You Coulda Called Him Al

Pirate radio terrorism claims its first victim

Kulchur suggests calling the FCC for help, but the joke doesn't go over well.

"I'm tired of dealing with drug dealers!" Greo explodes in response. "All these gangsters who say they're trying to get away from the bang-bang life!" They may want to "go legit" but they seem equally loath to adopt new business tactics. "All they know is, I put two grand into this spot, and two days later I get four grand back.' That's all they know."

The ironic effect of the FCC's local raids has been to permanently silence only the more creatively programmed pirates: the electronica-spinning Womb and OHM; the eclectic talk shows of Beach Radio; the freeform Radio X -- all stations run by bohemian-minded Anglos and Latinos who appear to be the only Floridians to take the FCC's wrath seriously.

"If I stop now, it'll all have been in vain": Blaze FM's DJ Greo
Steve Satterwhite
"If I stop now, it'll all have been in vain": Blaze FM's DJ Greo

What remains on the dial (mostly generic rap, Jamaican dancehall hits, and Haitian compas) may occasionally be entertaining, but it's hardly the radical alternative to commercialism that pirate radio once promised its fans.

And that applies to Blaze FM as well: Several of its DJs are simply faded copies of WEDR's jocks, shouting tired catch phrases into the microphone ad nauseum. Blaze FM's format may include a few more local artists than WEDR's, and its ad spots may be a bit more raw ("No Limit Bail Bonds ... don't let incarceration ruin your day!"), but you'll consistently hear more interesting underground acts on The Hip-Hop Shop, which airs Thursday evenings at 10:00 on the University of Miami's WVUM-FM 90.5. Only Blaze FM's DJ Khris, hosting a Sunday-afternoon seven-hour marathon, attempts to explore pirate radio's offered freedom, crossing genres and digging out true old-school obscurities.

Artistic expression, however, isn't the prime motivator for Greo right now. Blaze FM is a business, and what Greo hopes is the stepping stone to a Southern-based multimedia empire. "We're at a historic moment with hip-hop," he says. "Parents and their kids are listening to the same music for the first time. Forty-year-olds and fifteen-year-olds are going to the same concerts." That spells opportunity. "For a lot of people, entertainment is the only way out. If you're not working for the government or in medicine, then you're a hustler, an entrepreneur. You have to rely on music to get some taste of the things that escape you. I love hip-hop; I can't imagine doing anything else. But I'm 30 now. It's got to be about more than just having fun."

It would be easy to deem such an attitude as crass, the downside of art and commerce's eternal wrestle. But it's also nothing short of the American Way. Indeed in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks, President Bush himself has recast purchases on the New York Stock Exchange as nothing less than a patriotic duty. Television news coverage of the Exchange's reopening portrayed stockbrokers as the nation's newest heroes, striding proudly alongside our firemen and rescue workers. Wall Street, often considered a pernicious force, has been elevated to the red, white, and blue trinity alongside Mom and apple pie.

So if the marketplace is Western civilization's savior, is black capitalism the answer to Miami's inner-city ills?

At that question Greo suddenly finds himself at a loss for words. He stares at the floor intently and then looks back up.

"Not black capitalism," he corrects. "Hip-hop capitalism. Hip-hop is bigger than just black folks now."

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