Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
In the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” Benzino makes another visit to the set, where he chops it up with longtime friends N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN over a few blunts and drinks. A native of Boston, Benzino was a founding member of pioneering rap act Almighty RSO. Pursuing a rap career while building his reputation in the streets, he would connect with Dave Mays, a Harvard student who would go on to form The Source, the first publication to focus on documenting hip hop music and culture. After an internal conflict among Mays and his fellow editors fractured infrastructure of the magazine, Benzino stepped up to the plate as Mays’ new partner, helping to usher the publication into its most lucrative and successful years. While beef with rap’s elite and his departure from The Source threatened to bury his career, the star remains a fixture within the culture and continues to make moves with three decades worth of skin in the game.
To help give fans a recap of the conversation, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Benzino episode of “Drink Champs.” Take a look at them below.
1. The Origins of The Source
During his time with the “Drink Champs,” the former rapper shares the story behind how The Source initially came to conception. “He started it as a newsletter for the station,” he explains. “Basically what was going on, a list of the top songs that week, what was happening in news... He had four buddies that was all college guys. They came up with the name The Source. Basically, when my DJ... started deejaying for his radio show on Saturdays and then when they made the newsletter, Dave had to come to the hood ‘cause he’s in Cambridge. You gotta go through the hood with someone you know. So, we took him through the hood and he got his first ad from Skippy White’s Music Store for $200. Imagine that.”
2. Internal Beef With The Source
The sudden exodus of founding members of The Source’s brain-trust during the ‘90s was a big controversy and one that cast Benzino and the Almighty RSO in a bad light. He looks back on the situation, which was sparked due to a profile of the group that was published in an issue of the publication against the editorial team’s wishes. “I actually got locked up with Bonz,” he recalls. “I got bailed out, Bonz left, he was supposed to stay for three days. He didn’t wanna finish the story. The people, I guess they all got together and was like, ‘Nobody do that story’ because they felt like we didn’t deserve a story. The Source, all the staff, the whole staff. Other than Dave, the entire staff thought we didn’t deserve a story in there. And mind you, at this point we had been signed by Eazy-E, he had died. He had signed to Tommy Boy Records, we got signed [to] RCA, we had a few things out. And plus our man owned the fucking magazine. Why can’t we just get a little feature? We didn’t have a feature up until then. So, Dave end up finishing the fucking article himself. The article came out, the next thing you know the whole staff wrote a letter to Dave and said step down or else we’re all walking out.”
3. Benzino’s Crusade Against Eminem
Benzino’s attacks on Eminem via his coverage of the rapper in the famed magazine was one of the more incendiary crusades against an artist by a publication. The Bostonian gives further insight into his reasoning for going to to toe with Em during the interview. “At that time I felt deep about what I was standing for,” he says. “My thing was hip hop and I always said this, and people have heard it before, hip hop is the only thing that made white people come to the culture, buy into the culture, spend money and also interact through the culture through hip hop. Nothing else has happened, nothing else that brought white people to black people [more] than that. So, I felt like once they get a white rapper and make him white where that white people wanna buy him, then they fuck with that balance ‘cause now white people was just fucking with him because of the skin color. Before they had to come fuck with ‘cause that’s the music. I didn’t feel that way about the Beastie Boys, I didn’t feel that way about 3rd Bass. With Eminem, I just felt like hip hop is big now. It’s pop now and white people are buying into it, now we need a white person to represent the white people.”
4. N.O.R.E.’s Initially Beef With Benzino
At one point in time, it was believed that Benzino was responsible for dictating the positive and negative coverage an artist received in The Source, including N.O.R.E., who airs his own grievances he’s had wit the magazine in the past. “It wasn’t the mics, it was the bad articles,” he explains. “I used to always think that ‘cause that’s what people told me, those years that you named where you felt like it was the end-all be-all, see people didn’t know that. People thought that once you was involved with The Source, everything was you. So, every time I ever got a bad review, I would read it and people would be like, ‘That nigga Zino.’ I’d be like, ‘Damn, nigga, what he got against me?’ You know what the crazy shit [is], I never actually went down to see that their was somebody else who put their name to the actual article. I never peeped that ‘til I got older and I was like, ‘Damn, that might not have been him after all.’”
5. Master P’s Business With The Source
At the height of No Limit’s popularity, the label’s artists were mainstays within the pages of the publication, an arrangement Benzino admits was based off economics more than anything. “I’ma be honest, though, nobody was buying more ads than motherfucking Master P,” he shares. “Nobody, so we can’t give Silkk The Shocker and them low ratings, they buying shit like...twelve ads. Look here, if we do it like, ‘Twelve ads, twenty-five [thousand apiece], all right, we’ll give you twelve for twenty [thousand] apiece. P, you seen him. It would be a part in The Source where it would just be all of their ads, like who the fuck does that? Shouts to Master P.”
6. His Relationship With Dave Mays
Following the end of Hip Hop Weekly, Benzino and Dave Mays decided to part ways. “Me and Dave was together since ‘87,” he explains. “Dave is the supposed godfather of Cory. Dave knew me when I had no kids. I mean, Dave, federal indictments, all the fucking arrests. All the problems, the beefs, the guns, the shootings... Dave’s been a part of my life almost every day of my life four or five different cities. We done lived in, so it was over twenty years and we went through a lot together. It was just a time where Dave do him and me do me, and just give each other a break ‘cause, again, we was together a lot.”
7. His Experience With “Love & Hip Hop”
Benzino’s appearance on “Love & Hip Hop” helped spark a re-brand for the industry vet, but also made his romantic relationships for public fodder. He gives N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN the scoop on why he decided to join the cast and the story behind his dealings with Karlie Redd. “Well, we started dating before I got on ‘Love And Hip-Hop,’” he reveals. “Again, ‘cause me and Stevie were staying together in Atlanta, [I was] bringing him to the set. I just met her off set and we was hollering, and then we hooked up, and next thing you know, I get a call. Mona had called and was like, ‘Well if you’re dating someone from the show, you should come on.’ I was like, ‘Okay,’ that’s how it happened. And then I felt like I’m on TV. She’s cool, why not? I felt like maybe she’s at the age where she don’t wanna bullshit no more ‘cause I’m at the age where I don’t wanna bullshit. See, I feel like it’s not [hard] to find that special person, but I’m so grounded and I know what I want, and what I don’t want now that I feel like I can get with a person if they just have a good heart and everything. I can get along with anybody at this point in my life. At that point I was ready, she wasn’t ready.”
8. The 1995 Source Awards
The 1995 Source Awards is one of the iconic moments in rap history. As one of the creators and masterminds behind the show, Benzino reflects on the rift between Bad Boy Records and Death Row that spilled over that night. “They had about thirty or forty bloods and crips in the audience,” he recalls. “It probably was the first time it happened in New York. So, you automatically think it’s going down at some point, it’s just when. I was like, ‘It’s just a matter of time.’ But, once he said that, I was like, ‘It’s going down.’ I think Snoop’s moment was the moment because when Snoop grabbed it, people thought his attitude and demeanor was that he was getting ready to say, ‘Fuck New York.’ But, he was like he fucks with New York and right then and there, it kind of confused New Yorkers at that moment. They was like, ‘Wait a minute?’ They was ready and then they were like, ‘Oh shit.’ So, I think that moment, I think because of Snoop it didn’t get to where it probably could’ve.”
9. The Worst Source Cover
When asked about the worst cover he was involved with while at The Source, Benzino points to one profiling close friend and rap mogul Irv Gotti during his federal trial for money laundering. “The worst cover ever, one of them, was... I remember we put Irv Gotti on the cover,” he remembers. “Because at that point, we were already losing The Source at that point and we knew it. It was just a matter of time. So, one of the last covers was Irv. It didn’t do too well ‘cause when the Eminem beef was happening, I got cool with Ja and Murder Inc ‘cause we were basically neighbors. Our kids grew up together... Not just Ja, but Murder Inc’s a bunch of niggas, so it was a lot of niggas. So, I felt like I’m beefing with Eminem, the situation with Eminem, they’re beefing with 50 [Cent], it’s looking like [a your enemies are my enemies] type of thing.”