10 Questions with ... Lorenzo "Ice-Tea" Thomas
February 17, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
A two-time Air Personality of the Year winner. Named Jock of the Millennium, Graduate From the Miami School. John H. Johnson Legacy Award Winner for Communications Excellence. Named to the Source Power 30. Radio and TV personality bringing more than 20 plus years of experience in the radio industry. Including work on high-rated Black Entertainment Television as a television personality and voiceover host. Strong expertise in media production and film.
1) How did you get the job at BET?
This question magnifies my journey in such detail. If you're in this business long enough, you'll be on either side of the youth movement. As of today, believe me, I have been on both ends. Well, back in the 1900s, Greg Diggs who was the MD at BET approached me about being the voice of the legendary BET show Video Vibrations. At the time, BET was going through an infusion of youth and I was truly honored to be in the same position as those great VJs before me such as Alvin Jones and Paul Porter. I'm very proud to say that I was the last voice for Video Vibrations and it was a show which broke many artists. To add, I did entertainment news thanks to Sam Walker and also filled in for Rachel when she was the host of BET's hit show Planet Groove. Those were fun times and an era of hip-hop and classic R&B music that will live on forever.
2) It's ironic that BET youth movement back then with Hip-Hop makes you qualified for Classic Hip-Hop & R&B format. Isn't that whole new scene just another layer of Urban AC?
Artists such as Tupac, Notorious BIG, Aaliyah TLC and many others from the mid-'90s should be the foundation of any true Urban AC radio station. A listener between the ages of 25 and 54 looks at some of today's Urban AC stations as solid Gold radio stations, especially if they're not playing those artists. Understand ... if you're 50 and under, you more than likely grew up on classic R&B and Hip-Hop music. So, why don't today's Urban AC radio stations play Hip-Hop in regular rotation? When I was at BET in the '90s, we played Hip-Hop and R&B and people today want to hear the songs that they experienced growing up or that they partied with. However, today you don't hear them collectively anymore. We're at the point where black music doesn't need to be divided the same way as it was in the past in order to win
3) What are the keys to doing an entertainment radio show?
I always felt that creativity was the key! We all know music is the start but you have to do things to separate yourself from everyone else in order to win. Most PDs who I worked for really allowed me to be very creative on the air and then that translated into being entertaining. My former PD and VP of Radio One, Steve Hegwood really allowed me to be free but would also tell me that with my talent giving less was just as entertaining. But in the PPM world, things are a little different. So a personality really has to tie in the social networks in order to be entertaining. I was once told that an air personality should know more than his audience. Today, it's almost impossible because information comes so fast by way of the Net. Therefore, I tie in my topics, my news and the music into my Twitter, my Facebook and my Instagram accounts. That way you can get instant gratification based on the things you say on the air. I will tell you that are much better and faster than the telephone. Years ago at 99 Jamz, on Thursdays we created Throwback Thursdays where DJ Entice and I would fill a musical void that the radio stations were not in fulfilling by playing classic Hip-Hop and R&B from the '90s to the 2000s. Our Twitter feed, Facebook and Instagram would go bananas with listeners telling us how much we were rockin' and how great the station was sounding. So, today you talk to one million people in your market through a microphone, but you can also reach and entertain 10 million by way of the Internet.
4) Who are the people who either influenced or mentored you along the way and will you tell us how they helped you?
I have to start with Steve Crumbly! He built a strong foundation at WOWI (103Jamz) and a great deal of talent has come from that small market of Norfolk, VA. The late KJ Holiday, Stan Verrett of ESPN, and I worked together under Crumbley. KJ taught me about execution and Stan continues to influence and motivate me a great deal with the sports commentating I do on the side. Steve has actually hired me on three different occasions and I'm truly grateful. He has been a key factor to my success and growth in the radio. Thus, my next mentor is someone who has taught me how to be a great entertainer on the radio and in the clubs -- and that person is Doug E. Fresh. So much of what he has done over his career has influenced me! The last conversation we had a few months back was simply about microphone technique, motivating the crowd, and how to preserve your voice. The conversation about taking care of your voice lasted at least an hour. He is truly been one of the biggest influences in my style, cadence and presence when it comes to being a party starter in the club on the mic and a great exciting entertainer on the radio. Of course, Doug E. Fresh is known is the World's Greatest Entertainer ... and I learn from the best.
5) Will you tell us about your first commercial job in radio?
My first on-air job in was doing Country music! The station was 95 KHK, very close to KKK! Of course, I was on-air and played the best in Country music. The Judds, Randy Travis, Alabama, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton ... you name it, I played it all. The job started off as an internship on the AM radio station thanks to BJ Northington. My job was listening to Paul Harvey and inserting commercials. One day I had the opportunity to crack open the mic and do to weather forecast. Wow, that was a monumental day! Fortunately for me it was a paid internship and I benefited from of this while attending Virginia State University. Then came a big break: The PD of the FM station (95 KHK) had fired the overnight jock and asked me if I wanted to be on the air and I said yes. The rest is history. After 30 days on the air I sent an aircheck tape over to Steve Crumbly who was the PD at WPLZ/Magic 99 and he hired me. After 20 + years, I recently ran into BJ Northington at one of my events at CIAA and I got down on my hands and knees and gave her all the praise. With tears of appreciation and joy streaming down my face, all I could say to BJ was thank you.
6) What did the experience in that format teach you about yourself?
Working at the Country station taught me that I could do any format! While in college I did a Jazz/Quiet Storm format and the station was very successful at that. But it also taught me that I would do whatever it takes to get a job and to keep a job. While at the AM station, I taught myself how to do production, which enabled me to put together an aircheck tape that enabled me to get the job at the #1 station in the market. I remembered that while you're at a station, learn how to do everything, so you can make yourself as valuable as possible.
7) You told us about BET; will you share some of your other career highlights?
A career highlight, which is at the forefront of my consciousness, is actually meeting and interviewing President Obama and the First Lady on a couple of occasions. Broadcasting live from the DNC was truly exciting because it allowed me to articulate to my audience some of my political views. Some smaller accomplishments were that I was named a personality of the year on a couple of occasions and Jock of the Millennium. In addition, being able to maintain my annual birthday bash in Jamaica for 11 years was truly a huge accomplishment. Plus, having the support of family, friends and fans is the only way that it could be possible. I must add, hosting Dream Nightclub in Washington D.C. as the Official Party Starter and on-air host on WKYS was pretty huge. To my knowledge, no club in the history of this country has ever averaged 6-7,000 people a night. Thus, that's an accomplishment and I'm so happy to say that I was a part of it.
8) What advice do you have for those just starting out in broadcasting?
Ask yourself, "Is this something that I am passionate about?" It's harder now than ever before to break in. Thus, find your own platform or call me!
9) How do you see the future for radio?
The future of radio is bright! I truly believe if the people in the decision-making positions are connected to the audience and are knowledgeable of the trends in technology, they can stay ahead of the game. Radio cannot lag behind like it has in the past. People do not watch television nor do they listen to radio in the same way. So, it is up to us to make sure we stay connected and well entrenched with people's listening habits.
10) Would you share with us some of your plans for the future?
I am currently a free agent and I am looking to join a championship team and bring and all-pro caliber talent to a great organization. While God is in the position of making moves I am just constantly staying in prayer and patiently waiting to see what he has planned for me to do next.
In the meantime, I've teamed up with the Miami Media School and a few business partners to launch an Internet radio station called LivefromtheMia.com. It was created for graduating students who are aspiring to become professional broadcasters. I feel there's not enough teaching happening in radio right now and there needs to be a platform with people can learn and practice their craft. In addition, it's also a platform for unemployed DJs to be able to still allow their voice to be heard and to demonstrate their skills, which will be noticed by potential VPs/Programming or PDs nationwide. The target demo is 25-54 and we play classic R&B and hip-hop. It's your station for every generation. Plus I'm also in the process of completing a screenplay and preparing to shoot my second short film.
Why did you choose radio as a career?
I really don't think I chose radio; I really believe radio chose me. Growing up in New York and listening to radio greats such as Frankie Crooker, Ken "Spider" Webb, Mr. Magic and Kool DJ Red Alert, I thought working on the radio was one of the best jobs to have because the personalities only worked four hours a day! How wrong I was! My God-given gift was to have the gift of gab, being a party starter and entertaining people. Enjoy entertaining people and making people laugh I'm being creative while doing it. I derive pleasure from pleasing others.
What things about you would people be surprised to find out?
This question is really hard to answer, because I'm such an open book. The average person may not know that I'm really passionate about acting. I am a SAG AFTRA actor and recently graduated from film school and completed my very first short film.
What are a couple of things radio needs to do better?
Being more in tune with the listening audience. Understand there is a void between the 18-34 radio stations and the 25-54 radio stations. Some companies are starting to recognize this by launching the throwback Hip-Hop and classic R&B stations. All I have to say it's about time! Radio needs to do a better job staying up on technology. It's going to be very interesting to see what happens to terrestrial radio when Wi-Fi is in all cars, and Internet radio will be easily accessible to the consumer. What is radio's plan to combat that?