While watching the events with Kanye West unfold recently, I was bothered by something. Charlemagne, Ebro, and Van Lathan are excellent at leaving the studio and being the liaison between brands and celebrities. Not only do THEY have confidence in who they are their companies get the hell out of the way when the opportunity comes for them to shine and represent the company and themselves. It appears that is rare amongst several urban radio stations. Where are the up and coming jocks who will be where Charlemagne, Ebro and Rick Party are today in the next five years?
CTG, Ebro and a few other jocks like Greg Street and Frank Ski in Atlanta are undeniably the “go-to” guys for many celebrities and PDs like Hurricane Dave, which are few and far between are creating headway for themselves as well. At the end of the day, the more valuable YOU are the better the corporation treats you. Unfortunately, many jocks think it's the other way around … the more important the corporation is the better their chances of getting noticed. Allow me to give you a good ol' fashioned pimp slap right now. The corporation doesn't give a hot pile of dog sh about you, they care about numbers. You better care about you FIRST. To that end, I am not the guy that knows it all, just most things, so I do what I do best when I am curious … I ask questions.
What does it take for other pro broadcasters from urban radio to get the same level of national respect as Charlemagne, Ebro and the other select few?
“Most [black jocks] are not ready …” Urban PD
I asked one black major market programmer why more black jocks are not making national news or considered the go-to guys when events like Kanye pop-up. He stated “Most are not ready and they would not know how to handle a situation like that which would not only require political savvy (being aware of who they represent as in the station and not allowing social media likes to intervene with a well thought out interview). I asked him if he was saying that most black jocks are dumb and he said no … just not trained, strategic of savvy enough to handle situations like these (sounds like “dumb” to me).
I then asked him if he thought there were any jocks out there qualified and he mentioned the names Charlamange, DeDe McGuire, Ebro and Rick Party, DL Hughley, Frank Ski but not many more than that he stated.
This may be a case of the cart coming before the horse because if I asked a jock if he or she thought they were prepared to handle a situation nationally like Kanye, I'm willing to bet they would most likely say they would be if the station gave them the freedom and opportunity to. It appears that one hand has to wash the other. I went on to ask this PD how jocks were supposed to prepare themselves for their future if they did not have the opportunities to break nationally and he said: “People like Charlamagne have been through so much in their careers that they know how to play the game and make it work for both them AND the station. They are going to think about their questions and responses. At the end of the day, there are TWO brands to consider.
I'm not foolish enough to think the corporation is as loyal to the jock as the corporation expects the jock to be so I asked another PD how jocks can prepare themselves for situations like this when a potential national story breaks out and he said “I've noticed that male jocks tend to be a bit standoffish with male rappers. There is this machismo thing going on that prevents any kind of relationship from starting and that's the key, earning the trust of the rappers and singers so that you are the first person that they think of to break a story. The camaraderie between black male jocks and rappers is either off or good but when the interview is over, it's a wrap until next time. Little effort is made to keep in touch.”
It's been a while since I have witnessed an interview take place between black male jocks and black male stars but I have seen what he is talking about before, I've seen jocks be a bit uncomfortable with the energy and the number of people that accompany the rapper into the studio. I've also seen good chemistry take place but at the end of the interview, it appears everybody knows their lane and goes their separate ways as the PD said. I've heard jocks say they can tell the some of the guests don't really want to be there which makes the interview a challenge.
Outside of the station, this is a bigger problem. I never quite understood that lack of trust and distance between industry brethren from various departments within the industry like radio, records, publishing, marketing, TV, Awards etc. It's like we are a small but incredibly separate industry.