I felt cooler after receiving a press release from Vibe about their new cover starring Barack Obama. They say:

“For the first time in VIBE’s 14-year history, a political figure graces our cover,” says editor-in-chief Danyel Smith in her Editor’s Letter. “It’s time.” In the exclusive interview — by American Book Award-winning author Jeff Chang — Obama and those closest to him open up about personal sacrifice, his teen years in Hawai’i, the Don Imus backlash against hip hop, and being “black enough.” The two cover images were photographed exclusively for VIBE by renowned lensman Terry Richardson.

So Obama is sharing the same space that usually features people like Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Akon, P.Diddy, Rihanna and Mary J. Blige. Like him or hate him, he’s got an unusual populism happening around him. A cool factor. Can you imagine Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson on the cover of Vibe?

I am intrigued by this issue. Can’t say hip hop is sleepin’. Here’s what else they’ve got, if you’re interested.

From environmentalists to actors to rappers to singers to bloggers, VIBE celebrates those who are continually raising the bar. Including: Friday Night Lights’ Gaius Charles, The Daily Show’s Larry Wilmore, Dior artistic director Kris Van Assche, Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton, environmental activist Majora Carter, Rescue Me’s Daniel Sunjata, and Survivor champion/CNN correspondent Yul Kwon.

VIBE presents an exclusive excerpt from THE VIBE Q: RAW AND UNCUT (Vibe Books/Kensington), a collection of classic interviews, during which Oprah reveals her favorite songs and true thoughts on rap music.

ELSEWHERE IN THE ISSUE: American Idol’s Simon Cowell on his new protégé Leona Lewis. Russell Simmons on why he never should have gone on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Conservative African-American thinker James McWhorter on why hip hop is “lazy.” Also, the rapper Eve’s excellent new album. Rappers on reality TV, the hot trend that might be bad for hip hop. Plus: L.A. Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa on the presidential election, Minister Louis Farrakhan on the plight of black America, Pulitzer Prize-winner Cynthia Tucker on election reform, and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on the importance of education in the next election.

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