Black community radio boosts local artists

ST. PETERSBURG — Local musicians are gaining exposure on south St. Pete’s own WBPU 96.3 FM, also known as “Black Power 96.” The station’s weekly Local Going Global contest invites listeners to vote for their favorite local artist.

Hundreds of votes are counted each week, most from St. Pete residents, but also from listeners as far away as New York and Colorado who tune in through the station’s mobile app and web stream. Local Going Global shows how a small community radio station can help local artists find a big audience.

Local Christian/gospel rapper BLA (Bruce Loves the Almighty) was the first contest winner. He writes rhymes and produces his own tracks. He is a husband to his lovely wife Tessa, cuts hair, sings in two choirs and serves as Bethel Metropolitan’s Sunday School department superintendent under the direction of Rev. Dr. Ricky L. Houston. He performed on the Black Power 96 soundstage at St. Petersburg’s MLK Day this year.

BLA said his music “offers a lyrical message inspired by God over sultry melodic tunes with the low-frequency bass rumble of today’s popular trap songs.” He relates the gospel message to everyday personal struggles.

“Every day another person is dealing with pain in some way, shape or form whether it be the pangs of addiction, homelessness, a lack of self-identity or just a genuine need to hear the truth,” he said. “We should also acknowledge God when things are going well for us, too.”

Next up was local performing group, the GBT Babies. Aprincea, 10, Zy’cariah “Princess Zy,” 8, and Daegeana, 10, are cousins whose parents were local St. Petersburg rap artists. GBT was the name of the group their parents were a part of: Gutta Beezy, now known as Aprincea’s father, Josh (aka Hot Wheels), and Tank, Zy’cariah’s mom, Quaniesha.

GBT Babies also performed on MLK Day at Black Power 96.3’s Free Da Mic event. Last month they traveled to St. Louis to perform at a conference of the African National Women’s Organization where they were enthusiastically received. Under the tutelage of their manager, “Cheese,” GBT Babies’ original songs such as “Why U Mad?” and “No More Bullying” bring a positive message with a catchy beat.

Another winner of the Local Going Global contest was V.O.C.A.L.E. (Voices on Christ and Lyrical Expressions). This local group combines elements of praise and a variety of genres including gospel, R&B, hip-hop, jazz, spoken word and neo-soul to create, as they say “music that touches on the problems that many people face every day and the remedy to those problems, which is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

V.O.C.A.L.E. members Manuel Allen (spoken word artist AKA Finale), vocalist Jaylissa Golden (Lady Jay) and vocalist Larry Young (Deacon Soul) write their own songs. Finale is an ordained minister born in Cincinnati and raised in Chicago. Lady Jay was born and raised in St. Petersburg, where she follows in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother who sang in the church choir. Deacon Soul was born and raised in Detroit, where he was inspired to sing while listening to his mother rehearse with her R&B and gospel groups.

Crunkcoco has held Black Power 96’s Local Going Global title for four consecutive weeks. Born Courtney Fraser in St. Pete, he gained popularity on YouTube when he posted videos shot with a school camera in the classroom.

His “Who You Finna Try” video went viral, and he has since appeared in Cristol’s music video and on “WorldStarHipHop” 12 times. He’s been on “Upload with Shaq,” truTV, as well as on BET’s “106 & Park,” MTV’s “Ridiculousness” and on “The List.”

The free-spirited Crunkcoco is known for his over-the-top dancing in which he puts his extreme flexibility on display, often wrapping one arm around his head. He has been on stage with K. Michelle and Cardi B, City Girls and Da Brat.

“I’m cool with celebrities Cardi B, Safaree, Nicki Minaj, K. Michelle and Trina,” said Crunkcoco, who just released a new single called “Like That” featuring Heather Marie.

Winners of Black Power 96’s Local Going Global contest are announced on the air Fridays at 5 p.m. Their songs get placed into heavy rotation on the airwaves and they receive promotion through the station’s website and mobile app along with an award certificate.

The contest is the brainchild of Black Power 96 DJ Eddie “Florida Blind Boy” Maultsby, whose gospel show airs Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7-9 a.m. DJ Eddie is well-known throughout St. Pete for his years playing guitar and singing on the streets and for his stint on the airwaves of the now-defunct WRXB.

DJ Eddie volunteers at Black Power 96 as assistant station manager and can be heard at many times throughout the week bringing local updates and popular music.

“We are a station of the people,” he said. “I wanted to connect with the people and the artists. I didn’t know this contest would be so popular, but I’m very happy to help the community to get connected.”

Themba Tshibanda, Black Power 96’s station manager, said: “The black community is powerful when we come together. Our talent should belong to us and Black Power 96.3 FM radio is ensuring that our community is heard here in St. Pete and around the world so that artists like these can make music that serves our people and they don’t feel forced to cater to those who mean our community no good.”

Local artists are invited to submit their songs for broadcast on the station through the website at www.blackpower96.org.

Volunteers are needed to help with office work, community outreach, voice work and audio production. Training is available. For more information, call 727-914-3614 or visit the station during business hours at 1245 18th Ave. S, St. Petersburg.

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