The mission of FUBU Radio is to not only entertain but also to empower audiences through "music and life-changing content." That goal epitomizes the vision of CEO and General Manager, Keith Perrin, who founded the station in 2015. A co-owner and founder of groundbreaking apparel company FUBU, Perrin saw a demand for more music variety in 90s-2000s hip-hop and R&B music on the airwaves. FUBU Radio plays hip-hop from 1990-2008, and R&B from 1990-2018, satisfying fans' thirst for lyricism and diversity in sound. FUBU Radio also features articles on technology, culture, and entertainment, with more content planned to educate and uplift readers. AXS recently sat down with Perrin to discuss the birth of FUBU Radio, its distinction, and the future of the station.
AXS: The press release mentioned among other things that the station was founded due to "frustration with current radio programming." What were some of those pain points for you?
KEITH PERRIN: Back in the days when I used to go to L.A. a lot, we used to ride from the airport to Beverly Hills, and the playlist was everything. They [L.A. radio stations] would play new school, old school, east coast, west coast, down south, current, and then they would go back. In New York, we never really had that. We always had like a "Old School Mix Hour" at noon or something like that, and it would play for an hour and you would hear all the old songs, and that would be it. And then all the stations got consolidated, and they came up with this playlist that was playing everywhere. Everywhere you went, you heard the same songs. I just thought that was real whack. So then I went and bought satellite radio, and that's how I kind of dealt with it.
AXS: What makes radio still relevant for artists, especially indie artists?
KP: You're going to have your different channels-- you have your SoundCloud, iTunes, and all that. But radio can be heard by everyone. I have a lot of people who don't even deal with social media. They don't go on some of these channels that we go on to listen to music. Also, more people submit to [radio] ads, or they call in when they hear something on the radio. They might call in quicker than they would if it was on a site because they're hearing it all day-- it burns into your head. And radio is in your house, it's in your car; you're hearing it all the time.
AXS: There are a lot of internet stations and a lot of people with similar sentiments regarding what terrestrial radio has become. What makes FUBU Radio different?
KP: I concentrate on a certain era-- I call it the 90s era. It was a time where we were coming up through the industry and we're hitting all these artists: Busta Rhymes, Nas, 50 Cent, Nelly, Slim Thug, Bun B. We saw different genres of music hit, so you went from the Run DMC's of the world to Public Enemy and more positive messages. Then you went to gangster hip-hop which was like NWA and all that, and then you get Tupac and Biggie. Then Nelly and 50 Cent, and then Jay-Z came back, then Nas. I don't have anything against music today, but I just don't understand what they're trying to do. I don't understand the message. Some of it I love; some of it I rock to. But some of it, I don't get anything out of it but a hot beat. And I'm only vibing to it because they're playing it 800 times a day on the radio, so I have to get to know the song. But we stay in a certain genre of music, from 1990 to like 10 years back from the current year. So now we don't play any hip-hop older than 2008, so you get a chance to really live in that zone. To me, there's no other station out there that's doing that because they feel like they have to play the current music in order to stay relevant. I want to break the barriers with that.
As time goes on, we'll go up more years and introduce more artists that are current today, but we have the ability to pick and choose who we think is hot. Not someone putting together a playlist and saying, "Play this." The ability to have that power to put anything you want on the radio is thrilling to me right now. I'm getting high from it. I can educate people, I can uplift people, I can motivate people. I've got Daymond [John] on there with his empowerment series-- he's dropped an audiobook that he just did with Sway. Whatever he does musically or audio-wise, I can put a promotion online and put it up there-- introduce him to another generation of people that can follow him after "Shark Tank." We have the ability to do whatever we want to do, and that's what I love.
AXS: What's the future of the station?
KP: The future of the station will just be everything that I'm trying to put together now [being] up and running, and everything is prospering. The website component that I'm trying to build behind me, the video component that I'm trying to build, the podcast, and stuff like that. Turning these DJs into household names. I feel like I've accomplished some things in my life, and now that I'm building this other project and I have these talented people working with me, I want to make them into celebrities. Just growing a business and being a vital part of the media industry. I'll be on those red carpets, and maybe I'll be getting interviewed or somebody on my team will be getting interviewed by TMZ or something. Moving within that media circle.
We have a lot of stuff going on that sometimes people don't know... we're considered the OG brand. We have our own outlet to let people know what's going on. Even with Daymond and his new mixtape that he put out, it's an uplifting mixtape with him talking over music. If you listen to it, he's dropping gems all throughout the song. He's not rapping or singing or anything, but he put some music behind it. I'm able to support his vision and what he's trying to do with the station to get it out there. So just seeing everything come to fruition and building it up into a household name, kind of like we did with FUBU.
I have a lot of things up my sleeve. In the two-and-a-half years that we've been out... I remember working and seeing 2,000 people listening to us one month, and then 800 people listening to us another month. Then 3,500 people. I said to myself, "Let me go in and pay a little more attention to the details on the website and the app, and get everything looking visually the same, and update the music a little bit." I stayed on top of that for two or three months and looked at the numbers, it was like 200,000. It's pretty cool. I'm trying to get to a million though.