FORUM

  • Vivian Phillips

BLACK DEEJAYS - BUILDING COMMUNITY OUTSIDE THE CRATE


Two Black men sit behind a table with a black KEXP radio station table cloth. They are in front of DJ and recording equipment.
DJ Larry Mizell Jr. and DJ Riz Rollins at Midtown Square for the REVIVE Juneteenth pop-up market event. Image courtesy Juan Alonso-Rodríguez

Black radio has been at the center of the Black community for almost 100 years, making its debut in 1929 with the first “All-Negro Hour” on Chicago radio station WSBC. The decline of Black radio can be traced back to the rise of syndicated programming that took hold in the 1980s and flourished into the 90s, making it more economical for struggling Black radio owners to simply purchase programs, paying only a syndication fee over employing live deejays. You got the music, but sadly the heart and soul of Black communities was absent.


Black deejays didn’t disappear. In fact, the art of deejaying flourished and thrived at block parties and house parties, and remains an integral part of hip-hop. Black radio continues to have some presence across the country and Black deejays have become much more global in their musical areas of focus. They also have more say in what kind of music they prefer to play, lifting them outside of the Black radio niche.


Such is the case with the four Black KEXP Deejays we wish to highlight during Black Music Month. They are making their mark—their shows are accessible no matter where you are thanks to streaming—and we are listening!


Check them out:

Gabriel Teodros is there for the early risers with his 5 to 7 AM eclectic music mix on the Early Show. He is also a cool-ass musician and writer.


Larry Mizell, Jr. is on for the midday listeners with The Afternoon Show. and brings his own diverse mixes to the air. He recently began co-hosting the new KEXP podcast Fresh Off the Spaceship with Douglas Martin. Larry is also an accomplished writer.


DJ Riz and DJ Sharlese are the ones helping us get our lives right on Sundays and ready for the week! The Expansions program with Riz is on from 9 PM to Midnight, and from 1 to 2 AM we get Mechanical Breakdown with DJ Sharlese.


Other KEXP deejay notables include Supreme La Rock with Sunday Soul, Vitamin D & DJ Yaddy with Street Sounds, Lace Cadence with Overnight Afrobeats, and Eva Walker on Audioasis.


And never forget that locally, KYAC Radio reigned supreme as the premier Black radio station for decades in the Seattle area!!! KRIZ Radio's Frank P. Barrow keeps the vibe alive at the zTwins KRIZ/KZIZ radio with Community Potpourri, and Tony Benton keeps us informed with news we can use locally at RainierAvenueRadio. Black radio traditions have changed dramatically but our love for Black community and the roles radio and music play in keeping community together remains present!


Now for the Black Music Month audience participation part of the program: Share your favorite Black music on our Instagram page. Just use the hashtag #BMM and leave us a title.

Let’s make our own ARTE NOIR Black Music Month playlist!