After being kicked off The Sources 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 journalisms 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 magazines 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: Lets look under the hood of what Hip Hop Weekly is. What is it and what is it not?
Mimi Valdes: Its not a tabloid. Thats something that keeps getting reported out there. Its 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 were following in the weekly format in the sense that its a lot of pictures, short stories, but its going to be reporting, real interviews with people. Thats 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. Were still going to feature up-and-coming artists and be informative as far as whats going on that week in Hip-Hop. For your monthlies, you probably wouldnt want to wait to whole month for something that happened at the beginning of the month. Whatever happened that week, youll 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, thats a pretty good thing. You know what, as far as the gossip goes and everything and the controversy that Ive 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. Its 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 Im sure youll see in Wendys 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. Im a multi-faceted person, and its not like Im an automobile mechanic and then Im an artist. Its a Hip-Hop magazine and Im a Hip-Hop artist. Its in the same circle. Its not too farfetched. People wear different hats all the time, especially in Hip-Hop. I dont think its 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 Ive 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 Rays 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 Rays 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 wasnt about Ray or Dave. We have a great team of people, its 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 theres 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 were 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 theyve all taken our lead. Were not in this to go against anybody, compete or anything.
Mimi Valdes: Thats what this is all is really all about. Were creating a new format for Hip-Hop. At the ends, were the ones putting it out. Im sure its 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. Thats really our only goal, theres 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: Thats the holding company that Ray and I created to back our media ventures and the first actual business is the magazine. Theres 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 weve 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, its 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 whats 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. Its 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: Theres some great talent involved. We have Beverly Smith whos heading up our Style and Fashion Department. We have Chris Wilder whos 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 theres bunch of different people contributing on a freelance level, but we wanted to keep a fairly small staff because were starting from the ground up and we didnt 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: Its a 72-page magazine a week, so if we can produce a magazine with a smaller, more concentrated staff, theres wont be tremendous amount of freelancers, there will be a core group of people managing it and well 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 its photographers or writers out there, we wont 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. Its not only a magazine, its a movement. Were going to be changing the game with it. We were political we got too political [at The Source]. I dont think youll 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: Its privately financed.
Benzino: When you say self, do you mean if its financed by me and Dave? To be honest with you, it doesnt really matter about those type of questions. Nobody knows whos financing Hip-Hop or AllHipHop. The financial situation doesnt 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, thats a private thing. Like when you read it, youre going to be able to understand that this is a culmination of 20 years of work, so its not about whos financing it as much as it is about whos 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, thats how pretty much how magazines generate revenue. I mean, this is a different type of business model than a monthly magazine, thats the only thing I can say. We had to study this business model throughout this year and understand it, its a whole different approach to magazine publishing to do a weekly like this and to do a monthly is totally different. Its 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 were really excited about with the magazine is that its 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, were 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. Therell be substantially more out there.
Benzino: And eventually well go into a Latino format also.
AllHipHop.com: Looking back – I know you want to look forward – Ive read when you told us in other interviews that youve 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: Were already doing it in a lot of ways. Theres a lot to that question, itd take a long time to answer all the lessons Ive learned. I mean, right now Im 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 dont, youre a fool. Like anyone else, we all make mistakes and weve also had great successes over the years, all of us. So were looking to make this a bigger success.
AllHipHop.com: One last question, and its about the accusations that you havent 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, thats 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, Im 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 thats a lesson learned, than yes, thats a lesson learned.
Dave Mays: Were going to take pride in making sure everybodys 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 Im sure the first one that doesnt get paid will be going there.