Kim Osorio: Straight Talk

It’s just your average evening at a Starbucks in New Jersey. Random teenagers are doing homework, old friends are catching up, and new couples are on first dates. Several months prior, Kim Osorio sat in that very same Starbucks penning her novel Straight from the Source – a partial tell-all about her time as the first female Editor-In-Chief of Hip-Hop’s original Bible. When Kim walks into Starbucks to sit and discuss the book she wrote there, she is comparable to a war soldier in that her emotions aren’t apparent until she discusses that period of her life. See, Hip-Hop has its set of elements that are heralded as the foundation. But Hip-Hop journalists sit by the sidelines and report the elements as they happen. Kim Osorio was an original b-girl whose love affair with Hip-Hop brought her to the greatest position a Hip-Hop journalist could have at the time…along with a set of memories that she will ultimately never forget.“This is a story that I’ve always wanted to tell,” Osorio explains about Straight from the Source. “There are people out there that have always tried to speak for me and always try to say what they want to say about what happened to me at The Source. So I wanted it to be documented by me in print, and I wanted to get it out there.” The novel details Osorio’s five years at the publication, starting with her hiring as Associate Editor in 2000 and leading up to her firing as Editor-In-Chief in 2005. While the book reads like a story, it’s far from fiction, as it’s a very honest tale of Osorio’s time at the since beleaguered magazine – for better or worse. The novel goes into great length about The Source’s overlords at the time – co-founder Dave Mays and rapper turned entrepreneur Raymond “Benzino” Scott, whose feud with Eminem both on and off wax spilled onto the pages of The Source much to the chagrin of its termination-fearing staff.

“For women it always comes down to the Scarlet Letter, sexual – oh my

God, it doesn’t matter what year, what millennium we’re in; we are

always looked at in that sort of light.”

“I just got to a point where I was like, ‘Okay they want another Eminem hate story, let’s do it,’” recalls Osorio. “I didn’t want to deal with the backlash of even saying anything positive about Eminem, because we all knew you would get fired [if you did].”Prior to accepting her post as EIC, Kim Osorio was romantically linked to two MCs in particular – Nas and 50 Cent. While many women who have “dated” rappers pen exposés on their time in bed, Osorio had to include her intimacies as they became reference points for both her mistreatment at The Source and later dishonorable mentions in a few rap tracks. In any industry as highly inbred as music, there’s bound to be love connections. However, the world applauds when Jay-Z and Beyonce canoodle, and eventually wed, but are appalled at the co-mingling of industry people (particularly women) with artists. No one crucified Tommy Mottola for finding his way toward Mariah Carey. However, Osorio’s history with artists was magnified and exaggerated. “The double standard is evident – not just in Hip-Hop – but in Hip-Hop it sure is magnified,” Osorio says. “I don’t think that I did anything wrong by dating people or being involved in relationships with people. For women it always comes down to the Scarlet Letter, sexual – oh my God, it doesn’t matter what year, what millennium we’re in; we are always looked at in that sort of light.” She comments on Hip-Hop’s unconditional adoration of the MC. “I love the way they hold rappers on a whole different level. Are you saying that no one is allowed to date anyone in the industry? Or are you saying writers aren’t allowed to date rappers? Or are you saying writers aren’t allowed to date anyone in the industry? What is it that you’re saying?”Osorio gives an eye roll and a shrug when she remembers the backlash at her job for her dealings with 50 Cent and Nas, but it’s obvious that it’s still a painful memory. Her novel highlights lewd comments from Benzino in addition to his countless racial slurs and misogynistic remarks to various members of The Source’s staff. Before even taking the publication to court for sexual discrimination (and settling for $7.5 million) Osorio, a Law School graduate, knew something was up. “There were things going down at The Source that were triggers like, ‘Wait a minute, that isn’t right. You can’t say that to me.’ And regardless if we were working in Hip-Hop or there were songs or we even liked songs that used the word b***h – whatever the case may be, you can’t use that to justify mistreatment of people in the workplace. Two totally separate things, and people don’t know how to make that distinction.”

“[50 Cent] should stick to beefing with rappers… Leave little ol’ me alone.”

Osorio marks her taking the position as Editor-In-Chief when everything truly erupted. “It really came to a head when I was in the position of power. Before there were definitely glimpses of things that I knew were wrong, but when you were on the other side – when you were not making the decisions and stuff – you were part of the editorial staff,” she says. “I don’t think there were too many times when the editorial staff itself treated women badly. The treatment I had been dealing with in the book was coming from the two individuals that were in control [Benzino and Mays] that I reported to.” To date, Straight from the Source is receiving excellent feedback from men and women alike. While Nas has yet to comment on his mention in the novel, 50 Cent has made disparaging remarks not only directed at Osorio, but all female journalists. “[50 Cent] should stick to beefing with rappers,” Osorio jokes. “Leave little ol’ me alone.” His inclusion of all female writers brings to light the ever-growing disrespect of women in Hip-Hop. “I think that unfortunately Hip-Hop has definitely mistreated women more as of lately,” Kim explains. “I saw so many different representations of women in the earlier years of Hip-Hop. Nowadays, you don’t see as much when it comes to women. You are really just given this image of a woman – of a video vixen – and that’s all you see. That one type of woman in Hip-Hop.” She continues, “That’s not to say that there aren’t other women behind the scenes – executives that are making it happen, writers, editors, artists – there’s a lot of that. For some reason they’re not making their way to the forefront. I think that’s a problem.”Osorio’s story is far from gender specific, as the isms she faced at The Source went above and beyond being a female. Her story is special given the circumstance and her importance in Hip-Hop history. The one question that looms overhead is why did it take a termination for Osorio to leave The Source? After a long pause, Kim responds, “I loved my job, despite everything that was happening there. I wanted to do a good job and make a name for myself. As things worsened, I had to weigh the options of having a child to take care of, bills to pay, and whether or not it was a good decision to leave. Being within Hip-Hop, that magazine, that was the top. That was where most journalists aspired to be.”

“No one is above the law. You can’t treat people that way. Just because it’s Hip-Hop does not make it okay.”

As the noise in Starbucks grows louder, Kim gets quieter once the discussion on the end of the story grows near. She points outside in the direction of a Borders, where she had her fateful meeting with an attorney regarding her problems at The Source. Even now when she references that secret meeting spot, she has a moment of apprehension – forgetting that it’s all over. Consequently, Kim Osorio filed a complaint with Human Resources against The Source big bosses, citing her grievances. When she refused to retract her complaint, she was fired. “My getting fired was a wake-up call,” Osorio states, and what followed was a heinous trial with Benzino and Dave Mays (who were later “relieved” of their duties at the magazine as well). Truth be told, Benzino made an example out of himself in the courtroom, with subtle insulting gestures, threats, and being thrown out of court on some occasions. As previously stated, Osorio’s sexual discrimination case was settled to the tune of $7.5 million. In speaking with Kim, though, it’s apparent that it really wasn’t about the money. “No one is above the law. You can’t treat people that way. Just because it’s Hip-Hop does not make it okay.” Osorio hasn’t picked up a copy of The Source since she left. Maybe it has something to do with the memories attached, but above all she seems disinterested. For someone who donated countless hours of her life to reporting on Hip-Hop, it seems that the game has desensitized her. Engaged and a mother of two, at this point in her life she has bigger fish to fry. While currently the Vice President of Content for the Hip-Hop aggregator Global Grind, Osorio has finally found a way to balance her personal life with her career. While Straight from the Source may be one of many books to expect from Kim Osorio, this novel marks her inevitable separation from one relationship with Hip-Hop, battle wounds included. “My decision to write this book was something that I knew I needed to do to grow out of what I did. Obviously my story took a turn and it became something different, but there was always that story…Hip-Hop from a woman’s point of view.”

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