This is a three part in-depth look at everything that went on behind the scenes at The Source magazine, during the early 90’s. Told by Reginald C. Dennis through the amazing penmanship of staff writer J-23. If you just landed here make sure you also check out Part 1: The Greatest Story Never Told and Part 3: Benzino’s Hostile Takeover to get the full story.
HipHopDX: When exactly did Ray Benzino come into the picture?
Reginald Dennis: That part of the tale begins in Boston around 1986, maybe ’87. I wasn’t a part of the story during those years and can only go by what people who were there have elected to tell me. Dave Mays and Jon Shecter were roommates at Harvard and after bonding over their love for Black culture they started a Hip Hop show on the campus station. I think Dave had already been working for the station at that time, selling radio spots to local businesses and figured that there might be some money to be made in the emerging Hip Hop market. The radio show was called “Street Beats” and Dave sold ads to local record stores and I guess Jon was in charge of the music. In time the show became quite popular and Dave, sensing that there more to be done with the market, compiled a list of all of the people who called into the show every week and � as the story is commonly told � put his hands on $250.00 dollars and with the help of a Boston gentleman named Kenny Mac, printed up a one page newsletter that he named The Source. Dave also had a hand in the business of concert promotion and would bring rap groups up to Boston to perform. (Dave once told me that it was at one of these shows that the artists who would one day be known as the Native Tongues first hooked up professionally.)
Along the way Dave met and befriended the front man of a notorious Boston street gang known as The Almighty RSO (Roxbury Street Organization or Real Strong Organization or Rock Shit On or Ray Scott Organization). In addition to their very real dealings in the street, they also sported a rap arm that had been working the local scene for years but had been unable to break through to the next stage. Dave and Ray became fast friends, and because he had at least a foot in the door of the industry, Ray figured it would be worth his while to latch on to Dave. You know, Ray’s a guy from the hood trying to do something meaningful with his life and he meets a silver spoon Harvard guy. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Ray would pick Dave as a suitable horse to bet on. Dave was probably going places in life and Ray decided that he would be going along for the ride as well.
Now Jon wasn’t really with Dave’s new choice of friends. See, unlike Dave, Jon was perfectly happy being a wealthy Jewish kid; and while he loved hanging out with Black people, he never got things twisted up. Dave, on the other hand, hated his whiteness, and sought to prove his coolness by actively seeking out the bottom element of the Black community to associate with.
A short time later the “Street Beats” radio show got a new DJ a guy who called himself Deff Jeff (There are stories that there was a DJ before Jeff and that something really bad may have happened to him, but sadly, since I’m only here to speak on the facts, I can’t get into any of the more troubling stories surrounding that particular era. And just so we are all clear, Kenny Mac, the guy who initially befriended Dave and free of charge helped with The Source’s initial launch would also meet an untimely end just a few years later). Jeff was also the DJ for The RSO and cut up the records while Dave and Jon did their thing. Shit was rolling along quite smoothly and one day during lunch Dave announced to Jon his intention to become the manager of The RSO. Jon thought the idea was totally bananas, that maybe these weren’t the cats that you’d want to entangle yourself with, but what could he do?
Around this time, 1986-87, they say the Harvard campus endured a bit of a crime wave and the RSO name might have rang out a time or two. There were stories of people getting yoked up at the radio station and there is an interesting tale regarding a Harvard student who lived just down the hall from Dave and Jon who was selling weed in order to subsidize his student activities. Well, one day, as the story goes, he got robbed. They say he had some kind of sword held up to his neck and that his assailant allegedly later said of the incident, “Fuck him – he goes to Harvard, he’s already starting out in a better place than me, so fuck him!”
And if I am to believe the things that were told to me by the people who were there at the time, this type of stuff was happening more than a little bit. Campus authorities overreacted and blamed the “Street Beats” radio program for allowing the school to be invaded by a criminal element that they believed traveled with Hip Hop culture. So that version of “Street Beats” came to a premature end. But Dave and Jon now had The Source up and running, and in time were joined by Ed Young and James Bernard.
So that’s pretty much how that particular story began. But to really get into it, you’d have to talk to the folks who were in Boston during those years.
DX: When did Ray’s presence at The Source become known?
RD: Remember, I didn’t join the team until 1990 and I don’t think I even met Ray before 1991. So whatever was happening was really off the radar. I mean we all have friends who aren’t exactly solid citizens, so I wouldn’t necessarily notice if anyone was rolling like that. Not really a cause for alarm.
One night there were a few guys hanging around the office waiting for Dave. They kept to themselves and didn’t cause any problems. I was in Jon Shecter’s office and we were just chopping it up and the topic of our discussion turned to guns. Jon said something like, “Oh, I’ll bet there are a few guns in the office right now.” And he nodded towards the outside area where Dave’s friends were waiting. But that was pretty much it.
Once, in my capacity as office errand boy, I was asked by Dave Mays to run up the street to a videotape duplicating service with a VHS tape that he had given to me. He handed me some money and asked me to get about 25 copies made. So I walked up to the spot and waited around while they made the copies. When they were done the sales person asked me to watch one of the tapes on the monitor to make that everything was all right. So I did, and was surprised to see David Mays in a rap video. It was RSO and in the video Dave acted as the groups manager. So I’m like, “oh snap � what’s going on here?” I walk back to the office and the first thing I do is ask Dave about the video. Dave’s like, oh, I thought you knew. Those are my friends from Boston and I’m helping them out. I had no reason to take Dave at anything other than his word, but I did start to ask other people in the office about this group that Dave was befriending.
Derrick Hawes, a childhood friend of Dave’s from DC was the Director of Retail Sales, and as the business side intern I spent a lot of time doing what ever he needed me to do. I really liked Derrick or “Devil” as we called him a lot. I learned many things from him and for a young guy he possessed a level of maturity that was beyond most of us. He’d already finished a stint in the US Navy, was married and had a beautiful daughter. And like most cats from DC, he loved go-go and R&B but really only dealt with Hip Hop when he couldn’t avoid it. He had a much different perspective on things and I really enjoyed the time I would spend with him each morning before the phone started ringing off the hook.
One morning Devil played a cassette for me. It was some smooth R&B, like a mix between Keith Sweat and Frankie Beverly. Shit was really tight and was just as good as anything currently on the radio. So I’m asking for the name of the artist so I can go cop the album and Devil says, nah, that’s my boy from DC, who I’m trying to get hooked up. I ask if Dave is involved in this at all, and Devil shoots me an annoyed look and tells me that Dave has all of the guy’s stuff but has been very slow in shopping it around and setting up any meetings.
I’m like wow, I see Dave trying to set things up for RSO nearly every day. Why wouldn’t he be trying to do something for your boy? His shit could pop off. Devil’s like, yeah, but I don’t think Dave is feeling it like that. And that’s pretty much were we left it.
Sometime in 1991 Dave started playing me some music from RSO. Back in those days we would often stop by the office on weekends, when things were a bit more relaxed and you turn up the stereo as loud as you wanted while you worked. So I’m doing my thing and Dave is up front working on something and he says, let me give you an advance preview of something and tell me what you think. And he plays me some RSO cuts that I think are pretty damn good. There is one guy in the group who really stands out. His style was like Redman’s but this was before we knew who Redman was, so this kid � who was called something like The Wild Juvenile � really caught my ear. I told Dave that I liked the stuff and he told me that the group had just landed a deal with Tommy Boy records, the number two label behind Def Jam. So this was a pretty major accomplishment.
A few months later the Juvenile kid gets stabbed to death during an altercation with some bouncers in a Boston club. The guy was only like 17 so it was a really sad turn of events. And because Tommy Boy had signed the group primarily because of him, they started to make noises about maybe dropping the RSO project altogether. Dave stepped in and basically saved the deal and RSO went back into the studio to try to reconfigure things.
The group was doing some recording in NYC off and on and whenever they were in town they would drop by. By now I knew who they were and would kick it with Ray for a few minutes whenever he would fall through. I never had a problem with the dude.
DX: There are plenty of Suge-esque stories about Benzino’s acquisition of half The Source, the most infamous being Ray coming into Mays’ office with his Boston gangstas complete with guns and ultimatums. Should people believe that?
RD: People are going to believe what they want, but all I can do is tell you everything that happened while I was there and let you make the call for yourself.
In the summer of ’91 The Source threw a huge party during the New Music Seminar. It was the party where the Cold Crush Brothers had their reunion and it was a pretty hot ticket. I remember walking over to the venue during the afternoon to check on whatever it was folks needed me to check on and as I walked out somebody called my name. I turned around saw a huge van filled with about 30 guys all wearing Boston Bruins gear. It was the first time I’d seen The RSO at full strength. I walked over spotted Ray and gave him a pound. We chopped it up for a second and then I was out. As I walked away I was like, “Damn, them niggas roll deep. I’m glad they on our side. Shit.”
In 1992 they put out a record called “One In The Chamba” on Tommy Boy. It was a really good song about police brutality and the need to always protect oneself. I was music editor by this time and selected the record as a “Sure Shot Single” and even reviewed the song myself. It was doing well and working its way up the charts, but then Ice-T’s “Cop Killer” controversy jumped off and Time Warner decided that in order to be accountable to their shareholders they needed to censor any groups with anti-law enforcement lyrics. And since Warner Music distributed Tommy Boy, the group was dropped. Not only that, RSO had come under fire from some Boston police advocacy groups who were accusing them of every crime under the sun.
During the “Cop Killer” thing I accused Ice-T of bowing down to Time Warner and not keeping it gangster. This began a major feud between the magazine and Ice-T that went on for years. Ray backed me up on my stance and basically called Ice-T out, accusing him of being the Ross Perot of rap. And because of this, I had warm feelings for Ray – as I do for all people who have my back.
The “Cop Killer” situation was a huge news story and because RSO was one of its many victims, Ray was giving a lot quotes to the media; a lot of newspaper stuff. Spin magazine also, I think. So RSO were getting their names out there and they were clearly on the right side of the issue. And since we were beefing with Ice-T and we were down with RSO, we had no problem covering the story ourselves.
In time the controversy died down. But despite their notoriety, The Almighty RSO soon found themselves back in The Bean, at square one and looking for a record deal. And remember, this is at a time when The Source is just beginning to gain speed, and Ray is back in Boston, about as far out of the loop as you can be and I believe that this is when the problems really began. Ray really needed the record thing to happen because the way things were going it was only a matter of time before the streets caught up with them. Ray was committed to delivering his crew from a life of crime, and you can never fault him for that.
Ray began to pressure Dave about getting them a new deal. Dave also looked around to find a manager for them, someone who could be devoted to them full time. I think the dude’s name was Dick Scott and he was an industry vet who with groups like Showbiz & AG was just starting to make some noise in the rap game. But for whatever reason, I don’t think it ever panned out. Sadly, from Ray’s perspective, it looked as if Dave and The Source were leaving him behind. Plus, like most artists, he would thumb through the magazine and see all kinds of groups covered that he felt he was better than. And after a while, I think he felt that maybe Dave wasn’t working hard enough on getting them another deal. I didn’t know any of this at the time, but I could tell that there was now an air of tension whenever he would come up to the office. It wasn’t anything major, but you could definitely tell that something was going on.
Our receptionist during those days was a woman named Stephanie Jackson, and when she would go out for lunch or take a break, if the phone rang you picked it up. We all took turns doing it. One afternoon, I pick up the phone and it’s Ray. He asks to speak to Dave, so I put him on hold and ring Dave’s office. Dave tells me he is busy right now and to tell Ray that he’ll call him back in a minute. I tell Ray and he’s like, “No, tell Dave I really need to talk to him.” I do so and Dave once again says that he will call him back later. I tell Ray and this motherfucker erupts like Mt. Vesuvius. “What! You tell that motherfucker he’d better talk to me or else I’m going to come down there and fuck him up!” I’m like, whoa – dude sounds serious. Dave had better talk to this man.
I relay the message and Dave takes the call. A few minutes later he comes out to the front and sheepishly tells me that Ray was just joking and for me not to be concerned. I don’t really buy what he is telling me, but far be it from me to make any value judgments about a dispute between two friends.
The next little RSO incident occurs when Dave excitedly shows me a videotape of an open mic type event that took place somewhere in Boston. After the show is over you see about 45 guys all wearing Boston Bruins gear just milling about and not making any effort to leave the venue. Well the guy on stage is telling everyone one to leave. He’s like, the show is over and you got to be up out of here. So, I’m looking at Dave, and I’m like “Why are you showing this to me?” He’s like, “Just wait� just wait.” So the dude on the stage is still trying to clear the room, but now it looks as if every one is slowly beginning to shuffle out. But I guess they were going too slow and he says, “I know y’all got places to be, so why don’t y’all get out there so you can sell y’all jumbs. (Jumbos � crack, as I had to explain to Mays.) ” Well, he shouldn’t have said that. 45 dudes stop in unison and turn as one towards the stage. Maaan, they beat this nigga down to the gristle. I was like, oooooooo. And Dave is happily grinning and nodding his head. But I’m thinking to myself that this is pretty messed up and there is no way in the world can you can tell me that after the show these guys didn’t hit the corner and pump their jumbs, so why were they so offended? But after seeing them in action like that, I was always a little concerned whenever they came around, especially now that Ray was beginning to lean on Dave just a taste.
By 1993, Dave had managed to get RSO a deal with Latifah’s Flavor Unit records. They put out a single or two, but nothing happened and they were quickly dropped from the label. Now shit was beginning to get thick. Ray was spending a lot of time in NYC and the office talk was that he was staying in Dave’s cramped Jersey City apartment and threatening to not leave until Dave got him another deal.
One evening James Bernard went with Dave up to his apartment. James said that they could hear all kinds of laughter coming from Dave’s place as they walked down the hall, but as soon as he stuck his key in the door and walked in, the whole atmosphere changed. Something was about to go down. And it did. Ray started yelling at Dave about all of the things that he wasn’t doing for the group. James said it was tense and that the other members of the crew were ice-grilling Dave and invading his personal space. At one point Ray became so angry towards Dave that he paused to search for the worse thing he could possibly say to him. According to James Bernard he called Dave “a Hitler.” (Now remember what you’ve just read because it comes up again later.) Dave is Jewish and you would think that even among friends that such a statement would be crossing a line that didn’t need to be crossed. That was just a taste of what Dave’s life was beginning to become. But like I said, he did his best to keep what was going on under wraps for as long as he could.
The RSO began to develop a negative reputation among their peers as well. In 1992 The Source put together a promotional tour of Black colleges. We got a bunch of artists, loaded up the busses and went out on the road. This was l think during RSO’s stint on Tommy Boy, but I’m not 100% positive. Anyway, where other artists like MC Serch or Organized Konfusion traveled only with the bare necessities, RSO came with their full contingent plus an auxiliary force called the Legion of Doom. They brought their own van because there were so many of them. Anyway there were a few shows where RSO, taking offense at some of their tour mates, began to act in a hostile manner towards them. One artist made the mistake of joking that a member of RSO resembled Humpty Hump. Well, that particular artist was quickly surrounded and shown the error of his ways. And this kind of stuff began to happen more and more. There were definitely storm clouds gathering on the horizon, but it never really affected the average Source staffer.
Around the end of 1993, I learned that Dave Mays had asked for permission from his partners to loan Ray the sum of $12,000 so he could film a video in support of new music he was recording with the hope of landing yet another deal. The partners agreed and a few weeks later I watched the video in the conference room with Ray. For the budget he was working with it looked pretty good, and Ray proved himself to be a capable director. I recall the end of the video showed Ray in the studio smoking a blunt and on the table was a copy of our Miami issue, the cover featuring Luke on a golf course. The final shot of the video was a mock up of a Source cover that featured The RSO. Again, I didn’t have anything negative to say, and wished him luck with is project. Ray was driving a new 190 around this time, so I figured that he was doing what he had to do regardless.
1994 was the year everything came out into the open. The magazine had been undergoing a lot of change. Ed Young returned from his tour of duty at The New Republic. Brett Wright departed to handle marketing at Uptown Records. Chris Wilder went off to Sony. David Watkins moved on and co-founded one of the first urban marketing firms � Da Streets, Inc – with the indefatigable Chris Latimer. Jon Shecter had only recently returned to the magazine after a lengthy sabbatical – during which time James Bernard and I vastly changed the tone and direction of the book. Joining the soon-to-be departing Kierna Mayo were new editors Carter Harris, Shawnee Smith and Robert Marriott. Sonya Magett and Julia Chance were handling the growing fashion side of things and over on the business side Jeremy Miller took on retail and circulation and Paul Narvaez and Mike Elliot assisted on marketing and ancillary business development.
Ray would come up to the office and be taken aback by all of the new faces. The Source was about to make the big jump and again Ray felt he was being left behind. Plus, he felt that the new staffers � most of them not knowing anything of the Boston days – didn’t respect him and he started to pick these really childish kinds of fights in order to test hearts and boundaries.
(I’m almost ashamed to talk about some of this stuff, because looking back it is so silly, and I’m sure that folks reading this will be like, wha � this is what all the fuss was about? But like everything else in life, big events have small origins.)
RSO cats would continue to visit Dave after hours, but now there was a new twist. Every time these niggas came into the office something would invariably come up missing. I might have a stack of t-shirts in my office on Friday, but when I came in on Monday my shit would be gone. I’d also notice when things on my desk had been tampered with and every once in a while I’d reach for a record only to find that it had magically grown legs and walked out of my office. And this was starting to happen to other people as well. Matty C, who was now doing A&R for Loud Records, still maintained a desk at The Source where he would do the “Unsigned Hype” column. An avid record collector, he would always have a lot of good shit in his stash. Well, one evening I saw RSO members E Devious and Deff Jeff walking around the office. Jeff was holding a big garbage bag, but I didn’t take much notice of it and after a while they left. The next afternoon, Matt came in and screamed bloody murder. His records were gone. I put two and two together and came up with a pair of likely suspects (one of these clowns actually stole a prototype of one of the early Source Awards. I guess even back then they knew that was the only way they would ever get one). (Ed’s note: Zzzzzing!)
When I told Dave about the ongoing problem, he said that he would talk to Ray and straighten things out. He also went out of his way to make excuses for the thieving. Because they were poor and from the streets, Dave reasoned, they simply couldn’t help themselves after seeing the overwhelming abundance of goodies that we’d selfishly hoarded. I’m like, huh � you can’t be serious? But Dave was totally serious.
I really didn’t want to make a big deal about it, but the way it was done, it seemed to be some kind of challenge. Y’know, to see how we would react. And Ray, when I would run into him in the halls, would often lob darts at the new staffers. He once told me that The Source was being replaced by “suit and tie wearing buppies who don’t know anything about Hip Hop.” I brought it up to Dave, and he sneered at me and said that Ray was correct in his assessment.
But again, Ray never had any kind of slick talk for me when we would meet face to face. In fact he was a huge fan of my writing and would often ask me questions about what I was working on. He was very interested in my column, “The Dennis Files,” and once after some dude shot him (just a flesh wound, unfortunately) he called me up about maybe putting that bit of news in the magazine. I might have, but I can’t remember.
But still the complaints about The RSO continued and now instead of taking things under advisement, Dave would be like, whatever. Like he didn’t care or that folks somehow deserved what was happening. So I took the hint and basically stopped communicating with Dave. I just focused on doing my job.
In 1994 we held a roundtable discussion on “gangsta rap” and featured artists like Scarface, MC Eiht and Spice 1 on the cover. The summit took place at the Houston ranch of Rap-A-Lot founder James Smith. When he learned of our plans, Dave suggested that we include Ray as a representative of East Coast street life. It made sense to us, so Ray was invited to participate. Dave also flew down to observe things as well (Not shocking since The Source and Rap-A-Lot go back a long time, back to when Rap-A-Lot was just a pager number). What we didn’t know at the time was that Dave spent the entirety of that weekend in Houston desperately attempting to land RSO a deal on Rap-A-Lot. Rob Marriott was the moderator of the Gangsta Summit and new Source intern Allen S. Gordon made valuable contributions as well. None of the other artists – Scarface, Havocc from South Central Cartel, Spice 1, MC Eiht – none of them knew Ray from Adam. And really, if the truth is to be told here, his accomplishments really didn’t match the others, but he was treated as an equal and fellow soldier in the struggle. But when it came time for Ray to make the contributions that we had flown him down for, he was surprisingly unfocused and inarticulate. Everyone there will tell you that he really had nothing of value to contribute. Ray saw that he was bombing in front of his fellow gangsters and it bothered him. But instead of taking the blame for his unpreparedness, he placed the blame on others. Rob Marriott, in particular. He felt that Rob had made him look bad on purpose and when everyone came back to New York, he made a point to try to make things hard on Rob.
Just after the 1994 Source Awards (a disaster of such magnitude that even after all of these years, I still can’t bring myself to talk about it) Ray began to slowly go out of his fucking mind. He hated Rob and would do all kinds of passive aggressive bitchy shit like calling him up, making threats and then quickly hanging up. He would also do these things to Carter Harris, but never face to face.
Rob Marriott reviewed the first OutKast album. He gave it 4.5 mics. I agreed with his opinion and the rating stood. When Ray found out about this (for some reason Ray just hated OutKast, and you have to wonder if that is why it took them so many years to get a Source cover), he hit the roof. He walked into Rob’s office and struck up a very loud conversation. I was next door hanging out in James Bernard’s office and we heard all of this yelling and screaming. It sounded like a fight was about to jump off. I walk into Rob’s office just as Ray is leaving and catch the last volley of “fuck yous.” Ray continues down the hall to Dave’s office. I ask Rob what is going on and he tells me that Ray started bugging out over the Outkast review, calling the group bullshit, and making threats about what he would do if the next RSO album doesn’t receive similarly high marks.
I’m like, ‘really?‘ And walk down to Dave’s office in search of Ray. I get there and see Ray sitting on Dave’s sofa so I walk over and stand right over him. I start yelling at him and he pops up off the couch like he wants to do something. Now Ray is only five feet tall in Timbs and two pairs of socks, so the whole thing looks ridiculous. Dave is looking nervous and by now other people have made it back to Dave’s office to see where this will all end up. Ray and I square off for about ten very tense seconds and then sensing that he’s not ready to throw a punch, I give him a few more “fuck you, nigga”s and then start walking out of Dave’s office. On the way out I can hear Ray screaming my name, calling me all kinds of bitches and motherfuckers, but he’s only saying this shit as I’m walking away, so I’ve got his number.
Understanding that shit is about to get really out of control, we try to once again to appeal to Dave to do something about his friends. Ray has upped the ante by stating that if his next album doesn’t get 4 mics he will start “puttin’ niggas in bodybags.” He has made threats towards Carter and Rob. Ray and I have squared off. This is probably not going to end well. Now he’s talking about the review of his next album and what we had better do for him. I’m like, what review? Another one of my rules was that if an artist made any threats towards a staff member (and it was beginning to happen more and more as The Source became more critical and less industry friendly), we would simply not cover them. End of story. Ray knew this, and by making his threats he also knew that his name would never be mentioned in the magazine so long as I was there.
Dave had only just been able to secure RSO a new deal at RCA records. It wasn’t a deal for a full LP, but rather a five or six song EP (I was the one who suggested that Dave shop RSO as an EP) . Full-page ads began to appear in the magazine promoting the upcoming release. The pressure was on and nether side was willing to back down.
During a discussion of these events with James and Dave, I told Dave that I think it would be best if Ray were banned from coming into the office. Dave looked at me and sneered, “Who the fuck are you?” I was like, ‘word?‘ And Dave Mays – the man who put me on and showed me the ropes; the guy with whom I stood with shoulder to shoulder when drama threatened to jump off; the man who I defended at the expense of my professional reputation when a host of Black music executives told me not to trust him � slowly died before my eyes.
A few days later, no doubt facing unimaginable pressure from Ray, Dave called me into his office to try to patch things up. He told me that Ray was his best friend and if need be, he would “take a bullet” for him and I was not being fair. But I was beyond the point of reason and was not trying to hear any of it. I wasn’t going to help him. “No review,” I said. “Not even for me?” he appealed, obviously trying to tap into my positive memories of better days at The Source, feelings that he knew meant the world to me. “No Dave, not even for you.” And I don’t recall saying much to him ever again.
Dave moved himself and part of business side to an office one flight up on the sixth floor. And outside of just going up there to check it out, no one from the editorial side spent much time up there. And when Dave would come down to the fifth floor, we’d all be like, what’s this chump doing down here? It was serious, we literally hated each other, and yet we still had to work together to put out the magazine, which was becoming more ambitious by the month. Some of our best work appeared during those final days. We knew it could all end at anytime and were rushing to get our stuff out there.
James Bernard had reached his breaking point and was beginning to make noises about quitting. If James quit then so would I, because then there would really be no one up there looking out for me. Jon Shecter would always be the heart and soul of The Source, but James was my mentor and without him around, the content of the magazine would quickly revert to a rather pedestrian examination of Hip Hop trivia (Jon Shecter openly opposed many of the things that he saw in the magazine; he wanted things to go in a more accessible, non-confrontational direction). I started to seriously consider what I would do if I had to make a sudden exit from The Source.
But then, suddenly, things seemed to ease off. There was no more Ray. There was no more office drama. Dave stopped coming down stairs. I got a substantial raise in salary. James stopped talking about quitting. Jon stopped complaining about the content of the magazine. It looked as if we’d managed to move beyond this troubled period.
But we were wrong. We didn’t know that Dave had already been secretly interviewing people to take James’ place should he ever make good on his threats to leave. We didn’t know that Dave had sent writer Bonz Malone up to Boston to interview RSO for a feature that he planned to secretly insert into the magazine without the knowledge of his partners in editorial. We didn’t know a lot of things.
And so it all reached its climax in September 1994. We had put the Redman cover to bed about a week and a half earlier and Dave had gotten an advance copy. He told James he wanted to meet with him to discuss a few things. When they met the first thing Dave wanted to discuss was my attitude. The second thing was the three page RSO story that he had secretly inserted in the magazine. That was pretty much it. James told me what happened when he got back to the office. I was stunned and knew that for me, the battle was lost. There was no way that I could work again with Dave Mays. I went back up to my office and began to pack up my most important documents. Carter and Rob were still working and came into my office. I told them what just happened and how I was packing my shit up. I didn’t know how it was all going to shake out, but I’d had enough. That was on a Friday. On Sunday we held an editorial staff meeting in a Times Square hotel. James passed around his resignation letter. In his letter he called Dave out and broke down the situation point by point. James and I were definitely going to walk and so was Jon, so it was really for the benefit of the remaining staff that we’d had the meeting. We were just giving them a heads up. Shawnee Smith didn’t think that any of us should be leaving; if anyone should be forced to leave it should be Dave Mays. We couldn’t disagree with her logic so we began to strategize a way to make that happen.
We decided that we should expose what Dave had done to the media and maybe that would force him to see the error of his ways and do the right thing and step down. Dave had lost perspective. This was gross misconduct and he needed to go. But first James and Jon wanted to get Dave to admit what he had done. They met with Dave and secretly tape recorded the conversation, but Dave didn’t crack and basically handed Jon an editorial page plan for the next issue and told him to get to work. When Jon came down to his office he checked his phone messages. And there it was, a venomous rant from Raymond Scott warning him that if he opened his mouth about what had transpired and didn’t go along with the program, something bad would happen to him. Jon called us into the office and played the message. A few minutes later we were walking towards the police station.
The detective told us that his job was to arrest people but that might make the situation worse. He suggested that we try to hash this all out through a court ordered mediation. We figured that it was worth a shot so we agreed to meet at the courthouse the next morning to file the paperwork. The thing was, the papers had to be served on Ray like a summons, and we really didn’t know where Ray would be on any given day. But when we got back to the office I checked my messages and lo and behold I got a request from a publicist at RCA records inviting me to RSO’s press day. I was like wow, even the record label doesn’t even know about the story, or else why would they be asking me to come down there and interview them? So we knew where Ray would be and the next morning James and I waited for Jon to show up at the court building. He never showed. We went upstairs and got the writ. A court officer asked if we would like a police officer to serve Ray. We declined, not wanting to humiliate him in front of the people at the label. It would send a better message we felt, if we did the job ourselves. We came back to the office and waited around until it was time to go down to RCA records.
We arrived at the building at the appointed time and got visitors passes from the security desk. We went upstairs and were greeted by a publicist who was happy to see us. We hung out in her office until the group was finished with their previous interview. At one point Ray walked down the hall and right past the office where we were waiting. My first instinct was to grab the writ from James and just hand it to Ray right then and be done with it. But I didn’t. Instead we waited until they were ready for us. Another publicist brought us into a really small lounge area where we found the group relaxing and checking their pagers. Ray was stunned when he saw us walk in. He didn’t know what to expect and he started acting really jittery. He was like, “Yo, I didn’t know The Source was coming down.” He was shook. James handed him the paper, which was in a Source envelope. He took it, opened it up and stared at it for about ten seconds. He started to scowl and then he started to shake is head. “Yo, you trying to make niggas look bad?” he growled.
The publicist was still in the room and Ray asked her to leave. Ray starts babbling something about how Jon said that the group didn’t deserve coverage, that to do that would be unethical. From what he is saying it is clear that Dave has totally painted Jon as the bad guy, culprit and ringleader. I looked over to the other side of the room and saw E Devious, Tony Rhome and Deff Jeff begin to rise and make their way towards me. I looked over at James and he was already grappling with Ray. E Devious reaches into his pocket and I immediately grab him. The room is so small that neither of us have any room to really swing on each other. James makes it to the door and we all spill out into the hallway. E and I are going at it pretty good, but it is clear that because we are so out numbered it’s only a matter of time before we get stomped out. Then Tony Rhome comes over and starts hitting me with an umbrella. Shit is starting to go bad and images of that dude at the Boston club begin to flash through my mind. I’m like, nah, can’t win this one. I’ve got to be out. James and I catch a lucky break and make it to the main doors and walk to the elevators. RSO doesn’t follow us. On the way down I’m like, “Ok, that was interesting.”
So shit is pretty much over. There will be no mediation. There will be no fixing things. We get back to 594 Broadway and just as we are about to enter the building someone calls our names. We turn around and see Jon Shecter walking across the street. He asks what happened. We explain it to him while making our way upstairs to the office. Jon tells us that they got a panicked call that something bad had happened at RCA records and after Dave rushed down to see what it was, Ed Young came over and made everyone evacuate the office. When we got upstairs it seemed as if we were the only ones there, but down the hall I could see that there was still someone in Ed’s office. We don’t spend more than a few minutes at The Source. We grab what we need to grab and break out before more trouble arrives (I would later learn that Ed Young had a business side intern go to our workstations and download anything that looked like it could be used for the next issue. That’s where his head was at, that was his first concern).
We part ways with Jon and head over to the office of a friend. We’ve still got James’ resignation letter and we plan to fax it out to The Power Network: The Source’s list of 5000 key industry insiders, radio DJs and retailers. We are joined by another one of our interns and we send it out. We wonder what the reaction will be. These days you can send a million emails with the push of a button but back then we had to do it the hard way � a preprogrammed fax list. All over the country people read James’ letter and pagers and office phones begin blowing up. At RCA Dave is trying to manage the situation and calm Ray down. The fax arrives. Dave reads it and he and The RSO drop everything and dash back to The Source, hoping to catch us in the act. Dave also calls the phone company to stop the transmission, but because he doesn’t have the correct password the faxes continue to roll out. By the time they get up to The Source we are long gone and James’ letter is the talk of the industry.
The next morning James and I show up for work. We didn’t expect to do anything, but there was some unfinished business to take care of. We brought up some muscle this time and were definitely prepared for whatever might happen. When I got to the office I saw a locksmith changing the lock on the outer door. I gave a nod to our receptionist, and she made sure the inner door was kept open. There was some kind of armed guard who had been hired to keep us out, but he was quickly overwhelmed. I walked to Ed’s office. He was surprised to see me. I sat down on his sofa and stared at him. He tried to explain that what Dave had done was wrong, but we were being unreasonable and should have consulted him before acting. He said that The Source had lost all of its advertising. He told me that we had caused $10,000 in damage to the RCA offices and they were going to sue us. I stood up, shook his hand and walked out. Ed was my man and it had come to this. It was unreal. I said my goodbyes to J-Mill and walked over to the editorial side. Our offices had been ransacked. If Dave and Ray were in the area then they were up on the 6th floor and scared to come down.
The rest of the staff eventually showed up and we packed up the rest of our stuff. Downstairs we loaded up our cars. Bonz Malone happened to walk by and harsh words were exchanged. He babbled some shit about “the hierarchy.” We drove to a local restaurant for a last meal together. And that, as they say, was that.