The Source is a United States-based, monthly full-color magazine covering hip-hop music, politics, and culture, founded in 1988. It is the world's second longest running rap periodical, behind United Kingdom-based publication Hip Hop Connection. The Source was founded as a newsletter in 1988 by college students David Mays and Jon Shecter distributed from their dorm room. The current president of the publication is Jeremy Miller. From humble beginnings, the Source had grown into one of the largest and most influential hip-hop publications in the United States. It had even grown to the point of being called "The Bible of Hip-Hop."
Mays and Shecter decided to hire their college friends James Benard (as senior editor) and Ed Young (as associate publisher), and the four men immediately became equal shareholders in the ownership of the magazine. At the time, Mays handled duties as the publisher for the magazine, and Shecter was the editor-in-chief. The Source was moved from Massachusetts to New York City in 1990, a move that was made with the intention to expand the magazine into a mainstream market.
The Source soon became the most respected name in hip-hop journalism. The magazine featured cover stories on the crack/cocaine epidemic, police brutality, and New York's investigations of high-profile rappers. The magazine also included many notable features, including the famous Unsigned Hype. The publication has over eight million subscribers worldwide, and remains one of the most popular hip-hop magazines in the world.
In their August 2008 issue The Source made an endorsement of presidential candidate Barack Obama, saying "Sen. Barack Obama may be one of the most dynamic figures in the history of American electoral politics."
The second ceremony was held in 1995 at the Paramount Theatre at New York City's Madison Square Garden. Unlike the first show, this installment was recorded for a later television broadcast. After accepting an award, Death Row Records' CEO Suge Knight made comments imploring all aspiring artists to "come to Death Row" if they wanted to make records without their executive producers appearing in every one of their songs and/or videos -- a reference directed towards Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs of Bad Boy Records. () Many point to these comments, and the direction the show took afterwards, as a turning point in the heightening tensions between East Coast and West Coast factions, and specifically between the Bad Boy and Death Row labels.
The Source held their award show in Pasadena, California, in 2000. The program had to be stopped after a fight broke out, resulting in only five of the fifteen awards actually being given out during the program, and two performances cut short. In addition, DJ Quik was hospitalized after being injured in the melee. () As a result, Pasadena officials banned The Source from having their awards held in the city in the future. The award show was recorded for later broadcast by the UPN television network in the United States, and was heavily edited to exclude the fights. Despite ratings numbers that exceeded the previous year's broadcast, the bad publicity caused UPN to sever their ties with the Source after the 2001 awards show from Miami. The Source Awards were featured on BET for one year; no Source Awards program has been televised since.
Benzino's relationship with the magazine dated back to its early days. He was a member of the Boston-based group Almighty RSO when he first met David Mays while visiting Harvard. He needed support from Mays to get his group some credibility, and Mays soon became the Almighty RSO's manager. While Mays was gaining support from advertisers willing to invest in The Source, Benzino managed to broker a label deal at Tommy Boy Records to distribute his group. The Almighty RSO was known for their controversial song "One in the Chamba". In 1994, Benzino pressured Mays to slip a three page article about the group into the magazine against the will of the editors. The article forced a major walk-out among staff members.
The magazine had indeed inserted favorable coverage to Benzino on various occasions (including the reformed Almighty RSO, now known as the Made Men). Even at The Source Awards, Benzino, a relative unknown, performed at the show to the surprise of a stunned audience. When Benzino was arrested in Florida after taping The Source Awards, Mays rallied for an investigation of the Miami police department for their treatment of the rapper, and threatened a boycott against Miami.
Benzino also received a notorious reputation as co-owner of the publication. Benzino threatened many staffers after an issue was raised about his new group, Made Men, being shunned for other performers. This is an example of the things that provoked a number of editors at The Source to quit or walk out. In a 1999 issue, Made Men received a rating of four and-a-half mics for their album Classic Limited Edition. However, the writer who reviewed the album doesn't exist. The rapper's involvement in the mic rating system caused the publication to lose credibility in the hip-hop community.
In 2002, Benzino started a feud with rapper Eminem. Benzino claimed that Eminem was a product of the machine that sought to discredit black and Latino artists' contributions to hip-hop. Benzino released a diss record called "I Don't Wanna" where he claimed that Eminem was not real and true to the rap culture. Although Benzino didn't expect Eminem to respond, Eminem did with a track named "Bully". Benzino then replied with "Pull Your Skirt Up" which featured on the 2003 Benzino album Redemption. After releasing this, Eminem released another two diss tracks named "The Sauce" and "Nail in the Coffin", attempting to destroy Benzino and his grudge with Eminem. In "Nail in the Coffin" Eminem attacks the heart of The Source by revealing their tactics of 'butt kissing motherf*ckers for guest appearances' and clamining 'real lyricists don't even respect you or take you serious'. The song has a chorus, only at the beginning and the end, in between is one long verse filled with lyrical hatred and energy. 'The Sauce', very similar in lyrical theme Eminem continues to attack Benzino and his magazine. He mentions the fact that Benzino's older age makes him less competition and that he uses his son to help him financially as he suffers in the hip hop industry. Benzino then replied with the track "Die Another Day" which seemingly ended the beef. Benzino then went on to do mixtape tracks "Built for This" and "Loose Yourself."
The Source then went another route to take down Eminem. It went as far to dig up an old tape in which a young Eminem was rapping racial slurs against Blacks and women. The magazine devoted its entire coverage to the discovery of the tapes, and also the (allegedly) negative impact that Eminem has had on the hip-hop industry. For his part, Eminem did not deny making the tapes; he claimed that he made them after a bitter break up with a black girlfriend (a situation upon which he elaborates on "Yellow Brick Road" on his Encore album). He apologized for making the tapes but also exhorted the public to consider the origin of the allegations.
Nevertheless, Eminem sued The Source for defamation and copyright infringement. The federal courts allowed an injunction to limit the distribution of the tape's lyrics. The Source ignored the injunction and went forth to publish the entire lyrics on its website and in its magazine. By ignoring the injunction, The Source was found in contempt of court and were forced to pay Eminem and his label, Shady Records a considerable sum in compensation. In 2005, lawyers for Eminem were preparing for trial over copyright infringement but abruptly withdrew stating that the rapper no longer has any issue with The Source. Benzino still hasn't officially squashed the beef with Eminem. Mays and Benzino both countered the withdrawal of the lawsuit calling it a "cowardly" move. They both claimed they can finally expose the truth about Eminem and planned to eventually release the "racist tapes" in a future magazine. Nevertheless, The Source was satisfied with the results, and felt that the move was considered a win for both parties.
Joshua "Fahyim" Ratcliffe was appointed to the publication. Ratcliffe abruptly left after he was ordered to lower the rating of Little Brother's The Minstrel Show from four-and-a-half to four. Lil' Kim's release, The Naked Truth, received the five mic rating instead. Although critics speculated that Lil' Kim's manager was dating Dave Mays, this was the first time that a female rapper ever received the highest rating in the magazine.
Though the jury ruled that Osorio was not discriminated against and had not worked in a hostile environment as she claimed, it maintained that the magazine was vindictive in its retaliation and fired her unjustly. Osorio was awarded $15.5 million by the jury of six men and two women, a figure that was later contested by Mays and Scott, who vowed to appeal the verdict.
In 2005, The Source Magazine began a wave of lawsuits. There was 100 million dollar lawsuit filed against BET on behalf of the publication. The publication's awards show was to be featured on BET until the network severed ties with the magazine. Also a dispute with Hot 97 staff personality Funkmaster Flex has led to another lawsuit against him and the radio station. Controversial statements were made by the deejay towards a recent article in which it targets Hot 97 over alleged unethical radio practices.
In addition, The Source is still facing lawsuits of their own. There is a lawsuit that targets the owners' travel expenses for the 2003 Source Awards. The Smoking Gun claimed The Source owes over 1.2 million dollars in unclaimed jewelry and unpaid airline tickets for both the Benzino and Mays families. Lawsuits from former employees of the magazine also trouble the magazine. Benzino and Mays were filming a video in the Dominican Republic, and while they were away The Source, staff had another walk-out. The protest came because paychecks were not clearing and Benzino and Dave Mays were nowhere in sight. The Source avoided paying freelance writers for the stories they wrote in the magazine. In 2006, shareholders of The Source officially terminated the positions of Mays and Benzino. Black Enterprises, the company that supports the publication, has decided to fire the moguls after revenue from the publication decreased. Mays and Benzino tried to avert the firing by placing a restraining order against the company. After the restraining order was lifted shareholders moved forth and formally removed them. The company appointed former editor Jeremy Miller to assume the post of CEO of The Source. The magazine was forced into Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on July 27, 2006 by creditors. At this time the magazine is trying to emerge from Chapter 11 Reorganization (Case No. 06-11707 AJG) which will enable it to continue operations. It is still not currently paying creditors on-time and this will seriously effect the recovery.
The magazine is currently working with a company called Music Video 2.0 in a contest featuring the rap artist Swizz Beatz. The contest allows artist to upload music to www.musicvideos20.com to compete to open for Swizz Beatz at a Music Video 2.0/The Source Event. The Source Magazine is hoping this contest and Unsigned Hype will help bring back readers and creditability.
According to the July 2008 issue of The Source, the magazine recently emerged from bankruptcy with the publishers of Black Enterprise taking over as majority owners. The Source essentially erases millions of dollars of debt, several lawsuits and other liabilities. The magazine will continue to be published each month and remains an active voice for Hip-Hop themed issues.
The "Record Report" is a special feature in the publication in which journalists rate albums. Ratings range from one to five mics paralleling a typical five-star rating scale. An album that is rated at four-and-a-half or five "mics" is considered by The Source to be a superior hip hop album. Over the first ten years or so, the heralded "five mic" rating only applied to albums that were universally lauded hip hop albums. A total of 46 albums have been awarded five mics; a complete, chronological list is below.