10 Questions with ... Darren "Buttahman" Brin
April 7, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Started at WERQ/Baltimore as an intern out of college and worked my way up to on-air talent/MD. In 2001, I moved to NYC to work at MTV in the Music and Talent department. While there I programmed music for MTV and MTV2 and eventually oversaw the development of the MTV Jams Network. I oversaw the development of that brand for seven years and then eventually transitioned over to BET Network in 2010. At BET, I was in the music programming group working specifically on "106 & Park." It was my responsibility to strategize video premieres and programming for this show along with other tent poles such as BET Awards, Hip-Hop Awards, and other music-based specials.
1) Would you share with us your radio years and lessons learned?
My radio years are what I describe as my "hungry years." Fresh out of college, I was in my "do anything, go anywhere" to make it phase. I made a lot of great relationships and everything was new and exciting. Some of the friends I made during those years, I still have today. During that time, I learned the value of consistency and showing up. Many of my first breaks happened from just being around the station and being in the right place at the right time. I tell this story all the time but I was working at 92Q with Dion Summers (XM Radio). He had to be out for an extended period of time and I got to fill in for him. That jump started my career as on-air talent.
2) What sort of things would you share with an aspiring media person on preparing for a career in front of the camera?
Start by doing your own thing on the Internet. The Internet has given many aspiring talent a platform in which to grow and get comfortable in the medium. Also, social media gives rising talent a chance to build a fan base organically.
3) Now that you are no longer with 106 & Park, could you share with us what you are doing now?
I've always had a passion for writing and comedy. That's what I did in my spare time at every job I've ever had. Right now I'm using this opportunity to work on some ideas that have been marinating in my head for years. I'm also still very much a personality and music critic. I think once you've been on the radio, there's a part of you that always wants to share your opinions and run your mouth to others. I'm working on a podcast that will combine my love of music and comedy. It should be very interesting and I'm really excited about it. You can check things out here -- https://twitter.com/allthingsbuttah, https://www.facebook.com/Buttahman or https://instagram.com/allthingsbuttah.
4) It sort of snuck up on us, but Generation Z is in junior and senior high school right now. If they chose to go into radio, what sort of things should they do now to prepare themselves?
Frankly, I'd be shocked if anyone in Generation Z wants a career in radio. All I would say is that if they wanted to be in radio, they should go in with a multi-platform approach with radio being one element. Have a plan using radio as a launch pad and expand into TV, Internet and film. Today is all about being diverse.
5) I know there is a list, but who are some of the people that have influenced and mentored your career?
Shouts to Kathy Brown; I worked with her at Radio One and she gave me one of the most valuable pieces of advice I ever got in my career. I remember I was upset about being passed over for a promotion, and she made me realize I was upset about not getting a position I really didn't want. I also have to shout-out Russ Allen. He gave me my first real shot at being on-air talent by letting me do call-ins as a van driver at 92Q. Tom Callococci also gave me my first break by hiring me as MD for WERQ. This put me on the national stage as a music programmer. I also have to shout to RCA SVP Urban Sam Selowane, she has always been there for me as a friend and sounding board.
6) How did your ability to write help you with radio, MTV Jams, and 106 & Park?
Any concept you want to pitch has to be written down at some point. You can really sell your ideas if you can write well.
7) Could you explain the process of writing standup comedy versus writing a screen or stage play; and do you think the discipline of radio helped you with both?
When I do stand-up, I don't really write. I go on stage, perform and record my sets. It's kind of like airchecking. Something I wish I did more when I was in radio (LOL). After my shows, I listen to the nuances of my delivery and audience reactions. The key to comedy is to consistently perform and develop your act by working. Radio helped me immensely as far as discipline. When you're on the air it's just you talking to an invisible audience. In stand up the reaction is immediate, but you're still pretty much on your own.
8) What life experiences outside of media helped you the most in getting you where you are now in your career?
That's an interesting question since my career in media has provided me with some of the most interesting experiences of my life. The two have been intertwined since the beginning. Outside of the media, my family and friends have kept my ego in check and help me stay grounded. It's important to have people in your life who are honest and remind you that when this is all over friends and family are what matters most.
9) How do you see the future for Urban Radio?
It's the best of times and the worst of times. Urban radio is merging and melting into mainstream. Kids today aren't locked into formats and genres; however, the gatekeepers of media are. Black people aren't' just listening to black music. I think it's important to see that we're in a culture shift and recognize that Black kids listen to Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Usher, Chris Brown, Beyonce, Katy Perry and Kanye West. We're in a single-driven music culture and it's okay. When an artist like Kendrick Lamar drops an album and has a reaction, it's good for music. Urban Radio still plays an important role in breaking new Urban acts and validating non-Urban acts. I don't think this a threat to our culture. We just need to be open and understand that music will never be like it was. It evolves just like we do as people.
10) What profession would you have chosen had you not gone into radio?
Honestly I would not change my career path. It was a career in entertainment or die trying.
Are there some things about you that people would be surprised to know?
People would be surprised to know I'm a huge documentary fan. I especially love crime docs with cheesy reenactments that are badly acted. It's my thing.