The Studio Report: PNC Studios
It was a chilly Saturday night in October. The night before Halloween to be exact. PNC Studios was packed.
Foxy ladies of all shades traipsed around the lobby sipping from plastic champagne flutes filled with the complimentary Xante and Sprite concoction, grooving to the thumping bass lines of the blasting Hip Hop music, half butt-naked because that’s what Halloween requires.
Heads mingled on the deck out back, passing daps and pounds and Black-N-Milds around, chopping it up about life and the way things are going, soaking in the studio’s billion dollar waterfront view of the Manhattan skyline.
Hosts Brian Allonce of The Bar Exam and Laureluxe of The Luxe Hour put together a great event; one of many consistently great events at the station.
Steve Boogie of the BrazenBoys was there decked in a shabby white button down, suspenders and fake yellow teeth, talking the same hilarity that’s heard on their raucous radio show. Journalist Amanda Bassa came as “Anti-Piracy Law”, rocking a plastic hook on one hand and costume handcuffs on the other. Meka from 2DopeRadio and station manger, A. King didn’t dress up but still rollicked with the rest.
Crys Breezy from SOHH.com, Jon Heredia from Brooklyn Bodega, Johnny Voltik, photographers, DJs, rappers, and scores more -- all came to revel in the festivities, a product of the “digital media incubator” that is PNC Studios.
In the midst of the amusement -- as animated as most will ever see him -- was owner, Alex Norman, weaving through the collective, doing it up for the “holiday”.
Alex is the definition of unassuming. He’s five-foot-something, slightly balding and noticeably reserved. He prefers zip-up hoodies and sweat pants over button-up anythings. He loves sports and politics and loathes gossip of any kind, celebrity or otherwise. And over the past six years, he’s successfully built a team of flourishing online radio stations (PNCRadio.fm and UrbanLatinoRadio.fm) and strategically positioned his business to capitalize on the opportunity provided by the plethora of artists of all types that walk through it’s 10 Jay Street doors everyday.
“I was introduced to my partner at the time by my girlfriend’s brother, a friend of the family, and he managed an artist”, Alex says, describing PNC’s origins for this interview, a month and half after the Halloween party.
“His idea was to start a record label. I wasn’t as interested in doing the label thing. I wanted to do a radio station. It so happened that his last name was Pierre. My last name was Norman, and he had another partner that he wanted to bring in that was a producer [and] was going to contribute to the studio as well. His last name was Carson.”
The acronym PNC carries an immediate Hip Hop overture. Smif-N-Wessun’s 1995 classic debut album, Dah Shinin’, contains a track entitled with the same initials, meaning "Partners In Crime", a popular term in 1980s New York City. For the studio, the acronym means simply, “People Need Change”, a term that aptly personifies Alex’s journey from DJ to studio owner.
After transferring from the University of Maryland to Rutgers University in 1991, Alex started deejaying parties around campus. He was a Political Science major minoring in Latin American Studies and writer a for the school’s largest minority newspaper -- The Black Voice/Carta Boricua (now known as The Black Voice/Carta Latina) -- the same publication where journalism luminaries Kevin Powell (Vibe Magazine, author), Alfred Edmonds Jr (Black Enterprise Magazine) and Tariq Muhammad (AOL Black Voices) served as Editor In Chief.
“[Tariq Muhammad], he’s a good friend of mine”, says Alex. “He’s the one that passed the torch to me because they needed more Latino writers to write about issues. I volunteered and put in my work and he felt that I’d earned the right to have the torch passed to me so I said, ‘Yeah I’ll do it.’”
Rutgers was a political hotbed at the time. Students protested everything from tuition increases to the financing of African and Hispanic studies departments. In 1994, the school’s racial tensions erupted onto the national scene after the United Student Coalition (an organization comprised of various minority groups on campus) protested comments made by university president Francis L. Lawrence that black students fared poorly on college admissions tests because of “their genetic hereditary background”, at halftime of a nationally televised Rutgers vs UMASS basketball game. As EIC of The Black Voice/Carta Boricua, Alex was the face of the movement.
“That whole fucking campus lit up”, he says.
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