Trae the Truth and his attorney officially announced this morning they are filing suit against local radio station 97.9 the Box, its parent company Radio One and several station staffers for "business disparagement, conspiracy and tortious interference" they say has resulted from the Box's alleged ban on the rapper's music, music by other artists featuring Trae and any advertising or promotion for concerts or other events where Trae is appearing.
This alleged ban has never been officially confirmed or acknowledged by anyone at the station, which continues to keep quiet about the events surrounding the lawsuit. 97.9 program director Terri Thomas, who is named in the lawsuit along with station general manager Doug Abernethy and morning-show personality Nnete Inyangumia, told Rocks Off last week that company policy prevented her from making an official statement. We contacted her again via email and voicemail messages Tuesday after learning of the press conference, and have not heard anything back.
Trae's attorney, Warren Fitzgerald Jr., said he had not received any comment from the station or Radio One either, but that judge Randy Williams had issued a restraining order preventing the station from destroying any evidence related to the ban, including email and paper correspondence, should that evidence exist.
After the press conference, Trae told Rocks Off that apart from the remix of Chamillionaire's "Won't Let You Down" that former Box DJs the Kracker Nuttz played shortly before their April 21 dismissal, his music had not been played on the station since late October of last year. Before that, he said it was played "more than the average artist."
That time frame coincides with the release of Trae's The Incredible Truth
mixtape, which contains several lyrical jabs at Inyangumia, with whom the rapper had an on-air incident the morning after last summer's Trae Day concert and fundraiser, when several people were wounded by gunfire as the event was coming to a close.
Speaking in front of the Harris County Civil Courthouse, where the suit is being filed in the 189th District Court, Fitzgerald said the ban is interfering with not only Trae's career and work in the community, but with the livelihoods of those associated with Trae. Specifically, the suit alleges that one Box staff member was suspended for making a personal mixtape featuring Trae outside of work hours, and decided to end his association with the rapper rather than lose his job.
The suit also claims that the Box informed Sony/Battery Records rapper 6tre Gangster that it would not play his new single featuring Trae, which resulted in the record company canceling its plans to release the song and its accompanying video. Clipd, Trae's road manager, said the Box had declined to sell advertising to local promoter Horsehead Records for several of his events featuring Trae, including concerts at the Roxy, House of Blues and assorted car shows.
"We believe this goes beyond legal bounds," Fitzgerald said. "Even though [The Box] is a private company, it involves the public trust."
Also present was community activist Deric Muhammad of the Houston Ministry of Justice, who said his organization was organizing a rally in support of Trae and that if the Box continued not to play Trae's music, would explore calling for a boycott for at least one of the station's advertisers. He also suggested those present at the press conference call the station and request Trae's music; Rocks Off asked our rap writer, Shea Serrano, to do that and will publish the results later on this afternoon.
"We believe the airwaves are sacred," Muhammad said. "No one should be allowed to use them for a personal vendetta. The community here in Houston stands with Trae the Truth."
Rocks Off also asked Trae if he would drop his lawsuit if the Box should start playing his music again, and the rapper demurred.
"The thing is, it's a hard situation on me, because I'm not only standing up for me," he said. "I can't really just think about myself."
A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday.