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The Game on the cover of The Source. July 2008.

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. 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[citation needed]. It had even grown to the point of being called "The Bible of Hip-Hop." [1]



The Source was started originally by David Mays and Jon Shecter while they both attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts[citation needed]. The two were once radio disc jockeys and hosted Street Beat on Harvard's student-run radio station WHRB[citation needed]. Mays and Shecter, both white men, were influenced by hip-hop[citation needed]and wanted to give praise by devoting coverage to the rising music genre[citation needed]. The Source originally started as a concert newsletter, but its popularity grew after it scored an interview with LL Cool J[citation needed]. The Source was now growing from a small newsletter to a mainstream magazine[citation needed].

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[citation needed]. At the time, Mays handled duties as the publisher for the magazine[citation needed], and Shecter was the editor-in-chief[citation needed]. 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[citation needed].

The Source soon became the most respected name in hip-hop journalism[citation needed]. The magazine featured cover stories on the crack/cocaine epidemic, police brutality, and New York's investigations of high-profile rappers[citation needed]. The magazine also included many notable features, including the famous Unsigned Hype. The publication has over eight million subscribers worldwide[citation needed], and remains one of the most popular hip-hop magazines in the world[citation needed].

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."



As the Source expanded, the magazine then became involved in television programs such as The Source: All-Access and The Source: Sound Lab. The magazine's annual awards show, The Source Awards honors both hip-hop and R&B performers for their contributions to hip-hop. The "Lifetime Achievement" Award is the highest award given to a rapper who has contributed their time to succeeding in the hip-hop music industry. The Source also releases a compilation album of hip-hop/rap hits. The Source has expanded overseas with a French version of the rap magazine, alongside a The Source Latino and The Source Israel magazine franchises. The company has invested in mobile phones and ringtones, under The Source Mobile Channel brand in which subscribers are offered their favorite choice of hip-hop ringtones. The Source also invested in its own urban clothing apparel company.


The Source Awards

The first live Source Hip-Hop Music Awards show was held in 1994, with the only notable event being Tupac Shakur running onstage during a set by A Tribe Called Quest, interrupting their performance. No violence resulted, and Shakur was convinced to make an apology by members of the Zulu Nation. During the show, hardcore rap group Onyx shot off live ammunition during their performance of the song "Throw Ya Gunz". Though not televised, the incident was caught on amateur footage and can be seen on Onyx's documentary DVD.

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. ([1]) 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. ([2]) 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 and his role at The Source

After the original editors resigned from the publication, the magazine experienced several years of success as it grew along with the exploding popularity of rap music and hip-hop culture under the magazine's second editor-in-chief, Adario Strange[citation needed]. Several years later, with Selwyn Hinds in the editor's seat, it was suddenly announced that a failed rapper - Raymond Scott, known professionally as Benzino -- had been made a co-owner of The Source[citation needed].

Benzino's relationship with the magazine dated back to its early days[citation needed]. He was a member of the Boston-based group Almighty RSO when he first met David Mays while visiting Harvard[citation needed]. He needed support from Mays to get his group some credibility, and Mays soon became the Almighty RSO's manager[citation needed]. 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[citation needed]. The Almighty RSO was known for their controversial song "One in the Chamba"[citation needed]. In 1994, Benzino pressured Mays to slip a three page article about the group into the magazine against the will of the editors[citation needed]. The article forced a major walk-out among staff members[citation needed].

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, who was expecting a more famous and talented performer[citation needed]. 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[citation needed].

Benzino also received a notorious reputation as co-owner of the publication[citation needed]. Benzino threatened many staffers after an issue was raised about his new group, Made Men, being shunned for other performers[citation needed]. This is an example of the things that provoked a number of editors at The Source to quit or walk out[citation needed]. 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[citation needed]. The rapper's involvement in the mic rating system caused the publication to lose a lot of credibility in the hip-hop community[citation needed].

The feud with Eminem

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. It was not until Benzino dissed Eminem again with "Pull Up Your Skirt", that Eminem responded with 2 blistering diss tracks, first "The Sauce" and then "Nail in the Coffin".[2] In "Nail in the Coffin" Eminem attacks the heart of The Source by revealing their tactics of 'butt kissing motherfuckers for guest appearances' and claiming '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. He later put another diss track out toward Benzino titled Go To Sleep, this featured DMX and Obie Trice. Benzino then replied with the track "Die Another Day," to which Eminem responded with "Like Toy Soldiers" where he reviewed the entire battle with Benzino and vowed to end it before somebody got hurt.

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. 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.

Benzino's Firing

Benzino still continues to feud with Eminem and many others associated to him. Internet bloggers had rallied a petition for the removal of Benzino and Dave Mays. Under pressure, Benzino decided to step down from his post at The Source. In 2005, Benzino formally announced that he was resigning as chief operations officer and co-owner of The Source. Benzino stated that his battle with Eminem and the magazine's publishers were hurting the revenue of The Source. Within a few mere days Benzino announced that he returned to The Source as co-owner. Industry insiders believed that The Source staged a fake event in order to encourage advertisers to invest in the controversial magazine. The rapper refuted his claims about saving The Source, and instead blamed Interscope's chairman Jimmy Iovine. Benzino believed that Iovine was pressuring to fire rap mogul L.A. Reid if he didn't have Def Jam advertising removed from The Source. The reason why Benzino stepped down was to save Reid's position as president of Island Def Jam, or so he claimed. Benzino then went on radio denouncing Def Jam's founder Russell Simmons for not participating in his smear campaign to expose Eminem as a racist. He had used racial comments about Simmons in the past forcing Def Jam to pull a vast majority of their ads from The Source. As of today, Interscope, Def Jam, Tommy Boy, Virgin, Motown and Universal have pulled advertising from The Source. It is noted that Benzino was signed to each of these labels before the massive decrease in general advertising.

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.[3]

The Sexual Discrimination Lawsuit

The magazine has experienced their recent lawsuit from former editor-in-chief, Kimberly Osorio. Osorio alongside Michelle Joyce, a former marketing executive, both filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the magazine over gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Osorio claimed that Benzino and his friends from Boston would get special treatment while the female staffers were to abide by the rules. Also numerous complaints about harassments to female staffers were turned down by Benzino and Mays.

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,[3] who vowed to appeal the verdict. [4][5] [6]

The Future of The Source Magazine

Currently the future of The Source is uncertain[citation needed]. The publication lost subscribers due to not delivering magazines on time and faces numerous lawsuits totaling over a million dollars[citation needed]. Rival magazine XXL is now the best-selling hip-hop magazine. The Source is losing major advertising due to the feuds with Eminem and 50 Cent[citation needed].

In 2005, The Source Magazine began a wave of lawsuits[citation needed]. There was 100 million dollar lawsuit filed against BET on behalf of the publication[citation needed]. The publication's awards show was to be featured on BET until the network severed ties with the magazine[citation needed]. Also a dispute with Hot 97 staff personality Funkmaster Flex has led to another lawsuit against him and the radio station[citation needed]. Controversial statements were made by the deejay towards a recent article in which it targets Hot 97 over alleged unethical radio practices[citation needed].

In addition, The Source is still facing lawsuits of their own[citation needed]. 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[citation needed]. Lawsuits from former employees of the magazine also trouble the magazine[citation needed]. Benzino and Mays were filming a video in the Dominican Republic, and while they were away[citation needed], The Source staff had another walk-out[citation needed]. The protest came because paychecks were not clearing and Benzino and Dave Mays were nowhere in sight[citation needed]. The Source avoided paying freelance writers for the stories they wrote in the magazine[citation needed].

In 2006, shareholders of The Source officially terminated the positions of Mays and Benzino[citation needed]. 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[citation needed]. 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.

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[citation needed].

The Source's Five Mic Albums

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[citation needed]. 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 44 albums have been awarded five mics; a complete, chronological list is below.[citation needed]

Albums That Originally Received 4.5 Mics:

Albums That Originally Received 4 Mics:


Year Album Chart Positions
US US Hip-Hop
1997 The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits 38 25
1998 The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits, Vol. 2 46 29
1999 The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits, Vol. 3 45 29
2000 The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits, Vol. 4 43 35
2001 The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits, Vol. 5 47 38
2002 The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits, Vol. 6 35 31
2003 The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits, Vol. 7 89 46
2004 The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits, Vol. 8 45 43
2005 The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits, Vol. 9 75 36


  1. ^,allah,38050,1.html Allah, Dasun. (September 4, 2002) The Village Voice. The Swami of Hip Hop
  2. ^ Review of Straight from the Lab "AllMusic"
  3. ^ "Just Leave, Ray". Bomani Jones (PDF). 2005. Retrieved 2009-08-19. 

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