Friday, October 19, 2007

The Remedy

What is The Remedy?

A hip-hop radio program broadcast on community-sponsored KDHX St. Louis FM 88.1 every Monday night from eight to ten o’clock, co-created by DJ G.Wiz and DJ Needles, collaboratively hosted by D Hoya, Wallstreet, Tiffany and Honiee.

Who is The Remedy for?

“The people that can’t afford to go to the hospital to get fixed,” G.Wiz said. “So we’re like that midwife.”

So, what is The Remedy?

“The Solution,” he said. “If you’re sick and tired of hearing what you hear on the regular stations or anywhere else and you just want to be healed, then we have the remedy. It’s that medicine, that miracle drug, which is the music that we play.”

“The music is the drug, but it’s a positive drug. It ain’t crack.”

I arranged to meet G.Wiz an hour before the show at the KDHX station on Magnolia Avenue. I arrived first and waited in the storefront lobby, organizing a sheet of questions while listening to the rain and the voice of Amy Goodman wrapping up Democracy Now! G.Wiz came in laughing with four or five records and a laptop under his arm. We went into Studio A, the smaller of two studios, equipped with a program computer, four microphones and a set of turntables

I wasn’t a radio listener until I moved to Oakland, California out of college and encountered KPFA 94.1, the first listener-supported station in the United States that is part of the larger Pacifica Radio network. Their programming comes from a progressive perspective and, in the words of their mission statement, seeks to promote “pluralistic community expression.” I found some of the programs unappealing, but Democracy Now! gutted my ignorance of global issues and events and Hard Knock Radio, hosted by Davey D, taught me a lot about hip-hop.

I’m still not particularly well-educated on the subject, but I like some of the music and the cultural movement it represents. My listening preferences gravitate toward a genre of hip-hop that has been classified, accurately or not, as “conscious.” That has led me to artists such as Dead Prez and The Coup who spit lines like, “The cops stop you just because you black / that’s war,” and “Raise your hands in the air like you’re born again / but make a fist for the struggle we was born to win.”

Clearly, I’m not the “you” and I’m not inclined to execute the Black Panthers’ signature gesture. I’m also not the only young white male who can recite all of the lyrics to certain songs, but stops short at “nigger” unless I’m comfortably isolated in my car, doing seventy down the highway.

A week ago, I didn’t know the name of one St. Louis hip-hop artist outside of Nelly and his crew, the St. Lunatics, and wouldn’t have expected to encounter anything worthwhile on that long, barren radio dial. When I randomly tuned in to The Remedy a month ago, it sounded like hope.

The Remedy, to me,” D Hoya said, “is basically just refreshing. You know what I’m saying? It’s somethin’ that I needed. A weekly dose of hip-hop and it’s injected. Because you go throughout that week, man, and whatever life you lead, whatever it is…hip-hop just puts me in a place of calm peace.”

G.Wiz is forty-seven years old and has a full-time construction job. Needles is thirty-one and supports himself as a DJ. It would be impossible to summarize either of their music catalogues, but a few artists played on the October 15th show included MC Lyte, Diamond D, The Pharcyde, Grand Puba, Dudley Perkins, LL Cool J and J Dilla.

As a self-described “Old School” DJ, G.Wiz says his music spans an era from the birth of hip-hop to 1998. His selections overlap with those of his counterpart, starting somewhere in the late eighties, but Needles is also charged with providing hip-hop in its current forms.

“That way we got the whole spectrum,” G.Wiz said.

Neither the DJs nor the hosts are paid for the time and effort they put into the show, so I asked G.Wiz what makes it worthwhile.

“The enjoyment of playing stuff for people that I think would get a kick out of it,” he said. “When people call and request something, then you know they’re listening. Just the fact to be back on the air doing something you love to do and nobody tells you how to do it. The freedom part.”

G.Wiz has been spinning records since 1978 when he started carrying crates and amplifiers for Sylvester the Cat, currently a radio personality on Majic 104.9 and mayor of Pine Lawn, Missouri. Wiz grew up in St. Louis city, with his family living on six different streets that he could remember to name.

“Your moms and pops be like, ‘We movin’,” he said. “‘Aww, man!’ Just when you get new friends.”

“Kids was out of grownups business those days.”

Wiz acknowledged that “those days” signified his age, but embraces his station in life with the self-assigned moniker—the “godpops” of hip-hop.

“I’m happy to be able to reach this particular age,” he said, “first, being a black man, you know. Some people, people my age more so, used to say ten years ago, ‘You still listen to rap? You still play rap music?’”

“I’m like, ‘Yeah. Why?’”

“And then I play some stuff for ‘em, to change their opinion because they would come up with this information that all rap is crap and it’s gangster rap, talking this and this and that. And then I throw on some stuff, certain songs for ‘em, just to jog they whole mindset. Whether it’s some Common or some Public Enemy, some Poor Righteous Teachers or something, and they’d be like, ‘Oh, I never heard that before.’”

“Of course not. Because you listen to commercial radio.”

G.Wiz does a mix for Sylvester the Cat’s Saturday show on Majic 104.9, but the majority of his radio work has been for KDHX. In 1987, Russell Giraud and John Teller introduced St. Louis’ first hip-hop program called African Alert that was broadcast on 88.1. A year later, G.Wiz created his own record label, putting out albums by local artists, and was asked by Giraud to do mixes for the show.

Wiz later took over the program, renaming it Street Vibes, and continued broadcasting for ten more years. In 1998, he passed the show to DJ Alejan and Fly D-Ex, who moved to a live venue at Blueberry Hill. G.Wiz retired “at the time when the radio and music industry was bombarded by Master P,” and he remained off the air, living and deejaying in Tulsa, Oklahoma until he returned, met Needles and established The Remedy in October of last year.

At a quarter to eight, Needles and the other hosts plus St. Louis MC, Nato Caliph, and DJ Crucial, who would appear on the show to promote Nato’s new album, Cipher Inside, piled into the studio. DJ Alejan was also in attendance as a guest interviewer, bringing the total number of participants to nine, not including me. The energy was high as Needles and Honiee discussed Janet Jackson’s new film, Why Did I Get Married?, but no one appeared nervous or particularly occupied with the business of the show, except for Wiz who was organizing his set.

The Remedy is unscripted and G.Wiz often announces his Old School interview guests, people like DJ Red Alert, Grandmaster Kaz and female MC, Sha Rock of Funky Four Plus One, to the rest of the crew a few minutes before the show or even on the air. This spontaneity makes the program very funny at times and often enables listeners to influence its direction and focus.

The Remedy is everything,” Wiz said. “The Remedy is whichever way we feel when we come in here.”

“[The program] gives [our listeners] a chance to have something for themselves,” D Hoya said, “where you can actually request a song. There’s interaction. I think people can connect with us because…it’s just a friendly show.”

“Literally, the other stations are almost cookie cutter,” Wallstreet said. “Like I can tell you what time something’s gonna come on, on what day.”

“I really hate when you listening to one station,” D Hoya said, “‘Aw, I don’t want to hear that,’ then you turn to the next station—same song is on that station and I’m like, ‘Aw, shit, I’m trapped! Where do I go?’ 102.5—Let me go easy listening.”

Although there are several radio stations in St. Louis that play hip-hop music, the contributors to The Remedy are reasserting their definition of that broad genre.

“Hip-hop was the younger people’s soul music,” G.Wiz said. “In all actuality, singing is rhyming too. Every other line is rhymes, they just singing. But hip-hop was using breaks from James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, Sly and the Family Stone, you know, and it’s like, that’s the music we grew up on.”

“As far as the people that’s doing it on a major level,” Needles said, “they’re doing what they believe is hip-hop. I can’t really knock one man’s perception or interpretation, but I can’t really honor a lot of that stuff because I don’t agree.”

“I kinda came to the realization that for one group of people to dictate what is and what’s not hip-hop, it’s sort of like how a lot of people in the conservative and Republican party dictate to everybody what is and what’s not American.”

“To me it’s more of a movement,” he said. “It’s a culture that you live and hip-hop gets mixed up with a lot of things that come out of what’s considered a very negative, quote unquote ghetto experience, and that’s pretty separate from hip-hop.”

“Hip-hop came from the ghetto, but it’s not a thing to glorify what keeps people down in the ghetto and that’s what a lot of people associate it with. Hip-hop is about the four elements that make it up. And people who understand it, they know what I’m talking about. And those are positive things. You know, that’s deejaying, emceeing, graffiti writing and B-boying, break dancing and stuff.”

“So, if you’re not really promoting that, and if you can’t acknowledge that and don’t appreciate that genuinely, I don’t really look at you as hip-hop. If all you can do is promote what’s negative in urban communities and poverty stricken areas, then I can’t say you’re hip-hop. You’re just what you are. I don’t know what you are.”

G.Wiz’s “if I won the lottery” dream is to open a lounge that would play music spanning generations and genres, but he believes it would be a gamble in St. Louis.

“I remember when we was growin’ up,” he said, “you would listen to the black radio stations, you would hear, I mean, from Parliament-Funkadelic to Elton John, ‘Bennie and the Jets.’ Same station, you know. You’d dance off of that in basement parties. I mean, black basement parties. You know, we were teenagers. We didn’t have a boundary line.”

“But then the change came with radio and it started helping separate the people. This is your music. This is their music.”

The music that The Remedy plays reaches a diverse community of listeners. Though the demographics have not been charted, the phone calls indicate the range.

“We know we have people fourteen and black, female,” G.Wiz said, “and on top of that we have a fifty-five year-old white school teacher, female, listening, because she actually called and asked me if I could make her a CD or two of some of the music that we play so that she could let her kids at school listen to it.”

Sitting in the studio for the duration of the two hour program, I was amazed at the conversations taking place when the red light was off. I had prompted some discussion about hip-hop and The Remedy’s mission, but it was clear that debates about the direction of the music and the larger cultural movement are conducted whether the microphones are on or not.

The willingness to engage with one another in an honest, opinionated manner seems to enable the group’s family-like dynamic, an approach to relating that G.Wiz perceives in the larger hip-hop community.

“Cats, female and male,” he said, “will come up to you and embrace you, and you don’t really know who they are, and you embrace them because they embracing you.”

“And it’s like, ‘Man, I grew up listening to you. You saved my life,’ you know, ‘You inspired me to want to DJ,’ or, ‘You inspired me to rap.’ And that’s some family-type stuff.”

“To be still in it and to be embraced by the different generations—that’s lovely.”

video
After my Monday evening experience, I can only agree with D Hoya's comment that, “Hip-hop is well in St. Louis.”

To listen to The Remedy online, just visit KDHX.org to access streaming audio files. Requests and comments can also be made at the program’s MySpace page. In addition, check out Deep Krate Radio with Fly D-Ex and DJ Iceman on Fridays at 10 PM on 88.1 and get a copy of Nato Caliph’s album at F5 Records.

4 comments:

teresa said...

Love it. Last time I was in St. Louis I'm pretty sure I found 88.1 and it was great to hear. I am also a huge fan of Pacifica and was inspired to think we were both listening to it at the same time. While in L.A. I listened to a lot of Democracy now and an amazing early morning show called Uprising with Sonali Kolhatkar. Radio and specifically Pacifica was my main news source besides the internet and I loved it. I had to be in my car all the time and it really saved me. Write on man.

Anonymous said...

right on!!!!!!!
long live hip hop long live "the remedy"

lyfestile said...

Great to see something on a great show.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the informative information - I enjoyed reading it! I always enjoy this blog. :) Cheers, woman giving birth videos