DJ Menace has a dream. That dream is to be a rapper, and he's traveled far and wide to make it happen. But sometimes your plan B becomes your plan A, and for Menace, a one-time Air Force brat who's always been a nomad, that's exactly what happened: After years spent rapping and gigging on pirate radio in Florida, he's living out a new dream -- DJing classic hip hop -- right here in Dallas. And it really is a dream come true: Menace's role as co-host of BOOM 94.5's Mark McCrazy Show is a perfect fit.
"The radio thing kind of became my backup plan," says the 38-year-old. He has been rapping since he was 11 and refers to his long struggle to establish a career in hip-hop as a "typical starving artist life" full of peaks and valleys. Menace has had deals and he has had deals fall apart. One of the first collaborations with his longtime group, Tha Addicts, was with Snoop Dogg over a dozen years ago. The group remains together, working on a new album expected this fall.
Tha Addicts did a song with Killer Mike that was eventually sold to Trina. She kept Killer Mike on the track, which eventually became "Look Back At Me." Killer Mike and DJ Menace have remained extremely close over the years. "Mike is a great person," Menace says. "Mike has helped me pay my rent when I didn't have money." The two usually argue about hip-hop, with Killer Mike referring to Menace as a "Jedi" or one of the few who can truly argue and care about the music genre.
DJ Menace established himself as a respected club DJ. He has also had some success as a producer with "Look Back At Me" as well as the song "It's Alright" by Mims. He produces his own music and has his fingers crossed for placement on some upcoming projects he cannot yet discuss.
He considers South Florida "a little whored out" now, but has fond memories of living there in the '90s. Everyone who was anyone seemed to flock to the area during winter. "You could walk the streets and run into Wu-Tang Clan," DJ Menace recalls. He also remembers seeing Nas and Fat Joe for five bucks back in those days.
As a radio DJ, Menace first worked with five or six different pirate radio stations, one that was in the back of a strip club. In Florida it is really simple to have a pirate radio station: The ground is so flat that if you can put a transmitter and a little antennae on your roof you have a 15-mile radius with little to no power. "You go to Florida right now and you'll find reggae stations, Haitian music and Spanish music that's not legal," says DJ Menace. He remembers hearing DJ Khaled for the first time on one of these pirate radio stations.
When he was finally hired by X-102.3, a legitimate radio station in South Florida, Menace was 28 and had worked about 45 different jobs. Within a couple years, he was already part of the morning show. After stepping in to assist the morning team when they needed help, he was offered the role when a spot opened. He brought the respect of a well-known club DJ, a great sense of humor and an impeccable knowledge of hip-hop to the program. "Even though we are totally different people we click," Menace says of the morning show's host, Mark McCrazy. "We finish each other's jokes and we totally understand each other."
For 6 years, the South Florida morning show was top-rated. But then McCrazy left after being offered a huge job in Dallas, the fifth-largest radio market in the country. "He's the operations manager for both 94.5 and 97.9," says Menace, referring to BOOM 94.5's sister station 97.9 The Beat. "You don't turn that down." Menace and India, the co-host who rounded out the original morning show team, remained in South Florida. But the station quickly fell apart under new leadership.
Always the nomad, Menace soon relocated yet again for his first Texas experience in Dallas for part-time work at 97.9. He did well there, but playing new hip-hop in his late 30s wasn't the best fit. "'90s and '80s hip-hop is my hip-hop," he says. "I don't want to be 40 in a club with 20-year-olds." Menace had been screaming for this format for years. There are countless stations with classic rock or classic country formats, but classic hip-hop stations were a rarity. Most people can turn on the car radio and hear the music they grew up with, but what about fans of hip-hop from the '80s and '90s? Acts like A Tribe Called Quest and Wu-Tang Clan had big radio hits and sold millions of records, so why did their music disappear from the airwaves?
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Understandably, Menace was very excited when 94.5 BOOM came along with their classic hip-hop format. He practically begged to be involved and it has refocused his passion for radio. Two years after working together in South Florida, Menace, McCrazy and India were reunited in January for the weekday BOOM morning show. It was as if they had never stopped.
"You can go to Wal-Mart and buy a Wu-Tang Clan shirt right now," says Menace. "Right next to the Rolling Stones and Bob Marley. So why isn't Wu-Tang on the radio?" Thanks to BOOM 94.5, classic hip-hop is back on the radio in Dallas-Fort Worth, and DJ Menace has a true home.
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