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Hiphop mag big business

Named 'Hot Up and Comer' by Adweek

Ten years ago, Harvard undergrad David Mays was printing up copies of a newsletter he called the Source, to complement his hip-hop show on the college radio station.

Now, his glossy monthly (circulation: 371,000) is drawing serious industry attention and has been named one of the “10 Hot Up-and-Comers” by Adweek.

This week, Mays launches his new spin-off, the Source Sports, while film, television and music descendants are also about to explode onto the scene.

Hip-hop is hot stuff at the moment, with new mags popping up and advertisers realizing there is a definable new market. Vibe will launch a spin-off of its own in August, Blaze, which will, like The Source, target the 16-24 year-old crowd.

“I’m not worried about Blaze,” says Mays. “The fact is, it’s good for hip-hop. It shows that this market is being recognized by the mainstream — that we’re here to stay.”

Advertisers seem to agree. Nike, Adidas, Sony, Gatorade, Pepsi and Nintendo, among others, can all be seen in the pages of both Source mags.

Source Sports is a natural extension of what Mays has been doing in recent years, says editor Chris Wilder. The mag has been running special basketball season previews for a couple of years, and Wilder says the response was so good, it made sense to do sports year-round. Wilder and Mays also believe their sports coverage will be something new and different.

“The sports media that exist all come from the same mainstream perspective,” Mays says. “New athletes, many of whom come from the hip-hop culture, are misunderstood.”

Tackling those misperceptions head-on, Source Sports features Mike Tyson on its premiere cover and an exclusive interview in which Tyson addresses his new music career, a possible return to boxing and “that whole ear-biting thing,” Wilder says. The mag also has an article about Latrell Sprewell, the NBA star suspended after choking his coach, and his “mistreatment at the hands of the media.”

At the moment, Mays is actively engaged in extending the Source’s brand into just about every other medium.

He is in negotiations with the WB, UPN, Fox and ABC to bring a two-hour hip-hop awards show to TV by September. By July, the Source will have a weekly, one-hour music video show on the cable upstart, Access Entertainment Network (Spin mag will also have a show on the net). Along with Polygram, the Source has released a number of hip-hop compilation CDs that have found success on the charts, with more to be released in September.

Mays says he is “in final negotiations with a major radio syndicator” to bring “The Source Top 20 Countdown” to radio by the end of summer, and his movie division is currently shopping around its first script to various film outlets. He’s also about to open an L.A. office.

It’s a long way from that first two-page newsletter, and Mays has done it all without outside investors.

“We’re aiming to be the leader in hip-hop,” Mays says, “and there’s so much opportunity in bringing products and services to the (fans). They’ve been ignored for so long.”

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