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An Open Letter To 97.9 The Box from Matt Sonzala

Posted on April 22nd, 2010 by B. Hobbs

Aight for those of yall not aware of it there’s some major bullshit going on at 97.9 in Houston that has resulted in Trae and Kyleon being banned from the station and the Kracker Nutz being fired. Really since mainstream radio sucks and the only decent thing 97.9 does anymore is play the homie Fat Pimp’s music, I shouldnt really be concerned with this shit but the whole situation is so ridiculous its gotta to the point where something need to be done about it. Thankfully MATT SONZALA
has written a real good open letter to everyone that is involved in the situation from the radio employes, to the artists, to the listeners. Yall should take a minute and give this a read and see whats really going on at this bullshit radio station.

To Whom it May Concern,

And as this is an “open letter,” I mean all y’all. All of you who are or should be concerned about the situation happening at 97.9 The Box in Houston.”

It pains me to write this letter, as this week, I along with every lover of hip-hop music and culture have already been hit hard by the passing of Keith “Guru” Elam. When Guru, the voice behind Gang Starr, passed away on Tuesday, I and plenty of other people pulled out our old Gang Starr records and celebrated the life of one of hip-hop’s most engaging and important MC’s. We listened to his music as we mourned our collective loss.

As I listened, I personally began thinking hard about hip-hop, and what it has become. Listening to his deft word play and deep, meaningful lyrics, often about street life, I felt a jolt of energy flow through me, like something I haven’t felt in a long time. I realized while listening to this music, some of which is 20 years old, how much hip-hop music has taught me throughout my life. This week – tragically through Guru’s passing – I remembered that hip-hop music is a serious gift to our generation.

And the loss of Guru made me think about how much we need to respect its power.

When I heard about 97.9 The Box (KBXX) banning Trae tha Truth, I honestly brushed it off. Fact of the matter is, Trae has the support of the streets of Houston. And I figured that an MC of his stature in the community probably doesn’t really even need a station like The Box.

Then on the night of Wednesday April 21st, I got the news that the Kracker Nuttz – a group of three incredible DJ’s who have been on KBXX for over 12 years, and were always rated extremely high in the market as they were not afraid to take chances and play certain hip-hop music that exists “outside the box,” – had been fired from KBXX for playing a Chamillionaire song that featured a verse from Trae.

I then realized that this situation affects a lot more than just Trae.

For anyone reading this letter who does not know what went down, allow me to try to briefly explain.

A couple years back, the City of Houston and its former Mayor Bill White, issued Trae tha Truth a proclamation and a humanitarian award in honor of all of the community work he has done in his city. The day this proclamation was given has now become known as Trae Day in Houston.

On the second anniversary of Trae Day, Trae held a concert and carnival of sorts for families on the campus of Texas Southern University. After a positive day of music, fun and games, and after Trae and all of the other artists, presenters and much of the crowd had left, there was an altercation that involved gun play.

The next morning, KBXX conducted an interview with Trae. On air personality Nnete made some off color comments that from all accounts I have received, implied that a situation like this would of course happen at an event produced by Trae Tha Truth. Basically she said that these are the kinds of people that he and his music attract.

Bun B phoned in to the station immediately after hearing that and told them that they were wrong for what they said.

Trae of course took offense to the statements made against him and on his next mix CD, mentioned Nnete on two songs. The rhymes were insulting, but not threatening.

After that he was banned from KBXX, and rumor has it, all Radio 1 owned stations.

This is the email that was allegedly sent to all staff at KBXX:

“URGENT: – Effective Immediately: DO NOT AIR: “Trae tha Truth” on our station. No interviews, no calls, no comments, no posts on our website, no station twitter, no station facebook, no songs in mix show no verses on remixes, or songs in regular rotation. No exceptions. The current online postings will be removed shortly. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors. Thank u. Have a great weekend!”

So in effect, Trae has been banned from KBXX because of some words he said on a mixtape that were derogatory towards a KBXX employee.

I can semi-understand that as I am quite often quick to defend my people as well (as evidenced by this letter). But fact of the matter is, this is America and here we are supposed to have free speech. A man insulting another man or woman generally should not merit an all out ban.

But if you want to go deeper, KBXX boasts day in and day out that it is Houston’s Home for “Interactive Hip-Hop and R&B.” Meaning, in some way they represent hip-hop culture, and have even built a “home” for and from it in Houston.

Well, if this is the case, then this “hip-hop” station should recognize that what Trae did represents the essence of hip-hop. Before you go and label me some backpacker, who is overly sensitive about hip-hop (and uses words like “essence”), you, KBXX, have to realize that what you say every day about representing for hip-hop is serious to many of us.

Trae did not come down to the station and grab Nnete by the neck, he wrote a song that took some verbal stabs at her. Trae did not attack or disrupt any business being done by Nnete in the name of KBXX or otherwise. He wrote a song that she found to be insulting.

Nnete used her platform, under the banner of hip-hop, to air out her grievance with Trae, and Trae used his platform, under the banner of hip-hop, to air out his grievance with Nnete. And for this he has been banned? That is extremely petty, and goes very much against what hip-hop is and has been since it’s inception.

Closing the door to dialogue is never positive, and that is exactly what KBXX has done.

In the time since the ban, DJ GT was suspended without pay for a week and a half for responding to a Twitter post that questioned his involvement in the ban (and supposedly mentioned his mother). DJ Baby Jae of the Kracker Nuttz was suspended for a week and a half without pay for making a mixtape – totally outside of the work environment – that featured Trae.

Two weeks ago, Houston rapper Killa Kyleon visited Michael Watts on his Swisha House mix show and shouted out Trae. The next day we learned that Kyleon was also banned from KBXX (though this has not been officially confirmed to me as of yet) and that the Swisha House show was cut down to only two hours.

Now we come to learn that three of Houston’s most respected DJ’s, who served over 12 years on the air at KBXX, have been fired for playing a Chamillionaire song that features Trae.

It’s just ridiculous.

In addition to these firings, other problems arise from the banning of Trae from KBXX. For one, Trae is an artist who can draw a strong crowd at a Houston club. KBXX is the main means of promoting a lot of the urban club nights that happen in Houston. If the promoter adds Trae to a show, he or she cannot have Trae mentioned in an advertisement, Trae music cannot be played in the advertisement, and nothing about Trae can be used in any sort of promotion on KBXX.

This limits many promoters ability to make money and survive in Houston.

It may not seem like much to you, but consider this scenario. In the days following the tragic earthquake in Haiti, Bun B put together a benefit concert with a lot of Houston hip-hop artists to raise money for the impoverished nation. Trae, being a popular artist and a man of the community was of course invited to be a part of it.

The event organizers were informed that KBXX would not support it at all, if Trae was a part of it. Trae decided to back out of the show so that it could be advertised and promoted on Houston’s main urban radio outlet – but still showed up in support of the cause.

This ban affects a lot of things on a lot of levels and is a gross abuse of power on the part of KBXX. This especially pains me, as for years KBXX was one of the premier urban radio stations in the nation. I personally saw their ascent, as I interned on their promotions team for their first two years of existence. For two years in the early 1990’s, I was out in the streets, driving their van and promoting their station. And at the time they were at war with Majic 102 to become the top urban station in the city.

They ended up winning, and winning big. You want to know how? They listened to and supported the community. They played records by UGK, Big Mello, Geto Boys, Scarface, all sorts of Houston rappers, many before anyone outside the city had ever heard of them. They kept it fresh, supported the city and stayed in the streets.

And they became an extreme force to be reckoned with in the Houston hip-hop community.

I’m not sure what happened after that, but it sure isn’t like it was.

So I have a few questions for KBXX and Radio 1, but first I have to make this statement.

KBXX – you are in the wrong here. You initiated this problem, and now refuse to work to fix it. Your ban on Trae, and the subsequent actions you have taken on fairly innocent parties, is reprehensible and cowardly. It’s also lazy. I realize that in the age of 140 character tweets and Facebook updates, genuine conversations often take a back seat. This situation merits a genuine conversation, and a solution.

Your half assed, one sided solution is not the answer.

My questions:

You play a song called “Mr. Hit That Hoe” almost every hour, every day. It plays like a mantra to the youth, spewing the nonsensical line over and over again “Hit that hoe, hit that hoe, hit that hoe, hit that hoe.” How do you justify banning an artist who instead of hitting a woman when he was angry, wrote a song and attempted to make a point, rather than hurt someone? (And yes I understand the “sort of hip-hop” meaning of this song, but still, over and over it states “Hit that hoe, hit that hoe, hit that hoe, hit that hoe.” And KBXX plays it, a lot.)

Do you recognize how far and wide this ban reaches, and how many people you are really affecting with this? Do you really want your actions to force supporters of your station to turn their backs on YOU?

Are you willing to talk to Trae and come to some sort of an agreement? Will you realize that you were wrong to fire the Kracker Nutz before some other station comes to town, snatches them up and destroys you from 7 p.m. – Midnight (or whatever slot they put them in)?

Will you admit to the city that you were hasty in making the decisions that you have made?

Or, will you tell the city the real reason you banned Trae the Truth? If there’s another reason out there, and it is legitimate, this will save you from the backlash that you are about to endure.

Seriously, this issue has been blown way out of proportion, and a solution needs to be found. I don’t really expect you or your corporate cronies to really care about the words that I am writing on this matter, but I do ask you to think about hip-hop, the culture that you misrepresent, and the effect you are having as a whole on the Houston Hip-Hop Community.

Sincerely (Thank u. Have a great weekend!),

Matt Sonzala

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