10 years of Black on Red! Time flies when you are having fun. I had previously done 4 years on pirate radio with Radio Friendly and had finished in 2000 due to other commitments but when I heard that there was a new radio station coming to Cork I wanted the hip-hop show bad. I put together a big proposal, probably a bit too big, but you can never be too sure! Thanks to the late Tony D who I used DJ with in Fresh and Funky in Dublin for helping me out with my demo, and big thanks to Henry and Matt for hiring me from day one!
Black on Red won a PPI for best weekly music radio show at the national radio awards in 2002 and it’s still here 10 years later, though things have changed a lot since! The 90’s is seen as a golden era for hip-hop/r&b and these were the years in which I established myself as a DJ around the country with my base in the Back bar of Sir Henrys. When an artist like the Fugees or Jay Z or someone had a hit back then i’d welcome it greatly as the music was still relatively underground, but by the mid part of that decade things changed greatly. By the time RedFM started the music was fashionable and starting to dominate the pop charts. The likes of Timbaland, Missy Elliot, Cee-Lo, Pharrell and co were staples for me in underground clubs in the 90s, but they dominated pop music in the following decade.
Black on Red always went for a balance between accessibility and obscurity from the off, but as the years have gone on it’s probably veered more to the left centre, as there is no point in promoting the pop music that is played on a regular radio station throughout the rest of the time. Sure I still played the likes of Amy Winehouse and Kanye West heavily, but these artists are at the cutting edge and pinnacle of their respective genres anyway, and If it’s good i’m not gonna shelve it just because it’s popular.
The deaths of Amy Winehouse and J Dilla, my favourite modern singer and favourite producer, cast a sad shadow over the Black on Red era, but both left huge legacies. It’s also been an era where we lost a former guest of the show, Guru of Gang Starr, while Nate Dogg, Gil Scott Heron, Norman Whitfield, Fonze Mizzell, Heavy D, Willie Mitchell, Teddy Pendergrass, Barry White and Isaac Hayes were just a few more of the greats who passed. Each got huge tributes on the show, as did the New Jersey underground hip-hop legend Tony D, who really deserves a greater recognition for his pioneering beats.
On a brighter note there have been huge success stories. Little Brother, Kanye, Cee-Lo, Adele, Common, Aloe Blacc, The Roots, Mayer Hawthorne, Raphael Saadiq, Dam-Funk, Dizzee Rascal and more have blown up big in this era, and the music is bigger than ever. The infiltration of hip-hop and r&b into the pop charts has led to a lot of poor stuff being passed of as that too, but on Black on Red i’ve little interest in this really. It has been great to see the good pop stars like Beyonce, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake and even Eminem do so well in the last decade, but they don’t need a show like Black on Red anymore. It’s also great to see Alicia Keys, Outkast and Janelle Monae become huge pop artists with ambition. Music on the margins from Dudley Perkins, Dam-funk, Frank Ocean, Mayer Hawthorne, Jill Scott, J Dilla, Madlib, PPP, Michael Kiwanuku, Ghostpoet, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Lee Fields, Thundercat, DJ Shadow, Dwele, Robert Glasper, Flying Lotus, Erykah Badu needs an outlet on commercial radio, and Black on Red is one of the places where it can get showcased.
The show varies in format and can be a straight mix show one week while on others i might do interviews. I’ve been honoured to have grade A guests on the show. Rap legends Rakim, Chuck D, Guru, Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambattaa plus the amazing soul and jazz pioneer Booker T have all been interviewed on the show. Nile Rodgers of Chic arrived out in RedFM for one of our best interviews, while Questlove of the Roots, the man with the best phonebook in music, once dropped by straight after his Oxegen show and was interviewed live on my show in my studio at the side of the stage! Ghostpoet, Edan, J Rocc, Romanthony, Terrence Parker, Dan The Automator, Taylor McFerrin, King Britt, Mark Rae, Sly and Robbie, Candi Staton, Charles Webster, Phil Cohran, Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith, Madlib, Qool DJ Marv, Unabombers, Sunday Times, Diego Ramirez, Aim, Jerome Rimson, Wu Tang Clan, Janelle Monae, Cut Chemist, DJ Flip, Omar, Blackalicious, Ugly Duckling, A-Trak, Dooley O, Mark Stretch, Tuki, DJ Mek, Pharcyde, Marlena Shaw, DJ Shadow, Massive Attack, De La Soul, Public Enemy, Helios Jive, Icon the Mic King, Niwel Tsumbu, Don Letts, Spikey Tee, Mikki Dee, Andy Smith, DJ Zuzee, Noelle Scaggs, Reeps One, Theo Parish, Dan Walsh, Samuel James, Horace Andy, Dawn Penn, Bellyman, The Knux, Theophilus London, Choice Cuts, Mr Scruff, People Under the Stairs, Jazzy Jeff and many more have also contributed, added greatly to the show.
I’ve done some music documentaries on the show too and most can be found online. Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, J Dilla, Gil Scott Heron, Norman Whitfield, Michael Jackson and James Brown are just a few of the subjects so far, but there’s plenty more to come. It’s important to recognise the roots of hip-hop and modern soul, and Black on Red is always heavy on the jazz, reggae, soul, blues side of things, but in reality anything goes as long as it’s good!
In Ireland, we have had some great artists over the last ten years, and Brian Deady, freezerRoom, Colm K, Fishgodeep, Laura Izibor, Wiggle, Deviant, Toby Kaar, MynameisJohn, Monto, Sert One, The Impressionists, Intinn, Lady Grew, Elaine Dowling, Papa Zitas, Bangsambra are only a few of those who i can think of off-hand who have had their music played on Black on Red extensively. Every second rapper in the country has appeared in some shape or form too, and GMC, Bony, Mickey Gatch, Nash, Brozy, Ri Ra, Sons Phonetic, Nucentz, Lethal Dialect, Jackson, Captain Moonlight, Infomatics, Longy, Collie, Siyo, Rob Kelly, Melodica Deathship, Ian Ring, Nugget, Aosdana, Peter the Kid, B Wonder, Gio, JD, Ophelia, Ruby are a few who should feature on a Black on Red Hall of fame!
Thanks to everyone for performing, supporting and listening to the show since 2002. Thanks to everyone i’ve worked with too. Some say hip-hop is dead but I beg to differ. The music now manifests itself in the attitude of great artists like Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Erykah Badu, Flying Lotus, and many more who may not be stereotypically hip-hop, but who carry that vibe forward more than a Flo-Rida could ever hope. As for the rap itself, check out my mixes on this weekends show for tons of music that is relatively recent and top quality. There are mixes and documentaries and interviews at the links posted below. It’s been a fun ride. And long may it continue!
Tomorrows show will be 3 hours of Black on Red classics in the mix