The Source (magazine)

The Source (magazine)
The Source
First issue 1988
Country USA
ISSN 1063-2085

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.



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, were influenced by hip-hop[citation needed] and wanted to give praise by devoting coverage to the rising music genre.[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 magazine's offices were 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 publication.[citation needed].

The magazine featured cover stories on the crack/cocaine epidemic, police brutality, and New York's investigations of high-profile emcees.[citation needed] The magazine also included many notable features, including the famous Unsigned Hype column. 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].


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 known as 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 an emcee who has contributed his/her time to succeeding in the hip-hop music industry. The Source also releases a compilation album of hip-hop hits. The magazine expanded overseas with a French-language version of the magazine, alongside The Source Latino and The Source Israel magazine franchises. The company invested in mobile phones and ringtones under the Source Mobile Channel moniker, 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 2pac 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. Knight's statement was directed towards Bad Boy Records' CEO Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, who was prominently featured in his artists' recordings and videos at the time. ([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 rapper - Raymond Scott, known 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 Eminem. After not receiving a 5 mic rating he felt he deserved for his Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem started dissing The Source. 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".[1] 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'. As the track ends, Eminem also announces that for those that don't know, the Source has a white owner. The song has a chorus, only at the beginning and the end, in between is one long verse filled with lyrical hatred.[citation needed] In 'The Sauce', very similar in lyrical theme, Eminem continues to attack Benzino and his magazine. He mentions the fact that Benzino is older, claiming this makes him less competition, and that he uses his son to help him financially as he suffers in the hip hop industry. The dissing continued on the track titled,"Bully", in which Eminem paints Benzino as a delusional bully, living in a fabricated life of denial as the following lyrics suggest. "That's what he says to himself, As he uses magazines to trash me As he sits with both feet up at his desk, Smokes a bag of his weed, And starts imagining things, And he just can't see that he's manically depressed." "Bully"'s venom isn't directed solely at Benzino. Eminem spends the final verse picking apart former rap star, Ja Rule, for his ecstasy use and role as a "puppet" for Benzino's crew. He later put another diss track out toward Benzino titled "Go To Sleep", featuring DMX and Obie Trice. Obie Trice also dissed Benzino on the track "Welcome 2 Detroit City". 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 discredit Eminem. It dug 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 had any issue with The Source. Mays and Benzino both countered the withdrawal of the lawsuit calling it a "cowardly" move. They both claimed they could 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 continued to feud with Eminem, and many others associated to him. Internet bloggers had rallied a petition for the removal of Benzino and Dave Mays.[citation needed] 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.[2]

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]

Unsigned Hype

Unsigned Hype is a column in the The Source devoted to identifying promising new rappers who do not have record deals. Many famous or successful rappers were once featured, including The Notorious B.I.G., Eminem, DMX, 50 Cent, Immortal Technique, Common, Mobb Deep (appearing as Poetical Prophets), Bishop Lamont, Ya Boy, Joell Ortiz, Lil Flip, Streetz & Young Deuces, DJ Shadow, Percee-P, Rasco, Proof, German Shepard Shepherd, & Pitbull.

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. 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 45 albums have been awarded five mics; a complete, chronological list is below.[3]

Albums that originally received five mics:

Albums that were not rated upon their releases, but were later rated five mics in 2002:

Albums that originally received 4.5 Mics, and were later re-rated to five:

Albums that originally received four mics, and were later re-rated to five:


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 Hip Hop Music Awards 1999 45 53
1999 The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits, Vol. 3 45 29
2000 The Source Hip Hop Music Awards 2000 17 16
2000 The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits, Vol. 4 43 35
2001 The Source Hip Hop Music Awards 2001 28 34
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
2004 The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits, Vol. 9 75 36
2005 The Source Presents: Hip Hop Hits, Vol. 10 60 47


  1. ^ Review of Straight from the Lab "AllMusic"
  2. ^ "Just Leave, Ray". Bomani Jones (PDF). 2005. Retrieved 2009-08-19. 
  3. ^ Columnist. 5 Mic Albums. The Source. Retrieved 2010-09-15.

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