I was scared, D'Angelo admits now, because I could see how real it was. He was taken over. Completely... I saw this one lady, she used to catch demons. She used to always catch 'em and one night at this revival in the mountains, she caught a demon. She was going out of her way to disrupt. She ripped the Bible apart. She was being sexual. Stripping. Foaming at the mouth. She was speaking an evil tongue. I had never heard it before, but I knew it was evil. And this brother from the choir, he and the Evangelist tried to get it out of her--to exorcise her. And she was screaming, "No! no!" She crawled out of there on all fours. There was a graveyard out back, and she was jumping on the hoods of cars. And the whole church went out and made a circle around her and started praying and singing. then my grandfather [a sanctified preacher at the time] laid hands on her. And it was over."
Issue: Aug. 2001
Story Headline: What Lies Beneath
Background: In an interview released in the same month as Aaliyah’s early death, the princess of R&B opened up to VIBE about her happiness and where things stood in her life. As she set out to release her self-titled, third studio album and made way to the big screens in her second film, Queen of the Damned, Aaliyah was well on her way to superstardom. The numbers had proven that she could hold her own, with several multiplatinum singles and albums and at 22, she was establishing herself as a strong, fierce, sexy woman. Long gone were the days of baggy pants and Hilfiger briefs. She had traded those in for something more slim-fitting to go along with her sensual voice as she begged her lover to rock her boat. But it was all cut short on that tragic August day. After her interview with VIBE, however, it was good to know that she would be resting in paradise after living a life she could be proud of.
Memorable Quote: “This is what I always wanted. I breathe to perform, to entertain, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I’m just a really happy girl right now. I honestly love every aspect of this business. I really do. I feel very fulfilled and complete.”
Destiny’s Child Interview
Issue: Feb. 2001
Story Headline: Divas Live!
Background: After the split of two members from the Grammy-winning girl group, and a couple replacements and rearrangements, Destiny’s Child had finally found that perfect fit. Through all the drama, Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland and newbie Michelle Williams set out to prove to the world that they were survivors. In arguably one of Bey’s most candid interviews to date, she, alongside her bootylicious band mates, opened up about their issues with the former members, completely calling them out. With multi-platinum albums and singles that acted as soundtracks to the lives of strong, successful women, they had room to do so and VIBE was lucky enough to catch it all in action.
Article Excerpt: “LeToya was like tone deaf," Beyoncé says. "She wasn't even originally a singer‹she was a rapper," Kelly adds. "They lost focus," Beyoncé says. "They didn't want to do interviews, rehearse, or take voice lessons. Anybody that met us could see that me and Kelly were one group and they were another. It was obvious.”
Death Row Interview
Issue: Feb. 1996
Story Headline: Live From Death Row: Inside Hip-Hop's Ferocious First Family
Background: At the height of the East Coast/West Coast beef, the world was watching to see how it all would unfold. VIBE's very own Kevin Powell went where no man would dare to at the time, into the world of the infamous Death Row crew to get their take on what life was really like behind closed doors.
Memorable Quotes:Suge Knight: "When you become the best, it's more rumors, it's more people want to stop you, 'cause everybody want to be No. 1."
Dr. Dre: "A lot of times when I'm at home kickin' it, I don't even listen to hip-hop. I listen to all types of music... My personal opinion is, the '70s is when the best music was made. Some motherfuckers had orchestras! Had string sections and they'd have to sit there and orchestrate a song. And put some vocals to it. So they really got into it. Curtis Mayfield, that motherfucker was bad as shit. Isaac Hayes, Barry White, y'knowhumsayin'? Them brothers was in there doing it."
2Pac: "More than a family, Death Row to me is like a machine. The biggest, strongest superpower in the hip-hop world. In order to do the things that I gotta do, we gotta have that superpower. Now we gotta expand and show exactly what a superpower is. At Death Row I don't have to worry about embarrassing nobody or standing out or doing something they don't want me to do. I'm still Tupac. At Death Row, I got my own shit. I'm independent. But this is the machine that I roll with."
Snoop Dogg: "Keep God first. Visualize a goal and try to reach it, and if you can't reach it, find something else other than the negative. Because that negative is a long stretch behind the wall-trust me."
Luther Vandross Interview
Issue: Oct. 2005
Story Headline: Power of Love
Background: As the strange fate that plagues the music industry would have it, the music world lost another of its greats all too soon. The death of legendary R&B singer Luther Vandross wasn't just a lost for Rhythm and Blues, but the loss of a voice able to translate pain and love in order to touch people around the world. Writer Craig Seymour recalled his candid meeting with the late singer in this special tribute from VIBE.
Article Excerpt: "Would you trade your talent for love?" I queried. "Ooh," he replied, "You have asked the question that I've asked myself for the last 5 years. For the last 5 years." He paused. "But the answer is no. Because I feel that the talent is a gift, and I'm not trading no gift like this. I also feel that love, when it happens will be an additional gift. And I feel that when it happens right, it will obscure some of the pain of the past 50 years."
Issue: Nov. 2002
Story Headline: The Zen of Eminem
Background: Hot off releasing his fourth studio album The Eminem Show, Slim Shady was now embarking on his Anger Management Tour. One would assume from the tour name that the always explicit, no holds barred rapper was attempting to make nice and change his ways, but you thought wrong. VIBE spoke with the fiery MC to get to know the man behind the angry mask.
Article Excerpt: "The fact that a man picks up a microphone... that's it you see?" says Eminem. "That's what makes him a rapper. It's not a gun. It's a microphone." This is something the anti rap contingent of the Senate has never understood. Eminem's show on the anger management tour opens with a video montage of real American politicians condemning the dangerous social phenomenon that is Eminem. Reality check: The FBI reports that there were 90,186 rapes and 15,517 murders reported in America in 2000. Eminem committed none of them.
Barack Obama Interview
Issue: Sept. 2007
Story Headline: Ladies and Gentleman, (Is this) The Next President of the United States (?)
Background: At this point, Barack Obama was a hometown hero in the city of Chicago. As a top U.S. senator fighting for change, Obama was able to inspire others with his message of hope. After delivering several key speeches, pundits began to question if he was emerging as the frontrunner for next commander in chief after President Bush's devastating presidency. As the world begin to take notice, VIBE set up an interview with the savvy senator to find out why he could be a game changer in the years to come.
Memorable Quote: "Rap is reflective of the culture of the inner city, with its problems, but also its potential, its energy, its challenges to the status quo. And I absolutely agree my priority as a U.S. senator is dealing with poverty and educational opportunity and adequate health care. If I'm ignoring those issues, and spending all my time worrying about rap lyrics, then I'm wasting my time. On the other hand, I think that there's no doubt that hip-hop culture moves our young people powerfully. And some of it is not just a reflection of reality. It also creates reality. I think that if all about kids see is a glorification of materialism and bling and casual sex and kids are never seeing themselves reflected as hitting the books and being responsible and delaying gratification, then they are getting an unrealistic picture of what the world is like."
Missy Elliott Interview
Issue: June 2001
Story Headline: Freaky Tales
Background: Unleash the freak. After years of avoiding being just another overtly sexy rapper, Missy Elliot was ready to show that she too could talk sex. Missy turned up the heat, musically and visually, when she set out to release her third LP. The "Hot Boyz" rapper was not afraid to show a different side of herself to VIBE and her fans while staying true to herself.
Article Excerpt: When you're Missy's kind of beautiful--the kind that doesn't fit the standard set by mainstream, white America--you can't be co-opted by a music industry that values the commodification of flesh. When Missy raps "Get Ur Freak On," it sounds less like an invitation and more like a command, and you'd better obey. "I don't trip because it doesn't have to be about getting all butter ball naked and singing "Oops!... I Did It Again," says Elliott. "If you got talent, you just have to do you. If they want to take their clothes off and sell those records, fine- just call me to do a song on your album!"
Issue: Aug. 1994
Story Headline: Prince Breaks the Silence
Background: After several name changes with matching personas, each that won the world over, VIBE sat down with the artist formerly known as Prince to catch up with the mystery man. In this same year, he began releasing album after album to remove himself from contractual obligations to Warner Bros. VIBE met up with the superstar on several occasions to talk about what he had been up to and documented it in a four-part feature story, giving fans a small glimpse into the life of the man so few really knew outside of his superstar stature.
Memorable Quote: "I just want to be all that I can be. Bo Jackson can play baseball and football--can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can? If they let me loose, I can wreck shit."
Bobby Brown Interview
Issue: Oct. 2006
Story Headline: Every Little Step
Background: Bobby and Whitney, in efforts to put out their side of the story, launched their own reality show Being Bobby Brown in 2005. The plan backfired when viewers were able to really see just how dysfunctional the Browns really were behind the scenes. VIBE sat down with Bobby to get his truth about the most talked about R&B family.
Article Excerpt: In December 2003 Whitney Houston called 911 to say she'd had an argument with her husband, who had since left. She reportedly had a bruise on her cheek and a cut on her upper lip. When a policewoman called Bobby's cell phone ordering him to return home, Brown said, "Aw, man, stop playin'," and hung up. "Me and my wife, we play a lot," Brown explained afterward. "Sometimes we get out of hand with the joking, but I'd never put my hands on Whitney to harm her. Shit, I could show you videotapes where she's kicking my ass, you know? I got footage! But nobody says nothing about men being beat up by the wives."
Issue: Sept. 1996
Story Headline: Stakes Is High
Background: As the heat began to rise in the controversial East coast/West coast beef, VIBE sat down to speak with Bad Boy Entertainment frontrunners, Puff Daddy and Biggie Smalls. In another VIBE issue, more than a year before, a suspicious 2Pac made claims that he thought Puff and Big had something to do with him being shot up (Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya,” only added fuel to the suspicions.) Since his release from Riker’s Island, a vengeful 'Pac dropped his spiteful single, “Hit Em Up,” attacking the Bad Boy family and bragging that he had an affair with Biggie’s wife, singer, Faith Evans. Now it was the duo’s turn to tell their side of the story and VIBE caught it firsthand.
Memorable Quotes:Puffy: "Why would I set a nigga up to get shot? If I’ma set a nigga up, which I would never do, I ain’t gonna be in the country, I’ma be in Bolivia somewhere.”
Biggie: “He ain’t mad at the niggas that shot him; he knows where they’re at. He knows who shot him. If you ask him, he knows, and everybody in the street knows, and he’s not stepping to them, because he knows that he’s not gonna get away with that shit. To me, that’s some real sucker shit. Be mad at everybody, man; don’t be using niggas as scapegoats. We know that he’s a nice guy from New York. All shit aside, Tupac is a nice, good-hearted guy.”
Puffy: “I’m ready for it to come to a head, however it gotta go down. I’m ready for it to be out my life and be over with. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I just hope it can end quick and in a positive way, because it’s gotten out of hand.”
Snoop Dogg Interview
Issue: Sept. 1993
Story Headline: Hot Dogg
Background: In VIBE’s very first cover story, Kevin Powell profiles a 21-year-old Snoop Dogg. At this point in his career, Snoop was a rising star noted for his standout feature on “Deep Cover (187)” and performances on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic album. As fans anticipated Snoop’s debut release Doggystyle, set to drop in the month of publication, they got a feel for what studio life was like for the up-and-comer and learned about the personal story of the gangster rapper slash “smooth macadamia” (as he referred to himself).
Memorable Quote: “Rap, in Snoop’s opinion, shows ‘that a lot of kids are trying to do something positive. Young niggas was killing each other and they was getting a lot of media hype. Now you’re getting a lot of media hype because there’s a lot of black teens that are doing rap. So, which sounds better to you?’ “