DJ/activist raps on radio’s duty to community, his duty as a hip-hop elder


I got a chance to attend an interesting event at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul. It was the kick-off event for the Hip Hop Diploma Studies program that the nationally accredited school will be offering this fall.

The event started with a dialogue between Toki Wright and Davey D., a local hip-hop artist and a DJ/hip-hop historian/columnist/activist, respectively. The two conversed about a number of topics, but the most dominant subject was the radio industry.

Being a professional in the industry for years, and having the opportunity to travel to many different places, Davey D. has an in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of the media conglomerates that run the many different stations across the country. He pointed out that most of these stations are run by a select few, and those people hardly have the best interest of the listeners in mind — they are strictly trying to get paid.

According to Davey D., this has created a situation where airtime that is dedicated to playing music is literally being paid for, resulting in only a few companies with deep pockets that are able to get their artists played on the air. It also creates a situation of repetitiveness, due to the fact that large sums of money are being offered in exchange for promises of multiple plays of certain songs (100+ per week), greatly diminishing the variety in a DJ’s playlist as well as taking the decision on what is going to be played away from the DJ.

I caught up with Davey D. that night and had a chance to hear more from him about the role radio, artists, and fans have to play in the preservation of creative thought, as well as their levels of social responsibility.

“Radio should be doing what Dr. [Martin Luther] King talked about back in the days. He said that there’d be no Civil Rights Movement had it not been for radio,” said Davey D. He has. put together a video clip of Martin Luther King, Jr. talking to a group of Black broadcasters about their role in the movement of achieving justice for Africans (and other minorities) in America.

Due to the reach that radio has, Davey D. feels that the industry has a responsibility to provide pertinent information to the masses. He does not think that stations are doing a good job of informing and engaging the community in regards to issues that are affecting them.

Davey D. feels that the basic approach of elders developing relationships with the generations coming up after them is a powerful tool in ensuring a better, brighter future for all of us. He explained his philosophy in further detail:
“Ain’t nothin’ worse than seeing your uncle or your father tryin’ to be hip…

It don’t fit right. I think what it means is that I think as elders, we should play that role. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean that I can’t go to a nightclub, that I can’t enjoy the same things; but [what] it means is that I have years of experience, and I can offer some guidance.

“My job as I get older is not necessarily to be out there organizing young people, because there are younger people who can organize; that’s where they’re at,” he continued. “College kids should be talking to the high school kids; the high school kids should be talking to the junior high kids; I should be figuring out, where do we put a building for these people? I should be fighting a different type of battle.

“[If someone comes up to you and says,] ‘Man, the police are messing with me,’ [you should be able to say] I got this, because I have political capital to handle that. What’s going on? You don’t have enough money for school? I’ll take care of that; that should be my conversation, ya’ know? To make sure that I can dismantle institutions that are harmful to us, that I can help build institutions that will be beneficial to us… but I shouldn’t be trying to get on stage and rap — not at my age.”

Though he considers his position to be that of an elder, Davey D. doesn’t think he has nothing to learn. He looks to the generation before him, which includes intellects like Michael Eric Dyson and Cornel West, for advice and guidance.

Davey D. also feels that even his elders are still trying to figure out how to best play their position, and it’s all a work in progress. And the process would be most effective if everybody played their position, no matter what their title, occupation, and/or celebrity status.

Jamal Denman welcomes reader responses to

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