20 years ago Mos Def rapped “You knock-kneed and sloppy, but not me/I’m I-N-D, E-P-E, N-D-E-N-T” on the hip-hop classic “B-Boy Document ’99”. That’s what we want to be with your help at Patreon too – I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T.
If you don’t know the value of an independent press in hip-hop, you only have to glance at the history of The Source. Widely regarded in the early 1990’s as the epitome of what a rap magazine should be, a coveted “five mics” reviews crowned albums as hip-hop classics and became a punchline in rhymes from coast to coast. Unfortunately the credibility of the magazine came under fire as early as 1994 when the a large portion of the staff walked out in protest of editor David Mays personally adding favorable coverage of The Almighty RSO in places of pages previously marked for advertising space. RSO’s Benzino was a personal friend of Mays, which made fellow co-founder James Bernard lambast the lack of journalistic ethics. The Source responded by saying Bernard was “suspended” and the staff members who walked out in protest had “resigned.”
Quote courtesy The New York Times: “In his letter to Mr. Mays, Mr. Bernard asserted that the leader of the Almighty RSO had threatened at least two editors at The Source this summer, saying the group wanted better coverage. The group has denied making threats.”
Unfortunately this was hardly the end of the controversy. Instead of distancing themselves from Benzino, he was actually brought into the magazine in a leadership role, and his Wikipedia currently describes him as a “principal” (i.e. founding) member, even though history will state that it was Bernard, Mays, Jonathan Shecter and Ed Young who were the actual “principals” with ownership shares. Bringing him in did not end the controversy but rather led to even more controversies over time. It’s hard to cover something fairly or impartially when you have a vested interest in it, and every time Benzino takes an interest, things slant in his direction and the public groans knowing it’s his his personal forum to rewrite history.
It’s for reasons like this that I routinely disclose that Mega Ran is a personal friend when I’m covering his albums. If there’s a possibility I’m biased in favor of his work you should know about it, and if someone else on staff can review it other than me, I fully embrace them doing it to remove me from the equation. That’s the way an independent and ethical hip-hop publication should act. I would never say I’m perfect nor that our e-zine hasn’t made mistakes, nor would I say that The Source is deeply flawed and incapable of independent journalism in all cases. I would however suggest to you that the essence of independence is the freedom from the kind of oversight you would get if Benzino says an album should get an extra mic because the rapper is a friend of his, and as a “principal” of the magazine he’s not a person you can say no to.
Support independent rap journalism by pledging to us on Patreon. Even $1 a month furthers us toward our goal of having the hosting costs fully funded each month. At that point we can do away with all ad banners on the website and continue our mission of reviewing hip-hop albums and covering rap topics without the fear of advertisers objecting to “questionable” or “controversial” topics and daring to pull their ads. Their nickels and dimes aren’t really covering our costs anyway, so why do any of need them breathing down our necks? It’s better to be free of that oversight and your support keeps the site free for everyone else who comes here as well. A little bit of change each month really goes a long way.
Steve ‘Flash’ Juon, RapReviews.com