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When Muhammad is at the helm, he is a forceful speaker, raising his voice and using his hands to emphasize points. He likens Trae's situation to several other precarious circumstances, the most clever of which being the stereotype of an actress who is pressured to sleep with a director to land a role in his movie (Muhammad's subtle implication: Trae's getting fucked). He refers to Trae as a "sacrifice" more than a few times, hands and volume climbing. When Deloyd Parker speaks, he says it too. So does Fitzgerald. It's become the hour's narrative.
Trae is attempting to become the first artist to successfully sue a radio station for, as Fitzgerald puts it, "attempting to destroy Trae's ability to function in the city."
The suit reaches far beyond trying to force a radio station to play an artist's music, which is what most have pegged it to be.
"That's not what this suit is about; that would be a mischaracterization," says Fitzgerald, a trial lawyer for 30 years. "We're suing because they're attempting to put him out of business. Trae has business relationships with people in the city — concert promoters, people that want to use his name and reach his fan base — and they are pressuring them and others not to do business with him. They have selectively singled him out. Trae didn't do anything to that radio station to deserve that."
Vital, too, says the lawsuit is not what it seems to be, though he has a different opinion as to what it's about.
"This lawsuit appears to be a publicity stunt to garner media attention for the plaintiff's upcoming album release; in that regard, it is an abuse of the legal system," e-mailed Vital. "It clearly is an assault on our free speech and freedom of association rights under the First Amendment."
"This is real life," says Trae. "Publicity stunt? They can't promote with me. They can't call me to do shows. They can't advertise with me. If you can show me one way that's good publicity, I'll bow down right now. When all those people died in Haiti and [Bun B] asked me to do that show, The Box wouldn't advertise it because I was on there. How is that good for anyone? How is that the right thing to do?"
In all likelihood, Trae will lose this case. The preliminary hearing, in which the main objective was "to secure a temporary injunction on Radio One that would prevent them from interfering with Trae's business," was unsuccessful. Judge Bill R. Burke Jr. ominously described the injunction as being "impossibly broad." Necessary or not, there will be no grand reform of the way Radio One or any of its subsidiary companies operate. Radio One will not back down.
"Even if Trae loses this case," says Fitzgerald, "I don't think he can lose this case. He has made it about principle. He is standing up for those principles. Ask the children that have benefited from him being in the community if this is a publicity stunt. Ask the parents of the daughters and sons that Trae has helped how they feel. Trae is about what he says he about: The truth."
Same as with the ABN crew, even though the transformation might not be successful, the opportunity is there. Maybe that's the most important part.
Trae says he won't leave Houston, even if he doesn't get back on The Box; he'll play other places, but he'll always live here.
And he's already making plans for the next Trae Day this year. No one died in last year's shooting; all recovered, but clearly he doesn't want anything to go wrong this time. He's nervous and excited at the same time; restless, you might say.
But he's expecting a good turnout again.
And a better ending.
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