Source of the Problem

Accountability is still hard to find in hip-hop

By now, we've all endlessly heard the n word and the b word in rap music, but we haven't enjoyed nearly enough of the a word: accountability.

Specifically, accountability for racial insensitivity, glorification of violence, and allegations of widespread sexism by major media outlets such as longstanding hip-hop mag The Source. Last month The Source was hit with a sexual-discrimination claim brought by former Vice President Michelle Joyce and ex-Editor-in-Chief Kim Osorio, specifically targeting Source co-owners Dave Mays and Raymond "Benzino" Scott.

While Osorio's allegations of "blatant gender discrimination and harassment" come as no great surprise to industry observers, the incidents detailed in the complaint are nothing short of startling. It's recounted that Scott regularly stalked and harassed female employees, calling one woman up to 50 times a day.

But the kicker was Mays' Neanderthal-like response to his ex-employees' claims. In a press statement, he alleged that Osorio had "sexual relations with a number of high-profile rap artists" during her tenure at The Source. Evidently, the publisher considered that a sufficient rebuttal to the lawsuit, and he declined to address the larger questions raised about the apparently misogynist climate at the magazine.

The Source has been around since 1990 and once was considered the Bible of hip-hop. But the mag sabotaged its own hard-earned credibility under Scott's reign of error, which began around 2001, when it was suddenly revealed that he co-owned the magazine with Mays. Since then, he has advanced his dubious, Eminem-bashing rap career as the public face of The Source while the low-key Mays has played the background. And Scott's well-known distaste for journalists has resulted in a perpetual editorial revolving door. He and Mays have also had a contentious relationship with numerous disgruntled ex-writers, such as one freelancer who took the magazine -- whose circulation hovers around 500,000 -- to small-claims court over a paltry $600. (Full disclosure: This author has also had difficult financial dealings with The Source.)

To make matters worse, the mag has encouraged violent beef on numerous occasions, whether it's between the Game and 50 Cent or Suge Knight and P. Diddy.

The recent trend of attacks on hip-hop's gender and race offenders has been strikingly effective on a grassroots level, filling in the accountability gap left by commercial media outlets and showing a willingness to go after the culture's sacred cows. That's good news for the true heads, proving once again that the court of public opinion must be respected. And while the a word isn't nearly as popular as the n or b word yet, as hip-hop culture continues to mature, at least we're starting to hear it bandied about with increasing frequency. -- Eric K. Arnold

Word Is Bond

Don't accuse the Oxford English Dictionary of being out of touch. Representatives from that grand arbiter of language just announced the newest inclusions to its online database of more than half a million words. Past additions -- which are made every three months -- have included turntablist, crowd surf, and bootylicious, all of which surfaced from the slang-happy world of popular music. In the last round, along with esoteric items like cremains, uni-brow, and scrunchie, OED officials saw fit to include deadhead in their ever-expanding verbal universe. Even if it's a few years behind the curve, at least the good book's trying to keep its ear to the scene. Outtakes offers a few emerging musical terms that Oxford's cunning linguists should consider if they want to stay up to date:

Osbourne-again (ähz'born a'gen) -- n. A young devotee of Ozzy Osbourne whose first exposure came from the MTV reality series. See also Kornholer, Mansonite.

Kenny Genius (ken'e 'jEn-yes) -- n. A middle-aged person usually predisposed to fannypacks who operates under the belief that jazz is what's played inside the theater before the movie starts. (Alternate: Kozby Kid)

Indie-cent exposure (in-'dE-sint ik-'spO-zhur) -- n. The byproduct of critical overhyping of unsigned bands which often leads to inflated album sales and/or commercials for German cars. See the Arcade Fire, M.I.A.

Scandanovocaine (skan-de-'nO'vuh-kan) -- n. A variety of sprawling, formless art rock originating from Iceland. See Sigur Rós, Múm.

Roccafellatio (rokka-fe-'lA-she-O) -- n. Rap that sucks. See the radio. -- Jonathan Zwickel

New New Edition

Who is Pretty Ricky? If you listen to South Florida urban radio, you may have heard "Grind on Me," with its rough, neo-Jodeci sound akin to early '90s "Knockin' Boots"-era R&B. Last winter, it was the number-one single in Power 96's rotation, and 103.5 the Beat and 99 Jamz have since added it to their playlists. Its popularity was overdue reward for a quartet of Carol City brothers, all 20 years old or younger, and their father, manager Joseph "Blue" Smith.

On a clear morning this past April, Pretty Ricky performed on Bakaz and Eggz, a morning showcase on 103.5. The boys in the band -- lead singer Pleasure, plus backing cats Slick 'Em, Baby Blue, and Spectacular -- were dressed sharply in matching Tommy Hilfiger lime ensembles and Air Force One sneakers.

After their set, the brothers could barely sit still to hold a short interview. "We get up at 8 a.m., we start getting ready, we head to the studio around 10 a.m., we at the studio all day," Baby Blue said. "If we got a show, we gotta leave the studio session to go do the show, do the interviews, then come back to the studio. Then we practice. We leave the studio about 6, get about two or three hours of sleep in, then we back at it, the same thing."

When you practice, do you mean your stage show?

"Yeah, we practice our show too... We not the Backstreet Boyz; we more like Miami hood dance with it."

It seems like you guys have a different flavor from the other R&B groups.

"See right here, I got cachet. Everybody in the group got cachet," said Slick 'Em, who claims Trick Daddy as an influence. "You could say I'm the rebel. I'm the wild one of the clique... commercial thug."

"I bring the love," Pleasure said.

"I'm on the business grind all the time," said Baby Blue, who is starting his own clothing line, Marco de Bleu. In New Edition terms, he's the Michael Bivens of the group.

"I'm bringing the sexiness to the group, the dancing," Spectacular said. "Make the ladies scream. That's me."

In February, Atlantic Records signed Pretty Ricky to a major-label deal via their father Blue's management company, Blue Star Entertainment. The kids then proceeded to knock out an album, Blue Stars, in record time for a May 24 release date, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.

"We got a couple of joints for the ladies," Pleasure said. "We got a couple of joints for the dudes."

"We all about the ladies," Baby Blue added.

"Make sure you add that we make feel good music," Spectacular said. "We trying to bring slow music back to the club."

"We made a 'freaky' album and a 'clean' album," chimed in Baby Blue.

"It's still clean, though," Spectacular said. "We're making feel-good music." -- Mosi Reeves

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