Live from the Underground Takes Its Love of Dallas Hip Hop to the Airwaves

Jay Wil and Rollo are the duo behind Deep Ellum on Air's Live from the Underground
Jay Wil and Rollo are the duo behind Deep Ellum on Air's Live from the Underground
Say Brea

Imagine what your labor of love was in college. It could have been a band or a blog or anything really. Just something that was your creative outlet. Now imagine college ending and putting that project to bed because it was time to move on and grow up. That's the reality for a lot of us. But for the lucky ones among us, we get to stick with it and see where it goes. For Big Spring native Jay Wil, this has been the last three years of his life.

Three years ago, during his time at the University of Texas-Arlington, Joshua "Jay Wil" Wilson began the Live from the Underground program with his work for the university's radio broadcasting program. The idea for the show was simple enough: Showcase Dallas' finest rappers while also playing some of the broadcast crew's favorite rap acts.

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Accompanying Jay Wil were longtime friends Roderick "Rollo" Rollins and Rico "Slice" Ripoly. At UTA, the show's big breaks would come by getting to interview some of rap's biggest acts such as Kendrick Lamar, Odd Future and ASAP Rocky when they were coming through town. Jay Wil is especially proud of the fact that Live from the Underground has continued beyond college, having taken it to the Deep Ellum on Air internet radio outfit in Dallas' Deep Ellum district.

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Live from the Underground (LFTU), which is nominated for the for Best Radio Show or Podcast category in this year's Dallas Observer Music Awards, is not just a local radio show. While the show places a great emphasis on being from Dallas, its reach has quietly been extending. Jay Wil explains that the show has tracked its audience and has found that they do very well in the large hip-hop strongholds of California, New York and Atlanta. Jay Wil even tells stories about callers from London shouting out the show as well as kids flagging him down at the mall in Arlington to tell him that they love the show.

Working with Deep Ellum on Air has allowed the show to branch out with its format, with the biggest change being that it's now filmed and simulcast with the radio program. For Jay Wil, who's also an aspiring actor, this is not too daunting of a challenge.

"When I started doing interviews on camera, I used to go out of my way to make sure that I wasn't on camera because I didn't want the interviews to be about me," Jay Wil explains. "One of my friends told me that that was silly because people know it's me doing the interviews anyway and going into acting. This is the kind of stuff people see when they're looking for someone who can handle themselves and compose themselves."

This is not to say that there have not been some growing pains since the change to Deep Ellum on Air. The crew has added soundboard master Jansen to work the boards along with Jay Wil and Rollo during broadcasts. The hardest strain on the show in recent times was the loss of co-host Rico Slice, who joined K104 FM.

"Rico did a lot of stuff outside the show, so he got really busy," Wil says. "Rico was one of those people who just grinds all the time. It just didn't fit with his schedule anymore, but he knows he can come by anytime he wants. Anytime he's free he can come kick it with us. He was doing his own thing and the show became too time-consuming."

The loss of Rico Slice signified the changing ambitions of the show. What was previously something just for fun has now become a mission to make something real happen. For Jay Wil, he is conscious of this fact and ready to make the larger investment to push LFTU to the next level. Yet at the end of the day, the driving motivation for Jay Wil remains his hometown of Big Spring.

"For me, where I'm from, there really isn't a lot of hope," he says. "A lot of people never really leave or get to experience life outside of Big Spring. I come from there, I grew up there, I know all the people there and I loved growing up there. So many people want to get out and do something, but can't. My main drive is when I can come home and visit and there's people who tell me, 'Seeing you do what you do lets me know that I can get out of here one day.'"

Having just celebrated its third anniversary last Friday, LFTU has a lot more planned. Jay Wil is preparing to invest money into a website overhaul in order to help pushi the show's brand across the country. He still plans to network, as he has always done, and keep grinding. Wherever the show may go from here, it doesn't seem to matter much to Jay Wil. He started the show for the love of the music and for an even deeper love for his hometown. Everything that is happening now seems to be a bonus for the young radio host who is all smiles.

Live From The Underground airs every Friday night from 6-7 PM and can be heard at deepellumonair.com.


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