Funkmaster Flex: Is He Guilty of Payola?

by Davey D... 9/17/02

There's some good news and bad news for Funkmaster Flex. First the good news, Flex as you may know is heavy into cars. Not a show goes by where he doesn't make some reference to his love for nice rides. He even had some sort of contest earlier this year where he would customize your truck. Well it looks like Flex has stepped up his involvement by partnering with Lincoln Mercury to create a limited Team Baurtwell 2003 Lincoln Navigator Edition. The price tag will be 81 thousand bucks.

Now that's the good news.. Now it appears Flex may have to deal with another nagging concern that keeps surfacing about how he goes about choosing his music for his hit radio show on Hot 97. There is no doubt that Flex is one of the most influential DJs in the country. He can make or break an artist with the drop of one of his trademark bombs. He is also credited with being the main force behind the rise of what is arguably the country's most influential commercial Hip Hop station-Hot 97. At one point the brother was repping for Hot 97 in New York. Doing mix show for Power 106 in LA and holding it down on MTV's DFX. He was damn near 'running' all the big night clubs including the infamous Tunnel. If that's wasn't enough he was releasing his successful series of commercial 'Mixtapes' where he would break new artists. He also established Big Dawg record pool and marketing firm called Franchise.

Well it seems like over the past year there have been grumblings about him abusing his influence by taking money for airplay and not exactly delivering. KRS-One made mention of this a few months back when he publicly accused Flex of taking 40 thousand dollars and only playing his record once....
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Nas alluded to this a few weeks later when he went on Hot 97s rival station Power 105 and put the station and Flex on blast. West Coast rhymesayer Easki expresses the difficulty in dealing with Flex in his song 'Manuscript'. And that's just the beginning.

Over the past week an open letter has been making its way on various listserves and websites calling Flex into account..It comes from an unnamed source that claims to have infiltrated his business [former employee perhaps? ] and accuses Flex of funneling money through his marketing firm in exchange for airplay. It also calls for listeners to call Hot 97. And it threatens to expose evidence of wrong doing to the NY Times and other news organizations. Here's some excerpts from that open letter:

I'm sure those of you have noticed the downward spiral music radio has taken over the past few years. It all started when Emmis Communications decided to try an experiment which was to change the format of their New York and Los Angeles radio stations Hot 97 and Power 106 from Latin dance music to the Hip Hop & R&B format today. This became a revolution, which have spread over to their competitor Clear Channel, and others to become URBAN POP Stations.

Now I'm going to explain to you how hip-hop and R&B records are played on these stations. Unless you are a hermit I'm sure all of you have heard of DJ FunkMaster Flex who spins 5 Nights a week on New York's Hot 97. He is also the owner of Franchise Marketing and Big Dawg Record Pool.

Franchise Marketing is a music promotion company that gets paid by labels like Bad Boy, Def Jam, Ruff Ryder, Rock-A-Fella, Murder Inc, Cash Money, Arista, J, Universal and No Limit to promote records to Radio DJs like FunkMaster Flex and his crew of 25 radio DJs to convince them that a record is hot.

Big Dawg record pool is similar to Franchise but its really an non-profit organization that services it's members of Radio, Club & Mobile DJ's records from the labels before mentioned. This Record Pool also has a promotions department that influences their members to report to several chart publications like Billboard, Hits, Gavin, FMQB, BRE & DMR.The United States Federal Government has a law called payola which simply means that it's highly illegal for a Radio DJ, Programmer or Radio Station to play records that have been paid for by a record company, manager, producer or artist.

If you're like myself and listen to DJ FunkMaster Flex show you'd realize that he'll play the same record over and over proclaiming how hot the record is. If you were to research the hot record he's so excited about then you'd find out that this record has been presented to him by Franchise Marketing.

This means DJ FunkMaster Flex is breaking a FEDERAL LAW and could be imprisoned like four of his former clients for 25 Years.How I know this is because I infiltrated his organization and collected enough evidence to put him and 25 other famous Radio DJ's away for a very long time.Now why would I do such a thing is because I am a patriot of the hip-hop nation and Mr. Aston Taylor (FunkMaster Flex) is a traitor to us all.

If you are an intelligent person you'd realize how powerful hip-hop is. Thanks to hip-hop people of all walks of life have come together and come to recognize who our oppressors are.This an open declaration of war against payola because I want FunkMaster Flex to use his limited power for good by opening his playlists to great hip-hop artists like the following:

The Roots, Common, Q-tip, Talib Kweli, Dilated Peoples, Peoples Under The Stairs, Pete Rock, Black Eyed Peas, De La Soul, Spooks, 4th Avenue Jones, Defari, El The Sensei, Life Savas, Blackalicous, Lexicon, Mr. Lif, Mos Def, J-Live, Lyrics Born, Public Enemy, Slum Village etc. And other hip artists who are make great hip-hop music. FunkMaster Flex has 20 hours a week of airtime for his show. I strongly suggest that he and his DJs remind themselves of why they became Hip-Hop DJ's in the first place....

What I want you to do is call his show at 1.800.523.9797 and tell him about this post. Because I promise this is not a threat if he don't open his playlist with 60 days I will go before an U.S. Senate panel and testify against him and others within the music industry. I will also turn over all of my evidence to The New York Times and all of the major news organization...>>

While the email raises some valid points that have been circulating, one can't help but wonder if this is just a ploy to get more 'underground' artists played on the airwaves. We'll have to wait and see.

In any case the other side of the coin to this is, if Flex wasn't doing his job, by getting good ratings and maintaining a certain level of popularity he wouldn't be on the air. Radio stations are bottomline in that way. If cats weren't feeling what he's doing they would be turning off the radio station in droves and throwing their support behind other DJs and radio shows.

Who knows, perhaps Flex should play a few Slum Village records or at least dedicate a couple of nights a week to showcasing underground material and that'll make everyone happy...

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