FNV NEWSLETTER #104
October 17 2002
In this week's issue
*Rob Swift Reminds Us That the DJ is In Charge
*Talib Blesses the Bay
*Queen Latifah and the Unit Rock Oakland
*Rap The Vote Rally at UC Berkeley
*Power 106 Under Fire for Playing Too Much Shade Sheist
The FNV Newsletter c 2002
Send comments to
peep the websites
First things first...Before you do anything, there are two albums you
have to go out and get.. First we have DJ Rob Swift of the
X-ecutioners. His new album 'Sound Event' gets nothing but high
praise from me. This cat came through and delivered what many have
been longing for-a solid album that is rich with head nodding beats
that'll send all deejays back to the lab to reassess their turntable
and production skillz.
While Swift does employ the vocals of superb rhyme spitters like Large
Professor and Supernatural and J-Live, its his skillful arrangements
of musical bits and samples ranging from JJ of the TV show 'Good
Times' to 'Malcolm X' that once again remind cats that long before the
emcee came along it was the DJ that was large and in charge. There
are cuts on this album that folks are gonna peep and say 'mmmm let me
use this for the opening of my radio show or mixtape" or better yet,
"Let me play this cut to get my party started". It's all straight
rewind material. I just wanna go on record and officially say I got
first dibs on my favorite song off this album. 'The Ghetto'. I'm
using that as the opening theme to kick off my radio show..
TALIB BLESSES THE BAY
The second album folks have got to run out and get is Talib Kweli's
new joint 'Quality'. The album definitely lives up to its name in a
major way. Here Talib does everything form spitting fierce rhymes
about George Bush and the impending War with Iraq to a straight up
ballad with Bilal. He hits a homerun with a slamming cut he does with
Black Thought and Pharaoh Monche. It's an incredible album
Big props to Talib who rolled through our radio show the other day and
blessed us with the new album which will be dropping on November 19th.
Since we were in the middle of our annual fund drive, we decided to
offer up some of the albums as premiums. The phone lines went
bananas. It got out of hand as we had 50 year old white guys pulling
off the freeway driving down to the station, cash in hand donating to
the station and ready to pick up their album. When all was said and
done we were left with one copy and 5 deejays ready to go to war ovto
see who would get it.
In talking with Talib he noted that it was good for him to do a solo
album because he didn't have to compromise on his musical vision and
desires. He said there will be another Blackstar album coming out
sometime in the future, but right now him and Mos are just busy doing
all their other projects. Talib has been on the road throughout much
of last year. He noted he's been fortunate to be able tour in spite
of not having any new material.
QUEEN LATIFAH AND THE UNIT ROCK OAKLAND
Big Shout to Queen Latifah and her Flavor Unit partner Shakim. They
came through and blessed the Bay with their presence with a new crew
of up and coming artists collectively called The Unit. Their latest
offering is 180% Proof and they seemed eager to showcase their talent
and prove to the world they are here to take their seats at the Hip
Hop table. One of the things Latifah noted was that her and Shakim
have been working closely with these new acts and stressing to them
the importance of honing their both their rhyme and business skillz so
they be can be prepared to deal with the industry.
For example, I was impressed with their performance the other night at
Sweet Jimmy's Night Club in downtown Oakland. Despite the small stage
and the large number of crew members, they managed to avoid doing what
far too many other rap groups do-all rap at the same time to the point
that you have no idea who is saying what and why? Y'all know what I'm
talking about? How many times have we gone to a show and watched 20
cats get on stage all of them screaming into the mic while it was only
one person who actually did the song? With the Unit, when they did
their show, one or two cats would step up rock their lyrics, get their
shine and then step back, put their egos in check and let the next man
step up and rock the crowd. It was a beautiful thing. Sometime next
week we'll run the interview with Queen Latifah and Shakim. It takes
time to transcribe these things.
LAST MINUTE BITS:
RAP THE VOTE RALLY IN AT UC BERKELY
Lastly shoutouts are in order to Benzino who got busy at the Manhattan
Lounge with his new song which folks can't seem to get enough of....We
also had the Beatnuts and Non Phixion doing their thing the other
night at Slims. They are part of the Rock the Vote Tour. Coolio is
doing his thing. He has anew album and had his record release party
in LA last night.. We should be catching up with Coolio next week.
I'm gonna find out if he's ready to take over for Bob Hope in terms of
being the main cat who goes overseas to entertain the troops.
Also shout out to Jurassic 5 who killed it both nights at the Filmore
in SF. Chuck D best described things last week when he came through
by using a jazz analogy. He noted that artist like him and KRS and
Big Daddy kane were the Duke Ellingtons, Dizzy Gillipses and Count
Basies of the rap game. Today's new generation which is best
personaified by acts like Dilated Peoples, Blackalicious and Jurassic
5 are like the John Coltrains and Miles Davis of rap. All I can say
is alot of folks are really bringing some heat and branching out
musically. We now have Jay-Z doing a more soulful sound, Lauryn Hill
straight up doing folk like music, Talib doing ballads, Blackalicious
hooking up with Gil Scott Heron, Dilated collaborating with rock
groups like Linkin' Park and J5 redefining how a group should look and
sound when they come together to perform or produce.
For folks who are here in the SF Bay Area there are a couple of things
to look out for. First we today [Thursday Oct 17th.. we have a huge
Rap the Vote Rally going down at UC Berekeley in Lower Sproul.
Digital Underground, Zion I and Bas-1 are all headlining the bill and
will be performing as well as speaking.
This Saturday its going down in full efect at the Gallery in San Jose.
Its The Bay Area vs Central Cali. Headz from both regions will be
descending upon the Gallery for an all out emcee battle. Check out
Shamako column Fresh Coast tripping where he lays this all out...
Also Rocksteady Crew will be in town this weekend to bless the Battle
of the Elements Battle Kings 2002 B-Boy Championships over at Mission
Rock. Let it not be said things ain't happening here in the Yeah
POWER 106 COMES UNDER FIRE: FOR PLAYING TOO MUCH SHADE SHEISY
by - Davey D
A couple of weeks ago Funk Master Flex of NY's Hot 97 came under fire
when he was accused of taking payola to play records. Among his
accuser were rap stars Nas and KRS-One. It's a charge Flex has
vehemently denied and while the accusations caused a buzz coast to
coast, NYPD declined to not investigate the charges. Flex is an
employee of Emmis Broadcasting which also backed Flex in his defense.
3000 miles away in Los Angeles another Emmis Broadcasting station,
Power 106 and music programmer Damion Young have come under fire. In
an article written by controversial writer Chuck Phillips of the LA
Times, it was pointed out that LA artist Shade Sheist has been getting
an awful lot of spins on LA's top rated station. In fact over the
past few weeks, Sheist's latest single 'Money Owners' has gotten more
380 spins which is more than any other station in the country. On the
surface that isn't a bad thing if you happen to like Shade Sheist.
After all why shouldn't he get that much love considering he's from
LA? Support the locals right?
The problem according to the article is that Damion Young in addition
to being APD for Power 106 also happens to be the producer for
Sheist's CD. Not only that, but Sheist's record label Baby Ree
Entertainment is financed by Emmis Broadcasting. The article also
points out that Young has done a number of remixes and production work
for other projects ranging from Def Jam to Sony. So basically what we
have is a situation where it appears that Emmis has their own record
label and just happen to be giving lots of love to one of their
stellar artists. In short, they're running a 3-4 commercial. In the
LA Times article, Chuck Phillips points out that this is a major
conflict of interest. [article is located here:
Critics like Peter Hart of the media watchdog group FAIR [Fairness and
Accuracy in Reporting] are not only saying it's a conflict of interest
but are also calling for Power 106 to publicly disclose to the public
its financial stake in the Shade Sheist project.
Executives at Power 106 and Emmis disagree. They state that they had
cleared everything with the FCC and their lawyers. They were told as
a precaution it would be best to remove Damion Young from any decision
making process when it comes to Shade Sheist. In other words at music
programming meetings Young is not allowed to talk about the record.
Of course the public is not allowed or invited to those programming
meetings so one never knows for sure if Emmis and Power 106 are
sticking to these self imposed rules.
Also anyone who has ever worked at a radio station, knows darn well
that music decisions are made 24/7. That's all you talk about- the
music, how the station is sounding and what works and doesn't work.
These discussions are held at the official programming meetings.
They're held during concerts, basketball games, dinners other social
gatherings. In an industry that's based upon relationships and daily
chatter how could one NOT talk about an artist as visible as Shade
Sheist especially when some of Sheist's songs have featured popular
artists like WC? Emmis officials steadfastly maintain that the
decision to play Shade Sheist was based upon the fact that his record
tested well when the station conducted its research and focus groups.
The irony to this claim which was pointed out in the LA Times article,
is that Shade Sheist's project has been a commercial flop in spite of
all the airplay. So why so many spins? And do other labels with
faltering projects get the same type of love?
As for the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] setting the rules,
bear in mind this is the same FCC headed by Michael Powell, Secretary
of State, Colin Powell's son who is pushing real hard to do away with
any sort of regulations binding radio stations and other media
corporations. He thinks a lot of the rules currently on the books are
totally out dated. Hence one should not be surprised that they are
not up in arms about any possible 'conflict of interest'.
While I definitely don't agree with Powell's outlook on broadcast and
ownership rules, he does have a point when he says some of the rules
are out dated. At this day and time damn near every mix show DJ and
young radio programmer at a major radio station has some sort of
financial connection or ties to a record label. It's hard to find
cats who aren't connected. These connections range from deejays and
programmers owning promotional street teams which are contracted out
by the record labels to cats being hired to do remixes for various
music projects. Still others are hired by record labels to wrap their
vehicles [vans and trucks] with advertisements for the label's up and
coming artists. We also have popular recording artists taking on jobs
as deejays and deejays putting out records for record labels.
Roc-A-Fella CEO Damon Dash being hired by Power 105 in NY to do a show
and a Hot 97 on air personality Angie Martinez recording for Elektra
Records are just two of the many examples one could point to that fit
this trend which has been in building for the past 5 years.
The theory is, if a record company hires a popular mixshow DJ at radio
station to be involved with a project, the DJ who was paid handsomely
will 'remix' or promote the record and play it during his mixshow. If
for some reason he is not allowed because of the 'conflict of
interest' rules which are hardly ever forced, then his fellow mixshow
deejays can spin the record during their respective shifts. It's not
like cats are not gonna support one another. At the very least the
record labels benefits from using a popular deejay to give their
national artist regional or local appeal and affiliation.
All this should not come as a surprise to folks. About 5 or 6 years
ago there was a real push for commercial radio stations to hire young,
up and coming street savvy mixers and music directors. A street savvy
deejay was often defined as one who was doing remixes for popular
artists, putting out there own projects and mixtapes, connected to
popular night clubs or producing their own parties and events. Many
of these radio stations hoped to capitalize off the street buzz these
deejays had created for themselves while at the same time establishing
a certain degree of credibility amongst an increasingly young street
savvy audience. It simply made good business sense to snatch up the
most popular cats making noise on the streets. I.e. Hot 97 hiring a
cat like Kay Slay is a perfect example of this happening.
The bottom line is as I said before, there are very few mixers and
music directors who do not have those connections where one can draw a
line and claim conflict of interest. Most are not as deep as Damion
Young and Shade Sheist. But the lines have clearly been blurred. So
when a guy like FCC chair Michael Powell says the rules are out dated
he's correct...The question is do you redraw new lines or just do away
with them completely? Before answering that question one has to
consider a couple of other perspectives. In the age on media
consolidation and economic downturn, anyone getting into the music biz
would be wise to have a side hustle. The money given by these labels
to deejays to work street teams and do remixes oftentimes is the only
source of income these deejays have. You'd be surprised at how many
cats are on air spinning records put not picking up a paycheck...
Even in major markets like SF, NY and LA. If they are getting paid
then the checks are measly. There's no way that could live off their
mixshow income alone. You're also talking about a situation where
cats aren't being kicked down with health insurance and other employee
benefits. Hence you might have a cat who will roll to a radio
station, spend countless hours politicking and perfecting his craft
then walk away with a 25 or 50 dollar check for their shift.
A lot of stations take the position that 1-these deejays already got
side hustles [mixtapes, clubs etc] and they should be happy from all
the exposure the station is giving them. In other words the station
is doing them the favor and not the other way around. 2-Deejays are a
dime a dozen. If you don't wanna come on board and do it for free
there's a million and half up and coming deejays including some hungry
interns already at the station who will jump in a do the job for free
with no questions asked. The problem is as the radio station grows,
the deejay and his buzz factor and street credibility gets absorbed by
the station. Soon fans start to associate the deejays street assets
and connections as being that of the radio station. So in long run
the corporation benefits and not the jock. There have been more then
a few mixshow jocks who came into radio stations bringing a fan base
and lots of resources only to be dumped a couple of years later while
the station still benefitted from their resources and affiliations.
The other thing to keep in mind is many stations, as do most
corporations, like to have an edge up, so they deliberately keep
bringing attention to the threat of the hungry up and coming deejay or
intern who is willing to do the job for free. More often then not
this threat prevents a cat who paid dues from ever really being able
to get broken off financially because he can always be undercut. Very
few cats ever really get to break through the ranks. A cat like
Damion Young may be one of the few success stories that one can point
to in comparison with all the cats that have come and gone. Hence its
only smart for most to have a side hustle which oftentimes means being
financially connected to one of these major record companies which in
turn often leads to this conflict of interest.
So at the end of the day, we should either change the rules and adjust
to the new economic and social landscape which is what I described so
that conflict of interest and payola are once and for all eliminated,
or we should just come out in the open and let everyone knows what
really going down behind the scenes so folks aren't constantly being
fooled. Let's put an ad in the paper and a sign on the front door of
the local popular commercial radio station and say x amount of dollars
will net you this amount of air play and move on...Let everyone play
by the same rules. To continuously do this hocus pocus, smoking
mirrors industry act where we act like there is no conflict of
interest and cats don't have a financial stake in the records that get
played on air when everything points to the contrary only serves to
undermine people's trust and confidence of listeners and music fans.
The FNV Newsletter c 2002
Send comments to
peep the websites