Girl, I’m telling you, he sounds like he looks like Wesley Snipes…
I bet his ass look like Urkel…
With a voice like that he need to be looking like Denzel…
How wondrous is the charisma of the radio personality. But damn, it can be a scary experience seeing some of them for the first time.
Thankfully, WPGC (95.5 FM)’s “Tigger” and WKYS (93.9 FM)’s “EZ Street” didn’t send me running frightened in the opposite direction, and given their popularity among the metro area’s hip young black folks, expectations were high. The pair have made names for themselves by stepping into the urban radio game with a flow that defies the routine. Standing out among their peers as local celebrities, the two are regularly confused as a result of their seemingly caffeine-induced high-spiritedness and unconventional on-air technique.
“Um…damn, wait…Tigger’s the one who does the car-phone check-in right? No, shitthat’s EZ,” says a 22-year-old radio devotee sporting oversize jeans that are almost falling off his nonexistent hips. “I get the brothers confused….They both hype, though.”
While WKYS labels itself “Urban Contemporary” and WPGC falls under the realm of “Contemporary Hit” radio, both stations cater to a relatively young African-American demographic. EZ’s “Thanks for rollin’ wit’ a brotha!” has become his on-air signature, while Tigger’s exuberant, “You live in the den with the T-I-double-grrr-rr!” is infamous.
While both Tigger and EZ have obtained varying degrees of sex-symbol status among female listeners and are prone to break out grooving in the studio at any time, their somewhat similar personas are the public images of two distinct individuals.
Tigger, his alias courtesy of his resemblance to Winnie-the-Pooh’s homie, commands the airwaves from 6-10 p.m. at the No. 1-rated WPGC out of Greenbelt, Md. The Bronx-bred Jamaican infiltrated the station back in the summer of ’93 with the initial intention of grabbing a summer job. But after locking down a stint as an intern, the phenomenally energetic 24-year-old realized radio was it. Reliving the moment he was given the night gig, Tigger recalls, “I almost pissed in my pants, I was so happy.” But he had to show and prove. “If you don’t produce immediately, you will roll,” he remarks, any hint of joviality gone from his voice.
With a natural charm and personable wit jetting him to No. 1 in his time slot, Tigger swiftly became the on-air brother to be reckoned with. “I tell kids all the time, I’m living proof you can do whatever you want to do. I never took a single class in radio, film, nothin” while a social psychology major at the University of Maryland, College Park. “I just have an uncanny knack for being at the right place at the right time.”
EZ’s climb was decidedly different. A graduate of Kansas State University, he left with a degree in radio and television broadcasting. “I’d listen to DJs on the radio and I’d say to myself, ‘I can do this.’” The 31-year old half-Filipino, half-black dreadhead blew up the spot at radio stations in Dallas, Philly, and Chicago before being scooped up in 1995 by powerhouse Radio One, owner of the No. 5 WKYS in Northwest. DJ Russ Parr blessed EZ with his moniker for no particular reason, and it stuck.
Slated to take over the 2-6 p.m. “afternoon drive” shift, EZ had little difficulty gearing his vibe toward the station’s target 18-34 demographic. His “car-phone check-in” has become an institution of sorts among the cell-toting 9-to-5 folks who call in to let the city know who they areor are notgoing home to.
“Car-phone check-in! Who’s this?”
“Was’ up, man? This Tony.”
“Who you goin’ home to, bro?”
“OK, Thanks for rollin’ wit’ a brotha!”
When EZ first got to WKYS, the plan was to have him doing the night thing in the same time slot as the Tig. “I was ready for EZ,” Tigger recollects in a mock-competitive, ready-to-go-to-the-ring tone. “I respect EZ ’cause he’s done his thing, and he respects me ’cause I’m doing my thing. We have real similar stylesthe positivity and all that, our voices are similar, and we’re both real personableexcept I have a show targeted to a somewhat younger audience. I wanted it that way, because no one out here had a show for younger people. I’m someone they can relate to. There’s an instant bond when they meet me, ’cause I look like I’m 18 or 19.”
While Tigger’s buckwild, street-wise persona might cause a 30-year-old to head over to EZ Street, EZ’s somewhat laid-back stilo might have a 16-year-old yearning for more excitement.
“I like Tigger. He’s crazy energetic, but I don’t like his having to relate to those high-school kidsI don’t like listening to that go-go shit all the time,” laments a 26-year-old female.
A brother in his early 30s offers, “WKYS plays go-go, too, sis. I like EZ ’cause he’s usually a little more chill, but I ain’t gon’ lie. Soon as he’s off the air I switch over to Tig.”
“Tigger gets on my last nervewhen I listen to him I can actually visualize him bouncing off the walls,” Girlfriend 1 comments.
“Girl, no! Tigger is my boo-bear, I love him!” Girlfriend 2 protests.
Tig digs his popularity but wants his people back home to recognize it ain’t the fame that makes the man. “I never want to hear, ‘Oh, he think he fly now.’ I’m the same person. I just have more money and more people know me. I’m not broke anymore.”
EZ is also quick to downplay his fame. “I don’t consider myself a celebrity. The way I see it, I’m just an average guylike every other guy with a job.”
“I put my pants on one leg at a time just like everybody else. I got bills to pay just like everybody else.”
But EZ places heavy emphasis on his commitment to helping folks less fortunate than he. “I believe when you put yourself on a pedestal, people start losing contact with you. It’s all about making yourself accessible to people,” he says. He has become a big brother of sorts to a 10-year-old boy in the Barry Farms area of Southeast and is currently collaborating on a reading project for schoolchildren in Senegal. He takes his role model/community gig very seriously.
In the studio EZ rips around like a madman. Rarely still, he’s fidgeting with buttons on the panel, pulling out CDs, directing interns. It’s a definite no-bullshit vibe. Yet on the air, he’s lively and personable to his callers. Midafternoon, a female listener saunters in after winning a “get your bill paid” contest and the ever-accommodating EZ hands her the check and signs a publicity photo as she looks on with a large grin. “He so crazy,” she giggles.
Over in the den with the “T-I-double-grrr-rrr,” the frisky DJ is also hyped, taking calls, running around looking for music. While off the air, the Tig Man receives a call from a too-damn-grown teenager. After fronting like she called in about New Edition tickets, she finally gets to the real matter at hand.
“Why can’t I have your number? I’m too young still?”
“Yeah,” Tigger responds, in a “This Type of Shit Happens to Me Every Day” tone.
“‘Cause you are.”
“No I’m not.”
“How old are you?” he asks.
“Fifteen,” she giggles.
“Oooohh, yes you are!” Tigger quips, refusing the jailbait. “You ever heard of this word called a decade?”
Slow to get the joke and even slower getting the hint, she giggles again.
“Nah, sweetheart,” Tigger states, playtime now over, “I can’t get down like that. You still my dog though.”
“‘Ight” (another vacant giggle).
Oh, the trials of an urban teen-sex god.
Back at WKYS, the upbeat feel of the afternoon is torn when news of Ennis Cosby’s death hits. The mood in the studio turns somewhat mournful, but EZ keeps things going. Even when a caller phones in close to tears, EZ’s striving to keep the positivity flowing as best he can.
The murder of 12-year-old Darryl Hall, the recent victim of alleged gang violence, is the focus for an hour on Tigger’s show one weekday evening. A flurry of sympathetic calls coupled with a compilation of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday”-type tunes round out the heartfelt tribute to the slain youngster, but then Tigger must resume the fun-loving persona that has boosted him to No. 1. It ain’t always easy.
If he weren’t doing the radio thing, EZ says he’d unquestionably be in social work. “No matter what I do in life, I know I will always be connected to helping people,” he says. As public service director for 93.9, he has the means to combine the two. “I believe God put me where I am for a reason,” he maintains. “And I plan on using it to help others.”
Tigger is starry-eyed about his future: “There are so many things I wanna doI’m dyin’ to be in a movie. I told John Singleton, ‘I just wanna do one line.’ I’ll look to the leftlook to the rightand say, ‘I ain’t seen him…’” He busts out laughing. “I’ll be good after that, that’s all I need.”
But he also knows he’s leading a charmed life. “I try to do as much as I can, ’cause while I might be a so-called ‘hot commodity’ right now, I could be wack next week.” CP