Move Over World...
Well after months of negotiating and late-night prayers, it's final, I've got my first big radio gig. I will be the voice of KJLH in Los Angeles. This is the station that Stevie Wonder has owned since the 70's - and it is the crown jewel of black radio on the West Coast...And for me, it all started with a little pirate radio station in Oakland, Ca: 104.1.
A few years back, my uncle and sometime deejay partner Ibi Judah, got a spot playing reggae music on this little pirate station in Oakland. It was located right behind what used to be one of Oakland's best soul food restaurants: 'Soul Brothers Kitchen'. And in between what once was - and probably still is, one of the hottest dope spots in North Oakland: Keller Plaza - or K.P. for those that knew, was the pirate station that was a constant thorn in the side of the FCC.
The only way to really describe this station is to say that it was truly the people's station. Since it was located in North Oakland off of Telegraph Avenue, which was really close to the Berkeley border, the station had a really heavy 60's radical influence. Homeless people had shifts - hippies would show up with their Grateful Dead records. Local rappers and deejays would get shifts from time to time. And ex- Black Panthers would show up just to rabble rouse. The most interesting thing about the station was when the homeless people would show up for their shifts, they would say things on the air that would make Howard Stern cringe. Things like: "Yeah, I'm homeless because my step-father fucked me..." Or my personal favorite: "I'm homeless cause I like drugs - you gotta problem with that? Yeah then call me at ... And then we can meet in the parking lot where I'll kick your ass!"
The transmitter was located on top of a garage or a warehouse or something like that. Every few weeks the FCC would roll up there and shut it down. Now mind you this station could only be picked up on the border of Berkeley and as far 98th Ave in East Oakland. If you went beyond Ashby Ave. you could forget about hearing it. They [the FCC] would go in there with the cops and news media and would drag the homeless people and any other radicals out of there.
Since it was in Oakland, there were quite a few Rastafarians around that station. One of them told my uncle ( who is also a Rasta) about it, who then proceeded to get his own shift. Now, unlike the rest of the country, the Bay Area has many radio shows that play reggae music. Now, my uncle wanted an edge over the competition, so he showed up at my house one day and said, 'Hey I want you record somethings for me."
"Like what?' I said.
"Something with the station numbers and my name."
Hmmmmm, I thought to myself. How am I gonna pull this off? As a kid I grew up listening to Frankie Crocker on WBLS and Mr. Magic when he was on WHBI - New York radio folks. One of the the things I really dug about WBLS was that in between every song this really cool, velvet voice would come on and say: "You're listening to the sound of New York's best: The Total Experience in sound W-B-L-S 107.5 in...stereo...stereo...stereo...stereo". I always dug that kind of thing. Mr Magic had his own drops too where he would put a heavy echo on his voice and say: "This is a Mister Magic's Super Blast!"
So, I reasoned to myself, why don't I do that kind of thing for Ibi - just use reggae music as the drop?
So I did it. And it came out real good too. Ibi got calls at the station from the other jocks and from the listeners asking "Who was that?" I thought to myself, "Damn how can I make some money doing that?"
And then one day and event happened that would change my life. My good friend Davey D got a gig as a programmer at AOL Radio. He was the guy who programmed all of the hip hop stations for America Online radio. Dave being Dave and with the connections he has in the music business went around to all of the top rappers and said: "Hey, I need you to record some station drops for me?"
But they were all busy.
I'm talking about your Chuck D's and many others. Finally, Dave got his good friend, and one of my favorite rappers Def Jeff to agree to do the station drops. But he to was always too busy. So one day Dave says to me, "Hey, I need you to record some drops for me."
I said, "Hell yeah". I owe my new career to Def Jeff.
We went over to KPFA - which ain't too much different from 104.1 ie; the homeless people, the 60's radicals, the Rastas - but these people were legit and have a huge signal. It was there that I met my partner Alex Mejia. Now, I had heard the name Alex Mejia before. He was some guy who was always doing mixes on KMEL - the so called People's Station. So they had me record some drops for the AOL old school hip hop stations. And it took off. My first paid gig voicing stuff.
And from there it was the Chuck D World Wide Hip Countdown. And then the Tupac Station. And so many others that I can't remember right now.
But when Alex called me some months back and said, "Hey KJLH is looking for a black voice - are you interested?" Once again I said, "Hell yeah.' He said KJLH was looking for a new direction they wanted someone that sounded Black - not Bryant Gumble Black - but Black Black. Well, that's me. I can do the Bryant Gumbel thing, but I prefer to just be me.
We recorded the demo and blew Stevie Wonder away. I've been doing this for three years now, and now starting January 1st it will be my voice that you hear on that station. A station - that programming wise is the closest thing to WBLS.