Posted by: Ted D. Davis
“Brown, the brand new brother in town”, is the line I recited to my beautiful, tiny, nearly newborn brown and white Shih Tzu puppy, Buster, every day when he ran to me. The words are taken from the song “Doo Doo Brown”, the song DJ Frank Ski, aka ”Doo Doo Brown”, made famous across airwaves in 1991. The line was a sort of coming of age phrase for young men in the South like me that year, telling the world that we’re here. It was catchy and infectious, and to this day is one of my favorite phrases in hip hop history.
Since its recording, Ski has been a pioneer in the early Baltimore House music scene, hosted the number one morning drive time radio show in Atlanta for fourteen years, the Frank and Wanda Morning Show with cohost Wanda Smith, and, after taking his show national for few years, has returned to the host of the aforementioned morning show, WVEE V-103 radio where he began hosting Saturday, April 23, 2016 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the following Sunday evening from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. He is also a DJ in high demand, hosting as many as five parties per week in and around Atlanta.
On Saturday, October 29, 2016 Ski will host the 6th anniversary “Classic House Party” party at Birmingham’s Rogue Tavern (**** of *****, located at 2312 Second Avenue North). Doors open at 10 p.m., with the party starting at midnight. For more information call Rogue at (205) 202-4151 or visit the website at www.roguetavern.com.
Ski gave MCR the privilege of talking to him ahead of his appearance about his history as a House music artist, his love for hip culture and music, his legacy in the rich landscape of radio in Atlanta and around the country, and the gift from God that he gives his listeners each day.
MCR: The first time I heard the Doo Doo Brown I assumed the name was attached a gangster character, and then I see the video of you performing the song, a rap Al B. Sure. What possessed a fairly conservative looking guy, even by 90s standards, to go by that moniker?
FS: “The thing about it was that in Baltimore, at the time, I was THE radio guy. I held the 6-10 p.m. slot at the time, wherein I played this new music which was fusion of House music and Hip Hop. I created a track composed of the popular sound in Miami at the time and House that was eventually stolen from my locker at the radio station, but before it was the station manager encouraged me to write a song with it because it was uneven as a stand alone track.
I created a song called Doo Doo Brown that was supposed to be one song, but I ended up creating a persona that turned into two albums under the guise of Doo Doo Brown”.
MCR: The record “Doo Doo Brown” was big hit in the early 90s. The phrase, “Brown, the brand new brother in town” was a sort of calling card for young men all over the South, a way of saying, “I’m here”. What was the songs point?
FS: “The funny thing is that was challenged to write the lyrics because as I said before, it didn’t work as a standalone. I asked a good friend of mine (in the video he is seen acting as Skis hype man, a guy who chants the lyrics of the featured performer for greater emphasis) that if I rapped the verses he would do the hype parts, he agreed to, and we recorded the song and video.
After the video was released I contacted Luther Campbell, aka “Uncle Luke”, of the Two Live Crew, who was a close friend of mine, about distributing the song because I was going broke trying to distribute it myself. He agreed to meet with me about it, and I flew to Miami to meet with him before my radio spot. Luke didn’t not show up for the meeting, and afterward I hopped the return flight to Baltimore to do the radio show. By the time I arrived in Baltimore my brother, who lived in Miami, called me to say that the song was in heavy rotation on Miami stations.
That day I was offered two fifty thousand dollar distribution deals and my career as rapper took off”.
MCR: I was about to ask how a guy from New York City become a House music artist, but you answered the question already, right (laughing)?
FS: “I actually grew up in Miami. I’m originally from New York, but I grew up in the Miami area. From the influences in New York, I was really into the Hip Hop culture, and I was rapping and break dancing.
When I got to Baltimore there were two groups: Hip Hop heads and House music enthusiasts. The Hip Hop heads were heavily into drug culture, and when they partied it was just going to clubs to hear rap music but not ever dancing. Literally they’d sit, listen to the music, and not dance. The House music set was all about dance. House music in Baltimore was called ‘Baltimore club’. Honestly, I enjoyed creating and producing House tracks and being with that crowd far more than with the Hip Hops heads.
In Baltimore at that time, people could care less about your sexual preference because for all of the House fans it was purely about the music and grooves”.
MCR: At the height of your original radio show on V-103 (the Frank and Wanda Morning show ran from 1998-2012) you were the number one show in the market. Now you’re back on the station with Saturday morning and Sunday evening slots. What is the focus of the new show and what will it add to the current Atlanta weekend radio landscape?
FS: “The weekend format enables me to just have fun. In drive time radio I had to handle specific issues, but weekends are wide open for whatever I want to do. Saturdays are “salon talk” days, wherein women in beauty shops enjoy listening which sparks their own conversation. Sunday evenings are attended by listeners who are interested in community and social issues.
I bring in other DJ’s and let them spin records while I do other things to enrich the show. I love the departure from the drive time format”.
MCR: How did your stint at WHUR-FM (Skis hosted a national radio show on the Washington, D.C. station after leaving V-103 in 2012) make you a better DJ?
“I’d been on V-103 for years and 1.2 million listeners per week. I had 99% more listeners than any other show in the market. Think about that. 1.2 million listeners. What that implies is that I never had to abide by PPM rules (National broadcast regulations) .We were cutting edge in terms of what we brought to our audience, the first to break stories, the first host controversial and high demand guests and they like. We did all that and literally took zero hits from regulators. I was alone in that status.
Think about something else: Atlanta has nine black owned radio stations, which implies that their focus is solely for the African American audience. Most cities have maybe two black radio stations. I enjoyed a 14 share in the market where Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey, and other radio titans had only 4 shares. As a result, I did whatever I wanted.
When I arrived in D.C., I was back in the typical one or two black radio market, and I couldn’t operate as I did in Atlanta. It made me accountable in ways I hadn’t previously been. At times I could only talk for four minutes. I was often required to play far more songs than I was in Atlanta. I was at the beck and call of the demographic and the discipline has made a better DJ than I was before”.
MCR: What’s an “inspirational vitamin”?
FS: “The core of the black experience is the church. Whether you attend now or not, if you’re black, at some point in your life revolved around church attendance. The Vitamin gives listeners sixty seconds of an inspirational message void of any judgment. It tells you what God’s word says concerning an issue, how to apply it to your life, and it’s followed by a song that relates to the message.
It has always been the number one segment on my program”.
MCR: What music mix can attendees of the Rogue party look forward to?
FS: “I always like to say that it depends on the crowd, because it does. There will be people from near and far there. I’ll start with a mix of popular stuff that is a bit older. Once people start drinking what they want to groove to will become apparent. If it turns out that the core of the group is from Alabama and Georgia, I’ll play older stuff first, and then newer stuff from this region.
If, on the other hand the crowd is mostly northerners I’ll play House and genres associated with that region, and then transition to new rap, R&B, and the like. At some point a mood will be fixed, I’ll turn it over to an assistant, and I’ll mingle with the crowd”.
MCR: Thanks so much for your time, man. I learned so much about the industry.
FS: “My pleasure, man. Send me a link to this”.
MCR: It’s on the way!