When you enter the Dallas Metroplex, the Mayor of the city may be Mike Rawlings but the mayor of the streets is Hollyhood Bay Bay of K-104 Radio. In fact, he is so well known that people around the country know more about what he has going on than they do about what the city has going on. Maybe that’s why he is known as the Governor of I-20 and 635, two major highways bridging surrounding states to the Dallas Metroplex.
“Real work is not even done on the radio. It’s done when I’m off the air,” he explains. “Most people have
no clue how much work goes into building a brand. DJs are brands. Go in any city and the DJ with his city on lock probably has more influence than City Council members.”
It’s that exact connection that proves the Black DJ will be the most essential mouthpiece in the upcoming Presidential Election. In fact, the DJ in most major markets has not only become the link between the people and the leaders but he has become the Ambassador for young people. “Every DJ shares an obligation to not only give the listeners a great show but he also has a personal responsibility in the streets to mobilize those same listeners to be active in the community,” Bay Bay continued.
DJ Greg Street is an Icon in Black Radio. He carries the banner for V-103 in Atlanta, GA. He describes the disconnect between Black Youth and Local Leaders in his upcoming book, “Greg Lynch Letter”.
“I have a personal relationship with local politicians to make sure the hood is heard. The majority of listeners honestly do not know the politicians. They may have heard the names on a commercial but they do not know them. They don’t really even know who the School Board Members are for their districts. How can they trust people they never see unless they are campaigning,” said Greg Street.
He, like most other Hip Hop Radio Personalities, feel Young Black Americans do not trust politicians at all. On the scale of 1-10 the trust level probably lies at 0. “These politicians should show up at events and hang out with the kids. They are always welcome to come on the air and talk to the people in their districts. Many aren’t interested in investing the time until it’s election time. Our station actually did a segment called Ask The Mayor and it gave the listeners a chance to talk to the Mayor directly,” Street continued.
These Radio Personalities are very active in their communities. Most have more compact schedules than the elected officials but they still find time to interact with college students and young adults in their cities. In Dallas, Bay Bay speaks to high school students weekly and is has several charities of his own which aid the poor and the youth in multiple cities. In Atlanta, Greg Street recently gave $10,000 to the student who could read the most books in 24 hours. Students all over Atlanta participated. His program, We Need To Read, is supported by Politicians and Pastors as well.
In New Orleans, LA, DJ Wild Wayne of Q93 FM has a different commitment. New Orleans, while a Top 20 Destination in the world for Tourism is #1 for murders in America. “My agenda is an all week thing. It’s important to keep those issues in front of them because many don’t watch the news. They don’t watch CNN. We’re like the radio CNN. On Saturday mornings I do a show call Real Talk. Young people prove every week that they will respond to issues if they feel people will actually listen to their voices then provide them with direct answers to their concerns,” said Wild Wayne.
Wayne feels every DJ has a personal responsibility to plant positive seeds into the minds of not just kids but also to their parents. “I’ve been on the air so long I know the parents of some of my listeners and I remember when they used to call the station to make requests as well. We have an obligation to be that light for not just kids but for the whole family,” he added.
In 2008, President Obama mobilized millions of young voters through social networking. Facebook and the other sites became tunnels to reach the overlooked voters. The issues which pertain to them were discussed on social network channels. But, if young blacks are concerned about progress, why don’t they stay interested in the issues?
Big Abe, Power 102.9 in New Orleans, believes the younger constituents rarely see true resolution. “
The Job Crisis is not big to younger African-Americans because we have always had a job crisis. It is so common to see violence in the Black community with youth that we are several generations into the violence. Leaders respond temporarily but most blacks don’t really expect a resolution from leaders they already neglect to trust,” he explains.
“The only way they see national security affecting them is when someone they know is shipped over seas but most don’t understand Global Economics. Conflicts in the Middle East are not important to them because they are not taught how it affects gas prices in America and our economy in general. Other communities discuss these issues more than blacks so they have a perspective of the issues but young black kids seldom hear about these issues,” Big Abe suggested. “What’s even worse is they aren’t afraid to murder because they know there are great chances they won’t even be caught and if so they will get out. They just never factor in how hard it is to survive in society with a tainted record,” he added. By the time most youth realize it they are sucked into a never ending cycle.
“There is no CSI or 48 Hours in Baton Rouge. They know nine times out of ten they won’t even get caught. Police will ask a few questions and they will eventually drop it because they aren’t committed to the Lower Class. Most of these people aren’t tax payers and they are shooting up their own people. Most people in the hood believe the police aren’t really concerned about their well being. They know the leaders don’t really care because they never see them and they never factor jail in”, explains Ya Boy Earl, of Max 94.1 in Baton Rouge, LA. “DJs connect because we are among them on the regular. We know the victims and the shooters. That’s why most DJs are more passionate about service. Because we aren’t afraid to interact and listen they respond to us.”
Young black voters don’t turnout for Elections if they don’t believe in the candidates who are running for office. DJ Dela Yador, of the World Renown New York Heavy Hitters, believes the President won young black voters because he appeared relatable. “If you had McCain talking to the Bronx they could instantly see he knew nothing about their struggle. If you’re voting, people just want to know that the person they vote for actually understands their struggle and won’t forget them when they are elected,” he explained.
He says it is common for Rappers and other Youthful Influentials to ask the DJ how they feel about a candidate before even getting involved. “They trust DJs will be honest. They trust the DJ more than the politician which is more of a reason for DJs to be committed to knowing what’s going on in their cities. People are counting on us to keep them informed,” said Yador.
Many people blame the music for the condition of Black Youth. It’s no secret that much of today’s Hip Hop pridefully promotes guns and violence. Many believe the content of the material is the root of crime in the black community. Big Abe in New Orleans made a very powerful point in contrast. “It’s not positive for anyone to promote violence but it’s also not fair to blame entertainment for the conduct of these kids. White kids and Hispanic kids listen to Hip-Hop and in many markets they buy it more than black kids but they aren’t shooting up their neighborhoods. If all these kids are listening to the music but only one race of kids responds to the music negatively then the problem is deeper than the music,” he says.
He believes the core of the problem in the Black Community is the absence of Black Men. “Fathers are failing us. Other ethnic groups have fathers present. We have the highest number of kids in the home without fathers. When a mother is trying to play both roles she is doing the best she can to fill the void but many times the guidance and discipline that fathers provide to the family is missing. That’s our real problem. Music is a mirror of the problem. It’s not the problem,” Big Abe explains.
Bay Bay says another major issue is that a lack of Integrity has become the norm around the world. “We as a community have accepted ignorance on all levels. From preachers who distort the Gospel to Politicians who steal from the people. It is very common and Hip Hop is affected by the same distortions. In the Ukrainian Parliament, Politicians on their Judicial Floor had a gang fight recently. A man’s lip was busted and they fought until clothes were torn off. It’s hard to preach Integrity to rappers when ignorance isn’t limited to just Hip Hop musicians,” he says.
Greg Street agrees. “We have to make being smart cool. If I’m accepted by society for being uneducated why would I want to be educated? We have to keep reiterating the importance of Education to our kids then get involved in the ongoing campaign for Education.”
DJ Drama, Hot 97 in Atlanta, says DJs actually have a greater responsibility. “We know many aren’t educated on the issues but that’s why it’s important when we’re off the air at our parties and events we introduce them to people we trust will address our concerns.”
Drama is also an advocate for Education. “Anytime a DJ has the opportunity to help the local school system he should take it. We have the voices and the platforms to make youth take Education more seriously. The more educated people become the less they are distracted by leaders who have no real intention to progress the people,” he says.
DJ Phil, 97.9 in Dallas, feels DJs also have a personal responsibility to make the artists themselves more active in the Political Process. “Kids look up to rappers who are millionaires but most of them are just as disengaged. So, young black voters feel if rappers can make it with half an education so can they. They also feel if it’s unimportant to the rappers and athletes they look up to then it’s not worth their attention either.”
These conditions are no different in smaller markets. DJ Kool Laid, 97.7 in Jackson, MS, believes the issues which really do attract the attention of younger blacks are not discussed on platforms which already have the attention of Blacks. “The rising cost of college tuition and the lack of jobs when they graduate college will grab their attention but politicians dance around these issues providing no real solutions,” said DJ Kool Laid. DJ Tlay, 105.7 The Beat in Meridian, MS believes the radio jock can also partner with local churches. “Churches are doing what they can to connect. Many just don’t have the voices that younger people respond to. It’s important Radio Personalities connect with Non-Profit Organizations and Churches because they are immediate outlets to reach the people who are committed to progress,” he says.
“Radio stations have time slots available for everyone. Clubs, Liquor Vendors, Local Businesses and even New Record Releases are all you hear. Airtime is available for anyone. Pastors and Politicians are invisible to the very people who need to hear their voices,” said Ya Boy Earl of Max 94 in Baton Rouge, LA. “They complain about the audience but they spend no time engaging the audience,” he added.
Ya Boy Earl believes many local leaders have become the new gangs. “Preachers engage with preachers. Educators engage with other educators. Politicians interact with other politicians but none of them ever interact with Black youth. Who they do see are the Drug Dealers, the Thugs, the Rappers, and the DJs. They respond to these people because these are the people they see the most and spend time interacting with them. They trust them more than the other forms of leadership,” he says.
Crime is an ongoing issue in most urban societies. Usually it’s committed most by young Black males. “Politicians have been removed from that environment for so long that they forget what these kids are being exposed to. I can’t change the jungle but I know how to teach them at home how to avoid the lions and the tigers. When I’m out there I know, if that’s where the tigers are… Don’t go where they are,” said Greg Street.
“There is no Blueprint to solve this issue but there is an effective solution. We must promote Family. It doesn’t matter what a record says. We all must promote the importance of being a good father. We must make it cool to be responsible parents,” said Bay Bay.
Issues which affect young Black Voters are the very issues which affect all other voters. DJs have adopted the responsibility of transcending the message to them. In the upcoming election it may impossible to mobilize young black voters without these powerful influences. The struggle to engage the Younger Black Community continues. In the meantime, the efforts of Radio Personalities remain more essential than ever before and their influence must continue beyond the beat.