First issue date: August 1988
On the cover: N/A
Cover line: The Word On The Street?
Editors: David Mays, Jonathan Shecter
Art director: N/A
Other contacts: Jonathan Shecter
David Mays and Jonathan Shecter were college friends and co-hosts of Street Beat, a hip-hop radio show on WHRB, Harvard University's radio station, when Mays decided to create a newsletter to publicize the show. Although it looked like a typical bulletin you might see stapled on an overcrowded corkboard in a student center, it was filled with pivotal hip-hop happenings. Mays and Shecter used an address log from callers at their radio show as their first mailing list for the publication, and it grew from a one-page newsletter into a legendary monthly magazine.
In June 1989 they released their first issue with a cover image, a shot of Slick Rick that was provided by a publicist. Before adopting their famous mic-in-hand logo, The Source was flanked by cartoon figures and a distorted logo as the header. The black-and-white cover was less of an aesthetic decision and more a result of financial restrictions. The Source wasn't hosting iconic photo shoots and producing elaborate covers just yet, but Mays and Shecter definitely captured the energy and grassroots grind of early hip-hop.
Jonathan Shecter says: "David Mays, who was my college friend and rap radio show partner, came up with that first one-page newsletter, and he mailed it to me. His intention was to basically use it to promote our radio show. We met up and were like, 'Listen, this could be something. Let's figure out how to make this a business.' Very early on, we divided up responsibilities. I became the editor-in-chief and Dave became the publisher. We put literally one hundred dollars into a bank account, so we had two hundred dollars to work with—that was it. We set out to make people aware that we existed, for the industry to give us records, and to make local people aware that this was a good rap radio show. We put the newsletter into record stores in the Boston area. There were about a dozen places that sold hip-hop at that time, or maybe even less. That was the very beginning.
That black and white cover with Slick Rick in a weird pose is the first one we actually designed. We would use the earliest Macintosh computers to lay out the magazine, and it was a very ,very slow process. There was hardly any memory, and if you moved one object on the page, you would sit like 15 minutes for the rest of the page to reassemble.
At that point we had hardly any experience and very little knowledge about what a magazine should be. The business of running a magazine was all kind of a mystery to us. We picked Slick Rick because his popularity and his talent warranted it. His album came out in 1988, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, and it was a very, very popular album and had many huge hits on it including 'Children's Story' and all of his classics basically. For two guys who had no experience with a design, that was us taking a stab at it."