Making Airwaves

This summer the FCC pulled the plug on the county's most innovative radio stations. Some are already back on the air.

The Womb's Mark Christopher concurs. "I hope the FCC will realize that communities don't need more commercial radio, they need a voice. I hope there'll be enough press or awareness raised that these guys will realize they can't fight this whole movement."

Like its population, South Florida's pirate broadcasters are undeniably a mixed lot. They are also resourceful and defiant. "It's a showdowwwwn. It's a showdowwwwwn," chimed a group of singers on a hip-hop tune emanating one recent Friday night on 94.5 FM in Miami. That's the same frequency used by one of the fifteen pirates the FCC silenced in July.

Drive through Little Haiti and you might be able to tune in Haitian pop on Radyo Classic (92.7 FM). "Here's a shout out to Pierre," a baritone DJ boomed one recent afternoon before introducing a compas tune. Move up the dial a bit to WOHM-FM (94.3) and you'll find static during the day. But at night you might hear trance, garage house, progressive house, or other current club music. You might be surprised to learn that pirates run Mixx 96 (96.1 FM) and play its assortment of Caribbean dance music. The station has one of the strongest signals in the area, but its operators are keeping a low profile. "We're not really talking to the media right now," says a woman who answered the phone.

Further up the dial, Radio Swing (101.9 FM) plays merengue, cumbia, and salsa tunes, with very little talk. Keep going up and you might catch more hip-hop on Supa Radio (104.7), whose DJs segue from rap to Van Morrison or Steely Dan, then back to rap. On a recent night, two Supa DJs plugged dance clubs and joked as hip-hop music played in the background: "I'm Jamaican," said one. "He's Ja'fakin'," rhymed the other. "I'm Cuban Haitian," said the first. "I'm going to give the mic back to Face now." Exclaimed Face: "Hip-hop culture! A shout out to the Zulu Nation. Call us up!" He cranked up the volume on a rapper blurting: "I got a hunger for the mic."

"We try to run it as a community-access station," the 28-year-old owner of one unlicensed hip-hop station told New Times. A local concert and party promoter, he launched the station about four months ago. "We help a lot of beginning hip-hop artists, whereas the commercial stations wouldn't even let them through the door," he asserts. "The commercial mainstream is very saturated and very monotonous." But he adds that he'd rather be legal and is "in the process" of applying for a community-access license.

Soon after Brindley Marshall's Hot 97 fell silent, Cool 97 (97.7 FM), a hip-hop station with a lot of call-in chatter, moved in to the slot. "97, WHASSUP?" yelps the DJ. "You going to be at Miami-Dade tomorrow night?" inquires a flirtatious female caller. "I don't know nothin' about that," the DJ chirps. "We're going to be at the National Guard tomorrow. Y'all check us out tomorrow night at National Guard."

The next night teenagers were trickling through the glass door of the National Guard Armory on NW Seventh Avenue and 28th Street for a hip-hop party sponsored by Pure Funk Playhouse. Music blasted from a dimly lit ballroom as they paid seven dollars to a young man at a folding table. Nearby, Diamond Perkins was perched on a chair selling glow sticks for two dollars and cans of Crazy String for three dollars.

He swears that Hot 97 has not returned to the airwaves, but smiles about DJs at its feisty successor. "They can't stop now!" he exclaims, adding a couple of dollar bills to a thick wad of cash.

Says the FCC's Casey: "We're very much in favor of communities having a voice on the radio dial. The difference is that we've got laws to enforce and we can't allow them to break the laws even if we agree with what they're trying to do in the long run.

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