hip-hop has never rarely had a central figurehead voice. The genre
itself has been clustered into groups on different labels producing
fine talent but has yet to agree upon a single spinner, rapper or
group to represent and vocalize support. Leaving much of the
awareness bolstering up to DJ's with a love for the music. Lucky for
us we've had one of the finest ears keeping the word alive for
Ebay Jamil Hamilton has been an instrumental talent both behind the mic in his music and in the forefront of community radio. Starting as just a teenager at KRCL to his current position as the station's Music Director. While on the side creating his own musical catalog in hip-hop and soul, becoming an influential artist and a cult-icon of the community. I got a chance to chat with Ebay about his broadcasting career, being a part of the music scene, thoughts on Utah music itself, and a few other topics. Along with a small tour of the KRCL studio.
Ebay Jamil Hamilton
Gavin: Hey Jamil! First up, tell us a bit about yourself.
Ebay: My name is Ebay Jamil Hamilton; yes Ebay is my real name. I am the Mid-Day host & Music Director for KRCL. I also have a few albums available that I have recorded over the years, and hopefully, I will have a few more.
Gavin: How did you first come to Utah, and what was it like moving here early on?
Ebay: I’ve actually spent almost my whole life in Utah. I was born in Long beach, CA but my mom moved us here when I was two. I am a full on Utahan!
Gavin: How did you first take an interest in music, and who were some of the people you grew up listening to?
Ebay: I heard a lot of Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, and James Taylor, that kind of music growing up. I started listening to a lot of Soul music and Hip-Hop music when I was about ten. I also had piano lessons and trombone lessons as a kid, but my thing back then was art. I loved to draw, all the time. I took a lot of art classes as a kid, all the way through high school.
Gavin: When you were first starting out were you more interested in being a DJ or a musician?
Ebay: I really never thought about being a musician or a DJ, I just enjoyed music, and I liked being around creative people.
Gavin: How did you score the radio internship at just 14?
Ebay: It was with a summer youth program called JTPA. They would pay young people to work for non-profits. I applied with KRCL and had an interview shortly after. No one really knew what to do with me when I started so I did a lot of vacuuming and washing windows, that sort of fun stuff. Then they taught me how to clean the equipment. I would clean the heads on the cart machine, and the tape decks. Then they taught me how to use the equipment. I started doing small recording jobs and some basic splice editing. I loved everyday of it! One day someone asked me if I liked Hip-Hop music… they opened up a closet full of Hip-Hop records and asked if I would review them and make sure they were clean for airplay. There had to be a stack four-feet high of vinyl that they wanted me to listen to, I was in heaven for the rest of the summer. Everyday I came to KRCL and listened to music, it was great.
Gavin: What was it like for you during that first year there?
Ebay: That first year was life changing for me. I met some great people and heard all types of different music. I felt like I had a direction for my life. I felt like I found something that fit me. I still feel that way.
Gavin: How did you eventually come into having your own shift at KRCL?
Ebay: One day I covered the Friday night Hip-Hop show, and I guess I did a decent show. I started sitting in once a month, eventually I was offered my first show. It was Tuesday mornings from 3-5:30am. I was too young to drive, so my mom would wake up early and take me to do my show every Tuesday. Sometimes she would sleep on the couch in the lobby while I did my show. That went on until I was old enough to drive myself. Then my show moved from Tuesdays to Wednesday mornings 1-3:30 am. About a year later I got my first prime time shift on Friday afternoons, and eventually Friday nights.
Gavin: At what point did you decide to record your own album, and why?
Ebay: I don’t know why I wanted to make a record, I just did. I used to record songs on my tape recorder in my room when I was around twelve years old. I would use the B-Side instrumentals that came with some of the cassette tape singles I had. I didn’t have a microphone, so I would plug my headphones into the mic input. I made some really lame songs.
Gavin: What was it like recording Sugar House Chronicles, and what was the public reaction to it like when it came out?
Ebay: Sugar House Chronicles was a great learning experience for me. The songs were never intended to be for an album, I was just making songs. It’s more a collection of songs that I made when I was 16-18 years old. We didn’t finish the album until I was 19, and shortly after we released it I moved to Massachusetts. I never really knew if people liked it or not, because I wasn’t around. I know we sold some, and people still talk to me about it, but I felt very disconnected from the record.
Gavin: Was it difficult being both an artist and an on-air talent, or did it give you a better perspective?
Ebay: I think it makes it harder to find your own sound, because someone else’s music is always in your head. It’s good to compare yourself to the artist you admire, but you always need to have your own thing. Being on the radio also made me question my own music more then I should have. “Am I making a soul album, a hip hop album, what is our genre?” As an artist you should really only worry about being true to yourself and doing your best to express who you think you are, not where you fit in. Being on the radio has taught me what a good radio song is, but everybody knows that a good radio song isn’t necessarily a good song.
Gavin: How have all of the albums after Chronicles gone for you and what have you learned from it as a musician?
Ebay: After Sugar House Chronicles I decided I wanted to work with other people. SHC was a hip-hop album, and I wanted to do more then just hip-hop. I decided to get a band together and start on a new album. Recording with a band was a lot more fun, and far more expensive. I’ve had two different bands since then, and I’ve recorded two other solo projects. My latest record is a project with artist/producer Fisch, we call ourselves Julio Child. Our album is available on ITunes and Amazon MP3, etc.
Gavin: What's your take on being a cult-icon for the local hip-hop scene?
Ebay: I’m a cult-icon?! It’s about time!
Gavin: Being at KRCL for so long, what was it like at the station during the 2008 changes?
Ebay: The changes were hard on everyone, but change is always hard. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of people come and go at KRCL for many, many different reasons. I’ve learned so much over the years, from so many people. All I can say is, I hope KRCL always changes, always stays progressive and always stays relevant.
Gavin: How was it for you taking over the Music Director job after everything was finished?
Ebay: Taking on the position of Music Director was a challenge. I’ve been at KRCL for a very long time, and I also worked as a dj for a commercial radio station for three years, so I had a good idea of what to expect.
Gavin: After taking charge, what changes have you done since?
Ebay: I really haven’t made any “changes”. Anything that has been done differently at KRCL since the change has been a group effort. We have a music team, and everyone has a very important role on that team. My job is to make sure we have great music coming to KRCL. We don’t have playlist, everything you hear on KRCL is chosen by the DJ or the music team. I just make sure they have some good stuff to choose from.
Gavin: Aside from radio and your own music, what other side projects do you have going on?
Ebay: Hanging out with my stinky dog!
Gavin: Are you comfortable with the way things are in your career right now, or are you always looking for a new challenge?
Ebay: I love my job. I hope to do this for many more years. I have a new challenge everyday, and it’s more then enough to keep me busy.
Gavin: Going local, What are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?
Ebay: I think we have a great local scene. The problem is the local scene doesn’t have the support it needs to really grow.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Ebay: We just need people to start going out more and checking out more live bands. We need to be proud of the talent that we have right here at home. We need to buy local music and support local record shops. As Utah grows, the music scene grows with it. It’s just a natural thing, but it’s up to us to keep it healthy.
Gavin: What are your thoughts on local labels, and do you believe the help or hinder musicians?
Ebay: I think artists should know as much as they can about the business that they are in so that they don’t get screwed over but, they should never let business get in the way of making art. Money, contracts, royalties, all of that stuff complicates the creative process. If you can find a good label to deal with that stuff, then you should work with them. I guess it depends on what you consider a record label. These days most artists have their own record label. We have some great up and coming local labels, but again we just need to support them. I’m not saying we should support local music or local labels just because they are local, only support them if you think they are good. If you like the music, buy a CD, pay the cover at a show, don’t just tell a band you think they are great, show them. Most bands I know that are selling CD’s are just hoping to break even. They just need our help to make sure they can afford to keep on making music. Studio time is not cheap.
Gavin: What's your overall feeling on local radio, both corporate and community?
Ebay: I can’t stand commercials. I don’t like feeling like someone is trying to hustle me, trying to sell me something without being direct about it. Commercial radio is there to sell commercial space. I used to work in commercial radio, and I know a lot of people that still do. They got into radio because they loved the idea of radio. Some loved talk radio, some just loved music, but none of them wanted to do sales. That’s what radio has become. A vehicle to sell you toothpaste and tires. Radio used to be the first place you heard new music, now radio won’t touch a new song unless it’s been market tested. I think what we do at KRCL is what radio should be doing everywhere, playing new, good music. Let people make up their own mind about what they like and give independent artist a chance to be heard.
Gavin: What do you think of our current venues, and are there any changes you wish they'd make?
Ebay: I think we have some great venues. I just wish I’d see more people at the venues sometimes…
Gavin: Where do you see Utah entertainment going over the next five years?
Ebay: Who knows? Hopefully the economy starts to look a little better, and people will feel a little more comfortable about spending their money on entertainment. Not just here in Utah, but across the country. But I think Utah entertainers will just get better & continue to impress and entertain us.