One of the magical things about The Source when I was there was the reaction from other people when they found out you worked there. I can’t imagine a media outlet you could work for today where you hand over your business card and people sincerely look like they’re about to faint.
I didn’t have business cards right away. So when I first started, if I went out to an industry event and met someone and told them where I worked, I would get these flat looks of disbelief. Yeah, right. This little freckle-faced chick with glasses and braces and baby dreads works at The Source. HA.
But then I got my business cards. And everything changed. The cards were made of heavy, quality stock with a raised logo. And my name—Aliya S. King—was dead center.
I would hand over that card to a rapper, a fellow writer, a music executive or a die-hard fan of the magazine and they would look down and then do a double take. You would think I was Moses handing down the 10 Commandments. It was actually so bad that sometimes I would purposely tell people I just worked at “a magazine” without being specific.
I learned quickly that I literally had to be careful where I whipped out the fact that I worked at The Source. The business cards were more than just information—they were keys to the VIP section of any nightclub—but they also could bring unwanted attention as well. One night, at a strip club in The Bronx, (don’t ask), I gave someone my card and the news that someone from The Source was in the building traveled like lightening. Before I could process what was happening, a few would-be rappers who wanted to be in the Unsigned Hype column besieged me, pressing their cassette tape demos into my hand. (Little did they know, their tapes were added to the contractor size garbage bags full of Unsigned Hype submissions that sat on the floor of my office. I had two full time interns whose sole responsibility was to listen to the first thirty seconds of every tape and see if they heard anything good.) I nodded and smiled and put the tapes in my bag, promising to take a listen. Yet knowing that I wouldn’t.
Then, I heard from someone else in the club that a rapper (who shall remain nameless) was looking for “the girl from The Source” to complain about a low mic rating he’d received in the latest issue. I heard he was drunk, belligerent and pissed off. I made my way to the exit and got my ass back to Brooklyn. (He would later take out his anger on one of my coworkers instead, bashing in his car windows with a baseball bat and slashing one of his tires.)
So, I had to be careful about name-dropping where I worked. The Source was a very popular (and powerful) entity and it had international name-recognition. I understood once and for all what it meant after a certain experience in Chicago…
I'm in Chicago interviewing a rapper who shall remain nameless. (I asked if I could name-check him. He said no.) He has asked that we call him 'Q.'
So Q took me to George's Music Room, a legendary record store run by music industry veteran George Daniels.
I met George, interviewed him for a bit. Then, Q said he needed to talk privately with George. I wandered away, looked through the vinyl stacks and then went outside for a smoke break.
I'm out there chopping it up with the photographer and I see this kid, no more than 15 or so, walk back and forth in front of me a few times. Walk past me, size me up. Walk past me again, size me up.
I'm from East Orange, New Jersey. I know when I'm about to get got. So I tensed up, ready to haul ass if necessary.
Finally, the kid decides to walk up on us.
Kid: "Whatchu doing out here?"
Kid: "Working do what?"
Me: "I'm a writer for The Source. I’m interviewing Q for a story."
Kid's whole face and demeanor changes.
Kid: You work for The REAL Source magazine. In New York City?"
Kid: Can you put me in the magazine?
I could have kicked myself. If there’s any time I should not have said where I worked, it was to this kid. I’d been in this position before, telling someone I worked at The Source and their next question would always be: How can I get in The Source. And secretly my answer would be, sell a million albums. That’s a start.
So now I’m in sticky situation. I want to tell this kid: That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works. But I had to be careful. Because sometimes people would get a bit… worked up if you said no, you can't be in the magazine.
I looked the kid over. He definitely seemed like the type to get a bit…worked up if I said no. I look over at my photographer and give her the non-verbal signal we had established that meant: just play along.
Me: Aiight, Kid. Let's take your picture and I’ll see what I can do.
The kid is beaming. He strikes a million poses. When we're done, he hounds me on what issue it will be in and where he'll be able to find it. I gave vague answers that were just short of outright lying.
So I'm still chatting with the kid who is bouncing around with excitement while the photographer packs up her equipment. And then 'Q' comes hauling ass out of the record store and over to where we're standing. He turned to the kid with a stern look on his face.
Q: Kid, what are you doing here?
Kid: Yo, Q! I'ma be in The Source! Just like you!
Q: Is that why you came over here Kid? To get in the magazine?
Kid hangs his head.
Q: Why'd you really come over here?
Kid lifts up his shirt. There's a nice shiny revolver tucked into his waistband. My stomach dropped and I felt a large lump in my throat.
Q: I told y'all to stay from around here with that bullshit! Get outta here Kid!
Kid shuffles away and then turns back around and points to me.
Kid: I'm still gonna be in The Source tho right?! Right?!
Me: You better believe it!
I go back to New York, wrote my story on Q. And made SURE to find a way to slip Kid's picture in that magazine. I can't remember how I managed to find him a place in the magazine or what the tiny little story was about. But Kid was in The Source. And Q made sure he got a copy of it. It was the least I could do to thank him for not robbing me at gunpoint.