Jeremy Miller of The Source: Miller Time

Jeremy Miller traveled a long way to join The Source in the early 90’s. The Oklahoma native relocated to New York to be closer to the Hip-Hop culture he loved. Then, as an intern while studying at the prestigious NYU, he ascended up the ladder to become a Source exec in the magazine’s glory years. In more uncertain times, Miller even stepped into the editorial department, going beyond just being a numbers-man.

A lot has changed in the last few years. As The Source made some moves that left some questioning the magazine’s integrity, Jeremy Miller moved on to create Down magazine, a Southern Hip-Hop monthly. Recently, as Dave Mays and Ray Benzino have been ousted from the publication they’re both so associated with, Black Enterprise determined that Jeremy Miller was the saving cleanup man. The former intern now holds the CEO position, and he spoke to about what everybody wants to know: the allegations, the accusations, and the renewal of Hip-Hop’s bible are up for discussion. If you’re doubting the “100 Percent Benzino Free” publication now, maybe you ought to read this. A lot of what you want to say is most likely in response to the things Ray Benzino and David Mays have previously said. David Mays lately has been saying that he owns 82% of The Source, and that being the case, he’ll quickly return to power. Tell me how that’s incorrect.

Jeremy Miller: What needs to be said more than anything is that since everything’s gone down, Dave and Ray have been talking about their 82%. It kinda confused people. Some interesting things have transpired since the takeover has happened. Most important, the lender that we have the 18 million dollar loan with at The Source has decided to foreclose on Dave’s 82%. We knew once the takeover happened, that that was something that was very likely to happen. We just couldn’t speak on it till it happened. So while Dave was running around making it known that he still owns 82% and insinuating that because of that, there was some kind of power behind it, we just patiently waited for the bank to foreclose on his shares. His shares were the collateral for the loan – so only his shares are affected by that. So when Dave says that Black Enterprise somehow stole the company from him, the only thing that happened is people are taking actions based on their rights that have been signed. There weren’t any tricks anywhere. People were just doing what they had to do to protect their investments. Because they felt that the company was being run recklessly, they’re doing what they’re allowed to do to save it. In The Source website interview, you joked about a claim Benzino had made on AllHipHop about riding a white horse into the offices, that everybody was on a lookout for men riding white horses in New York. On a serious note, are you concerned with your safety, or your staff?

Jeremy Miller: Not really. We’ve taken precautions to make sure the staff is safe. They’ve taken steps to make sure I’m safe. In essence, they’re protecting their investment that way too. It’s necessary, but I don’t think anyone’s nervous at The Source that there’s gonna be any violent outburst from either one of them. But, you never know. While some people choose to never walk with security and think that’s something to brag about, we just feel like we’re doing what we have to do to make sure everything continues to go smoothly. It’s not very business-related, but in an feature, Benzino accused you of “not representing Hip-Hop.” How do you react to that? Does it matter?

Jeremy Miller: On one hand, the CEO, the person in charge, it may not matter if they know about Hip-Hop. It’s completely ridiculous that he made such a statement. Dave [Mays] hired me in the beginning, because I had knowledge of Hip-Hop. It’s all I’ve listened to since I discovered it at 10 years old. I have one of the most thorough Hip-Hop collections you could imagine. He’s probably making more reference to “Hip-Hop,” from the street angle. He’s sayin’ he can go into any hood – I’ll follow him into those same hoods, and feel just as comfortable as he is, any day. You don’t want to get into a pissing match of “Who’s harder,” it seems kinda silly. You’ve used this comment, “The new, old Source.” You also just mentioned the differing connotations of what it means to be Hip-Hop. That said, will The Source be focusing more on the music above the image of Hip-Hop?

Jeremy Miller: Amidst all the propaganda that Dave and Ray had for their cause, the one thing I stand by is that there were still very solid columns and departments that weren’t tainted. Occasionally, they’d be tainted because they’d work towards Dave and Ray’s agenda. For the most part, the template and the foundation of The Source is still in tact. How much of the staff is put in place now?

Jeremy Miller: We brought Fahiym Ratcliffe back as the Executive Editor. I realized shortly after coming in, that the urgency to hire an Editor-In-Chief was one that was kinda put on by the outside world. Really, things were going smoothly on the editorial side. Fahiym was anxious to come back and be a part of the revitalization of The Source. I’m gonna take a little bit of time before we appoint an Editor-In-Chief, whether it’s him or somebody else, just to leave our options open. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The individual editors will remain status quo?

Jeremy Miller: Yeah, Ryan Ford is up there. He had been through a lot of this. One of the things that I’ve tried to explain to a lot of people is the staff that was up there, they had to deal with the content that Dave and Ray wanted. It was uncomfortable for them a lot of the time. A lot of those people stayed up there with hopes that what happened on January 19, would happen. They didn’t have bad intentions. They had to fulfill orders that were put on them. Now, they can freely write what they feel. They can be real writers again. Within the writing community, it was no secret that many writers hadn’t been getting paid over the last few years. How do you address that?

Jeremy Miller: We just have to pay people. Once we’re in a position to get people paid off, we plan to do that immediately. It’s amazing to me how many people The Source owes money to – where it’s just a few hundred dollars. There’s so many people on that list who are owed 200 dollars, 400 dollars. The sad part about that is it’s the little guys that need it the most. It’s these guys that are owed 400 – that money means a lot more to them than a company that’s owed 4,000 dollars. We’re slowly working through that. We will be able to address every single person on that list very shortly. That’s a top priority. Amidst all this, you have your baby in Down magazine. Are you concerned that all your new duties may pull you away from a growing company that needs you?

Jeremy Miller: It was an amazing first two weeks, in terms of me having to put all my attention to The Source. I’m kind of getting into a groove where I can spend a few hours a day on Down. They have a much smaller staff, that’s going to be able to step up. The good thing about The Source is it still has a staff of about 30, and I don’t have to do every single task. I’m not worried about Down falling off in terms of quality at all. The Source won’t suffer either. It’s very different - 50,000 copies of Down compared to 800,000 copies of The Source. Down is all about Southern Hip-Hop. Is it healthy that there’s competition between Down and Ozone?

Jeremy Miller: Ozone was out first. Down is top of the line design. No offense to any magazines like Ozone, but when Down came out, I said, “It’s a real magazine.” It was formatted the way newsstand magazines are formatted – with clear-cut sections, there was some order to it, it wasn’t thrown together. It had distribution. I think that made Julia [Beverly, Editor-In-Chief of Ozone] work a little harder to keep pushing her product to a higher level. She’s a done a good job. Competition is a good thing. Somewhere along the line, she had a real problem with me putting Down out, she just stopped speaking to me overnight when Down was coming out. I thought we had a good relationship before that. What is the kind of reader that The Source lost. Or, what’s the reader that The Source most desperately needs back?

Jeremy Miller: What I was pleasantly surprised with is the amount of copies that The Source is still selling on the newsstand. You’ve heard a lot of stories that it hadn’t fallen off at all, and it still was the Number One music magazine on newsstands – and I’m not going to go as far as to say it hasn’t fallen off at all, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Still, we aren’t where we were five years ago when we were doing 370,000 on the newsstand. I think it’s something we can correct very quickly in terms of getting back to maybe 350,000 on newsstands. We’re at approximately 300,000 right now. How ridiculous would it be to see Eminem or 50 Cent on the cover of The Source in 2006?

Jeremy Miller: We had talked about that right away. Do we go that route? What we decided is – covers are largely based on timing. They should be based on timely issues or an album release. We didn’t just throw Eminem or 50 Cent on the cover because we can now – when 50’s next album comes out, I’m sure he will be on the cover. Hopefully, we’ll have a much better relationship by then, and he’ll sit down and do a real interview with a Source writer instead of us having to pick up quotes from other places. The same for Eminem. In terms of how soon, it just depends on when those releases are. I haven’t seen anything. But it doesn’t mean that Young Buck couldn’t be on the cover when his album comes out in April, or something like that. Dave Mays says he owns Source Entertainment. What will happen with The Source Awards?

Jeremy Miller: There’s a misconception. Dave is flat-out telling companies that Source Entertainment is separate from the magazine, and he still has control of it – a complete lie. All the contracts with Black Enterprise and the bank, have Source Entertainment, Source Soundlab, Source merchandising – it’s all under the umbrella of Source Enterprises. He can go and tell these people at companies that have deals with The Source anything he chooses, but the fact remains that our lawyers have been in touch with these companies, and let them know, absolutely and without a doubt, that [Dave] has nothing to do with Source anything. He does have his 82% for now, but I don’t anticipate him holding onto that too much longer. We just have to be patient. As far as the Source Awards, I’ve heard that BET is very excited to work with us to bring the awards back. I ask playfully, but is it possible that a Benzino album is a possible contender for a Source Award, now?

Jeremy Miller: [Laughs] I mean, if it was good. I don’t know if that would be the case. He had his one hit with “Rock the Party,” and sadly, he couldn’t get an album out quick enough to take advantage of that – and still managed to sell only 30,000 records with all the promotion he had behind him. So…I’ll blame that one on karma too. Good things come to people with good intentions while things don’t work out for people who try use others for their personal gain. In all the years you’ve spent with The Source, do you have a favorite read – a favorite article?

Jeremy Miller: Yeah, I can give you one. It was very intriguing and representative of what made The Source different. It was a three-part series on the history of crack [cocaine]. I believe that was back in 1993. One of the best things that came out that that people don’t realize is Biggie’s “Ten Crack Commandments.” If you go back to the issue, Biggie actually took that from an article that was in The Source. [We] had listed “The Ten Crack Commandments” – what you don’t do as a crack dealer. I don’t think it was anything he did to try and be sneaky. I think he thought it would be entertaining, to take what was in The Source and make into a song. Those are the types of things that I loved about The Source - rappers were fans. They wanted to be in there, and they’d do anything to get in there. If they saw something they liked, they’d turn it to something everybody could hear, like Biggie.