Lafayette Redd wants better things for Gun Ru, and is willing to be the bad guy to get them.
Ask Lafayette Redd, Program Director for The Flex.Net, what sets his radio station apart from the competition, and his answer sounds like a description of the man himself. “We uncut, we do what we want, and we talk about what the city wanna hear.”
There seems to be two ways to look at Lafeyette Redd’s — Redd for short — declaration. It’s either petulance from the new kid on the block, or it’s a welcome insurgency of the airwaves that many describe as flaccid and lacking many kinds of representation. Either way, listener or detractor, both sides can agree — The Flex is dangerous.
To Redd, his job is a full-contact sport, and he’s not afraid to put himself on the front lines, literally. Redd describes an altercation at the studio less than a week ago, a result of the premiere of his new program, “Petty Shit.” The show, designed to air out social media beefs around town, was discussing rumors about a local artist’s sexuality when the situation went from ethically dubious and heated to simply out of hand. He found himself being confronted by the artist’s friends and family — around 30-40 people — outside the southwest side studio.
“By the time we get outside, it’s like, the whole family, the WHOLE family. Out of the whole family, it’s two angry motherfuckas, some tall nigga and some ugly dude. I tell my people, ‘C’mon, let’s go address the situation’. They got the family, they heated, so I’m like, ‘What’s up? I’m Lafayette Redd, how y’all doin?’
‘You Lafeyette Redd?!’
‘I‘m Lafayette Redd,’” he repeated as a solid affirmation.
As he retells the incident, it goes from nearly being a brawl in the bodega parking lot to hugs with the family and, hilariously, a possible follow-up interview with the family and the artist in question. The remarkable thing is how the story goes from being one of conflict and near consequences, to one of diplomacy. For the average citizen, a few people versus forty is certain failure. But with a resume like Redd’s, making an opportunity out of a dangerous situation is second nature.
Redd started out as a hustler of a different kind, one of the illegal variety. And to hear him tell it, he wasn’t part-time — he actually made a decent living, crime-wise. Excelling in that business, though, has it’s well-known pitfalls. The temporary loss of freedom and permanent loss of friends forced Redd to reconsider the definition of success.
“You successful, at the same time, what is success? You can’t spend your money, you can’t spend over ten-thousand dollars if you wanted to, you can’t go buy no house, your kids can’t collect on it — it’s a gamble when you’re out there on the street. The money’s good, the life is fast, you got access, everything is lubricated, but at the same time, it can all get taken away from you (snaps fingers) like that.”
After deciding to hustle for the long-term, Redd caught a lucky break in the form of promoter and DJ, Tony Banks. They had a chance meeting at an after-hours spot where Lafayette was providing security, and found they shared a common ambition. “He was telling me so many ideas he had, that he wanted to do with radio,” Redd said. “He had everything in step, and I’m sitting there like, ‘This shit makes sense.”
“You successful, at the same time, what is success?”
The next step after acquiring equipment and space was to seek talent. Redd found himself reaching out to local personality Jen Wright, aka J.Fizzle. “We used to have Monday nights at the club, it was some wild stripper shit, and she was coming there to have a good time. And how she talked on Facebook was real raunchy and crazy, so my bitch was like, ‘What if you had a late night freak show or something?’ I thought about it and was like, ‘Man…’” Just like that, the “J.Fizzle Freak Show” was born.
It didn’t take long for her show, with its “take no prisoners’ attitude and real-time discussion about GR situations, to hit its stride. The show moved from pre-recorded to live broadcasts, and has cultivated a following that is growing week by week.
There’s no doubt that the programming on The Flex is popular and relevant, with daily topics being sourced from Facebook, the zeitgeist of the city. But is it healthy? The most common criticism of Lafayette Redd is that he is an instigator, nothing more than a local version of Mona Scott-Young, profiting off the negativity of his own people. Redd himself sees it not as profiteering, but as loss prevention, the type of L’s he has taken, and felt, personally.
He describes to me how a friend lost his life over some truly petty shit — a burnt headband. “That shit was like, ten dollars. The ones with the star, they just came out. A girl’s wearing it, her brother sees her with it on, and he burnt the headband.”
“We got money for days, and he’s fired up, so I said, ‘Bro, you serious? Huh nigga (makes motion of handing over some cash), go get you a headband, a jersey, and the shoes. Go get some Filas.’ That’s when Filas was in. We ain’t worried about that shit, that’s small shit. And he took it like that. I go off, I leave, and my [other] man comes back, gasses him up, they go off and do what they do. By the time I’m getting up there, I gotta hold my man, and he’s dying right there in my hands, because of this small situation.”
He argues that instead of being a place to start petty shit, his show is a platform to resolve it. A form of conflict resolution in a city sorely lacking in positive outlets for her Black citizens. In fact, his plan sounds like an insightful bait-and-switch. “We wanna put out the negativity, just to get your attention, get you closer, and then give you the message.”
Where actions speak louder than words, his methods have borne fruit. This summer, Redd coordinated the friendly link between Slogan Boo, from Uptown, and the Bones On Deck crew, from the North. The sides of town were not previously known for being the best of compadres. The two tracks produced, ‘Uproll On Em’ and ‘Big Meech’, proved to be certified bangers, and evidence of a united city’s potential. Lafayette sees this as proof of his philosophy, and vows not to switch it up.
“At the end of the day, I’m doing this for y’all. It’s not that I’m just a selfish guy up here, nah, I’m taking this shit for y’all. I’m speaking for y’all, know what I mean? I represent y’all,” he said.
Written By: Dominique Damron