Hip Hop Weekly: Every Seven Days

After being kicked off The Source’s board of directors earlier this year, magazine founders Dave Mays and Ray “Benzino” Scott seemingly disappeared from public view. When their bid to regain stake in The Source was rejected by the courts, the two were perceived as Hip-Hop journalism’s most notorious pariahs.

The two may have been down, but they were far from out. Despite unsettled financial matters at their previous venture, the Hip-Hop journalism veterans announced the creation of a new magazine, to be headed by former VIBE magazine Editor-in-Chief Mimi Valdes, herself ousted from her post earlier this year. Mays has appointed himself as CEO of the new magazine’s backing company Hip Hop Global Media, while Benzino will become the branding executive of Hip Hop Weekly. Among columnists in the publication – which is slated to appear on newsstands October 16 – will be Wendy Williams and Star formerly of the Star and Bucwild Show.

Mays, Benzino, and Valdes discussed their plans for Hip Hop Weekly with AllHipHop last week.

AllHipHop.com: Let’s look under the hood of what Hip Hop Weekly is. What is it and what is it not?

Mimi Valdes: It’s not a tabloid. That’s something that keeps getting reported out there. It’s not a tabloid. What we are trying with the magazine is basically, you know, that straight Hip-Hop, we want to offer some perspective and criticism and insight on how much Hip-Hop influences everything, and we’re following in the weekly format in the sense that it’s a lot of pictures, short stories, but it’s going to be reporting, real interviews with people. That’s basically the gist of it.

AllHipHop.com: Dave, Benzino, you want to tackle that question?

Benzino: I think the whole monthly format thing, everybody was doing it. It was a matter of bringing things on a weekly schedule. We’re still going to feature up-and-coming artists and be informative as far as what’s going on that week in Hip-Hop. For your monthlies, you probably wouldn’t want to wait to whole month for something that happened at the beginning of the month. Whatever happened that week, you’ll be able to get it first and fast.

AllHipHop.com: Is any part of the business plan to turn the table on the gossip mill by you, essentially the most gossiped-about media personalities in Hip-Hop?

Benzino: Well, that’s a pretty good thing. You know what, as far as the gossip goes and everything and the controversy that I’ve been in, I think people can just put up the perspective that myself, Mimi, Dave, Wendy, and Star, we all have a certain amount of experience in this whole journalism with Hip-Hop, as well music, as well as TV, as well as radio. We feel that we cover all forms of the medium wholeheartedly. It’s not going to be a gossip magazine, although Wendy is going to be doing a column, and you know Wendy does her thing on the radio, she has insight on people and on artists she has her own particular way of going about things, so I’m sure you’ll see in Wendy’s column, you might find something about different artists, nothing too crazy.

AllHipHop.com: How do you balance those two disparate things, being an artist and being an executive?

Benzino: You know what, the same way Jay-Z balances it; you could be an athlete and you could be a sports commentator. I’m a multi-faceted person, and it’s not like I’m an automobile mechanic and then I’m an artist. It’s a Hip-Hop magazine and I’m a Hip-Hop artist. It’s in the same circle. It’s not too farfetched. People wear different hats all the time, especially in Hip-Hop. I don’t think it’s too out of the ordinary. When you want to coach a team or you want someone to give commentary, you want somebody that has played the game, and I’ve played the game for a long time now. It gives me a little extra insight on things in Hip-Hop. being an artist and a producer.

Mimi Valdes: You also got to remember at the end of the day this magazine was Ray’s idea, this magazine was his brainchild in a sense of realizing looking at the magazine game and realizing that three to four months lead time was not going to continue to work, that it needed a new format. Also to bring me in was Ray’s idea.

Benzino: Me and Dave are one thing, but you got to understand Mimi, never mind as an executive, but for a woman to hold that title for as long as she did and even when she was at The Source, Mimi has made big time moves, and her coming onboard – it wasn’t about Ray or Dave. We have a great team of people, it’s not the same type of situation as it was with The Source, where you have a big staff. This is a condensed amount of people that have years of experience, years of dedication to the game, so there’s a whole generation of people coming up in Hip-Hop so we just want to share our experiences, everything we went through. We all share one thing in common: that we’re all big Hip-Hop fans. Over the years, as Hip-Hop journalism started molding, a lot of people out there basically have tried to get in the game. Some failed, some have succeeded, but one thing we can all agree on is they’ve all taken our lead. We’re not in this to go against anybody, compete or anything.

Mimi Valdes: That’s what this is all is really all about. We’re creating a new format for Hip-Hop. At the ends, we’re the ones putting it out. I’m sure it’s going to be imitated. Our only goal is to have a new format that Hip-Hop can be celebrated and talked about in leading the discussion in this music. That’s really our only goal, there’s no other agenda than to churn Hip-Hop in the most efficient way on a weekly basis.

AllHipHop.com: Dave, I was reading at the ProHipHop blog that there was some issues with the domain for Hip Hop Global Media, the company based in New Jersey.

Dave Mays: That’s the holding company that Ray and I created to back our media ventures and the first actual business is the magazine. There’s not much more to it than that. Ray and I and Mimi have a lot of experience multimedia in the world of Hip-Hop like we’ve been talking about, from television to radio to online, different aspects …

Benzino: Especially television. You got to remember Mimi did the VIBE Awards and me and Dave were responsible for The Source Awards. When you put these heads together, it’s going to be scary to think what we are going to come up with. We want to take Hip Hop Weekly on TV, we want to do Hip Hop Weekly blast alerts, Hip Hop Weekly Awards, we want to do Hip Hop Weekly merchandise.

Dave Mays: Honestly, that also underscores what’s so exciting and empowering of this opportunity for all of us, the range of experience, allows us to come into the situation, clean slate, pool all that experience and knowledge of the last 18 years for me and 13 years for Mimi and be able to apply that now from the base of something fresh and new without anything else attached. It’s a clean slate.

AllHipHop.com: The public now knows who the principals are in this new venture. Now, who else will be involved as far as the staff goes? Can you tell me some numbers on the editorial and business sides?

Dave Mays: There’s some great talent involved. We have Beverly Smith who’s heading up our Style and Fashion Department. We have Chris Wilder who’s heading up the Sports Department …

Mimi Valdes: Rondell Conway is our Music Editor …

Dave Mays: Cynthia Horner is writing a column in the magazine. Cynthia has 20 years of experience coming as editor-in-chief of Right On.

Mimi Valdes: I think the core staff, and there’s bunch of different people contributing on a freelance level, but we wanted to keep a fairly small staff because we’re starting from the ground up and we didn’t want to get all crazy and hire an extremely big staff. We wanted to start off small and grow from there.

AllHipHop.com: So you will rely on freelancers?

Dave Mays: It’s a 72-page magazine a week, so if we can produce a magazine with a smaller, more concentrated staff, there’s won’t be tremendous amount of freelancers, there will be a core group of people managing it and we’ll grow as the organization grows.

Benzino: Hey Dave, one thing for sure I want to let them know is that our doors are always open for young talent. Whether it’s photographers or writers out there, we won’t get all crazy, but we want to give an opportunity for anyone trying to get down with us really understands our mission and sees through what other people are trying to say. It’s not only a magazine, it’s a movement. We’re going to be changing the game with it. We were political … we got too political [at The Source]. I don’t think you’ll see a lot of that in this magazine. We want to speak up for the community.

AllHipHop.com: Dave or Benzino, can you tell me if Hip Hop Global Media is self-financed?

Dave Mays: It’s privately financed.

Benzino: When you say self, do you mean if it’s financed by me and Dave? To be honest with you, it doesn’t really matter about those type of questions. Nobody knows who’s financing Hip-Hop or AllHipHop. The financial situation doesn’t really matter, the only thing that matters is when you go to the newsstand and pick up Hip Hop Weekly, what matters will be the content. As far as where the money is coming from, that’s a private thing. Like when you read it, you’re going to be able to understand that this is a culmination of 20 years of work, so it’s not about who’s financing it as much as it is about who’s going to be running it, putting it out.

AllHipHop.com: So I understand that the newsstand price will be $2.99 for the first month, then increase to $3.99. Are the revenue streams coming from retail sales as well as advertising?

Dave Mays: Sure, that’s how pretty much how magazines generate revenue. I mean, this is a different type of business model than a monthly magazine, that’s the only thing I can say. We had to study this business model throughout this year and understand it, it’s a whole different approach to magazine publishing to do a weekly like this and to do a monthly is totally different. It’s still survived off circulation revenues and advertising revenues. But with a format like this it is far less dependent on advertising revenues, one of the things we’re really excited about with the magazine is that it’s going to have a lot smaller percentage of ads in it than most of the Hip-Hop publications out there because we can afford to do it with this format.

Benzino: By the way, we’re going to be in the England and Canada also.

AllHipHop.com: So the first, initial run will be 100,000?

Dave Mays: 100,000 is the guaranteed paid circulation for advertisement. There’ll be substantially more out there.

Benzino: And eventually we’ll go into a Latino format also.

AllHipHop.com: Looking back – I know you want to look forward – I’ve read when you told us in other interviews that you’ve made mistakes. I was curious what your thoughts have been in retrospect and how you apply those going forward?

Benzino: We already did. [laughing]

Dave Mays: We’re already doing it in a lot of ways. There’s a lot to that question, it’d take a long time to answer all the lessons I’ve learned. I mean, right now I’m looking forward and the smartest way in order to look forward is to understand what happened in the past and use that to your advantage. If you don’t, you’re a fool. Like anyone else, we all make mistakes and we’ve also had great successes over the years, all of us. So we’re looking to make this a bigger success.

AllHipHop.com: One last question, and it’s about the accusations that you haven’t been paying Source writers.

Mimi Valdes: They owe you money, Slav, is that it? All you have to know is that this magazine is paying people, that’s it.

Benzino: As of right now, Hip Hop Weekly owes nobody anything right now.

AllHipHop.com: Dave, is that a lesson learned from the old days?

Benzino: You know what Dave, you know what the way to answer that is the whole monthly thing. You can go into it like, of course The Source is a huge staff, I’m sure sometimes when you get a lot of writers and a lot of staff, I guess it happens. The lesson is to keep the staff down, keep the writers down, and you can keep more of a finger on as far as people getting paid. So yeah, if you want to say that’s a lesson learned, than yes, that’s a lesson learned.

Dave Mays: We’re going to take pride in making sure everybody’s paid on time every month, so you can check back our track records in a few months and see how we stack up.

Benzino: Either that or go to BitterVibes.com, because I’m sure the first one that doesn’t get paid will be going there.

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