As a rapper, Benzino’s career has been relatively unsuccessful, compared to many of the artists featured in his magazine. Though known for his run-ins with the police, Benzino is most famous for his on-going feud with rapper Eminem, and more recently hip hop group Slaughterhouse.
Benzino’s impact on The Source
Benzino started his rap career with a group called the Almighty RSO. The group was known mainly for their anti-police song “One In The Chamba” from the Forever Doomsday album released through Tommy Boy Records. The single and album were considered controversial for the tone of the rap group and encouraging the murder of local law enforcement. In 1994 The Boston Police and the Fraternal Order of Police union had placed the group on high priority at the time forcing RSO to be dropped from the label. Benzino went on to record with rappers Antonio Twice Thou and Mr. Gzus, to form Made Men.
Since Dave Mays was a friend and manager of the group, he would frequently insert stories and reviews into The Source without the consent of the editors. Benzino also secretly inserted favorable coverage and advertising. In 1994 and 1999, Mays slipped in articles on Benzino’s group forcing a majority of the staff to walkout in protest. After an article in GQ Magazine criticized Mays’ decision on working with Benzino, it forced scrunity on the rapper and the publication. Editors claimed that Benzino and his associates visited the magazine, threatening journalists and stealing property. Benzino was arrested in a dispute with law enforcement in Miami in 2001. After publicizing the incident, Benzino became co-owner of the magazine, forcing out the original founders of The Source. When the publication held its annual awards, Benzino was nominated for awards even though his music is rarely seen or heard in the media. Industry insiders believe that Benzino was involved in rating albums. Therefore his role as the “five-mic giver” has been well recognized in the pages of the publication.
After acknowledging his position as co-ownerof The Source, he recorded a solo album. Benzino was signed to Motown Records and released The Benzino Project. The debut album featured many notable rappers, and also Pink. However, the album sold poorly, causing Motown to drop him from their label. The remains of the album was turned into a remix album featuring the same artists and a few different beats. Tarnished but undeterred, Benzino released his sophomore album under Elektra Records.
The Feud With Eminem
Benzino decided to air out his concerns with white multi-platinum Eminem. The rapper claims that Eminem’s success ruins blacks and Latino rappers’ chances of success. Benzino believes that corporations are controlling and supporting Eminem, which allows him talk about meaningful topics, while black rappers must rap about materialistic things.
One possible contributing factor for Benzino’s concerns was Eminem’s rating for his album The Marshall Mathers LP. Originally, The Source had given Eminem a two mics (star rating) for his album which was received poorly by the readership, so it was later changed to a four mic rating. Meanwhile, Benzino’s Made Men was rated four-and-a-half mics. Eminem was upset and addressed the magazine on his follow-up album The Eminem Show.
Benzino claims that MTV is also partly responsible for the problems of hip hop. Executives at the MTV Video Music Awards allowed Eminem to show up with over 100 blonde clones dressed like him marching on stage for their 2000 awards show. Benzino also singled out Interscope’s Jimmy Iovine for Eminem’s rise to stardom. One thing that most angered Benzino was a rap Eminem made on “Without Me,” one of his singles from The Eminem Show: “Though I’m not the first king of controversy/ I am the worst thing since Elvis Presley/ To do Black music so selfishly/ and use it to make myself wealthy” (although in the context of the song, it was not likely a comment intended to be taken seriously). Benzino considered this the last straw.
Before Benzino released his album, he recorded a “diss” record mixtape addressed to Eminem. In some of his interviews he has stated that Eminem is a part of the corporate “machine” and it is destroying hip hop. Eminem caught wind of Benzino’s comments and decided to respond. Eminem recorded two vicious tracks, attacking the credibility of The Source and the rap career of Benzino.
Not to be outdone by Eminem, Benzino threw out the claims of a corporate takeover and started to insult Eminem personally. He recorded a response to Eminem’s lyrical attacks by threatening his daughter and dubbing him the “2003 Vanilla Ice” and “Rap Hitler.” Eminem, fed up with this decided to air it out on radio. DJ personality Angie Martinez allowed Eminem to express his problems, in which Eminem branded Benzino as the “worst rapper in the world”. Benzino phoned in later, threatening to fight Eminem if they crossed paths. Elektra Records dropped Benzino, even before his sophomore album was ever released. Benzino’s album Redemption sold 14,000 units, a major disappointment compared to his rival’s album, The Eminem Show, selling over 4 million copies.
Benzino has also been the subject of scrutiny for using his magazine as a personal promotional platform as well as a tool against his enemies. In 2003, The Source released recordings of Eminem which included derogatory references to Blacks and women. Eminem apologized for making the tapes but also stated The Source’s vendetta against him were the reasons for the allegations. The recordings, made in 1988, were the subject of a lawsuit from the rapper . Eminem sued The Source for defamation and copyright infringement. The federal courts allowed an injunction to distribute a minimal amount of lyrics of the alleged tape. Benzino and the publication ignored the injunction and went forth to publish the entire lyrics on its website and in its magazine. By ignoring the injunction, The Source was found in contempt of court and were forced to pay Eminem and his label, Shady Records, a large compensation sum.
Benzino and The Source urged video stations to ban Eminem’s video, “Just Lose It”, and urged to have the song removed from Eminem’s album, because of the video’s depiction of Michael Jackson. In spite of their efforts, BET has been the only network to ban the video. Currently Eminem and Benzino continue to feud on albums, despite Eminem’s plead to end the dispute with The Source, through the single “Like Toy Soldiers” from Encore) . Benzino responded with his “diss” record “Look Into My Eyes”. The song’s video parodies Eminem for being scared of Benzino, and for being willing to give up the rap game in order not to see the death of Eminem’s friend Proof.
At one time, the two were willing to sit down together and settle their differences. But that was halted after a confrontation between Eminem and co-founder David Mays. They got into a heated dispute, causing Benzino to reignite the argument. There were numerous reports that Benzino had influenced editors to write a critical piece about 50 Cent and G-Unit after a comment was made by members of the group. The situation is unclear, but the magaqzine is once again attacking Eminem and his Shady Records. After the magazine was printed, Benzino and Mays were criticized for allowing their vendetta against Interscope ruin the credibility of The Source. The issue addresses the controversy surrounding Hot 97 personality Funkmaster Flex and rappers associated to Eminem and 50 Cent.
The Call For Benzino’s Resignation
After fans and supporters of Eminem called for the removal of the rapper from the publication, Benzino formally resigned from his position as co-owner of The Source . The rapper decided to leave the magazine due to the controversy surrounding his involvement, citing a dispute between the publishers of Black Enterprises, as well as Eminem contributing to his resignation. The departure was short-lived. Benzino soon returned to his former position at The Source saying that his reason for leaving had been to prevent the firing of Def Jam president L.A. Reid. Benzino placed the blame on Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine as well as Russell Simmons for pressuring Reid to remove Def Jam advertising from The Source. Insiders from The Source claimed that Benzino as well as Mays were part of a publicity stunt to encourage advertising in the magazine . The owners wanted information to be leaked out so they can ease the advertisers’ worries about associating with The Source.
After returning to the publication, Benzino was sued with multiple lawsuits. Former editor-in-chief Kim Osorio, and many female workers filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Benzino and The Source for sexual harassment and gender discrimination. After a taping of the previous Source Awards, Benzino was dealt numerous lawsuits for unpaid expenses and missing jewelry after he and Mays had invited their families to the award shows . While filming a music video down in the Dominican Republic, the staff at The Source held another walkout. The Source’s staff were upset about having received non-clearing paychecks with no response from senior management. Benzino’s latest album, Arch-Nemesis, was released quietly in 2005 and has sold 10,000 units to date. Two of the Source’s top music executives from Boston have been accused of a nightclub shooting in New York. Leroy Peebles and Alvin Chiles were both accused of the shooting that resulted in three people hospitalized.
The current editor-in-chief Joshua “Fahyim” Ratcliffe, has recently left the magazine. Ratcliffe stated that a conflict of interest between the rating of highly acclaimed The Minstrel Show from rap group Little Brother was changed after threats to him by Benzino. Ratcliffe felt that Benzino’s jealousy of any group deserving a five star rating is too much. Ratcliffe resigned after being forced to change the rating of the album. Lil’ Kim who released The Naked Truth received the five mic rating instead. Although critics speculated that Lil’ Kim’s manager is currently Dave Mays, this is the first time that a female rapper ever received the highest rating in the magazine. The Little Brother album received a four-and-a-half mic rating instead of a five.
In 2006, the shareholders of The Source Magazine officially terminated co-founder Mays and Benzino after their controversal actions ruined the reputation of the publication. Benzino tried to avert the termination by obtaining a temporary restraining order to prevent him from losing his post as chief brand executive and president. After the restraining order was lifted, the shareholders formally dismissed Mays and Benzino. Former writer and editor Jeremy Miller officially became CEO of The Source. It’s not clear if Benzino will continue to influence the magazine but it’s certain that the situation the rapper is facing may lead to a more negative perception of the publication.
Almighty RSO- Doomsday: Forever RSO (1992?)^|Made Men- Classic Limited Edition (1998)^|The Benzino Project (2001)^|The Benzino Remix Project (2002)|Redemption (2003)|Arch-Nemesis (2005)
^It’s noted that these albums are no longer found in retailers.