After a couple of days of phone and email tag, Rocks Off was finally able to get in touch with Terri Thomas, program director of 97.9 The Box, regarding the highly rated urban station's reputed ban on everything associated with local rapper Trae tha Truth - songs, mixtapes, in-studio appearances, even advertising and on-air promotion for concerts with Trae on the bill. Not surprisingly, Thomas said that company policy prohibited her from making any comment on the situation, which flared up again late last week when former local hip-hop promoter Matt Sonzala published an open letter to the station on his Austin Surreal blog, charging that, most recently, The Box had fired longtime evening DJ trio the Kracker Nuttz for playing a Chamillionaire song featuring a guest verse from Trae. "Company policy prohibits that," Thomas told Rocks Off. Traditionally one of the top-rated stations in the Houston-Galveston radio market, The Box is owned by Radio One, the Lanham, Md.-based company that also owns and operates Houston radio stations Majic 102 and Praise 92.1. To her credit (and no doubt her bosses' relief), Thomas stuck to that position throughout our brief conversation. Asked what the general atmosphere at the Box was right now - the station has been the target of harsh criticism since Sonzala published his letter, including from readers of this blog (see comments) and at Sunday's Screwed Up Click reunion concert at the Southside Smoke Shop - Thomas would only say "everything's great - obviously, you can see by our success. We're doing well."
Rocks Off: Are you familiar with the letter that Matt... Terri Thomas: Like I said, I'm not at liberty to comment.
The Box's alleged ban on Trae has been in place since last fall, when the rapper released his The Incredible Truth mixtape, which contained two songs with lyrics that, Sonzala wrote in his letter, "took some verbal stabs" at the station's morning on-air personality Nnete. Trae and Nnete had an on-air confrontation the day after the rapper's annual Trae Day concert and fundraiser last summer shortly after the concert ended. No one was killed, but several people were wounded and a suspect was eventually taken into custody. The Kracker Nuttz confirmed they had been fired last week in a text-message to Rocks Off's Shea Serrano late this past Friday evening. They said they did play Chamillionaire's "Won't Let You Down," which features a guest verse from Trae, on the station during their April 21 shift, but also that they had deviated from the Box's playlist several times in the past and - while the timing was certainly suspicious, as they were let go shortly after playing the song - did not say that breaking the supposed ban was the explicit reason for their dismissal. Rocks Off suspects that, official comment or not, we haven't heard the last of this story. In fact, we know that we should be hearing from the other side pretty soon.
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