by James Con
Gray is known by many within the Hip Hop community as Paradise the Architect, a founding member of the radical pro-Black nationalist group X-Clan. They reached their height in the early 90s. Prior to that Gray was the main host and booking agent for the Latin Quarters which was landmark club located in mid-town Manhattan during the mid 80s. This was the place that anyone who was important within Hip Hop would go. It was here that artists like KRS-One, MC Hammer and Public Enemy did their first shows. Paradise was the behind the scenes guru who made this happen hence he was nicknamed the Architect.
Paradise over the years has relocated to Pittsburgh, Pa where he owns several recording studios and has continued to be an avid collector of Hip Hop memorabilia. In his 30 + years in Hip Hop, he has collected everything from party announcement and fliers from Hip Hop’s pioneering days on up to jackets and sneakers from today’s popular artists. Gray has often loaned out his collection to museums and frequently brings his collection for private exhibitions and showings. Among his private showings was a private pre-inauguration exhibit for President Obama and the dozens of musical guests invited to perform on the Capitol Mall and at the Inauguration Balls.
Two months ago Paradise sold his huge one of kind Hip Hop sneaker collection which included footwear worn by everyone from current pop stars Lil Wayne on down to obscure relatively unknown pioneers like Kool Moe Dee and Lightening Foot Jenkins. Moe Dee was a popular rap star in the 80s who famously had a war of words with current rap star LL Cool J. Jenkins is Bronx born legend who built and wired the massive sound systems for Hip Hop’s early deejays.
Gray sold this private sneaker and vintage record collection to the London based BBE Cultural Archives Museum Company for a undisclosed amount of money. It is speculated that the purchase netted Gray well over 100 million dollars. This in turn gave Gray the leverage to amass a group of investors which includes former rap stars, Civil Rights leaders, athletes and businessmen. Three names that have surfaced but have yet to be completely confirmed at press time are Civil Rights leader Al Sharpton former basketball great and current reality TV star Dennis Rodman and Hawaiin born agricultural businessman Weyford Southon The official investor line up will be revealed on Friday April 3rd.
It is on that date that Gray is expected to have his bid to be approved by the FCC to purchase Hip Hop radio station Hot 97 in NY. This once dominant urban giant is owned Emmis Communications which has several other media outlets in the New York area and because of new CAP rules will have to unload several of their properties. The bid that Gray has put forth is 315 million dollars. If approved and Emmis signs off which is what they are expected to do, Gray and his investors will be the new owners of Hot 97. This was the information given on today’s telephone conference call with the nation’s Black newspapers.
Sources close to the deal are saying that he will have to change format and get rid of all the current on air personalities as two of the conditions in the deal. Gray is most likely to either take the station back to its Top 40/ Latin Freestyle format or create a new ‘old school Hip Hop format. Under the agreement he will not be allowed to use the licensed format of Hip Hop and R&B which is what many urban station currently use. As for future on air line up under Gray, sources reveal that Queen Latifah, Chuck D, Da Poetess, BET host Jeff Johnson, Hip Hop Scholar Michael Eric Dyson, West coast journalist Davey Dand Tavis Smiley are among those on Gray’s wish list.
Sources also say that Sharpton who may also be included in the on air line up and other investors will serve in advisory capacity. More details are to follow.