In continuation of our coverage of the newly saved 93.5 KDAY in Los Angeles, AllHipHop.com spent the day with the station’s late morning/early afternoon host DJ Brandi Garcia during one of her shifts. The Tallahassee raised DJ made her way to the West Coast in controversial manner when she was fired from Houston’s 97.9 The Box over a Trae the Truth song and landed a gig at the legendary Hip-Hop station. After a period of answering phones for the station, Brandi earned her way back on the air and runs the station’s popular “Tweet at 12” segment where listeners tweet their requests in via Twitter and get an on-air shout out when their song is played. In the midst of listener call-ins, prize giveaways and classic old school Hip-Hop, Brandi took the time to answer a few questions about her life as a radio DJ/Host, including the infamous Houston firing in 2010 over an artist banned by the station.
How long have you been involved in radio?
I started as an intern when I was 15.
15? Isn’t that kind of young to be an intern?
In Florida they have an Externship program for gifted students which allows you to be one. I was a nerd (laughs). I started at a classic Rock station working behind the scenes. Growing up, I was the little kid that always called in to a station requesting favorite songs.
I used to try calling in myself but I could never get through to the stations.
I would get through but I also sat there and tried calling in for a long time. I was an annoying little kid. My sisters are prize hogs. To this day they call in to stations and win iPads, money and other prizes.
When did you start your DJ journey?
I started hosting a mix show when I was at radio station. The DJ’s would be next to me while I was on the microphone but I had no clue how to do it. This was during my time in college at Florida State University and I thought DJ’ing was the coolest thing but I never saw any female DJ’s at the station – only male ones. I decided that I wanted to learn because there weren’t any female DJ’s in my area. You see Female DJ’s in New York and on the West Coast but at the time there weren’t any in my area of Florida. I asked the guys to show me how to DJ and they told me that I first had to buy my own set of turntables because they wanted to see if I was serious. I went and maxed out two of my credit cards much to my mother’s dismay.
Did you even know what you were buying?
They told me to buy 1200 Technic Turntables. They said that if I was serious, I should get those instead of the starter DJ turntables. The starters are a waste of your time. If you’re for real about this, you need to get the right equipment. My friends taught me what to do from there.
How bad were you as a DJ when you started?
I sucked horribly bad. I was working for this one station and I don’t know why I thought I was slick but one time during an overnight shift I decided to start mixing on the radio. My job was only to talk on air at that point. Someone from the station heard me and he called me from wherever he was and said, “What the hell are you doing? I’m going to say two things to you. You suck real badly and you’re train-wrecking all over the place but you’ve got balls to actually try to pull this off and I respect that. I’m going to get off this phone and not say anything about this.”
What time in the night was this?
This was at 3 am. He must have been coming home from a club or something. He said it was terrible but he respected the fact that I really wanted to try it that bad.
What in the hell got in to you?
I don’t know! I was crazy as a kid. Looking back I guess I just didn’t realize what big of a deal it was. I know that if someone were to ever try to do that out here in Los Angeles, all hell would break loose, but this was Tallahassee. I just didn’t think it was a serious deal. It was fun although I was bad and train-wrecked everywhere. Everybody has to start somewhere. I sucked at radio and DJ’ing but I wanted it so bad.
You sound like a natural when I listen to you talk on air and when you’re spinning records.
It’s all practice, practice and more practice. After all of these years, I still sit in my car and do fake mic breaks just to practice. That was one of my techniques when I first started. One of my co-workers advised me to start practicing in the car. Practice on controlling your voice and the way that you want to talk. My radio voice is distinctly different than when I’m normally speaking. The first time that I told my boss that I wanted to speak on the air, he laughed in my face and told me that I sounded too white. I took it as a personal challenge to sound the way that would get me on the radio. I went overboard at first and that was kind of interesting but it all balanced out. I finally found the voice that I wanted. It helps to also write down your mic breaks. I did that for a number of years and sometimes I write key reminders.
Have you had any other big on air mess ups?
I’ve cussed on air before and that’s why we have those dump buttons. Back in Houston, I had an overnight mix show called “Brandi Garcia & the Hollywood Boys.” One night I was reading a reported story on Beyonce’ and Jay Z vacationing in St. Tropez. I don’t travel overseas so I read the name of the town as its spelled (with the Z pronounced) and they paused the music and said ”Where?” I pronounced it with the Z again and said it real country-like. That was very embarrassing.
That’s like the “Versace” moment in that “Showgirls” movie.
Exactly like that. Oh my God.
Tell me about cursing on the air.
Sometimes you can get so comfortable in a moment that you forget that you’re on the radio and it comes out.
What’s the worst thing that you’ve said?
I’ve said “sh*t.” I don’t think I’ve ever said the F-word. We have a dump button and with a 10 second delay, you can catch it. There hasn’t been anything too crazy. I’ve always been chill.
Let’s talk about your controversial firing from Houston’s 97.9 The Box. Trae the Truth was banned by the station and you were let go because you played a song that featured him at a non-station event.
It was a Waka Flocka song, “O Let’s Do It” and Trae recorded a verse over it. According to the station, it was a station event but I don’t consider it one. The event was promoted on several other stations too. I was not there representing the station. I was representing myself and it was on my day off. Looking back on it, I think they felt that I was siding with Trae over the station. I was devastated. I really loved that station and I loved the people in that city.
Knowing that Trae was on that remix, did you feel any reservation at all about playing it?
I wasn’t even paying attention – that’s the funny part. I was just playing songs. I wasn’t trying to purposely play a Trae record to be a martyr or make a statement. I was shocked when I walked in that Monday after and got fired. Why would I try to lose my job? Everything happens for a reason and I wish them all the best. I’ve had the opportunity to come out to Los Angeles and be successful here at 93.5 KDAY. I’m thankful for the time that I was at The Box in Houston and I can say that now because I’m not angry anymore.
I bet there was a time where you couldn’t say that.
Absolutely but I’ve come to a place of closure and there are more important things in life. I’ve changed my mindset since then and I try to look at the positive things in life. Had that firing not happened, I wouldn’t be in Los Angeles doing all of the things I’m doing. It happened for the greater good in my life and I’m cool with it.
You run like 20 miles a day with your running crew all around the city. Your Instagram is poppin’ with all of your running photos.
I ran cross country for Florida State. My time in Houston was the least active I’ve ever been in my life and I started to get a little overweight. I love to run and I love Sports. Music and Sports are my equal loves. I had one without the other for so long and I missed. When I came out to Los Angeles, I rediscovered my love for running and I’ve been great at balancing the two ever since. I just started my own run crew called WeRunLA. We go out on Wednesday nights and run in different parts of the city each week. I accept anybody in the crew. My whole mission is to get people that feel intimidated by run crews and to make it a fun experience. In Hip-Hop it’s not necessarily cool but in the past few years we’ve seen more fitness awareness. It’s good to see Paul Wall’s and Slim Thug’s transformation. I see pictures of Bun-B working out with his wife. It’s good to see music and fitness come together.