Retrospective: History of The Source Awards (1994-2004)

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-Award shows have always been talking points for the water cooler at work or just in general amongst the community. Long before the BET Awards was the most prominent black awards show, there was one award show that truly captured the essence of hip hop at its core: The Source Awards. From the inception in 1994 to the demise of the short lived run in 2004 officially, The Source Awards gave us many great moments and performances to last a lifetime. Today, the team gathers to talk the Source Awards, the history of the awards, our favorite moments, the controversies, and if the awards could survive today. Let's get into it.

*Favorite Moments And Memories 
-There have been infamous moments and performances in the Source Awards history from 2Pac interrupting Tribe Called Quest to the entire 1995 Source Awards to the great energetic performances from the 1999 Source Awards. My personal favorite moment is from the 1995 Source Awards, and no, it's not Diddy vs Suge, nor is it Snoop and his infamous speech, but my personal favorite moment is when Outkast hit the stage to accept their New Artist of the Year award amidst some boos, and had Andre 3000 utter the powerful words of "The south's got something to say". The power of his words struck me even more in 2001 at the awards, when Outkast won Artist of the Year and Live Performer of the Year. 6 years later, the duo was still as dominant and even bigger stars than before. The South did have something to say and they were loud and clear.

Another great moment to me was when the Cash Money Millionaires incorporated the helicopter they had began using in their tour on the Awards show for their performance. I was a huge Cash Money fan at the time and this performance felt like the greatest thing in history. Truth be told, my favorite moments and memories from the Source Awards aren't the controversies and fights, but the impact it had and what it meant to the culture. Like, the 1999 Awards is my personal favorite, though I know the 1995 Awards is hands down the most important Source Awards, and possibly most important Awards show ever. Why 1999 though? I think it's something about the awards and nominees that feel special, from the choices for Lyricist of the Year (we would never have something like this at the American Music Awards or Grammys), to the choices for Artist of the Year (Outkast, The Roots, Gangstarr, Goodie M.O.B., and A Tribe Called Quest), it just all felt extremely significant to the culture and what we needed.

There are so many memories and moments of The Source Awards that I could go on for days, but I'll let the rest of the team tell you what they love and remember most about the iconic Awards.

Now, I've spoke on this moment a couple times, but my favorite moment in the show's history is when Andre got up on stage, in the middle of Suge and Diddy beefing and the East/West feud, and said "The south's got something to say." Before then, you knew of Southern rap, you knew it had potential, but no one was talking about it. No one really gave two fucks outside of those of us below the Mason-Dixon--and even then, it was hard to get play as a Southern artist. It was a moment that shattered the walls between the North and the South, as in 1995, The Source Awards were hip-hop's Grammys.

My love for 90’s hip hop isn’t just rappers, album releases and debuts, it’s the entire culture of hip hop and everything about it. We had so much back then, from music to new fashion styles to actual magazines, which now seem like a distant memory. I use to know the dates when Vibe, XXL, The Source and Blaze magazines would hit newsstands each month and I made sure to buy each. I liked them all for different reasons, but The Source was always my favorite. I also remember the first year The Source held their award show. I was thrilled. I had always watched the Grammy’s, as it had its moments, but that seemed to skim through hip hop, and thosd Awards shows would start and finish with no real drama of any kind.

The first Source Awards were held in 1994, and I thought this would go down much like the other awards shows I had seen, but I would be proven wrong almost immediately. '94 would only be the beginning, but at the risk of detailing too much, I'll keep my favorite Source Awards moments to the three that stuck out the most.

Now a group we don't really hear much about these days is Onyx. I've always liked Onyx and since they were quite relevant in '94, it came as no surprise that they would be called to perform. Now, this particular incident wasn't on TV, but we all read about after the fact. I don't know what it was, but Onyx gets on stage and performs "Throw Ya Gunz" and believe it or not, Sticky Fingaz pulls out a gun and shoots a few rounds up at the ceiling. Definitely the first of its kind and surprisingly it only made the crowd more hyped.

For those who remember this next moment, I salute you! It's a good one and in my opinion,  another first of its kind (ODB would do the same in a way at the '98 Grammys and Kanye also in '09 at the MTV awards). So we are nearing the end of the night and of course it's the Artist of the Year category and Tribe gets nominated and wins the award. Everyone, the fans, the entire room, the other artists, absolutely everyone is thrilled and as Q-Tip and company are about to accept the award, Tupac and his entourage literally bum rush the stage and perform a song to close out the show.

I was still a Pac fan at the time and much like all the fans, we knew Tupac and loved him for his carefree, fearless and reckless mannerisms, so was this in true Tupac form? Yes! Were we shocked and confused watching this happen? Yes! Along with Q-Tip and the entire Zulu Nation affiliates... but did Pac care? Nope, not a bit. He performed his song in its entirety. This would be the incident that caused a media frenzy over the short lived Tupac/Q-Tip beef, which was squashed a very short time after and Pac apologized, as Busta Rhymes called the incident a miscommunication.

Finally, I think the moment that had people talking for weeks, maybe even months and fueled the infamous "Hip Hop Coastal Feud" even more. 1995 was the nascent stage of that feud and the moment that Suge Knight opened his mouth to make it reach a new level. He threw shots at Puffy and Bad Boy when he said: "To all you artists out there, who don't wanna be on a record label where the executive producer's...all up in the videos, all on the records, dancin'...then come to Death Row", which is a moment I remember vividly. I was shocked, I couldn't believe he said that, AT THE SOURCE AWARDS! It didn't stop there, as in '95, EVERYONE had something to say, from Dre and Snoop to even Andre 3000 of Outkast. It was an intense year and one that would forever be referred to and become such a historic year, not only in hip hop history, but in award show history.

*Controversy and Ending 
-The Source Awards became a running joke in some way to the hip hop culture after all the incidents began occurring from a shuffle in 2000 with E-40 and Mac Minister's people to DJ Quik getting jumped, and other issues that arose that same year, the feel of the Source Awards was entirely different going forward. Couple that with the history of tension surrounding the entire show starting in 1994 and 1995, and the level of intensity in hip hop during this era, along with the genuine beefs made this whole concept tough to pull off for multiple years. The Source is no longer a prominent brand in hip hop, and that's a shame, because back during the era of the awards, it was the biggest voice for the culture. Things changed however, when they took that three year hiatus from 1996-1998. Though the 1999 Awards went on without real incident, there was this perceived notion of the awards in general when they came back, and it would affect the brand forever.

After the 2000 Source Awards and the fights, it just didn't feel the same. The 2001 Awards were alright, and the change of location to Miami gave it a different feel, but the 2003 and 2004 ceremonies don't really stand out as memorable aside from a Diplomats performance in 2003 and Ludacris winning the Artist of the Year award in 2004. I think that has more to do with The Source losing respect as a publication for its beef in 2002/2003 with Eminem, Shady Records, Interscope, and such. It just wasn't the same anymore, and The Source was in a decline. Make no mistake about it, the downfall of The Source Awards and The Source period was a gradual decline over a 2 to 3 year period and with it, we lost the biggest awards ceremony that was for the culture and for the music.

*Could The Source Awards Survive Today?
-In a much more friendly rap world, with a different style of music in play essentially, could the Source Awards survive in this day and age? I think it could. The statements that a Kendrick would make on the Grammys, could be made even stronger or rougher on a less controlled Source Awards environment. A performance from J. Cole could come with some aggressive talk about how the police brutality issue goes without being addressed or there could have even been an issue among 50 and whoever he beefed with at the time, or a Meek and Drake altercation. The elements are there for hip hop now for a Source Awards to survive, but The Source itself has begun to get away from what made it so vital to the culture that it would be pointless to even exist today. Imagine Artist of the Year or Lyricist of the Year now. Kendrick, Cole, Drake, Future, and Kanye would likely be the choices for Artist of the Year. Not bad, but something about that feels flat. There's an abundance of bad music from Desiigner to the entertaining yet oddly executed music of Young Thug, a ton of trap music that's usually uninspired, and a lot of repetition in the music. In some ways, a Source Awards would be needed to drift away from that and remind the culture itself that the dope music still exists and the feeling we loved in hip hop is still there. However, much like their counterpart XXL, The Source more or less embraces the regression in hip hop, and that would be detrimental to the culture. Could the Source Awards survive today?  Sure it could. Would it honestly be what we needed for the culture? Probably not.

To answer this question, I've got to say "no, no, and hell no." Several things worked in The Source Awards' favor when they existed. For starters, people still went to The Source as one of the definitive sources (pun intended) for hip-hop and hip-hop news. Now, with the advent of blogs, websites, and The Source not being the giant it once was (it's still important somewhat, though), it's hard to see a Source Award, in 2016, having the same impact. Additionally, you've got BET doing their own thing with their, for better or worse, Hip-Hop Awards, VH1's Hip-Hop Honors, and so on.

On top of that...let's just be real: people seem more ready to grab the strap over stupid shit these days. That's with ANY genre, though. Let's not make this a "hip-hop is prone to violence" argument. People die at EDM concerts just like they do at rap concerts--and both are just as likely to die from gun violence. I'm just saying. PEOPLE these days aren't willing to just fight someone or even stomp the shit outta someone. Nah. Guns become the first choice because 'MURRICA and whatnot. Add that into how The Source Awards were and you've got a big pile of "nah." It can't work these days. Would I like to see The Source Awards or something like it exist? Why the hell not? We need more hip-hop/R&B recognition. But do I see it happening? Not at all.

As crazy as all of this was, it's only in hindsight that I appreciate everything that happened at the Source Awards. It’s a comparison point to scale the evolution of the genre and culture. It highlights the changes so much and it's only through this that I can confidently say, The Source Awards would have never been able to survive in the current state of hip hop. Not a chance. Now, rap “beefs” are started, addressed and squashed via timelines, posts and tweets, and diss tracks are only made to boost album sales (though they were used for this purpose at times back then too) and there are no real “squads” like before, in my opinion. No one is going to an awards show to talk shit and make a point behind a mic, it just isn't the same. It’s all bittersweet though: The “bitter” part (for me) during the ’90’s, the more carefree and reckless the artists were, the fanbase would follow suit. People were not as sensitive, they were more vocal about their opinions and much more tolerant of differences (or at least it seemed). The only divide back then was, you either leaned towards the east or the west. If you had asked me then how I would envision hip hop 21 years later, I probably would have (through naiveté) said “the same only ‘Pac, BIG, Nas and all my favorites will be older”. I would have never imagined a genre filled with trap beats and lyrics stripped of real life stories and messages. What was once a means to show talent and abilities has now become business moves and profitability. BUT there is a sweet part, the indie artists. It’s each and every one of them who have persevered and maintained the purity and talent that we appreciated so much about hip hop. The only issue with that is I doubt the Source Awards would cover the great indie artists.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-The legacy of the Source Awards will live on forever, for better or worse. It's what really catapulted the beefs, the artists, and solidified The Source as the standard in hip hop. It was our culture, our flavor, our music being recognized because the mainstream awards didn't want to give us our recognition. Regardless of the controversy or what it became at the end, the Source Awards remains legendary and will always have a special place in hip hop history.



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