Former ‘Source’ Editor-In-Chief Kim Osorio Applauds Women In Hip Hop But Says There’s A ‘Long Way To Go’


Exclusive – March is Women’s History Month and there hasn’t been too much coverage surrounding women’s invaluable contributions to Hip Hop. From Cynthia Campbell who threw the infamous Back To School Jam with her brother Kool Herc in 1973 to Sugar Hill Records founder Sylvia Robinson, women have been there since the beginning, breathing life into the culture and propelling it to the position it’s in today. Now the biggest genre in the world, Hip Hop has transcended any doubt it was nothing more than a fad.

Veteran Hip Hop journalist and television executive Kim Osorio was born and raised in the Bronx at a time when Hip Hop was just starting to flourish. It was all around her and she knew she wanted to be a part of it at a young age. Memorizing every word to Roxanne Shanté’s “Roxanne’s Revenge” was like homework back then and Osorio was an eager student ready to learn.

“The beats really appealed to me,” she tells HipHopDX in a recent interview. “I did all of that stuff in the streets with Hip Hop that we all did growing up. But there was a time where the music, beats and lyrics started to speak to me differently than just your average ‘coming up in the Bronx.’ No, there’s something here that I’m identifying with more than just, ‘This is Hip Hop around me.’”

As for “Roxanne’s Revenge,” Osorio says she wrote the lyrics down “because it was a girl.” She continues, “That was big to me. I don’t know another Hip Hop fan at that time in it as deep as I was that didn’t write those lyrics down and recite them. So you had to know that record. When you went to school the next day, you got to know the lyrics.”

Shanté was only 14 when she wrote the track, but the fact she was also a girl going up against the popular ’80s rap group U.T.F.O. was unheard of — she was simply way ahead of her time.

“It blows my mind that a lot of female artists were as young as they were when they were thrust into the space and especially in the way that they had to come into it with the male crews,” Osorio says. “When you think of Shanté, when you think of [Lil] Kim, when you think of Foxy [Brown], their age and the things they were spitting in their rhymes … now as a mother of 21 and 15 year old, I feel like something as influential as Hip Hop can force our girls to have to grow up too fast. But that’s what they were. And all of us, we were exposed to that at that age.”

The 1991 single “Poor Georgie” by MC Lyte is a perfect example. Lyte was 21 when she wrote the song and bravely tackled addiction, domestic violence and dysfunctional relationships. While rap has certainly seen an uprising of women in the space, there are very few spitting with that kind of substance. But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been progress. As Osorio points out, women in Hip Hop are putting up impressive sales numbers.

“You think of how well female artists have done, so that’s a barrier that they’ve broken,” she says. “I don’t know if it took a longer time back in the day before someone went platinum or someone had this amount of streams. I don’t know. But I would say that the appetite that people have for a female POV and Hip Hop is through the success of the artists that we have. So I feel like that’s a barrier that was broken.

“Also, women being in charge of their own business. I think we’re seeing a lot more of that these days than we ever saw. Women who are out there in the space and there’s not a man standing right behind that woman like, ‘I’m responsible for her,’ no matter how brilliant she is.”

And Osorio should know. As the first female Editor-In-Chief at The Source — once affectionately called Hip Hop’s Bible — she had to fight tooth and nail to gain the respect of her male contemporaries. But it was always a battle. In 2005, she filed a harassment complaint with the publication’s HR department and was promptly fired. Consequently, Osorio filed a lawsuit against the magazine, alleging sexual harassment, gender discrimination, defamation, retaliatory discharge and maintaining a hostile work environment. She won on retaliation and defamation charges to the tune of millions.

In 2009, entertainment lawyer L. Londell McMillan — who represented Prince, among others — acquired The Source and rehired Osorio as its Editor-In-Chief in 2012 in an effort to reinvigorate the brand. She left just one year later to pursue a full-time television career.

“After my second tenure at The Source is when I really got into television production, which is a lot different from what I was doing even as a writer because I was writing for TV when I was at The Source,” she explains. “I was writing and producing for live television at first and so on that side, there’s a little bit more notoriety. It’s more celebrated. I got into production where it pays much better than the other or the writing for television. But it’s way more brutal and it’s not celebrated. It’s shameful because they can sometimes be threatened by the career or name you’ve already built as a journalist.

“So I rose up the ranks and became an executive producer. But that was like, ‘Put your head down and work for real.’ That was, ‘You will get no party over here for what you’re doing.’ And on top of that, coming into TV and from the production side with the background that I had invited people to step on me a little harder. The way they treat you when you come in with your background as a writer or journalist in the television space, it’s shameful. I’ve encountered a lot of insecurities from people in television, as if there’s not enough room for all of us to make money. And there is.”

With credits including Love & Hip Hop, Growing Up Hip Hop, Hustle In Brooklyn, Black Ink Chicago and VH1 Hip Hop Honors: ’90s Game Changers, Osorio has paid her dues and then some.

“I hadn’t worked like that since the early 2000s when I was at The Source where we were working,” she says. “And it didn’t matter who I was, what my name was, what my credits were. ‘People in the industry, she fought for women’s rights. She had a huge case.’

“Nobody gave a fuck. I was leaving the office at 2 a.m. again, so I had to work myself back up to the point as an executive producer now where I’ll say, ‘It’s 10 o’clock, y’all I’m going home. This is over. Let’s wrap this shoot.’ I had to work up to that; to be able to go into meetings and say to people, ‘We’re not going to go past this time.’”

These days, Osorio is on a temporary sabbatical from reality television and doing media consulting. She’s also finishing up a book on Foxy Brown and documentary and book on Bad Boy Records affiliate Loon who was released from jail in July 2020 after nearly a decade behind bars.

“We’re working on a documentary,” she says. “He’s got an amazing story. We are already working with a production company. These are some of the film projects that I’m really focused on. I’m also head of content at Infinite Reality, a metaverse company that is going to change the business of content creators. And we’re already in progress on a few projects to be announced later this Spring.”

Despite Osorio’s tenure, she notices she rarely receives a call to talk about Hip Hop in general — unless it’s involving women. While she certainly doesn’t mind being approached about the subject, it’s one more thing she thinks should change.

“There are a lot of male voices and I feel like women’s voices are used as a default women’s perspective, as opposed as just looking at Hip Hop as a whole,” she explains. “And somebody just happens to be a woman that’s talking about this stuff. So I feel like we have a long way to go. I love speaking on women in Hip Hop; this is absolutely my specialty. But they don’t call me to speak on anything else in the space.

“When they get to the OG level and they call for that sort of thing, the people who are in that space with me, it’s the men that get the calls, unless we’re talking specifically about women. But I love being called on women in Hip Hop stuff. I love it. I’ll talk about it all day and I respect everyone that calls me for it.”