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 and staff writer J-23. If you just landed here make sure you also check out Part 1: The Greatest Story Never Told and Part 2: Benzino’s Hostile Takeover to get the full story.

HipHopDX: After Benzino threatened to start “puttin’ niggas in bodybags” if his next album didn’t get at least 4 mics, I suppose you weren’t surprised to see his Made Men album get 4.5?

Reginald Dennis: Nope, not at all. But to be fair, I never listened to as much as one song from that joint, so I really can’t say what it deserved. Who knows, maybe it was worth the rating? People still bump that album, right?

DX: You said the ’94 Source Awards were such a disaster that you can’t bring yourself to talk about it�thus making it an even more enticing topic. Can you shed a little light as to why it is such a painful memory?

RD: The Source Awards began in 1991 as a simple reader survey bound into the magazine. In 1992 things took a small step forward as an embryonic version of the awards ran during a couple of consecutive episodes of Yo! MTV Raps. At the end of 1993 Dave informed us that he was planning to turn The Source Awards into a major event and that he needed the editorial staff to pitch in wherever necessary. This was right as the conflict between Dave and editorial began to escalate and many of us were not looking forward to the prospect of spending our few moments of downtime slaving away on one of Dave’s side projects. But at that point we were still a team and we all understood that to the outside world if the Awards didn’t come off as advertised the blame would fall mostly on editorial, so we tried to make the best of the situation. It was tense, though. Dave was in the habit of handing out unsolicited critiques of the editorial side and only really treated people in a civil manner when he needed something. If he didn’t need to parade advertisers through the editorial plantation or need brown faces to accompany him on meetings, Dave treated us as little more than a bunch of chattering voices that he was under no obligation to listen to.

With the Awards Dave needed us to come up with 99% of the content. We suggested categories and nominees. Jon Shecter produced a really nice short film on the history of Hip Hop that was shown during the production. We did our best to strike a balance between what Dave needed for his business purposes and what we as fans wanted to see included in an awards show dedicated to Hip Hop. But ultimately Dave went in a different direction and basically used The Source Awards as a vehicle to take advertising executives on a wild African safari.

As the launch date drew closer � the show was in April, right when Ray really started bugging out � it became clear to us on editorial that Dave wasn’t nearly as adept with dealing with the politics of such an undertaking as he thought he was. The guest list was a disaster, with dozens of Hip Hop pioneers not even invited. And who had to deal with those explosive situations � the editorial side! We all have our horror stories, but I had to spend a very tense 15 minutes in the hallway outside of the office trying to stop two old school legends from rushing into Dave’s office and hanging him out of the window until he coughed up some tickets. And if it wasn’t for Russell Simmons stepping in and basically tearing Dave a new asshole, the 1994 Source Awards would have had very little in the way of old school representation and participation (DJ Hollywood was the best part of that night, and Dave had no clue who he was!).

But it got worse. As the buzz surrounding the awards began to build, so did talk of a possible boycott by artists and organizations who felt that The Source had no legitimate right to select and judge who or what embodied Hip Hop. KRS-1 caused a huge problem during the home stretch. Not only was he not going to appear at the awards, but he was also going to badmouth it and do his best to derail it. Dave got really scared and begged Jon, myself and a few other brown faces to have lunch with Kris and get him back on board. Thing is, KRS is no fool and every problem he had with the award show was valid. We weren’t looking at the entirety of the Hip Hop spectrum; we were only focusing on rap. We had no category for best graffiti or best b-boy. And Kris took great pains to let us know that he felt the magazine was losing its focus and if we were not careful we would wake up one day to find ourselves working at an urbanized Rolling Stone. He was correct on everything he said, but the way he said it to us �whew! Believe me, you don’t want to be across the table from KRS-1 when he is belligerent, surly and has an axe to grind. It was the worst lunch ever and was typical of what we had to deal with while Dave was back in the office fucking up the comp list, stepping on toes and making our lives miserable with an award show that none of us wanted to be a part of.

Then came the last straw. Dave told us that due to a ticket shortage, staffers would only be allowed two guests apiece. This was a problem because we all had people coming out of the woodwork looking to get hooked up. I’m talking friends, family � people who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Many of our loyal freelancers couldn’t get tickets. It was a bad situation to be in. Dave made sure that all of his people had as many tickets as they needed, including 75 RSO members and scores of assorted industry parasites, but the people who actually made the magazine each month � many of them were left out in the cold. It got so tense that I didn’t even want to answer my phone.

The awards themselves were an absolute catastrophe. Bernie Mac was the host � why, I have no idea. He was a disaster. Either he couldn’t see his cue cards or he couldn’t read at all. The show moved along in fits and starts and the natives � the thousands of fans who bought tickets for the event – began to get restless. We thought there would be a riot during one of the show’s many lulls. The highlight of the night was when A Tribe Called Quest came out on stage. They were either going to perform or present an award, I can’t remember which, but as soon as Q-Tip opened his mouth to do what they were going to do � a music cue blasted through the speakers and Tupac and his crew rushed on stage and began performing. Everyone was stunned, was it a mistake or was it on purpose? And as soon as ‘Pac finished his song, he screamed, “Fuck y’all!” to the audience, slammed the mic to the ground and vanished backstage just as quickly as he appeared. Everyone had the same thought: did Tupac just dis Quest? Next thing you know all these Zulu Nation cats are on stage and one dude is threatening ‘Pac, for disrespecting their Zulu comrades. I started looking for the emergency exit. I was like, yeah – now this is The Source Awards!

The next morning many of us showed up early for work and had an informal meeting. Since most of the industry had yet to make it back to their desks, the phones where strangely silent. We all agreed the awards were a disaster and wondered what the effect would be on our professional reputations. Jon and James wanted to meet with Dave to go over the night’s events, but Dave never met with them. He was holed up with the marketing staff watching the videotape of the show and editing it down to a promotional reel that would be used to secure the television broadcast of next year’s show. When they asked Dave why they weren’t invited to the meeting, he told them that since they wouldn’t have had anything worthwhile to contribute they didn’t need to be there. It was just one more log on the burning fire of resentment.

And speaking of Source Awards, here’s something that you might find interesting. Did you ever wonder why Suge called out Puffy during the 1995 broadcast? Well a couple of Source staffers were hanging out at the venue during the rehearsals when Biggie and later Suge happened to wander by. Biggie began to voice his displeasure about being on Bad Boy and was talking about possibly making a change. Suge told him that he would be happy to have him at Death Row and that they should talk about how they could make that happen. And that’s how the whole mess started.

DX: What are some of the other events that were the writing on the wall for this downward spiral?

RD: The Source has been the subject of so much revisionist history over the years that even the people who work there don’t know what is what. There is a lot of stuff that has yet to come out, and really those stories for other people to tell, but I’ll definitely toss a few gems put there to get the debate going and also do my best to clear up some of the erroneous information regarding our groups initial departure. I’ll do my best to keep it brief, but you know how I do.

In 1994 people said we were crazy, but the arc of the universe bends towards justice and today, in 2005, I don’t think there are many people outside of Dave and Ray who would doubt the veracity of our actions. The very same industry that once sided with Dave has now abandoned him. We accused Dave of managing The RSO, thus giving them an unfair advantage causing a huge conflict of interest. Today Dave will happily tell you that he was indeed the manager of the group and his actions were totally justified. Dave accused us of being unprofessional, of being unmanageable, of using the magazine to air our petty beefs and start vendettas that were bad for business. Well, that seems to be their standard operating procedure these days. We were accused of using Hip Hop as a means for us to live out ghetto fantasies that we were never really built for, but really, that seems to describe David Mays far more than any one of us.

So much of this stuff isn’t even worthy of discussing any more. But there are a few things that Dave has always tried to keep hidden and now is as good a time as any to grab the old flashlight and see what we can see. Again, the conclusions that I draw and the information that I reveal is based on what I’ve witnessed, heard and know. I’m calling it the way I see it and like Andre 3000, I’m just being honest.

I don’t think Dave is a happy man. His friendship with Ray has cost him dearly in all aspects of his life. And while he tries his best to project a veneer of steely calm and unwavering capability, those who know him and have seem him in his quiet moments will tell you a different story.

Dave has been searching for a way to free himself from the clutches of Raymond Scott for many years. He thought that providing Ray with a career would be enough and that he would go off on his own. But that never seems to be the result. If anything, these very public incidents over the years have only served to shackle them together even tighter.

Dave had a friend once, the very same person he once tapped to replace James Bernard. One night he called her up and cried and cried and cried and cried. Dave blubbered to her that he “wished RSO would just die.”

When he found out that Sonya Magett, our fashion editor, could not be enticed to return to The Source, he called a former staffer and cried and cried and cried. He could not understand why Sonya had lost all respect for him. Unfortunately for Dave, the former staffer that he called used to be married to a man who is like a brother to me. The world is small and very few secrets are kept.

There was a man on The Source’s marketing team who once witnessed Ray berating Dave in the office. It seems that Ray was upset at the lack of community outreach programs affiliated with The Source (back in the day James Bernard and I would spend a lot of our down time visiting schools and lecturing and mentoring young people, there was no official Source mandate to do so, we just did it on the strength) and screamed on Dave to the point where he burst into tears. “I’m trying, Ray,” he wailed like a little sissy.

One of our old interns had an interesting discussion with an RSO member who was busy loitering around the office one day. The intern, a very good friend of ours, was a bit miffed at something Dave had said to him. The RSO member had a remedy – one he said worked for him whenever he felt that Dave had forgotten his place. “Just slap him,” was the sage advice. “Just slap him.”

There was another man on the marketing team, a person who started back when we were there. It was his second day on the job and he witnessed something that shook him to the core of his being. Ray locked the two of them in Dave’s office and lovingly placed a pistol to the side of Dave’s head. “Homeboy was crying,” is what this marketing man told anyone who would listen.

We know someone who lives right next door to Dave’s parents in DC. When the situation went down between us and Dave the fallout was far reaching. The two neighbors stopped talking to one another. It was a sad situation, but one day Dave’s mother sought out her former friend, apologized for the despicable actions of her son and explained, “David is afraid, he is in way over his head and can’t figure a way out of this.

I could go on, but once you’ve heard one story you’ve heard them all. Dave is Dave. His heart pumps pink Kool-Aid. For all of his love of the ghetto he never learned lesson one of surviving in the hood: Under no circumstances are you to you ever give your lunch money to a bully. It is far better to take the ass whoppin’ than to be some nigga’s personal ATM. But Dave never seemed to figure that out and that is why he is in the dire straits that he currently finds himself. I once met a man who introduced himself to me as “Dave Mays‘ future extorter.” Really, now, is that what you want to be known for? It’s worse than pathetic.

But now shit is getting a little difficult for Dave and his merry band. Life is tearing hot strips off his back right about now. The word from high up in his company is that The Source has less than a year. The last time it got this bad Earl Graves, the wealthy publisher of Black Enterprise, stepped in with a much needed cash infusion. I’m sure Mr. Graves had no idea at the time that the suddenly revealed “co-owner” of The Source was Raymond Scott: career criminal. I wonder what Mr. Graves has to say every time some negative press reaches the media. Do you think he is happy having to explain the actions of a person named Benzino to his influential friends? Do you think he regrets taking the advice of his son and getting mixed up in this sad enterprise in the first place? Streets is talking. And we mean Wall St.

And since I am opening up the crypt of secrets, I’ll give you one that I’ve been keeping for a few years. While I don’t have a lot of time to devote to what is going on at The Source these days – and really, Dave and Ray would be highly upset if they actually knew how little I think about them – I have, from time to time, helped to set a few things in motion that have come back to haunt them. I can’t get into everything I’ve done, but there is one particular scheme that I am most proud of, and I figure that now is as good a time as any to come clean with something that many of my peers have long suspected. In 1999 I arranged for Ray Benzino & The Made Men to receive the cover of Rap Pages magazine.

Allen S. Gordon, the former editor of Rap Pages magazine, was once a former intern at The Source. He worked his way up into an editorship and when the Rap Pages job opened up, he packed his bags and headed out to LA. Now Allen and I are tight, and since he never had any great love for Dave and Ray, he was quite intrigued with my suggestion to shine the spotlight on them. The wheels were soon set in motion. A writer went up to Boston and did the story and sometime after that, the Made Men flew out to LA for their cover shoot. I had to take one for the team, as portions of their interview painted me in the worst light imaginable. Man they talked all kinds of shit about me, and I was definitely a little heated when I read the story, but I had to suck it up because I knew that the eventual punchline would be sweeter than anything I’d ever experienced.

The issue hit the racks and The Made Men looked like complete buffoons. No star power at all. Zero. And what do you think happened when Ray marched triumphantly into The Source offices with his coveted magazine cover? Well, for starters he told the editor of the moment that a rap magazine out here had finally shown some guts. A real editor had finally stepped up and recognized the greatness that is Benzino! Ray had taken the bait. We left a bottle of piss on the table and he came by and gulped down every drop! He actually thought that someone would actually believe it was a good idea to put his wack-ass group on the cover of a magazine. Not only that, but he felt that he should have more. In fact, he felt he deserved more. And thus a seed was planted. A seed that would one day grow into Ray crossing the final line and demanding that he be put on the cover of The Source.

But Ray, as usual, could not perceive the bigger picture. He did not understand that by popping up on the cover of Rap Pages, a national magazine, that industry tongues would begin to wag. “What the fuck?!” is what label people muttered all across the globe. “How did Mays pull this off?” they wondered. Up until now dealing with Dave and Ray was seen as the cost of doing business. But now things were different. This was public, out in the open. They were flaunting it. It was too much and many label executives � especially the ones with artists still awaiting magazine covers of their own – began to seethe.

Magazine people began to voice their displeasure as well. Such open corruption? How? Why? And they began to point fingers and spread great falsehoods about those they claimed were responsible.

Yes, people were talking about the Made Men, but as usual, it was for all of the wrong reasons. Ray, however, couldn’t tell the difference and thought it was all good.

The Rap Pages cover ended up being the worst thing that ever happened to this or any other Source staff. Ray was livid that he had to travel across the county to get the love that he should have gotten at home. His ego inflated and he began to berate the staff. He eventually called a meeting and, as the story goes, locked the entire editorial staff in a conference room. Also in the conference room were selected members of Ray’s security detail.” From all accounts that I have heard of that day, Ray was in rare form. He had a stack of recent issues of The Source, and went through them all, pointing out their shortcomings; he literally had much of The Source staff in tears. People were literally holding hands under the table and both men and women exchanged tear-filled glances. I’ve even heard that there was an Uzi on the table. It was, they said, the worst staff meeting ever.

Soon there would be changes, and thus began the next mass editorial exodus. The crazy part was this: outside of the original Mind Squad, this staff was probably the most capable team that the magazine had ever fielded, but one by one Ray managed to drive them out and replace them with an endless succession of cheaper, more malleable equivalents.

Soon Ray would reveal himself as the “co-owner” of The Source – a secret so tightly held that no one, not even Dave Mays, knew about it until it was revealed in the Miami Herald one wacky morning. A Made Men album would finally receive a 4.5 mic rating and not long after that Ray would at long last find himself on the cover of The Source.

Ray’s Source cover would knock over even more dominos and eventually set the stage for much of the misfortune that is currently decimating the magazine: pending bankruptcy; staffers working without benefits; falling circulation; declining ad sales; smaller office space; rubber paychecks; a revolving door of employees; a ban on Dr. Dre, Eminem and The G-Unit. The list goes on and on.

But it would never have happened if Ray had not taken the initial bait. I figured out a long time ago – but not quick enough to save myself – that the best way to fuck with Ray is to make sure that he gets everything he wants and then all you have to do is sit back, put your feet up and watch him fuck it all off. The law of the universe states that everything he touches must turn to shit. I was happy to see him on the cover of Rap Pages because I knew that it would be the beginning of the end for him. It’s like in that old movie Carrie. Yeah, you are the queen of the prom, but look out for that bucket filled with pigs’ blood. Ka-Bonk!

But even though my scheme achieved the desired effect, I do regret the collateral damage that it caused. But sometimes these things have to be done.

DX: You said you once met a man who called himself “Dave Mays’ future extorter,” can you say who that man was?

RD: Sorry, but as I’m quite fond of breathing air everyday, I’ll have to keep that one to myself. But I will tell you this: Dave Mays and his future extorter have definitely hung out on occasion � but I don’t think Dave understood the severity of those meetings and who this guy is connected to. Believe me, if they decided to take over The Source they could do it in an afternoon. But it’s all good. I’m sure my man was just joking.

DX: What is your take on the whole Source and Eminem controversy?

RD: I think it is unfortunate. It has certainly diminished whatever was left of their credibility and I imagine it’s had a tremendous negative impact on their business. I can’t say I’m surprised by any of this since beefing with artists is a proud Source tradition, but what’s going on now is almost too painful to watch. At some point you have to suck it up and put the health of the business over your own personal concerns. I mean, back when we were getting under the skin of artists, it was mostly good-natured ribbing. Hip Hop artists are notoriously thin skinned, and while they feel perfectly justified going into a studio and giving voice to their opinions � whether informed or not � they really don’t like it when someone forces them to be accountable for what they have said. So, whatever beefs we may have been involved with � and yes, there were many � we were always coming from a position of truth. So if we caught someone in a lie or they tried to threaten us � well, we wouldn’t keep it a secret and would give as good as we got.

This whole thing with Eminem, try as I might I really can’t figure out what the beef is. I mean, I know that Ray is going on and on about “the machine” and how it’s racist machinations sustain artists like Eminem at the expense of others, but I really don’t see it that way. If anyone has benefited from “the machine” it is Ray.

The Source is “the machine.” How else could someone like Ray manage to get himself so many record deals? And get so many artists to collaborate with him? He’s obviously plugged into something. When he took over The Source and forced us out, the entire music industry sided with David Mays. That is “the machine” at work. I can’t begin to tell you how many reporters that I talked with over the years, reporters who were committed to telling our story and exposing The Source’s shady dealings, who suddenly found that their story had been squashed at the highest levels. Spin magazine spiked two such stories – one in 1994 and one just a few years ago. Rolling Stone mysteriously put the breaks on a lengthy investigative piece back in 1999. Did Dave make a call? Did he appeal to certain people on an institutional level? Was their some kind of business advantage to be gained by sweeping certain things under the rug? Who knows? What I do know is that the credible investigative coverage on all of The Source’s woes has for the most part occurred outside of the music industry. Why is that? I think it speaks for itself, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide. The music media turned a shamefully blind eye to this situation many years ago. And as far as the traditional Hip Hop media goes� nigga please! Shameful. But on the bright side, it’s been the websites that have been doing the lion’s share of what little “insider” coverage that’s managed to squeeze out, but they haven’t been able to go deep because they don’t really know who to talk to or what to ask. Hopefully that will change.

The recent Beef II DVD documentary had an entire section detailing The Source’s dirt mysteriously excised from the official commercial release. I’ve heard stories that the DVDs distributor might have been leaned on. That one video executive might have said, “It’s not worth getting killed over.” (And there is talk that putting out the DVD in its intended form might have caused a conflict with The Source – who also had a deal with the very same distributor to put out their Source Hits album).

But if you are going to rage against a “machine,” let’s talk about the one that prevents the truth from coming out. The one that has hundreds of writers and dozens of editors afraid to speak out on what is going on right before their eyes. But I understand, really. If a position at The Source is a goal of yours, then you will probably want to steer clear of any negative dealings with Dave or Ray. If you are a media entity seeking to partner with The Source � because let’s face it, if you are not positioned within the business of Hip Hop, then you really aren’t in business � then you might not want to expose their criminal ways either. And that is how “the machine” works. It keeps everything worth knowing in the dark.

Ray has been allowed to cheat his way into becoming a household name, but he couldn’t have done it with out the help of the entire industry. Dave has been able to collude with numerous institutions in an effort to keep his dirt on the hush hush, but he couldn’t have done it without so many people looking the other way. Just check out their annual list of the most influential people in Hip Hop and you will see many of their long time cronies smiling right back at you (And I find it beyond humorous that so many of the people criticizing him today are people who have in the past, happily participated in the big cover up).

It’s beyond me to understand how Dave and Ray could ever be victimized by Eminem’s success, but it is clear that they feel as much. To hear Ray calling Em rap’s Hitler takes me back to Ray calling Dave the exact same thing. I mean, Ray’s playbook doesn’t have a lot of pages, and if you spend enough time with him you will see that he tends to repeat himself. He calls Dave a Hitler,” he calls Jon a “sellout white boy bitch,” and yet he holds himself up as some sort of paragon of diversity and understanding. Hell, he considers himself to be Hip Hop’s Malcolm X! This nigga’s coat is seriously missing a few buttons.

Ray would like you to believe that the world is stacked against him, but all of his misfortunes are by his own hand. In 1992, when The RSO was dropped by Tommy Boy, the “Cop Killer” controversy was widely acknowledged as the reason. Ray was simply caught between forces larger than him and that’s the way the media covered it. But it was all a big fat lie. I had very good friends at Tommy Boy and they told me a different story.

RSO was signed to Tommy Boy mostly as a favor to Dave Mays (The “machine” at work once again!). Dave financed the magazine’s move from Boston to New York by selling advance advertising to various record labels. Tommy Boy wrote the largest check and for many years held exclusive advertising rights to the back cover of The Source. When Dave needed help with The RSO, the label was only too happy to comply. But Ray quickly became such a headache that no one wanted to deal with him. Soon he was up to his old tricks, threatening staffers and doing his best to be as disagreeable as possible. After a while they decided enough was enough and the label gave him the axe. The “Cop Killer” thing was used as a convenient excuse, but he knew the truth. And so did we.

But that’s really all I can tell you about the feud. If Eminem makes a song that is derogatory towards Black women, then that is something he must deal with. But for me, it’s kind of hard to see Dave Mays on that podium pointing the finger when I can’t even count the times that I’ve heard him use the word “nigger.” And I really can’t understand Ray’s deep-rooted need to be a crusader. This whole thing is very confusing to me.

DX: You talked about the Power 30 and how so many of them were involved in the mass cover up, can you give any names and what their involvement was?

RD: Without putting too fine a point on things, Dave needs various incarnations of the Power 30 in order to stay in business. Here is something you can do on a rainy day: make a compilation of any iteration of the 30 from any given year and list all of the businesses that they are involved in. Then take a stack of Source magazines from the corresponding years and after considering such factors as editorial coverage, sponsorship deals and added value advertising support, see what kinds of conclusions you can draw. I’m not saying anyone was right or wrong or making a value judgment or saying that they were involved in a conspiracy of any kind, but reality is reality. It’s the nature of the business.

DX: Since leaving The Source, have you had any involvement in Hip Hop (aside from XXL)?

RD: Being the founding editor and creator of XXL magazine, I have a small legacy of meaningful post-Source involvement. But there were other things I needed to do with my life, and as I hit my 30s I really couldn’t see myself doing a Hip Hop magazine for the rest of my days. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but you really can’t recreate the glory days of the past, so it’s best to do a lot of different things and always keep moving forward. And that’s what I did. I knew that XXL would one day replace The Source (which is why I did it in the first place) so my spirit and contributions are being felt on a daily basis – whether people know its me or not. And I’ve scattered a few ticking time bombs here and there, so things will always be interesting. But on the positive side, I’ve been able to mentor, inspire and provide employment opportunities for many people over the years and they pay me back by being very successful in their endeavors and providing those same opportunities to others.(And sometimes even me!).

I’ve been able to use whatever status or notoriety I’ve retained to put myself in positions where I can be useful to others – but I’m not for sale, and I won’t take money or associate myself with just anyone. I’ve worked on a lot of interesting projects and helped more than a few people get their own things started. But because an open association with me can sometimes cause unwanted attention from various “machines,” I’ve needed to keep a low profile with my Hip Hop dealings. But I don’t really mind. I’m still connected and my phone rings everyday. I’ve pretty much retired my byline, but if something interesting comes along I might come back for a minute or three – and I have in the past – but since I’ve already gotten to do so much in my “Hip Hop career,” It’s easy for me to step back and let someone else get a shot. Or better yet, I can pull some strings and help them get that shot.

DX: What do you think about the current landscape of Hip Hop?

RD: For all of the weeping and hair pulling of late regarding the death of Hip Hop, I’d have to say that the landscape remains the same as it ever was. It’s what you do with the land that matters. Hip Hop is alive and well, but just like a meal that has an overabundance of seasoning; the essence has been overpowered by unnecessary elements. Things are out of balance, but if there were a way to scale back the influence of the music industry, then the other elements of Hip Hop might have an opportunity to make more noticeable contributions.

Outside of America, Hip Hop continues to be a social force to be reckoned with. Brazil, Japan, The UK, The Arab World � Hip Hop is the staging ground for all manner of debate and discourse. MTV Africa has just launched and there is an enormous Hip Hop movement throughout the motherland. Anyplace where people are oppressed and the standard of living is low and people have an axe to grind, that’s where Hip Hop thrives. Hip Hop is all about overcoming personal and institutional struggle; our problem here in America is what to do once you’ve managed to meet your goals?

The current Hip Hop generation has so much more to work with than I did and if they can’t seem to find the handle, then it’s really on them, isn’t it? Everyone has a 24-hour rap station available. There is saturation coverage on television. You can walk by a newsstand and see a dozen glossy magazines speaking to whatever Hip Hop experience you may be a part of. The fact that Hip Hop is a legitimate lifestyle is an undisputed fact; everyone wants a piece of it and everyone wants to go along for the ride. But if you don’t like the way things are unfolding, then all you have to do to correct things is get back to the essence. HipHop is all about bending the world to your will. So change this stuff into something that you want it to be.

Things won’t get better if the best idea that someone can come up with is to try to turn the clock back to 1983 or call the late 80s � early 90s – the “golden age.” It’s 2005, and you should be doing your best to make sure that 2005 is considered the best year ever.

From my vantage point I see too many Hip Hop intellectuals out here missing the point. I see too many Hip Hop elitists who fear change and feel their status as experts will diminish if things move into new and exciting directions. Worst of all, I see too many people wearing the uniform, but who can’t even be bothered to learn anything significant about the culture they claim to love so much. The information is out there, so there is no excuse for ignorance. If you aspire to be a Hip Hop journalist, you might want to have a working history of Hip Hop journalism. You might want to own a record collection. You might want to have an understanding of the things that are going on in the world today, let alone yesterday. This stuff is important and if you can’t be bothered to accurately document the life and times of your generation and your individual life, then believe me, no one else will. So don’t take any of this stuff for granted and don’t expect someone else to do it for you. Hip Hop is something that is to be lived, so turn off the radio and the video show and get out there and be about it.

The Full 3-Part story

Part 1: The Greatest Story Never Told
Part 2: Benzino’s Hostile Takeover
Part 3: Mays, Benzino, and a Gun