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Dave Mays on The Source’s Legacy, Launching Breakbeat, and State of Hip-Hop Media

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Dave Mays is the founder and former CEO of The Source Magazine. In today’s episode, he weighs in on the magazine’s legacy, the evolution of media, and what hip-hop is all about. He then talks about Breakbeat, a new podcast network that he co-founded and heads. He also discusses the success of the podcast “Don’t Call Me White Girl”, the boom of podcasts, and the projects he is working on now.

If you want to get into podcasts that are all about hip-hop, this is the episode for you!

Episode Highlights:

[03:10] About The Source Magazine and The Source Awards

[11:15] Some lessons that can be learned from The Source

[14:15] What led Dave to start Breakbeat

[20:55] His future plans for the podcast network and a hip-hop-based app

[25:22] His transition from behind the scenes to being a voice on the network

[27:08] How he met his business partner and how he measures success

[34:00] Dave’s observations about the podcast landscape

[39:32] What Breakbeat is currently working on

[45:05] The process of creating a docu-series on Larry Hoover

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Watch:

Host: Dan Runcie, @RuncieDan, trapital.co

Guest: Dave Mays, @therealdavemays, Breakbeat

 

Links:

Trapital is home for the business of hip-hop. Gain the latest insights from hip-hop’s biggest players by reading Trapital’s free weekly memo

Transcript

Dan: Hey, welcome to the Trapital Podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Trapital, Dan Runcie. 

Each week, I sit down to chat with hip hop culture’s executives, heavy hitters, and business leaders that are taking hip hop culture forward and are sharing their best insights that can help you level up your game. 

On today’s episode, I talked with Dave Mays, who is the founder and former CEO of The Source magazine, and now the co-founder and CEO of Breakbeat, which is a new podcasting network. On this episode, Dave and I talk all about The Source and the legacy that his magazine had.

He started The Source when he was a student at Harvard, grew it from a several-page publication that eventually grew to become the main place for hip hop news and, for a lot of us that are either writing in hip hop media or creating content, The Source is such a big inspiration so it’s a full circle moment to be able to talk to folks like Dave and get his take on how media has changed, how things have evolved, his thoughts on business models, and how all of that has led to where hip hop media is right now and how a lot of that inspired what he’s now building.

He recently launched Breakbeat, which is a podcasting network that wants to elevate the voices and stories that are being told in hip hop culture so that it can represent everything more broadly. He has a bunch of dope shows coming there. We talked about the biggest one he has, Don’t Call Me White Girl, which has been rising up the ranks through Apple Podcasts and others.

And we also talked about Dave’s own podcast and how he wants to have more of his voice out there and becoming a media personality himself, shifting from behind the scenes to being in front of the scenes as well.

And we talked about one of the big upcoming projects he has as well which is a series on the life and times of Larry Hoover. Here’s my conversation with Dave Mays.

Today’s episode of the Trapital Podcast is brought to you by Mighty Networks. Mighty Networks has just commissioned the largest study ever done on the creator economy.  In the rise of the independent creator, you’ll learn why many of today’s creators feel burnt out relying on social media and algorithms, but how they’re starting to reclaim ownership of their communities by going niche, focusing on their community, and building a network effect with the people that make it possible.  So, go to newcreatormanifesto.com to check it out. That’s newcreatormanifesto.com.

Interview

Dan: All right, we got Dave Mays here, founder and former CEO of The Source and the co-founder of Breakbeat, which is a new podcast network. And, Dave, I know, before we got started, I gave you your props but gotta give you your props. 

So many of us at hip hop media, The Source was a big inspiration for so much of that so thanks for paving the way and making it happen. 

Dave: Thank you very much. Appreciate that. 

Dan: Yeah, for sure. And I think it’s been great to look back and now that it’s been over 30 years since you had first started The Source, how do you look at things? What do you see as the legacy of the magazine? 

Dave: Well, I think two things about that. I mean, The Source, as you know, was kind of the Bible of hip hop throughout the 90s and it was called that. And The Source played an enormous role in helping to grow hip hop, helping to elevate it, helping to bring it into the mainstream but also keep its authenticity. 

You know, that was really the most important thing, I think, that The Source did was it was credible, it was authentic to the culture, the people, the community, the culture always came first and I never felt like I had to sacrifice that for the business interests.

So I think The Source really paved the way for the world we’re in today, you know, where hip hop is omnipresent and it’s part of almost every facet of our society. You can see its influence and I think that The Source played a big role in helping create the place for this world that we’re in now.

I think that the history of The Source isn’t really well documented. There’s a lot of different versions of different things told by different people, some who might have been around in one way or the other and some who are just, you know, observers and trying to figure out what happened. 

And so one of the things I’m trying to do now going forward is make sure that the true legacy and story of myself and The Source is known to people so that we can really document that for historical purposes going forward. 

Dan: That makes sense. And from that narrative, is there a particular part of the narrative that you think a lot of people understand about The Source that is different from how things really were? 

Dave: You know, I think about a few things. The Source Awards was huge, was incredible, one of the most exciting events ever done year after year. In some ways, its reputation gets tarnished a bit because people try to, you know, everyone wants to talk about the ’95 Awards and Suge Knight and what happens in the year-plus after that with Pac and Biggie being murdered, and that’s one thing just in general I think people don’t really understand just the nature of the Source Awards, how incredible a production it was, how important it was to the hip hop community and the industry to have our own award show and done in a really high quality but, again, very authentic way that kept it real, so that’s one area, you know?

And then there’s various controversies over the years that tend to get talked about a lot of the times and one of the most important things about The Source also really was its integrity as a journalistic institution and that was something that I established very, very early on.

I built The Source with $200, started as a newsletter while I was at Harvard, an undergrad, built it from 1 page to 6 pages to 16 pages and so on.

The record industry was the only advertising I could get for the first five years or so, so I built a great relationship with all the record companies that were putting out hip hop back in the late 80s and early 90s and it would have been easy to kind of allow the influence of advertising dollars from record companies to affect the way that we covered things editorially in the magazine, but I made a real point from the beginning of letting these record labels know that the value of The Source was the trust that we were building with the community and that, if people sense or feel like we’re not being really honest about our coverage of things or it’s being influenced in any way, we’re gonna diminish that trust.

And that’s ultimately gonna make your advertising less effective because people read The Source, they were highly engaged, read through every page, including the ads, like the ads were like editorial for a lot of folks. So, that was really a big part of my messaging to the record industry was you want to advertise in an environment that people really trust because it’s gonna make your ads more effective. 

Thus, don’t ask me to put so and so on the cover because you’re buying a bunch of ads this year or anything like that. I established something called the publisher’s credo that I wrote and put in the masthead of the magazine from the very, very early days that just kind of acknowledged to readers that we do take ads from the industry, the music industry, and we do write about those artists, but we wanna be upfront with the audience and let them know that this is what it is but that we still take the integrity of the magazine very seriously so that ran every month in The Source for 15, 16 years while I was there.

So, I think that’s something that, you know, especially in the world we’re in today where integrity has kind of gone out of the window in journalism and media,  and it’s not just hip hop, although it is there, but we’ve seen the kind of veneer of institutions like the New York Times and even the Washington Post and all these so-called hallmarks of journalistic integrity have a lot of scandals and a lot of things get exposed, but I just think as a whole, we’re in this day and age where everything’s kinda like pay for play, everybody wants money to get an article written and what made The Source work is that if you put out some dope music, we wanted to let everybody know about it. That was how I felt and that was how the people working for me felt. 

It didn’t matter if you were on a major label or an independent label, if you were from Louisiana or New York, wherever the case may be, if your music was dope, if you had some dope fashion or other things, like it was just about finding all of this amazing talent and creativity and stuff and pushing it out there and wanting to be the platform that just let people know about all this cool stuff going on. 

And that really made it what it was and it’s hard to do that if you’re covering things basically only if they’re huge news or only if somebody’s actually advertising with you and it’s tough because of the way the media business has evolved and I understand that the past 10, 15, 20 years since the onset of the internet,  it’s basically undermined all traditional business models and media and especially those that rely on advertising revenue.

And as advertising revenue has become more difficult to obtain, whether you’re a cable TV channel, a website, obviously a magazine, or a radio station,  because of digital, because of Google, Facebook kind of eating up the largest share of advertising spending, people are out here like fighting for their lives trying to figure out what to do and, unfortunately, that’s lent itself to, I think, a loss of a level of credibility and integrity in the media. 

Dan: Yeah. That’s one of the things that I know a lot of people that have been in the game for years have been frustrated by. And I think we’re starting to see a little bit of a shift with that just with new types of medium or even older types that are coming back to be more popular again, whether it’s newsletters or other types.

But at the core, there still is this tension of people wanting to get the word out there and the business models shifting things, especially when the Internet and the social networks and their push, whether it’s Google or Facebook, take over.

But I’m sure you’ve been with that, there’s probably still some things that you all did in the heyday of The Source that is still relevant or still true and could still be beneficial in today’s media. Are there any type of lessons or insights that you all had done that you think are still relevant in today’s landscape? 

Dave: Well, I mean, some of the stuff that I have talked about, I think, are certainly things that I think would benefit people, more so than the approach that a lot of folks are taking. I think if you can champion quality, great stuff, regardless of what it is, and just focus on that, I think the dollars and the audience will follow. So that’s definitely one.

I mean, again, to me, that authenticity is key, I mean, because one of the things also that The Source really did well that I did well, I think, was find a way to keep a balance between the kind of street side of hip hop and the world from which hip hop comes and the corporate business side.

And there’s a lot of corporate entities that just wanna kind of get the commercial aspect of it but don’t want to have to deal with some of the things that come with the realities of what life is like for a large segment of underprivileged, disadvantaged, oppressed communities around this country and everywhere.

And, to me, that was something that I understood came with the territory and that was — you have to kind of deal with that and accept that because hip hop is about — was about, and I think can be more about, trying to impact our world and change those conditions. 

I saw hip hop in the 80s and 90s as like the kryptonite for racism and something that would really just help undermine systemic racism that has dominated our society for so long and I think it was beginning to do that. 

And I think we kind of lost that after Pac got killed. I think that’s really the turning point in the evolution of hip hop, from my perspective. So, yeah, I mean, I just feel like focusing on that, trying to find a way to do business and do good business but also be as true to the culture and the community and the issues that the community is still dealing with to this day, because it’s 30 years later and hip hop’s this multibillion dollar industry all over the world but the conditions in the hood are as bad or worse as they’ve ever been for folks and that’s just sad to see given that hip hop has come out of those communities and come out of the pain and the struggle that many people in those communities have and continue to face.

Dan: Definitely. And I assume that a lot of that recognition of where hip hop is now was a lot of the push for you to want to start your own podcast network and to launch Breakbeat and the opportunity you saw in the marketplace there.

So can you talk a little bit about that? What have you been seeing in the landscape and what led you to launching the podcast network?

Dave: Sure. Well, since, you know, I kind of left The Source before the job was finished, so to speak. I was at The Source 18 years from when I started it to when I left, but there was so much more of my vision of where I was going.

And, in a lot of ways, now, it’s 15 years later since I’ve been gone and nobody really picked up the mantle, kind of ran with the torch or brought that same kind of approach to things into the media world. 

And, obviously, media has changed drastically in those past 15 plus years because of digital and internet and social media and so forth and it’s spread things out and it’s made things a lot different,  but I guess the inspiration for Breakbeat is really a few things. One, you know, to kind of continue the job of where I was going with The Source and create a platform that can serve the community and the perspectives and the interests of the community in an authentic and very comprehensive way.

You know, The Source was the magazine of hip hop, music, culture, and politics so you would buy the new issue of The Source, you might wanna go and see how many mics we gave different albums, you might wanna read the new interview with Tupac, but you also were gonna get social justice information, you were gonna get politics, you were gonna get health, technology.

It was a comprehensive kind of, you know, an informative vehicle for the whole lifestyle and the whole world from the perspective of the hip hop audience. I feel like that’s missing. There’s nothing that’s really comprehensively covering the world through a broad lens from the perspective of hip hop.

And that’s one of the things that I think is special about hip hop. You know, when you listen and when you grow up being influenced by hip hop from a young age, it does impart a certain worldview, a certain way of thinking and looking at the world that tends to be different from people who aren’t influenced by hip hop.

So, I think that means there’s a community of people that have a shared set of perspectives and opinions about things and it crosses now three generations. So, hip hop goes from Gen X to millennials now to Gen Z and there’s a narrative that I feel like has been pushed through the music industry that’s been kind of divisive, which is the older folks saying, “Oh, this mumble rap isn’t real hip hop, this isn’t what it’s about,” and the younger people are pushing back, “You’re just old and out of touch,” that kind of thing.

And if you’re 51 years old and you grew up on hip hop and your nephew is 21 years old and he’s growing up on hip hop, you may not like the same music today. I can grant that. But, beneath the surface of the music, hip hop is much more complex and, like I said, it kinda gets into this kind of mindset and worldview about things and just a sensibility. 

And I believe that the 51-year-old and the 21-year-old share a lot of things if there was a platform that was providing more diversified content, instead of, “Oh, we just gotta do something for the older folks and we’re gonna do this for the younger folks,” but I think about like when we watch the news and the way that, you know, if you’re a hip hop person, the way you probably feel watching all the different news channels. You know, when we watch sports, there’s certain ways that we feel or react to things that are cultural to hip hop and so, really, I feel like Breakbeat, what I’m trying to do with the platform is to unify the audience across the generations more, because we can be a lot more powerful if we’re more unified and it’s such an enormous — 

I mean, you know, it goes from 15 to 55 or even greater, again, black, white, Chinese, rich, poor, whether you live in South Africa or South Central, hip hop crosses all these boundaries and has created this community that I think can be better served and better connected.

So those are some of the things that have inspired me. The real — you know, I’ve seen this vision for a number of years that we need this voice, this platform, but I had to figure out what’s the right entry point because of how just crazy it is in the media world.

And so I started looking at podcasting a few years ago and I have a business partner in Breakbeat named Kendrick Ashton, who’s a DC native like myself, super smart, experienced guy, and he and I met a few years ago and got to talking about what I was trying to do and we decided to partner up and so he’s contributed a lot.

He was really the one that said, you know, “Why don’t we start with a podcast network?” and the more I thought about it, I was like, yeah, like a podcast network, first, is like is the digital magazine of today, okay? People have used that word, “digital magazine,” for 20 years now, but it’s never worked.

There’s no digital magazine that anybody reads regularly or subscribes to or anything. It’s just a term that people have tried to implement in different ways. It’s never worked. But I’m thinking about the podcast network, this is really the digital magazine. 

You take those sections out of the magazine, the fashion, the sports, the news, this and those are now different podcasts that are curated and have a similar brand and perspective, that type of thing, so that was one reason I chose podcasting, but it’s just such a dynamic and fast-growing space. I think the upside is enormous still in podcasting, we’re just scratching the surface.

It’s a medium where you can find new voices and you can find new perspectives that you’re not getting from the mainstream media. You can learn things in the podcasting world that you wouldn’t learn anywhere else in the media landscape so those are things that all kind of lend themselves to hip hop and the mission of what I’m trying to do with the platform.

And that’s just the starting point, the podcast network, but it just felt like a very smart, efficient way to get in the game, start to create content, start to build a roster of talent and voices and also to create IP through some of the stories that we’re doing that can be developed further into other areas and those are all different aspects to the strategy with the podcast network.

Dan: Were there any other mediums that you had considered besides podcasting? 

Dave: Well, what I really wanted to do was launch an app, a hip hop-based app, and that’s probably part of the future for Breakbeat. You know, we are developing a technology side to the company now and it’s something that we’ll probably look to introduce next year.

I think there’s a tremendous opportunity in the kind of mobile app area to create something that can just do a lot of things. It can be an alternative kind of to some of the social networks that are out there that we know hip hop has kind of built all of these social networks, they’re kind of built off the back of the community and the culture, you know? 

I don’t think Instagram would be where it is today without hip hop, you know? Obviously, Clubhouse was built almost entirely off of hip hop. So, you know, but these are not platforms that, at the end of the day, are really committed to hip hop or the culture or the community so I think we need things in that area of technology and social networks that are our own and a bunch of other aspects to what we’ll do within the app space. But that’s — but also just diversified content. I mean, producing films and TV shows and documentaries in the visual space, but I wanna run the gamut. I wanna have a Breakbeat imprint in a lot of different areas. 

Dan: Yeah, and I think too, one of the things about podcasting is that it does allow you to tap into a specific audience or a specific group and I do think that, today, things do tend to be a bit fragmented where there are these hyper niches or people really targeting a particular area. 

And I do know that The Source, in many ways, almost thrived in this era where monoculture, even in hip hop, was a bit more prevalent where there was a go-to place where, yes, this is the default place. If you are a hip hop fan, this is where you go.

How do you look at that piece of it in terms of with Breakbeat? I know you had mentioned wanting to have a place that can bring, whether you’re 51 or 21, within hip hop, but within there, is there a specific target or is there a core group that is the sole focus for Breakbeat and then hopefully being able to capture the others along the way? 

Dave: Yeah. I mean, I think there’s obviously a part of the hip hop market that is attracted to it just primarily because of the music, you know? You know, they just think it’s cool music and they enjoy listening to it and that’s fine. 

And I think, you know, I think there’s — that part of the audience may not be, initially, as drawn to a hip hop news program or a hip hop health program or a show or a hip hop social justice show, whatever the case may be, so I think there’s a more core community of folks that do have an interest in those things that we will probably attract first, but the audience tends to follow, you know?

So, if I can get that core audience on board and really kind of stamping what we’re doing, I think, over time, others will follow and will kind of discover the other aspects of hip hop that make it so special beyond just it’s an amazing music that you can listen to or maybe like the fashion and things like that, which is fine, but I want people to get a little further, you know, a little deeper into it. So I think, you know, that’s maybe the division there. And then, how do you find ways to appeal to both the older and the younger side?

But I think you’ll see the young artists that are doing it right now on different Breakbeat shows and you’ll also see the legends on shows as well. So I just think we can merge those things and there’ll be a natural kind of growth that comes out of that because nobody’s doing that.

Dan: Yeah, and one of the other things I think is unique with the podcast network as well as that you yourself, you have plans to launch your own show on the podcast, and I know that’ll be a bit of a shift because I know we talked a little bit before we started recording but you have always been a bit more behind the scenes, obviously running things but were never necessarily in the camera or doing the interviews or being the media personality yourself. How will that be from the shift for your perspective? Because, I mean, I do think it makes sense given the way media is now, but how are you looking at that piece of it? 

Dave: Right, well, I guess that remains to be seen. This is the start of this media, little run that I’ve started the last few weeks and, you know, and then when the podcast launches, so it’s a little bit new because it hasn’t been me but I’ve been psyching myself up for a while now and having others, you know, a lot of people around me that are close to me really believe in me and in my voice and the value that I can bring as a voice so I’m excited about it and I think I’ll pick it up and, hopefully, be able to do well, even though it is kind of a new lane for me. 

Dan: Well, I think one of the good things for you from that perspective is that people wanna hear the business side of so many of these stories, in a way where, you know, they still wanted to hear them back in the day but there just is a bit more of a defined lane for these things now just becoming a bit more popular with that perspective, and I do think the fact that you have been in media and you have the track record you do, people are gonna wanna hear those stories and not necessarily the beef between the other hip hop magazines at the time, but some of the things that we talked about the beginning of this podcast. How do you view the ad landscape? How do you view business models?

Because so many folks will hear these things from people that are creating media more in the tech or finance or other aspects of media or content creation but you’re not necessarily hearing about that piece of it as much from the folks that are doing things in hip hop so I think people will appreciate that piece of it too. 

Dave: Good. Well, that’s good to hear. Hopefully, you’re right.

Dan: For sure. You mentioned earlier your business partner, Kendrick Ashton. How did you and him link up?

Dave: A mutual friend in DC, you know, I had been living back in DC a few years ago, it’s my hometown. Kendrick’s a number of years younger than me but when he was kinda growing up and in high school, I was already running The Source and in New York, and I think some people in DC just took a lot of pride in the idea that a DC cat was up in New York kind of running things up there, you know? Kendrick was one of those. And so a buddy of mine, actually, that I went to high school with knew Kendrick and invited me out to an event that Kendrick was hosting and thought it would be good for me to be there to network with some of the people there, but that’s where I met him. 

We just started talking and we just had like a really interesting conversation and we became friends really fast and I spent a lot of time with him and his family, you know? And then when I started talking to him about my ideas for this platform, he was just a great person initially to kind of sound off these things and get perspective on it. 

He doesn’t, you know — when you look at him from the outside, he doesn’t necessarily fit the profile of a hip hop person. He’s a former founder of this big investment bank in New York and a number of other incredible accolades, but he actually really knows and loves hip hop and he’s really creative so he doesn’t just bring the business and financial acumen that I think I need and will benefit the company but he also contributes creatively across the board so I can talk to him about everything that we’re doing and I think we make a great team. So, yeah, I’m really, really pleased to have him as my partner.

Dan: Yeah, and I think even though you mentioned he may not have the direct music or the direct hip hop experience there, I feel like the successful partnerships or tandems are seeing more and more have that mix. 

You’re having people that have succeeded and done well and other backgrounds because, at the end of the day, this is business and there are transferable things that you may see in other industries and having that fresh perspective can often give you a leg ahead there. 

So I think that that makes sense, you know? Just the compliment between the two of you, so excited to see how that piece of it comes out. So, as you and him are looking at things, let’s say, a year from now, it’s towards the end of 2022, what will success look like? How will you measure success for Breakbeat? 

Dave: Man, I mean, I wanna see the podcast network thriving. You know, we have eight shows that we’ve launched or are in production on so far. By then, we should have 30 shows maybe. I’d like to see this, you know, a lot of new and successful podcasts so, hopefully, the network will be thriving on the podcast end.

This kind of technology side, if it does indeed become an app that we launch next year, I would like to see that having some traction by the end of next year, if we can get it launched in a reasonable time next year. 

And, I mean, like I said, there’s so many other things. I wanna be doing events. I think there’s an opportunity for a different kind of hip hop award show than what we’ve got currently out here. I would love to be in that space. I want other event-based concepts, whether it’s kind of conferences or expos, things like that. Hopefully, you know, we’re beginning to enter into the more larger scale event space. 

And just seeing some of the talent really take off that we’re kind of putting on right now. So, Don’t Call Me White Girl is our first podcast that came out a few weeks ago and it’s doing great. It’s been up last week as high as 16 on the Apple Podcast chart and this was really without any promotion or marketing, it’s gonna be kicking in in the next couple of weeks. We just didn’t have a big marketing rollout at the beginning, but she’s someone who is, I think, gonna be one of the most successful, well-known, female personalities in the culture over the next few years. 

Incredibly funny but incredibly smart. She really represents kind of the DNA of Breakbeat or what I would like to think will be the DNA of Breakbeat, so, you know, if you listen or watch her podcast, you’re gonna be entertained, you’re gonna laugh, but you’re also gonna be thinking and made to think about different important issues and she really has a way of achieving that balance that’s very authentic and so I wanna see her at a whole ’nother level a year from now. 

And then another one that’s in that lane is Funny Marco. Probably many of your listeners know Funny Marco, a lot of us follow him for the past few years on Instagram, he’s had us laughing our asses off with all his little pranks and skits and things that he does, but I just see another level of comedic kind of genius within him and I think he can go to greater heights. And so, you know, building this first podcast with him is exciting and I think we can be a part of helping him grow to become a much bigger figure in comedy and in hip hop. 

So, I’ll be really pleased to see talent like that at another level and to feel like we were part of helping discover them and take them to another level of their careers. 

Dan: Exciting stuff for sure. 

(break)

Dan: Let’s take a quick break to hear a word from this week’s sponsor. 

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(break end)

Dan: I wanna talk a little bit about the podcast landscape overall. And, obviously, starting a podcast network, there have been so many networks and podcasts that are either getting acquired or the networks themselves or popular shows are getting these exclusive deals with some of these big distributors. Spotify has clearly been paving its way there. How do you view that piece of it? What is your take on the overall landscape with some of the bigger players and the bigger distributors? 

Dave: I mean, I think it’s good. I mean, to see all these big companies throwing hundreds of millions of dollars or tens of millions of dollars into the podcasting business, I think it’s just gonna grow the market for podcasting. 

And how things shake out remains to be seen. As you know, podcasting has been built really on a widely distributed, free, advertising-driven basis. That’s the business model that has allowed podcasting to grow to the level that it is today and I think that will sustain itself for some period of time. 

You know, there are people who wanna see it become more of a subscription-driven business and, I don’t know, we’ll see whether that happens or not. I’m not convinced that that’s going to happen anytime soon. 

But, yeah, I just think those companies — I mean, just like it was with The Source, I was this small, independent company that after — you know, The Source was really the first hip hop magazine, but after a few years, Larry Flynt came out with a rap magazine and Quincy Jones and Time Warner launched a rap magazine and there was a lot of big competition, but I was never nervous about that because I knew that these folks didn’t really understand hip hop and the true DNA of it and they weren’t, like I was talking about before, that they weren’t really committed to the culture and the community in the way that The Source was. And so I always felt that I’d have an upper hand. 

And I kind of feel that way now, you know? I think these companies are putting out some great content but when it comes to hip hop, it’s different. You have to really understand the culture to be able to put your finger on things that are gonna really have legs and resonate widely.

And so I think that that’s an advantage that we’ll have being a smaller player in the near future competing against bigger entities. 

Dan: Yeah, it’s funny earlier you had mentioned the paid podcast piece and, yeah, that’s something that did not take off. And looking back, it’s something that I think will and could potentially work in very specific niches or if there’s someone that has some very unique offering but not in a grand escape way. 

I remember when Luminary had launched theirs and I think the big promise was trying to be the HBO of podcasts, they had all these exclusive shows there, but once I saw that it didn’t necessarily take off, there were some issues with the launch and then they lowered the price of the monthly subscription, it was like the price really isn’t the issue here, it’s just the behavior and people feeling like there are alternatives that are equivalent or higher quality, and that HBO dynamic, the difference there doesn’t exist in the same type of way.

And I still think that that reminded me that we’re still in the early days with a lot of this, even as much as people may think that podcasting may be more mature relative to Clubhouse or drop-in audio, it’s still very new. 

And, of course, the technology has been around since — when was it? The iPod was named — that’s how they came up with the name for podcasts. What was that? Fifteen years ago at this point. But things really didn’t pop until after I think Serial came out, I think, in 2014. That I think was like the big mainstream moment.

Even since then, it’s still been a slow and gradual growth and just given that podcasting, unlike a YouTube channel or a TikTok account, any of these things that can grow millions of followers very quickly, it takes time and it takes work and I think, because of that, it still makes it be much more the early days than even some of the other mediums out there. 

Dave: Yeah, I agree. We’re just scratching the surface, even though, like you said, it’s been around a while. But I think it’s gonna just continue to grow and evolve in a lot of ways. And, you know, you have now more of the visual side of podcast world becoming — the traditional podcast people think of podcasting as audio and they’ve been, from what I’ve seen, they’re kinda like fiercely protective of that idea, but even some of those types of people I’m noticing now are coming around to the idea that you need to incorporate video as well, one way or another.

So, that’s just — again, we’re at a very early stage of how podcasts and visual podcasts, what will happen with that market. I don’t think the audio market is gonna disappear either. There’s obviously a huge audience already and there’s a lot of advantages to being able to just listen to something and not have to watch it, you know? You can drive and work out and do things. That’s one of the attractions of the audio space. 

Dan: Yeah. It’s clearly, I mean, with radio, one of the big things they’re selling with radio for years has been the companionship, your being in someone’s car, right? 

Podcasting, it’s even broader because you can be in someone’s car, they could be doing their chores, they could be working out if that’s what they choose to do while listening to podcasts. There’s so many things and I think, with that, there’s just so many angles there as well. 

So, it’s an exciting time and it’s an exciting time for you all to be launching something like this. And, Dave, this is great. I mean, you dropped a lot of gems here, it was great to take a trip down memory lane and talk a lot about The Source as well and what you have coming up, and I know you plugged a bunch of things but, before we let you go, is there anything else that you wanna plug or let the Trapital audience know about? 

Dave: Yeah, no, I wanna just share a little more about the content that we’re doing right now with Breakbeat. I mentioned the two, you know, Don’t Call Me White Girl, which is out now, and Funny Marco, it’s called The Wrap It Up Show Starring Funny Marco. That’s gonna premiere maybe two or three weeks from now. 

We have a podcast called Culturati that’s out. It’s amazing. Hosted by Kierna Mayo, one of the most accomplished black female kind of hip hop journalists and media executives of all time. Super, super interesting podcast, produced in partnership with PRX, which is an outstanding audio journalism organization that’s been involved in podcasting a long time. 

So, you know, we’re also — I guess, what’s important, I want people to understand this, so I’m doing like these audio-visual podcasts, the host talk, discussion format, but also this journalistic side of podcasting, this more highly produced audio storytelling, that’s really the thing that gave the podcasting business a huge boost the past five years from the release of Serial and then other podcasts and, I mean, that’s just become like this huge part of podcasting, these narratives, highly produced narrative stories. 

So that’s an area that hip hop has almost no presence in. I mean, there’s thousands of podcasts telling all these stories but very — you can count on one hand the ones that talk about things that are relevant to us in hip hop so I wanted to really delve into that.

Culturati is sort of in that lane because it is not just a talk format, it’s much more of a produced, newsy type of podcast. But the other ones that I’m doing, I have two docu series going right now. One is the story of the Unsigned Hype column in The Source, an eight-part series that we’re producing. 

The Unsigned Hype column is, as you know, was the column where we reviewed demo tapes from unsigned rappers every month and, through that column, which we created in 1990, we discovered Biggie, we discovered DMX, we discovered Common, Mobb Deep, Eminem, Capone-N-Noreaga, Jay Electronica, David Banner, Pitbull, many others.

So there’s — the backstory of that column is incredible. Arguably one of the most influential magazine columns in history and we’ll really give people all the backstory and the information of how we found these, how we started the column, how did they get their record deals, et cetera. So I’m really happy that that that one’s coming. 

And then the other one that I’m probably more excited about is the Larry Hoover story. I’m producing a ten-part series on his life and it’s the first time that his family has entrusted anyone to tell his story and kind of granted those rights, which they gave me,  so I’m really proud that they had the confidence and trust in me to be able to tell his story in the way that it needs to be told because he has an incredibly powerful and interesting story. It’s incredibly relevant, even to this day and what’s going on out here in many ways. 

And it’s a story that, honestly, has never, ever been told in any kind of accurate in-depth way. We — all you get out here in the media is Larry Hoover, the founder of the Gangster Disciples, one of the biggest gangs in the history of the world, and he’s locked up in the supermax for six life sentences with El Chapo and all these other people.

And, you know, he’s just been painted as a very narrow, negative person, but his story is much, much bigger, more complex. And he was, in my opinion, a revolutionary. He was somebody that was like other leaders for the black community historically that were trying to move the community in a different way to create change.

And he redefined Gangster Disciples in the 1980s to growth and development and he was very, very serious about that and he implemented a lot of changes. A lot of people turned their lives around because of the teachings of Larry Hoover.

And he went into politics and he began, you know, registering thousands of voters and getting, you know, organizing marches on city hall and I think the powers-that-be recognized, you know, he was gonna get out on parole in the early 90s, he was due to get out and this was the time when he really was making this push to stop the criminal aspect and become a community socially conscious organization and political.

I mean, he’s the only black gangster in our culture that we all hear about and read about who ever talked about politics and voting and if you listened to him on the Geto Boys Resurrection album and you hear what he’s talking about, I mean, that’s just a part of his messaging which he conveyed to thousands and thousands of people over the years and, like I said, many of whom turned their lives around. 

And people just don’t know this stuff about him, so I can’t wait to tell that story and I think it’s gonna be very impactful. 

Dan: Looking forward to that one. And I’m glad you brought that up. Just to talk about it a bit more, what was that process like getting the rights and working with the family to be able to tell the story? 

Dave: I mean, basically, J. Prince is a long, long, dear friend, probably my best friend from the hip hop industry ever. One of the, you know, only real guys in the business who’s really found a way to accomplish kind of the stuff I’ve talked about earlier, just staying true to the community. 

I mean, the stuff he’s done for 5th Ward and Houston as a whole and there’s almost no rappers or people in hip hop you can point to that still can go back to their hood and still have done a lot to help those communities. J’s been a leader in that regard for years. 

So he and I have been very close since the 80s when I first met him and started covering his music in The Source. And Jay has been very close to Larry and his family for many, many years, as most people know. 

So, J really helped make the introduction. I moved out to Chicago in 2017 and my girlfriend is from Chicago and I decided to come out here. She’s born and raised and her family’s here. And when I got to Chicago, that was when J initially kinda introduced me to Larry’s wife, Miss Winndye, and to his son, Larry Jr., and I started to build a relationship with them and spend time with them and we got close over the past few years to the point where, when I was launching Breakbeat, they were one of the first people I wanted to go to try to bring into the network. So that’s kind of how that happened. 

I’m in Chicago now, been living here all year this year and it’s been great. I love the city. I think it’s an amazing city that doesn’t get all the credit and limelight that it should. It obviously gets a lot of negative attention because of the violence, which is a very serious problem still here today, and that’s the type of thing, again, that when you learn the history of Chicago and the history of Larry Hoover, you’re gonna gain a much different perspective on the way things are in Chicago today than probably what you have currently from mainstream media. 

Dan: That makes sense. No, that’s exciting and definitely looking forward to this project. What did you say the timeline was? When should we expect this one?

Dave: We’re gonna announce it officially and release a trailer on Larry’s birthday, which is November 30th so that’ll be the first official announcement and a little peek at it. We’re not gonna start releasing the series until first quarter of 2022. So, yeah, we’re still in production and working on finishing it up.

Dan: That’s great. Good stuff. Dave, thanks again. It’s been a pleasure. So just to recap, if people wanna be able to follow along with you or Breakbeat specifically, where should they go? 

Dave: Yeah, please. I mean, definitely check out what we’re doing. I think you’ll like it. So you can go on any podcast app, whether it’s Apple, Spotify, wherever you listen to podcasts, and you can search Breakbeat or you can search the show titles, Don’t Call Me White Girl and Culturati are the first two that are available right now. 

You can also go to the Breakbeat Media YouTube channel and that’s where the visual versions of our shows are living so you should definitely check out the Don’t Call Me White Girl there. 

And then, you know, breakbeatmedia.com is our website and we’re @breakbeatmedia on social, on Instagram and Twitter. And if you wanna follow me, I’m @therealdavemays also on Instagram and Twitter. But, yeah, I hope people will go and check out what we’re doing and I think they’ll be interested and find something that they wanna continue to be a part of.

Dan: Good stuff. And, yeah, we’ll link to those in the show notes as well. Thanks again, Dave. This was great. 

Dave: Yeah, Dan, great meeting you and definitely will stay in touch and, hopefully, have some more of these conversations because I really like what you’ve been doing. 

Dan: Yeah, likewise, for sure. Definitely.

Dave: You’re in a really interesting and relevant area of journalism and reporting with your focus that no one else is really focused on so kudos to you.

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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