I remember when Hip-Hop was the bastard stepchild of music. I remember sneaking out of my bedroom to watch Carlos De Jesus on “Hot Trax” past 11PM on a Friday night and running home from school to catch Ralph McDaniels’ “Video Music Box” before MTV thought we were important enough for a show. I’ve been in love with this music since the first time I saw D Joey and Jay charging at the camera waving a guitar at the end of the “King of Rock” video.
I remember when “The Source Magazine” burst on the scene and I remember being engrossed in hours of reading. Before the omnipresence of camera phones and computers and the web, magazines and the occasional TV show were the only ways to get your Hip-Hop fix beyond videos. We weren’t big enough for any “Behind the Music” show, so if you wanted that behind the scenes view on who these people were, magazines were it. By then I was too old for “Right On” or “Word Up” or any of that bubblegum shit and “The Source” was the first legitimate home for Hip-Hop journalism.
When you read a Source, it was from cover to cover, and there were so many disparate writing styles but all of them hungry; most of them serious, and full of integrity. The Mind Squad. Ronin Ro. Matty C. Minya O. Reginald C. Dennis. Indelible names that pushed a standard of excellence so high, it was taken as law. If you read it in The Source, it wasn’t something to take with a grain of salt; it was something to take to heart. The Bible is what they called it. They were so worried about maintaining their credibility that obvious classics like The Chronic and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, that immediately changed music, were cautiously given less than classic ratings.
The Source’s fall from grace has been well-documented. I’ve been a part of something similar that fell apart due to shit that had nothing to do with Hip-Hop or journalism, so to those who were building blocks in that great legacy I grieve for what has become of what you made. But we have arrived at a point where, in the absence of Hip-Hop’s Darth Vader (shout to Ray Benzino for at least making it fun to hate), after takeovers and reconstruction, The Source has less credibility than ever.
Earlier this week, The Source issued a press release announcing that they were doling out their first 5 mic rating in years. They gave a list of recent releases of the last month, including Eminem, Drake, Rick Ross, Bun B, and a few others. Press releases are built to garner attention. I can dig that; it’s a business. But you generally pick your album and that’s that, no need for the spectacle. Once they went this route, I was on instant messenger with some folks in the industry and I said “I bet you they give it to Bun B.” It made perfect sense. Give the rating to someone universally loved, the one guy that works with everyone and has no haters, make a big splash, sell some magazines, and nobody gets hurt. Right? They did choose Uncle Bun, and TrillOG is now resting in the same bed as the infamous Lil Kim “classic.”
The review of the album itself is poorly written which speaks to the level of quality over there these days. But the real blow was dealt to Hip-Hop journalism, Hip-Hop integrity, and consequently TrillOG itself. Bun B is an artist of principle, and “The Source,” by doing this, has placed him in an untenable situation. Should Bun B refuse an accolade when he had no control over in its selection? TrillOG is a listenable solid album, but by most ears, it’s not classic. None of the album on that list were. Yes, opinions are like sphincters but I can have an opinion that the world is flat. That doesn’t make my opinion valid. Now, TrillOG will never have a fair chance to be looked at fairly. It will always be “that album The Source gave 5 mics to.” What was once a badge of the highest of Hip-Hop honor has become the scarlet letter; poisonous by association.
As fans and participants it’s important that we take ourselves and this life seriously. It’s the only way others will. If you break this down from within with silly stunts like this you dilute the strength that people have given their lives to cement. Many of you don’t know what it’s like to live in a world where Hip-Hop is not pervasive. When it wasn’t on radio during regular hours. When it was “noise.” Seemingly small items like eat away at the house that Run built (with the utmost respect and admiration of those that came before). This thing of ours ain’t just rappers. It’s people that clothe, feed, service and yes write about them. As magazines fall by the wayside, and an abundance of websites and blogs rise to take their place, remember what this means to all of us. Take honor in the part you play. Remember what 5 mics used to be.
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