Mad Linx: Back In The Saddle

B ET’s Rap City is easily one of the most respected shows in pop culture, and host Mad Linx is rapidly becoming one of the most recognizable faces in the Hip-Hop nation. From its beginning in 1989, Rap City has had a slew of hosts including Joe Clair, Chris Thomas, Big L## and Big Tigger. […]

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ET’s Rap City is easily one of the most respected shows in pop culture, and host Mad Linx is rapidly becoming one of the most recognizable faces in the Hip-Hop nation. From its beginning in 1989, Rap City has had a slew of hosts including Joe Clair, Chris Thomas, Big L## and Big Tigger. When Linx took over in 2005, he followed in the legacy and a heritage of memorable moments the show was known for, and fans had high expectations.

A native of Queens, New York, Mad Linx got his start in the Tampa, Florida radio scene in the early ‘90s. He moved on to WTMP, and soon became their Mixshow Director, and eventually the drive-time on-air personality. In 2002, he got a big break as the tour DJ for Angie Martinez, and by 2003 he secured a position at Tampa’s WLLD radio.

With all of his charisma and background in radio, the transition Mad Linx made to television was smooth in terms of his talent, but somewhat difficult with regard to the way fans of Rap City received him. A little over a year later, fans were begging to have Linx return to the show when he left to co-host BET’s new start-up The Road Show. We recently sat down with Mad Linx to talk candidly about the pressure of being one of America’s Most Watched. Just a little over a year ago you took the spot over at Rap City, and you dealt with your fair share of criticism in the beginning. How did it feel this time being on the other end of that where people are asking you, “When are you going to go back to Rap City

Mad Linx: [laughs] You know, I think it’s one of those things in life where – and I’m trying to say this in the most humble way possible – sometimes you’re not appreciated fully until you’re gone. I’m saying that with no disrespect to anybody first off. I think even with Tigger, he’s dealt with his share of criticism for a long time as well, after he took over Rap City. When he was gone, all of a sudden everybody seemed to be like, “We always did love Tigger, what are you talking about?” It was a good feeling knowing that cats kind of came around after a while, and it’s always a challenge going into a new situation.

People tend to make these judgments off of a lot of things; it might be your physical appearance which you can’t help. For me it’s, “Who is this light skinned R&B ass n***a, that pretty n***a that they got doing Rap City?” Now I can’t control the skin color I have, or the way my face is structured and set up, but that has nothing to do with whether I’m Hip-Hop or not. I’m not gonna go out tryna be anybody who I’m not, I didn’t get shot up 15 times, or spend 12 years in the bing, or I didn’t push crack. I don’t have those stories to tell you when I’m hosting Rap City, but ultimately what does that have to do with whether or not you can conduct an interview if you know about Hip-Hop?

So all I can do and all I have been doing is bringing what I have to offer Hip-Hop-wise, which is long, vast and very deep. I think cats over the course of the year, have started to see it if they paid attention. I know that when a lot of artists come in, they might have preconceived ideas and then through the course of their show where they know that I really know about them and their history. I’m talking about their first album like I spun their record in the club, or I had their white label before the huge single came out, or I remember going to the store to get their album. Those are the priceless stories that you can’t [make up]. Coming from the radio industry into television, with people not really understanding your background, did you ever feel the need to assert that, “Hey, I’ve been through all of these things,” or was there ever a certain point where you just kind of threw up your hands and said, “Think what you want?”

Mad Linx: I always thought that people are going to think what they want, regardless. But I got that attitude that, given the opportunity and timeframe, I’ll turn the whole world into Mad Linx fans. I think that respect is something that you earn, it’s not just given. People all the time see the end result – they don’t see the grind and the hard work it took to get there. It’s a challenge and it’s one that I take wholeheartedly. How hard is it for you politically speaking? If you may not be feeling an artist’s work, is there a part of you that feels the need to keep a good rapport across the board, or is it just that you really aren’t the type of person to outwardly state your opinions?

Mad Linx: My mom always taught me if you don’t have nothing good to say, don’t say nothing. I respect anything and anybody that’s trying to advance and move forward. I don’t even go out of my way to have thoughts like, “Oh this is some bulls**t.” It’s kind of like a waste of energy; I respect what everybody’s doing and understand that they have their own lane. Cats that caught a lot of flack this year – D4L “Laffy Taffy” – say what you want, but they have their own lane, and there’s the saying that a billion Elvis fans can’t be wrong. This group obviously has fans, they got fans right here in New York, because when the club isn’t popping you play that record and then all of a sudden something happens. Now, I might not listen to that CD when I wanna get my real Hip-Hop fix on, but I respect what they’re doing. All things may not be for me, but I’m not gonna go out of my way to s**t on them. Since you [started your career] in Florida and you had several years to embrace the scene, North Florida is revolutionary in the grind of getting independent music out and they support their own in that area. Coming into New York, do you see a big difference in the way the whole system works here versus what you saw in Florida?

Mad Linx: Oh definitely. I always said that I don’t care where the deal gets struck, and no matter where the person comes from, the check gets cut here in New York. The industry is changed to where the check still gets cut in New York, but the way you get to the point of getting the check has changed. I think that as we all we know, before it used to be good enough to run up on somebody, spit a hot 16 bars and you could get a record deal. Those days are gone. Now the way that the industry business works is, “What do your sales look like already?” How do you feel about giving knowledge to this new generation of Hip-Hop fans about where all that music and the hustle comes from?

Mad Linx: I think it’s very important. I just played recently in Cancun. The club I played in there were a lot of white kids I’ll say between the ages of 18 and 21. I played the Nirvana song and they knew every word. Keep in mind this song came out in ’90-’91, so most of these kids were maybe a year or two years old when it came out, but they still know it all. They knew about Van Halen’s “Jump” from way before they were born. There’s some kind of connect that happens with other genres of music that really hasn’t happened as much with Hip-Hop.

I actually have some ideas that I’m hoping we’re able to make happen with Rap City that hopefully will at least do a little part in trying to connect those dots. A lot of our kids in New York know who Grandmaster Flash is, but maybe in Texas or Alabama, they’re not as familiar. They may have heard the name one time, but it wouldn’t be like if “The Message” came on and they could rhyme it. The same way people in New York don’t know who DJ Uncle Al is or Jam Pony Express. These cats down South revolutionized the game. Hopefully, I can connect the dots for not only the younger generation but the older generation who has never heard of a Jam Pony Express.

I think one thing that makes it a little harder with Hip-Hop especially there’s always this push on what’s new or what’s next. I think that push comes a lot harder with Hip-Hop than other forms of music because a big part of that is the mixtape game. It kind of makes it hard to move back to the past a little bit, because we’re so rapidly moving towards the future. We still don’t have any classic Hip-Hop stations, and every market got a classic Rock station. How does it make you feel to see so much Southern Hip-Hop come through the video show?

Mad Linx: I feel a couple of different ways: I love the fact that now in 2006, no matter where you’re from, you got a shot. You can come from St. Louis, Atlanta, Oakland and you’re gonna get a shot. But now to get that shot it’s harder than ever, where before radio was a little more regionalized – you could get that shot locally first, and then if things happen well enough for you then you could go national. But like I said, I think the fact that it’s so much music coming from other places on radio here in New York is brave, but at the same time I don’t want artists from any market to get shut out of their own marketplace because of the commercialization of radio and the business. Did you sign a new contract with BET for Rap City?

Mad Linx: I’ll be with BET definitely for the remainder of the year. You know how this industry is the same with radio, the same with every other industry. Changes can come at any time, I’m fully aware of that. But as of right now it’s Rap City. What are your next plans?

Mad Linx: We got Spring Bling coming up. Now that I got my turntables and my mixer, I plan on working on a mixtape as well. Actually that’ll mean I get to practice for the first time in a year and a half – my practice was coming in for a few minutes on Rap City or in the club, which is not really good practice. [laughs] I love to DJ, so I’m looking forward to getting a nice little hour in a day from now on. The relaunch for is coming up, we’re still under construction. Rap City Monday through Friday from 5-6 PM. For those who are always surprised yes I am a DJ, I didn’t go buy ‘DJ in a box’ two weeks ago and thought I could get live in a party now. Is there anything else you want people to know?

Mad Linx: I’m glad to be back. And at the end of the day, the hate has never bothered me for a couple of reasons. One, any time people hate, that means you’re either doing something good or you’re in a real good place. I loved the fact that people hated on me even when I first started, to me that said that people cared enough about Hip-Hop to care who the host of the show was. If they didn’t care, that would just mean they didn’t care about Hip-Hop, so it didn’t bother me. I love the fact that people care about Hip-Hop and they care about the show.

Just because you see me for an hour a day, it don’t mean that you know me to know what I’m really like. That just means that you know what you see through that screen. As we all know, what comes through that screen ain’t necessarily the entire package. Rap City the show isn’t who Mad Linx is – come kick it with me, and you’ll leave with somewhat of a different perspective.