Featured, Pop Culture

Aliya S. King’s True Hip-Hop Stories: That Time The Source Saved Me From Getting Shot

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…

It’s 2000.

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?”

Me: “Working.”

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?”

Me: Yes.

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.

Kid: No.

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.

Aliya S. King

Aliya S. King is the author of two novels and three nonfiction books, including the New York Times bestseller Keep the Faith, written with recording artist Faith Evans. Right here, she wants to add something pithy and quirky about pancakes or something like in Damon’s bio. But she’s just not that witty. It would feel forced.

  • Jennifer

    “One night, at a strip club in The Bronx, (don’t ask)…”

    You obviously don’t know me yet.

    • Ah strip clubs in the BX are their own kind of crazy. LOL

      • Jennifer

        That’s why I wanna know, Todd. I missed out on this life changing experience.

      • cakes_and_pies

        They don’t hold a flame to strip clubs in Detroit.

      • aliyasking

        YO. You ain’t say nothing but a word right there.

    • For real. You can’t start out with that and not tell more.

    • aliyasking

      I just mentally calculated the number of stories I have that start out with, “one night at a strip club…” It’s 7.

      I thought there would be more actually…

      • Jennifer

        Perhaps you can do a monthly strip club installment. I have a feeling you’ll be around for a while. Give the people what they want, Aliya. ;-)

  • kris b.

    I just love your stories! Panama and Damon! Keep her at all costs!

    • aliyasking

      **curtsies**

  • Brianna

    Why does this have to be set in my city…..do NOT call us ChiRaq….. We do take offense

    • Dougie

      ChiRaq doesn’t fit tho? There sure is a lot of killing out there.

      • Seems like it was Chicago rappers who came up with it. That being said, I think it should be get rid of because of the awful movie with the same name.

        • Dougie

          now THAT is very valid.

        • That movie was awesome.

        • Epsilonicus

          “Seems like it was Chicago rappers who came up with it.”

          It was

      • Julian Green

        It gives off this idea that Chicago is the worst place in America, when it’s really not. Granted, things aren’t exactly going well in many neighborhoods, but there’s more going on in the city than the violence.

        • I don’t think things are ever as bad as they make it out to be in the media. I lived in Nigeria during the reign of Gen. Sani Abacha (may he rest at the bottom of h3ll), where daily people got killed and arrested daily for opening their mouths, regardless of how rich they were. Not to mention fuel lines that were so long, a Kenyan marathon runner would tap out. But life still went on…it usually does.

          • Uchechi Chinyere

            Had to come out of lurkdom to say “may he rest at the bottom of h3ll” is EXACTLY what my father would say about Abacha.

  • Brianna

    ???

  • Ess Tee

    “(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.”)

    Folks don’t even understand how good they have it these days with Soundcloud links LOL!

    • Dougie

      Not much of a difference between a soundcloud and a the garbage bag besides the pennies on a dollar investment in the physical tape.

      • Ess Tee

        Oh, I’m not even talking about the cost of a cassette but more the actual physical space it takes up. If I’m some up-and-comer MC, it’s easier to say “I’m Ess Tee on Soundcloud” or “Check me out on Soundcloud dot com slash Ess Tee” than having to root around for a cassette (or even having one at the ready in a random club or some place).

    • PhlyyPhree

      LOOK!!!
      I remember those “music meetings” we had to find new local artists in the DC area. The only memorable thing I ever got out of those meetings was how good the pizza was. Smh

      • Ess Tee

        Haha! Where’d y’all store those demos in the process?

  • Crazy how Kid was willing to admit he was there to get y’all.

    • aliyasking

      Q had taken it upon himself to keep the area around George’s Music Room safe. He had all kinds of NYC and LA folks coming through for business and he couldn’t have the local stick-up kids acting up.

  • I feel those interns pain. My brother wasn’t super successful, but he had a few underground hits and a BET Uncut video. While that wasn’t special, he’d get tons of tapes as well. Since he was too busy trying to work a 9 to 5 as well as do some hip hop, those tapes would be dispatched to me.

    The same way you have to take a class and road test to drive, they need classes and a studio test to be a MC. The shenanigans people would pay studio time to record is galling. At least it was a break from grad school and work. LOL

    • DBoySlim

      Now I wanna know who he is.

      • probably Qtip! lol but that would be too easy. or…

      • Marion Dooley

        Q-Tip wasn’t from Chicago…

    • Is your brother the guy in the intro of the tip drill video?

      • The shorter dude in this video is J Gram, my older brother:
        https://youtu.be/R0jfrYeN9bs

        • KB

          Ahhhh the ratchet greatness that was BET Uncut

          • It’s funny now watching these videos too; you kind of realize that social media created a golden age for thots and ratchets. Lol, gotta love freedom of choice:

            https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CVb6a67UAAAAnK4.jpg

            • aliyasking

              Hmmm. Because if you dress scantily, then you’re a whore?

              • lovelygamour

                If its in the middle of the day, generally.
                -i know what you are getting at.

              • Are all ratchets and thots whores, or are they all just synonyms for the same thing?

        • It’s ironic that 10 years ago, you had to wait till 2:00 am to watch videos like this (people thought videos like this and tip drill were bad), now a 4 year old could watch em, without a gmail account.

        • lovelygamour

          Surprisingly, that video was better then some of the “made it” rappers. The video told the story of the (raunchy) song. All the people could dance instead of just a bunch of random white women. It was better then hotline bling, rich s$x, and better production than rhi-pour it up!

    • Illumina

      If my cousin’s (possibly ex)boyfriend’s video shenanigan’s is in any way similar to the audio shenanigan’s you speak of, then I feel for you.

      I mean if you gonna shoot a “video” at least take the clothes off of the entertainment center.

    • occupiesthethrone

      I see your older brother and raise you my entire junior class saw my math teacher’s video on uncut at the same time. This is even more impressive when you figure this is pre texting, and all of us were somehow able to notify each other by calling a house phone at 3 am.

  • Glad you got to walk away from that without getting your ish run. That’s such a scary situation!

  • Lea Thrace

    Ms. Aliya.

    Please tell me a book is on its way! Cause this once a week spoon feeding of your stories just isnt enough for me anymore!

  • SirKnows DevoidofPunk

    George Daniels was that dude… I’d be in the club—any club in CHI, ATL, NYC… and George would walk in and people’d be like “George!!!” It was some CHEERS ish. Dude was so known. Pretty down to earth cat as I remember.

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