We now conclude our two-part story with radio legend Greg Mack and for those who might dispute that, yes he is a legend. Back before the artists that you now refer to as legends became legends, they needed a home to be heard and 1580 KDAY was that place whether it was an East Coast rapper or local West Coast ones just looking for some love and to have their new songs played. The fire caught on at stations in other cities that were initially reluctant to give Rap a voice but the success of the format caused them to take notice and embrace the change. After 1580 KDAY left the airwaves (the weak AM signal couldn’t keep up with the FM stations that were adopting the Hip-Hop format), Greg Mack left programming and ventured in to the radio station ownership field and is currently back behind the microphone hosting his own R & B show every Saturday night on 94.7 The Wave. Read on as Greg challenges rappers and artists to become radio owners, gives his feelings on the current 93.5 KDAY station and talks about the racism that still exists in radio today. Put your reading glasses on once again and jump in to Part 2 of this AllHipHop.com exclusive.
Tell me about the time that you first heard “Boyz N Tha Hood” by Eazy-E before you premiered it on KDAY.
I was at the Casa Camino Real and Dr. Dre came to the club and said, “Greg. I’m working with this new kid and I just did a record with him. He’s going to invest in me. I want you to hear this record and give me your thoughts.” We left the club and went to the car and popped in the cassette. We listened to it and I told him that it just might work but he needed to clean it up if he wanted it on the air. He agreed to clean it up and I agreed to try it out on the air. The kid was Eazy-E of course. That was about midnight and the next day by 2 pm, Dr. Dre had me a clean version. We played it and by nightfall it was the most requested record. People reacted to it quickly and it stayed number one for a long time.
Even when Dre did a song with me and Eazy called “Radio,” it was the same thing. He called me and told me that he needed a DJ on it, so he had me listen to the record and I asked him what he wanted me to do. He told me to just talk and pretend we were on the radio. I did my part and he told me that was it. I was like, “In the first try?” And he said, “Yeah. That’s what I wanted. You nailed it.” I left, never signed anything, never got any royalties on it (laughs). I didn’t know that “mutha” was going to be a platinum record. We were just cool like that.
When N.W.A. started fighting with each other, were you involved in any way? You were cool with all sides.
It was like you said, I was cool with everybody. I never got involved in the business side of things.
Nobody ever came to you with their problems or frustrations?
Yeah but only about this b*tch or that b*tch or lend me some money to help me pay for this abortion – but never really anything on the business side. I’m just a radio guy and people seem to forget that. The music side kind of propelled my name out there but that’s because the people that I played became stars. Salt-n-Pepa wouldn’t have hit if I didn’t play their B-Side “Push It” and the same with J.J. Fad if I didn’t play their B-Side “Supersonic.” I get all of that but that’s my DJ side. I didn’t go in to the studio and create anything. I don’t know how to make a hit. I’m just the radio guy.
So many legendary acts came to you to break their records. Aside from N.W.A. there were acts like Salt-n-Pepa, Will Smith as The Fresh Prince, J.J. Fad and so on.
Digital Underground, 2Pac, Big Daddy Kane – we can go on and list about 40 to 50 names. I’ve got a story about each and every one of them too. Big Daddy Kane, people don’t know that he was so shy and quiet. I’ve got so many stories. I’m praying that God allows me to write a book one day. There’s so much behind these people than what you see. What’s funny is that it’s all good stuff. There’s really no drama. A lot of the rappers are really good people but there’s an image that they have to uphold to keep street credibility but when you get to know them, they are really good people – even Suge Knight. I knew him before the world did and he’s a really good guy. It’s the same with Jerry Heller – he’s a great person. A lot of people in the business that have been characterized as evil, are actually good people. In Hip-Hop, a lot of bullsh*t gets said and people would rather believe the bullsh*t than hear the real story. I remember when MC Hammer and 3rd Bass had their beef, I had the group come to the station to get on the air with me and Hammer (who was on the phone) and we talked about it and I was under the opinion that we squashed it all. About 6 months later I was at a convention and their DJ Richie Rich came up to me and grabbed me by the collar. He was like, “Motherf*cker you almost got us killed! You set us up!” I was like, “What the f*ck are you talking about?” Come to find out after they left the studio that day, they stopped to get gas down the hill from the radio station and somebody started shooting at them. I had heard nothing about it at the time. They were mad at me because they thought I was setting them up. That’s how quickly sh*t can get started and it just goes to show the bullsh*t that people can believe in the world of Hip-Hop. It wasn’t someone from Hammer’s camp. I know all of those guys and I really don’t think any of them would have done some bullsh*t like that. It was some listener that got caught up in the bullsh*t and thought he was helping one side.
After your time at KDAY you got involved in radio ownership.
A lot of people don’t know that MC Hammer helped me get my first station; however this was around the time that he went bankrupt. I had to bring in another investor because he never got to finish the deal. Then Eazy-E and I were going to buy a group of radio stations together with the first one being in Phoenix. Right as we were getting started, he died. After that, me and Dr. Dre were going to do it and we applied for a Fresno, CA station – which we won. We got that station for like $500 because the FCC gave minorities preference on applications. Lo and behold, Dre and Suge start having their problems so we didn’t get to finish the deal because he would have gotten twisted up if he bought a radio station at that time. It seemed like every time I was about to get one of my guys to help me, some bullsh*t happened. In an editorial that I wrote for Billboard, I said that before I die I want to see at least one rapper own a radio station, whether it’s with me or not. I still haven’t seen that. Rock, Country and Spanish singers own radio stations but not rappers. Once one does they all will because they copy each other.
I can’t think of a better outlet for an artist to have. If you own your own station, nobody can ever deny your records being aired.
Thank you. The game is changing and radio stations are becoming cheaper to own. Once I see rappers start to own their own stations, I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something.
KDAY was resurrected on FM dial a while back and more recently in the past few years switched to an all Old School format. What are your thoughts on that?
There are bands that go around and do Tours playing songs by The Temptations and other great artists – and those are called “tribute bands.” I tell people that KDAY is a tribute radio station. It’s a tribute to me although they will never accept that. On one hand I appreciate it and on the other I hate it. To me, they are perpetrating a fraud because KDAY was very aggressive and groundbreaking. Basically what they are trying to do is imitate what I did. I touched on this in an L.A. Times article last year and someone commented on it and said that “Greg Mack is turning in to a bitter old man.” I just want that person to know that I am not a bitter old man but if you see someone that is taking a picture that you painted and they are changing the lines and putting new paint on it, it might upset you. If you see somebody that is trying to take credit for the hours, energies, and marriages that it cost me and have no respect for you whatsoever, then it could make you bitter but I am not a bitter person. I want to see them do well. I do think that they have been very disrespectful towards me and they’ve been very disrespectful towards my Mix Masters. They need to understand that they were a whole lot of people, not just me, behind the legend of KDAY. If you’re going to live that lie, at least put some of the people that were a part of that team, whether it’s me or not, I don’t care. If I never hear from anybody there, I don’t care and it’s funny because one of the current owners (now former) is a friend of mine and we laugh about it. He lets his guys do whatever they want to do and that’s the reason why I’m not there. I look at them as a tribute station, a tribute of what I did, and that’s cool. If they ever want to keep it real, call me and we can get KDAY back cracking. We were groundbreaking. We did some things that radio just doesn’t do.
Our street team meant something. We had artists like LL Cool J, Ice-T, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Run-DMC, and Tone Loc on our street teams and we would go in to a new school every single day. Ed Kirby our General Manager, made sure that we did community things like the Challenger’s Boys and Girls Club, which was struggling at the time. Jack Patterson our Program Director, I give him kudos because he allowed me to do what I wanted to do. One of the things that made us different and you don’t see nowadays is that we had an open door policy. If you had a song that you recorded in the studio last night and it was good, you could bring it to me. We didn’t have Payola. Not once did I ever accept Payola. I was accused of Party-ola, which might be true. If we’re going to play your record, then you need to go meet our listeners. We made the people that we played come out to our events because we want our people to meet these artists, which is why Hip-Hop took off because they were accessible. The Gap Band wasn’t going to go to World on Wheels but the rappers did. That’s what made us different. We actually cared.
What bothers me about radio is that they wait until someone has a huge buzz first before they will really pay attention.
There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t get played these days and it’s sad. I’ve heard some songs and was like, “Wow! That’s a jam!” but because that artist didn’t have $300,000 to give an independent promoter, he doesn’t get heard. Whereas if I was still on the air in Los Angeles, they could have come to me and they would have been number one. Look what we did with Lisa Lisa. Her manager, the late Steve Salem, came to me with a cassette and told me that her record company wouldn’t put out her record and asked for my help. I listened to the song and it was “Take You Home.” I tried it and about a week later it became the most requested song. The record company got so many calls for it that they ended up putting it out. It’s stuff like that which doesn’t happen in radio anymore –everything has to be bought. There are stations that have “inside” independent promoters, so they are getting the money and playing the song. It’s so illegal what’s going on. You’ve got major corporations that own the venues and manage the groups.
When you look across the nation and see what you started in the radio industry, what goes through your mind?
I’ve thought about that a lot. It shows me the racism that exists in radio and let me tell you why. The white man took what I did and went to their white bosses and said, “Here’s what I’m going to do on your radio station” and just copied everything I did. It exploded and they took the credit for the idea. Never once have you heard any of those guys acknowledge where it started. Do you know why? Because I’m black. Not one of those guys can go back to August of 1983 and say that this was their idea of radio. If you look at the number of Rhythmic programmers out there, I can count on one hand the amount of Black program directors that are out there. There’s a lot of racism in today’s radio world. I’m not racist. My boss Rick here at 94.7 the Wave doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. Same with Rick Cummings over at Power 106. I had a meeting with him one time and he said, “So I guess you’re the one that started all of this?” However, I did see an article with him one time claiming that he started the Rhythmic format. I’m like, “Wait a minute!” I know if I was sitting in front of him he’ll say that he was misquoted. I have a lot of respect for him and Jimmy Steele. There are white programmers that know what they’re doing and there are a lot of new jacks that are basically just following the corporate lead and have no idea where the game started. I’m not going to hate on them but I would like for them to acknowledge that it was a Black man who did it.