Surviving the Urban Radio arena…


… it’s no different than surviving the ghetto..
Kevin Ross

The other day, I was in a rush to make it to a meeting when I stopped off to pay my past due electric bill. It was just one of those things that you know you have to take care of but for some reason you wait until the last minute and it always ends up costing you more, then you have the nerve to complain about YOUR mistake (laugh)

Growing up in, what I like to call the EPITOME of a ghetto taught me my survival skills and it also destroyed future opportunities for me. The Town Garden Apartments in Buffalo, New York is a place that I would have shock therapy to forget. I learned early on that the world was against me and every day was a fight for survival: personally, spiritually and physically. The minute you walked out the door, you were walking into a war zone and being friendly, kind or against the grain were grounds to be destroyed. I leaned to have an edge with my personality that served to protect but moreover harm me in future.

Many of us grew up the same way; we learned to always be on guard and to never express gratitude or kindness, as they are traits and signs of weaknesses in the ghetto. I say all that to say we have been mislead, lied to and bamboozled by our OWN thinking. Thinking this way will not only lead to but will guarantee failure, frustration, cynicism and bitterness in the short term AND the long run.

Top 6 Rules of the Ghetto I learned in Buffalo:

  1. Doing anything besides selling drugs, being a ho/stripper, in a gang, a pimp or doing jail time is unacceptable.
  2. Success is only permissible as a rap artist and a football or basketball player who maintains his ghetto mentality, thug lifestyle, poor communication skills and who spends his money mostly on cars, jewelry, clothes and quality drugs and guns.
  3. A college degree, high school diploma, volunteer work, job, eating salads, vegetables or fruits is completely unacceptable. As a ghettonian, you are only allowed to eat fried food loaded with saturated fat, pork, fatback, cereal, sweets and artery-clogging triple cheeseburgers and you have to be unemployed and live with your mother, grandmother or girlfriend after the age of 18..
  4. A positive attitude, smiling or helping an old lady across the street is grounds for death.
  5. If you are a success, you must keep cousin “I-was-Shot-10-Times,” Jewquisha, Crackella, Murderonnie and Man Man as your management team handling and destroying all your business deals. Their goal has to be to drag you right back to the bottom of the barrel by helping you spend your money and advising you of all the people who are out to steal from you to take your attention off of them.
  6. An added bonus is to get arrested WHILE you are a success. This ensures your ghetto dedication and retardation for giving up a Ritz Carlton hotel suite for a pissy smelling jail cell where you can live a secret lifestyle that you will oppose and speak out against when you are freed. Your acceptance as a true ghettonian is in your ability to be extremely negative, cynical and to give everything up in order to come back home to the wonderful ghetto lifestyle described above.

OK, the above might be a bit over the top, maybe not… (laugh).

I visited an urban radio station the other day for the first time in four years and while it was exciting for me to see black celebrities walking around, music and aspects of the industry that I have always loved, there were traces of that old familiar attitude that I so well recall as a kid growing up and my early days of working at the former mom and pop black stations. Black men looking at other black men suspiciously as they got off the elevator and black women going through the motions of having a source of income and a job (sans a “career”) not smiling and bitter. There were certainly exceptions to the rule but the energy that prevails is the energy that sets the tone. The negative energy was strong. There will be people pissed at me for saying that but if you get pissed at me for saying it, it’s most likely that you are one of these people. That “edge” immediately made me a bit tense and I felt compelled to turn on MY edge to assimilate within environment. To say the least, none of us like to feel uncomfortable and when we have to become accustomed to these environments, there is personal hell to pay.

When I sat down to talk to these people, the brother was optimistic, had great communication skills and he was on-the-job politically savvy, the sister was a bit unfriendly, edgy and she tried to hide an element of bitterness that to her dismay came shining through her impatience, insecurity and physical appearance. I’ve also seen these same traits reversed in black males and females. Both were dissatisfied with the well-known corporation and they were both overworked and underpaid, which is a universal opinion in urban radio these days, but they both HANDLED it differently. He was optimistic and looking for ways to IMPROVE the situation by finding someone to work WITH the woman, she was set on finding a cushion for her frustration and she wanted someone who would be submissive to her authority, competitive and willing to work with demanding personalities and pacifying their needs (probably a source of HER unwanted frustration). She wanted to feel important by having unauthorized authority over someone else; he wanted someone who was willing to work WITH her.

I have to be honest with you, I was there interviewing for a position and after the interview, I was convinced I didn’t want to work there. I IMMEDIATELY told myself, I’ve done this before and I’m above this. I’d really rather work flipping burgers and going to school at night to better myself, if I have to, before I deal with this type of negativity.

My entrepreneurial self-esteem had been injured over the last couple of years because I have been approaching potential advertisers, record and radio people about ads and ideas that I had and I was consistently rejected. After a while, rejection can make you bitter, opinionated or cynical and you may start to question your effectiveness and ability. In comparison, if you are looking for sex and you continuously get rejected eventually you learn to satisfy yourself (don’t EVEN act like you don’t know what I’m talking about).

Going to that interview, I had to stop and realize how powerful, intelligent and creative I already am. I asked myself, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ I have just been doing the wrong thing and seeking the living amongst the DEAD. NEVER allow someone to have the power to make YOU questions yourself and your abilities. KNOW and BELIEVE in your strength and others will see it without you saying a word. We all have to do what we have to do sometimes but we don’t have to think like everybody else. I know it’s VERY hard but in the long run, it will save you from stress, fatigue and a possible early death.

Many of us feel locked in, tied down and unable to move in these situations. We get STUCK. The train is coming, we see it but we are unable to move from its destructive path. The same ghetto mentality that we grew up with becomes prevalent in the workforce and if you are not rolling out of bed with at least SOME joyful anticipation of the workday, you are living a slow and painful disease building death. I fully understand the power of negativity and at times, it seems even MORE powerful than positive energy and it is. It takes a LOT more effort to be mean, dark, bitter, angry and cynical then it does to show gratitude, love and kindness. Regardless of what your situation in urban radio or any job is you have to ask yourself, is it more important to stay down, or GEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET UP? Perhaps it’s time to surrender your self-defeating employment for something you REALLY want to do.
I know, you say, and with good reason, ‘I work so many damn hours and I’m so stresse
d out, I don’t have time for anything else.’ To a certain extent, that is true but to a larger extent, it isn’t. There are always lunch breaks, evenings and weekends to utilize to train you or seek something else. Also keep in mind, the more you say yes, the more work you will be given. No matter how tired you are, a heart attack, stroke or death should not be on your list with this week’s groceries. The first step, no matter how hard it is, is to change the way you think and your ATTITUDE. Nobody has ever said, ‘I’m looking for someone who is bitter and unhappy to enhance my life.’ If you are unhappy where you are in your job, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but it’s NOT the corporation…. It’s YOU… The head of the corporation is not unhappy, believe that… Have you ever thought about taking your skills and starting your own business? You choose to stay there, you choose to deal with the negativity and you choose to be bitter about it. Now you find yourself trapped in a cycle of self-defeat, you can’t leave because you THINK you need the job and you can’t stay because you HATE the job. So what are you going to do? drop dead? No, keep in mind the longer you allow a situation like this to control you, the more your self-esteem is damaged, that’s the goal of a negative work environment. Remember the rules of the ghetto?

The key to surviving the working world game is not to become stuck in cycle of self defeat, recognize the signs, exercise your options (and you do have them) and take the necessary action to prepare yourself for a move… We ALWAYS have the answers to our own problems but we like to tell other people so that we can garner sympathy and understanding… in the end, however, we simply stuck, all talk and no action. What a waste of time… do what you need to do, keep your mouth shut about it and take action. Let me know how it goes…

Continued Success….