New Jack Swing is alive and well in the care of Spider “Original Ol’ Skooler” Hamilton on KFAI-Fresh Air Community Radio. Merriam-Webster’s defines the genre as “pop music…that combines elements of jazz, funk, rap, and rhythm and blues.” That’s stiff-necked parlance for urban fusion but by any name, the genre has a distinct sound—originating in the Twin Cities with former members of The Time (Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis) for Janet Jackson’s “Control.”
Hamilton hosts “The NewJack Swing Beat ReVue”Sundays 12–2 am since 2016, in his classic, upbeat, rapid-fire delivery D.J. form. A la his moniker, it’s time-honored, old school. As he attested, “My tradition and heritage roots…the style, finesse, and showmanship of the DJs of the era I cut my chops under—to them, I owe it all. Someone in 1969 gave me a break, provided me with an opportunity and believed in me.”
That would be at KWKI in Kansas City, Missouri, paying proverbial dues as a station gofer, a youngster learning the trade as he went along, leaving the next year for KPRS, also a Kansas City outlet.
Once he’d made his bones, Hamilton hit his stride and didn’t look back. Grateful as he is to those extended a helping hand, he’s not shy about taking credit for his own contributions as well. Enlivening the public airways since 1970, he’s proud to boast a long, strong, track-record, stating, “Now, many years, stations, and club gigs later, I am ‘The Original’.”
He goes on to add that eventually, “1983 brought me to Billboard Magazine’s R&B Station of The Year for Major Markets, Magic 1510-KDKO Denver. In 1984, I led Pete Rhodes to launch a cable FM station, CBLS [that later became WR&B] where I served as program director and air talent. I also had four tours of duty at KMOJ as early as 1979 and as late as 1991.”
Suffice to say, Hamilton’s on-air presence is a significant one in the community. Indeed, one that along with spinning discs has been of no small impact.
Local comedic luminary Fancy Ray McCloney recalled, “I listened to Spider J as a kid. In fact, he’s the first DJ I was a fan of. He had a great selection of music, velvet voice and wonderful humor. He interviewed me early in my career, about 1986. I was completely unknown.
“Nonetheless he treated me like a superstar. After that interview, I became even a bigger fan of his. I’m proud to say fandom blossomed into friendship. He’s [an] historian of great DJs, never stopped working at developing his skills and making the world a better place via music. He spins New Jack Swing…which is his passion and gives him his very own niche in the radio game.”
Not that Spider Hamilton thinks it’s all about him. “It’s time now for me to pay it forward; I’m in a position to launch someone else into this business we love, called DJing. It’s time for the passing of the torch!” It that spirit, for the past four years, the Slam Academy has offered a “Spider J. Hamilton 00 DJ Scholarship Program” for those 18 years and older residing in the greater metro area to attend the institution’s 12-week DJ curriculum. Prospects need to have no more than two years’ experience under their belts and must commit to continuing to pursue a career in the field.
Hamilton’s career has not been a complete cakewalk. “Most challenging,” he said, “[is] working with people who are clueless about radio—Black radio in particular—in the Twin Cities, not known for Black or urban radio. And the lack of it.
“From the big companies on down, nobody, it seems, will take a chance on a Black or urban station here. Out of all the stations I’ve worked for, KMOJ and KFAI are the only two stations, non-profits that allowed me air-presence to do an urban music-intensive program. Of course, as an unpaid volunteer. That’s the challenge.”
Next, Hamilton is “looking into internet radio and how to launch my own station or stations. New Jack Swing is the music format I chose in 2012 to settle on. The most infectious beat in music, the most refined style of R&B.”
He summed up, “Nobody can claim that real estate in Minnesota. I own it. When it comes to New Jack Swing, Spider J Hamilton 00 is all you need to know.”