By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
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While Alexander waits to see how critics and the marketplace will receive Johnnie Be Eighty, he treasures his memories of Johnson and this final project. "Everybody who met Johnnie loved him, and people who got to be his friends really got something special." -- Dean C. Minderman
Sourceof the Problem
By now, we've all endlessly heard the N-word and the B-word in rap music, but we haven't enjoyed nearly enough of the A-word: accountability.
Specifically, accountability for racial insensitivity, glorification of violence and allegations of widespread sexism by major media outlets such as longstanding hip-hop mag The Source. Last month The Source was hit with a sexual-discrimination claim brought by former vice president Michelle Joyce and ex-editor-in-chief Kim Osorio, specifically targeting Source co-owners Dave Mays and Raymond "Benzino" Scott.
While Osorio's allegations of "blatant gender discrimination and harassment" come as no great surprise to industry observers, the incidents detailed in the complaint are nothing short of startling. It's recounted that Benzino regularly stalked and harassed female employees, calling one woman up to 50 times a day.
But the kicker was Mays' Neanderthal-like response to his ex-employees' claims. In a press statement, he alleged that Osorio had "sexual relations with a number of high-profile rap artists" during her tenure at The Source. Evidently, the publisher considered that a sufficient rebuttal to the lawsuit, and he declined to address the larger questions raised about the apparently anti-woman climate at the magazine.
The Sourcehas been around since 1990 and at one time was considered the Bible of hip-hop. But the mag has sabotaged its own hard-earned credibility under Benzino's reign of error, which began around 2001, when it was suddenly revealed that he co-owned the magazine with Mays. Since then, he has advanced his dubious, Eminem-bashing rap career as the public face of The Source while the low-key Mays has played the background, and Benz's well-known distaste for journalists has resulted in a perpetual editorial revolving door. He and Mays have also had a contentious relationship with numerous disgruntled ex-writers, such as one freelancer who took the magazine -- whose circulation hovers around 500,000, and reportedly remains profitable despite its mounting debts -- to small-claims court over a paltry $600. (Full disclosure: This author has also had difficult financial dealings with The Source.)
The recent trend of attacks on hip-hop's gender and race offenders has been strikingly effective on a grassroots level, filling in the accountability gap left by commercial media outlets and showing a willingness to go after the culture's sacred cows. That's good news for the true heads, proving once again that the court of public opinion must be respected. And while the A-word isn't nearly as popular as the N- or B-word yet, as hip-hop culture continues to mature, at least we're starting to hear it bandied about with increasing frequency. -- Eric K. Arnold