When Michael Jordan returned to the Chicago Bulls in 1995 after a brief retirement, his return message was short and sweet: âI’m back!
Dave Mays was once considered the Michael Jordan of hip-hop publications, andâ¦ he’s back! While a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard, he founded The Source magazine, which started out as a monthly newsletter, eventually becoming one of the oldest rap / hip-hop magazines in the world.
Mays had a vision to bring hip-hop to the forefront of all genres and managed to turn their newsletter into a publication in its own right. This adventure ended in 2005, when he and Raymond “Benzino” Scott were forced to step aside in a dispute with investors.
Understanding today’s needs, Mays returns with Breakbeat Podcasting network, which will host several culturally diverse podcasts with a variety of hosts. Mays also hosts his podcast, “The Dave Mays Show”.
Breakbeat will also be producing docuseries, starting with âUnsigned Hype,â a popular series from The Source magazine that has featured several hip-hop and R&B issues. He’s also planning a series on Gangster Disciples frontman Larry Hoover.
During a recent conversation with Zenger, Mays opened up about the mistakes he made during his time with The Source and how he plans not to repeat those same mistakes with his new business.
Percy Crawford interviewed Dave Mays for Zenger.
Zenger: How are you, Dave?
Mays: It’s okay. I’m excited. It’s something I’ve been thinking about and trying to put together for a minute now, and it’s finally coming to life.
Zenger: Where does the concept of Breakbeat come from?
Mays: Some things I’ve been thinking about over the past few years, there isn’t a single platform that the hip-hop community can say represents their perspective in a holistic way across a wide range of issues. topics. Similar to what The Source did in its heyday in the 90s and early 2000s, when we were the magazine for hip-hop music, culture, and politics.
We’ve got it all covered: fashion, sports, health, news, diet and fitness. But it was all done in a style and perspective that the hip-hop community can relate to and identify with as their own. As hip-hop and the media have developed over the past 20 years, they have fragmented into different segments. It’s all over the place, but you can find one specific thing that you like here, two or three things that you like about this platform, but there isn’t a platform. It’s part of the void I saw.
Another part is, I feel like there has been a narrative pushed through the music industry that has divided the older and younger sides of the hip-hop community. This rap mumble story isn’t real hip-hop. The other side says, you’re just crazy and bitter and old. Because music is by far the most visible business aspect of culture, music can become predominant.
But what I do see is that below those differences, someone 51 years old who grew up hip-hop, might not like Young Dolph or think 21 Savage is drugs, and vice versa. versa for the youngest. But I would say if you dig below the surface out there, and think about how 51 and 21 year old men were supposed to view social justice, the way we watch and take sport, I think we share. a unique perspective on things. When you’re a part of hip-hop, you tend to see things a certain way different from people who haven’t had that experience. I saw it as an opportunity to create a platform with a diversity of content, voices, talents and topics that will appeal to the large hip-hop community, ages 15 to 55.
Then the question became: how do you find the right strategy and the right entry point to enter the market because the media industry has been so tumultuous? Since the advent of the Internet in the late 90s and early 2000s, we have seen all forms of traditional media cut down.
It started with newspapers, then magazines, now we see it with television and radio. We are at a time when technology is still evolving, business models are still being defined. This is the time of great opportunity. I’ve started watching podcasting over the last few years and seeing how dynamic it is. It reminds me of underground hip-hop from the 80s. It’s this bubbling thing that has all this energy and talent. Things emanate from it, TV shows and movies. Just a real dynamic space. It’s fertile ground to introduce the kind of content and voice I was talking about.
I started to think of a podcast network as an answer that everyone in publishing has been looking for 20 years now. How to make a digital magazine? Everyone has been using this term for 20 years. âWe are digitizing our magazine. It never worked. A podcast network is sort of what a digital magazine could be. The same way you could flip through a magazine and see a fashion section, a sports section, a fitness section, these are all podcast topics now.
Zenger: How good was the instrument Kendrick ashton during this process?
Mays: I must have given my business partner a lot of credit. He was instrumental in finding the name, the concept to launch as a podcast network. I met Kendrick a few years ago in DC. We are both native to DC. I was introduced to him at an event by a mutual friend. We started talking and got on really well. I started talking to him about what I saw as this opportunity in the market. We ended up partnering up and here we are.
Zenger: Was it a difficult transition from paper to digital, or just an adjustment?
Mays: I’ve tried to stay as up to date as possible with new tech and things going on here with social media. It is still very early. We’ll see how things go with Breakbeat. I am excited and confident with what we are doing. I think it will resonate widely. Once I found the right approach to get into the game and establish a brand like Breakbeat, it wasn’t that hard. I must have learned a lot about podcasting over the past two years. I have studied and talked to a lot of people to try to figure it out. I didn’t understand it at first.
Zenger: What kind of shows can we expect under the Breakbeat umbrella?
Mays: The brand will express itself with the authenticity of the content. Authenticity will be the key ingredient. Bring in something that is needed because I feel like I have voices here in hip-hopâ¦ there is room for so many more voices and perspectives than what we are getting with the current media landscape .
Zenger: Did you make any mistakes or things you could have done differently with The Source Magazine that you will use as an experiment and not repeat with Breakbeat?
Mays: Oh absolutely! There were a lot of mistakes I made with The Source. Some that I recognized at the time, and others, it took me a few years after leaving The Source to understand the mistakes I made. The last 5 years or so have been a period of reflection for me. Really reflect on everything I’ve been through and try to understand things better. I feel empowered because I’m already doing things in a smarter way. I think Kendrick Ashton is going to turn out to be an amazing partner. He’s filling some of the shoes that I can’t fill with his knowledge. He has a solid background in finance.
One of the things that bothered me at The Sourceâ¦ I started The Source when I was a university student. Granted, I was at Harvard, but I wasn’t there for business or the media. I was a government major, and I learned as I went. The source has been primed. I would take $ 200 and use it to earn the next $ 200, work up to $ 600, and use it to create the next newsletter.
We never had any capital. I have never dealt with banks, loans, investors and private equity funds. One of the biggest mistakes I made was betting the farm on the internet in the late 90s when dot com first came out. At that time, every ad was dot-com here and dot-com there. Wall Street was throwing hundreds of millions of dollars into dot-coms. I was caught in the excitement. I had the vision. I saw the Internet as a gateway to the hip-hop community, globally and directly. The Source helped bring hip-hop to many countries in the 90s because we had international distribution. I mortgaged the magazine business to invest in the Internet.
Also, I wanted to keep the property. This is something I was very proud of with The Source. I built the business from scratch and never gave anything away to outside companies, until I found myself in trouble with dot-com. I took out a big loan. I had people who would partner with me, but I was like, I can get this loan and own everything 100%.
So, I bet on myself and on the internet, and obviously that was a bad bet. This is one of the biggest mistakes, but also one of the ways I do things differently. If I had had Kendrick Ashton back then, I’m sure I wouldn’t have made those mistakes with the bank lending and private equity deals that have all contributed to The Source’s demise in recent years.
Zenger: Good luck with Breakbeat. I’m sure you’ll make this a force to be reckoned with, and can’t wait to see the finished product. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Mays: I have my “Unsigned Hype’s” from Breakbeat. I have “Don’t call me white girl. “She’s a superstar. She’s so funny and so smart. She already has a solid fan base. I think she’ll be a big star. We’re going to do the”funny marcâPodcast. I think that’s another amazing talent that’s made a name for itself on social media. We’re bringing him into the podcasting world with his own show. It’s the young, emerging talent that we discover. , I have the most veteran voices like my show, “The Dave Mays Show,” and the Kierna Mayo show, “Culture, which is amazing. It will be very different from other podcasts out there today.
Then we have these documentary series that we do. They are going to be huge. We make the story of “Unsigned Hype”. It’s an eight-part podcast series. Tell the whole story of this column, from Biggie, DMX, Common to Mobb Deep, to Eminem – everyone we’ve discovered. I also do the Larry hoover story. It will be a 10-part series. It’s an incredible story. We have his exclusive rights to say it through the podcast. He and his family have never been involved in telling the story before. It’s a very relevant story in today’s world and a story that spans generations.
Edited by Matthew B. Hall and Judith Isacoff
CORRECTION: Oct. 12, 2021, 5:54 p.m.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Dave Mays as co-founder of The Source. Mays is in fact the only founder. Zenger regrets this error.