By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
The Source, the thuggish hip-hop magazine under attack from all sides, snarled its way into 50 Cent's opening-weekend hype for Get Rich or Die Tryin'.
Radio station Hot 97 greeted the movie with a blitz of promotions tagged "A G-Unit Weekend." Meanwhile, barking from every city newsstand, the November Source has 50 Cent and his labelmates on a cover headlined "G-Unot! Is Corporate Rap's Top Unit Fading Fast?" Spreading the attack, a separate article accuses Hot 97 DJ Funkmaster Flex of payola.
When 50 Cent himself showed up in the Hot 97 studio of Funkmaster Flex on a recent Thursday-evening shift, the pair spent precious airtime stoking the feud. "I gotta ask you about this wack rapper Benzino," Funkmaster Flex said, referring to The Source co-owner Raymond Scott by his performing name. Hearing it, 50 Cent began to murmur menacingly.
A few days later, on allhiphop.com, Scott upped the ante, asserting that Flex "talks a lot of trash [on the air] and when he leaves, he has a group of security guards, but one day he is going to slip, and when we do collide you are going to hear about it."
People really do get hurt for less beef than this, especially around Hot 97, where broadcast taunts have preceded flying bullets, and especially around The Source, which has picked countless fights since its birth in 1988. But given the number of hits they're takingtens of millions in credit claims and lawsuits, arrests, even murder charges against key staffersit's amazing that Scott, fellow co-owner David Mays, and rookie editor Dasun Allah can put out a magazine at all. Just keeping track of the major court cases advancing this month is a task.
On November 30, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge will review an ar-bitrator's ruling that The Source must pay $7.5 million to CD-DVD distributor Image Entertainment. The company says two hip-hop compilations it paid Source Entertainment to produce were never delivered, and that The Source never got permission from the artists to use the music on the CDs it did deliver.
On October 31, Textron Financial Corporation asked a New York State Supreme Court judge to put The Source into receivership. Textron says it's owed $18 million. In the suit, the company accuses Mays and Scott of doing little bookkeeping, buying "promotional jewelry," and traveling on vacations while rent, bills, and state and federal taxes languished unpaid.
On November 28, general manager Leroy "Bum" Peeples and marketing director Alvin "Wiz" Childs are expected to answer to charges of attempted murder in front of a Manhattan Criminal Court judge. Peeples and Childs were arrested in July following a shoot-out in a bar that left three people seriously injured. Police say the shots were fired during an argument in Chelsea's Limerick House over whether or not to play a particular rap CD. The two execs have pled not guilty, says their lawyer.
On November 22 (as the Voice went to press), also in Manhattan Criminal Court, editor in chief Dasun Allah (formerly known as David Blanks) will find out if he is to be indicted for criminal mischief. Police say on October 20 he desecrated a Jehovah's Witness assembly hall in Harlem with graffiti. Allah, who has earned growing respect for his editorial vision as well as concern over his emotional volatility, spent the night in jail after his lawyer surrendered him to police.
And then there's the looming sexual discrimination and harassment lawsuit. On November 7, lawyer Ken Thompson received the right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission he had requested on behalf of former editor in chief Kim Osorio and former marketing director Michelle Joyce. In their EEOC complaint, the women say they were sexually harassed, physically threatened, and ultimately fired in retaliation for complaining about abuses condoned by Mays and Scott. The EEOC investigation was terminated without finding. Thompson says he's filing suit next week in Manhattan federal court.
The Source is hitting back, in street-fighting form and in the courts. Lawyer Mercedes Colwinwho makes frequent appearances on Fox and MSNBCsays she's ready to go. In an e-mail to the Voice, she calls the EEOC complaint "one very bad rap" and says The Source will achieve "complete vindication" as it does not "discriminate, harass, or retaliate on any basis including gender" and that the company "looks forward to proving it is not liable in the event it even gets to court."
Mays calls "the misleading and patently false attacks on our character . . . hurtful," but Scott declined requests for comment. Peeples (The Source's third-ranking executive after Mays and Scott) and Childs did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the attempted-murder charges, but lawyer Mel Sachs says they have been "wrongfully accused."
Editor in chief Allah, a member of an Islam-based religious group called Nation of Gods and Earth, did discuss his arrest. He told the Voicethat the alleged graffiti incident had "nothing to do with The Source" and everything to do with his "personal history with organized religion and the Jehovah's Witnesses in particular." (He declined comment on any Source topic, including the defamation suit pending against the magazine stemming from an article he wrote last year making fun of hip-hop writers. Sacha Jenkins of Spin and XXL is suing in State Supreme Court for $150,000.)