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Akram has played with an impressive list of performers — he has connected with Shadyville, a group of DJs who have access to artists on Interscope Records, and has toured with Bubba Sparxxx, Fonzworth Bentley and the Ying Yang Twins. Recently, Akram has been DJ-ing behind the Shop Boyz, promoting their hit "Party Like a Rock Star." His voice-mail recording features a personalized greeting from 50 Cent.
In KC, most DJs don't touch a microphone, but Akram is talking to the crowd all the time, introducing new remixes and shouting out the tracks by local rappers. To do so is second nature, considering his last radio gig in town.
In 2005 and 2006, Akram hosted The Takeover, an hourlong show featuring local hip-hop that aired every Saturday at midnight on KPRS 103.3, a locally owned station with the highest ratings in Kansas City.
According to Akram, KPRS first approached him about hosting a weekly local mix show. Akram would own the show, station reps told him, because he would pay for his airtime: $250 a week for a total of $1,000 a month.
Akram named his show The Takeover to let local artists know that he was putting the power in their hands. Before his show started, he says, local hip-hop got airplay maybe twice a year. But he played area artists every week.
"This was funded right here," Akram tells The Pitch, patting the pockets of his jeans three times for emphasis. "Nobody else gave me money to try and launch this. It's not like I'm a millionaire or I'm rich."
To meet his monthly fee, Akram solicited advertising. Dayton Wheel and Tire, a shop in Belton, paid to sponsor Akram's show, as did the owners of urban clothing stores in places such as the Blue Ridge Shopping Center and the now-closed Bannister Mall, Akram says. "My sponsors were only paying $500 or $1,000, whatever it may be, but they were getting endorsements they could reuse."
He also held a launch party at the Red Vine restaurant (which has since gone out of business) at 18th Street and Vine. DeShai Hampton, aka Mz Shai, who hosts The Show-Me Mix Show on community radio station KKFI 90.1, remembers a line of local hip-hop heads trailing out the door. The cover charge was $10, and it cost more money for rappers to audition for Akram — Hampton says figures varied from $50 to $150.
"So, OK, they're going to charge you to get in, charge you to perform, and at the end there's no guarantee he'll ever play their music," Hampton says. "There's no need to do all that to people."
Akram says it was a matter of simple economics. "They [KPRS] didn't want me to charge people to be on my show or charge sponsors or anything, but they expected me to pay them," he says. "It doesn't make sense."
Artists had plenty of opportunities to recoup the money they paid him, Akram says. He'd set up autograph sessions for them at the clothing stores that sponsored him, he says, which gave them the chance to sell their CDs and T-shirts.
But Akram clashed with KPRS Program Director Myron Fears. Akram says Fears reserved the right to edit The Takeover, which offended Akram because he'd paid to own the show. Akram says Fears once declared a song too profane because Fears thought he heard the artist Cam'Ron say "dipshit" when he was really shouting out the name of his hip-hop crew and its record label, the Diplomats, by saying "Dipset."