By 2002, it seemed like Eminem could do no wrong. The white rapper from Detroit bucked hip hop culture’s stereotypes and became one of the biggest selling music artists of all-time, winning a bevy of awards doing so. It was a fact that didn’t sit well with one particular individual: Raymond “Benzino” Scott. Along with being a rapper, Scott was also a co-owner of perhaps the biggest rap publication in the world, The Source. In 2002, Benzino went on a media tour denouncing Eminem and labeling him as part of a racist machine that was pushing its way to the top of popular culture.
“I had a problem with ’the machine,’ with the double standard in hip hop,” he told MTV in 2002. “Certain media outlets take to him and look at him as the savior in hip hop and the No. 1 in hip hop and [do] not recognize the guys out here that created hip hop. Eminem is just the hood ornament for the machine. You think I could grab my crotch and put my ass in people’s faces the way he does? No way. But as long as the color of his skin and his eyes fits what America wants… it’s alright.”
Benzino claimed that Eminem was just another Vanilla Ice, and he released two diss records titled “Pull Your Skirt Up” and “I Don’t Wanna.”
In the tracks, Benzino claimed that Em had no street credibility, that he was addicted to ecstasy, and that Benzino would hang him off a balcony, among other disses.
Five shades darker, you’d be Canibus / And no one would care about your complicated rhyme style / … What you know about pumpin’ on the block ’til you freeze? / What you know about cutting up rocks, duckin’ [detectives]? / What you know about facing a grand jury indictment? / As far as I’m concerned, you’re just industry excitement
Eminem responded by releasing two tracks, “The Sauce” and “Nail in the Coffin.”
Among Eminem’s raps were claims that Benzino bullied his way around the The Source‘s offices, that he was simply looking for attention, and that he was too old to rap. The war of words didn’t just stop at the tracks the two exchanged, though. In the February 2003 issue of The Source, the publication included a poster of Benzino holding Eminem’s severed head. The co-owner of The Source began using his platform to publicly discredit Eminem. One of the issues with this kind of attack was that the magazine began to look like a mouthpiece for Benzino’s animosity and not an impartial rap publication. And The Source‘s problems were more than just about perception: Money was also lost when Eminem’s parent company, Interscope Records, decided to pull their advertising. But The Source and Benzino weren’t about to give up their fight, and their biggest volley came in 2003, when they held a press conference stating that they were in possession of early recordings of the Detroit rapper that had racist connotations in them.
Eminem didn’t deny the existence of such recordings, saying that he had gone through a nasty break-up with an African-American female at the time, and that the wounds bled onto the track. In December 2003, Eminem filed a copyright infringement case against The Source when the publication threatened to release the racist material in their February 2004 issue. A judge granted Em an injunction barring the magazine from releasing the tracks, but he did allow 20-second snippets of the music to be released. In 2005, Eminem dropped his lawsuit against the magazine, yet David Mays, co-owner of The Source, claimed that the material was recorded when Eminem was 21 years old, and not 16 like he previously said.
Shortly after the suit was dropped, Benzino went on record saying that he was quitting his position and selling all of his stock in the publication.
“I’ve been consumed too much with the whole conflict thing… the Eminem suit, and I am sick of it,” Benzino said to MTV. “I don’t want to take away from what The Source has built up, but I got issues with The Source and magazines like that. Everyone is too politically correct.”
Benzino is a little bit older these days, and a little bit wiser. “I can say it now, I was wrong for it. Because, at the end of the day, Em is a great lyricist, and he should be able to express himself in hip-hop as anybody should,” he told MTV in 2012.
As for The Source‘s 2002 Lyricist of the Year award that Eminem received, well, he smashed it in front of 50,000 fans.