Carbon Sound, a Black music stream, website and app from Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) and The Current, in partnership with KMOJ, is expanding the narrow definition of how many see Black music. It was launched on June 16, 2022, and joined MPR’s other musical streams, including Purple Current and Rock the Cradle.
According to its website, Carbon Sound “is dedicated to celebrating…Black musical expression through genres including hip-hop, R&B, Afrobeats, funk, electronica and more.” It celebrated its first anniversary on June 19, at the Fine Line in Minneapolis.
Content director Julian Green, midday host Sanni Brown, and community engagement specialist Andre Griffin are the guiding force behind Carbon Sound. Last week, Green and Brown spoke to the MSR in separate interviews.
“It’s just been a journey,” said Green. “It’s weird to think that we’ve been able to do so much in a year. It feels like just yesterday when everything started. I think all of us—myself, Sanni and Andre—are very proud of what we’ve put together.”
Brown added, “I call myself the host with the most. I want to take up three hours of your time. I want you to learn about music, and I want you to learn about positive stuff. The goal of my show is to brighten people’s day and make it a little bit better. I want them to walk away with music, to walk away with a positive message.”
Brown, a Chicago native and 2008 Concordia University-St. Paul graduate, was already working at The Current when Green hired her to join Carbon Sound. “I asked my supervisor at the time what it was about, and when the opportunity to apply came out I went through the interview process, and I got it,” she noted.
Before coming to MPR in 2018, Brown previously worked at KMOJ and myTalk 107.1 FM. After graduating from Concordia with a psychology degree, Brown applied for a “Do you want to be a DJ?” scholarship from Globe University in the late 2000s; she was accepted and attended the University of St. Louis for journalism and broadcasting.
Along with being Carbon Sound’s original host, Brown still hosts “The Message,” a hip-hop and R&B show, every Wednesday on The Current.
Green, who grew up in Milwaukee, studied journalism at the University of Minnesota and graduated in 2021. He first gained his broadcasting experience working at the school’s student-run radio station Radio K in various roles, including program director. In his senior year, he founded The Vanguard, a 24-hour hip-hop stream that still exists.
He joined MPR in late 2021, first as an intern. “My superiors let me know about a new grant they were applying for from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to fund an alternative stream,” recalled Green. “Things lined up so that luckily I was able to be accepted for this position to lead the project called The Urban Alternative Project.
“It was really from the ground up and luckily being able to use my experience at Radio K… working with people inside of MPR and others to build what was necessary for Carbon Sound to become what it is,” continued Green.
Both he and Brown proudly boast of their musical love that was first nurtured as youngsters growing up in their family homes.
“My mother would come home with barbecue and fries and a six-pack of beer on Fridays, sit next to the radio, turn it up. We would eat ribs and fries,” recalled Brown. “She was jamming by herself. I remember, I would hear songs and go in there and dance. I truly believe that’s the power of music.”
Said Green, “I think music was pretty much all around me for a lot of my life.” He remembers getting the Rock Band video game for Christmas, when he was about nine or 10. “The concept of the game is to play along with all those [music] alternatives. I would just obsess over that game when I was a kid. All those different kinds of music turned me into a listener of everything.”
Brown and Green are both determined and dedicated to pushing Black music locally, beyond its typical boundaries. “There’s just so much talent here in the Twin Cities that we really feel honored to be able to highlight and to bring them potentially to a national audience,” said Green.
“I really like what we’re doing,” said Brown. “There is a magic here. And I know that the Black artists…have not had a platform. We have a platform like Carbon Sound…to really elevate them.”
Listeners can tune in to Carbon Sound at carbonsound.fm or via the Carbon Sound app, which can be found at the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.