Last summer, popular radio host Troi Torain, better known as Star of “Star & Buc Wild,” was in the beginning stages of the “Start Snitching” movement when he spoke with NBC 10. The nationwide campaign encourages local residents to speak with police about violent crime affecting their communities.
While he is no longer on Philadelphia radio due to a format change, Torain’s movement is still going strong. He created a “Start Snitching” twitter account last October and plans on launching a UStream Internet show later this month.
As Philadelphia reels from one of the deadliest months in the city’s history, Torain’s in your face message is more relevant than ever.
We spoke to Torain about the progress the Start Snitching movement has made, his upcoming show and his reaction to the recent violence in the City of Brotherly Love.
What type of progress has the “Start Snitching” movement made since you spoke to us last summer?
I made a lot of internal progress with building my small, efficient staff and social media. The twitter page @startsnitching has now gotten close to 1500 followers. This is what I was hoping for and it’s a nice transition that I’m witnessing first hand. To also help the cause, there’s a lot more awareness about the serious nature of this show.
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You’re planning on launching an Internet show on UStream. Describe the content and the format of the program.
It’s news/entertainment driven and talk intense. I’m talking about reckless shootings in inner cities, the suburbs, down in Texas, out in Bozeman, Montana, etc. I’m talking about some serious issues. You’ll see me sitting at a desk just like Nancy Grace or Bill O’Reilly and the language will be clean. I recently did an episode with Derrick Parker aka The Hip Hop Cop. He’s a retired first grade NYC detective and the author of a book called “Notorious C.O.P.” He’s lead some of the biggest homicide investigations in the hip hop community, such as the killing of Jason Mizel, also known as Jam Master Jay. He’s a staple guest.
You mentioned earlier that you started a “start snitching” account on Twitter. What made you create a new profile dedicated specifically to the issue rather than using your own name?
The word snitch has such an effect on urban culture and I had to make an impact – a serious impact. I also felt that the name “start snitching” itself would let people know just how passionate I am about this mission.
Are you also trying to separate your name and history from the snitching issue?
No, I’m very proud of what I’ve done via the radio field through the Star & Buc Wild brand. Some people will classify it as separating and that’s fine but I like to see it as a graduation or a reinvention process.
What type of response has the twitter account gotten?
It’s been everything I’ve anticipated. It’s gotten support and it’s gotten some real haters. So I’ve gotten the responses that I clearly wanted. When I get someone who opposes me promoting snitching on the Internet, that person may have been riding with me for a number of years on the radio but If they’re not ready to graduate with me then it’s time that we part ways.
With your “Start Snitching” movement you’ve been exposed to many personal stories from people affected by violent crime. What stories have stood out to you the most?
All of them. There is no one story that has any more meaning than the other one. This is not just about what famous rappers were gunned down. My heart weeps when I hear of a 17-year-old kid getting shot in the neck out in Orlando, Florida. My heart weeps when I hear about some kid being bullied up in Boston. My heart weeps when I hear that a teenage girl, got jumped and beaten in Arkansas and nobody wants to speak up. They’ve had such an effect on me that I applied to become a Philadelphia Police officer three weeks ago.
Do you think the police are doing a good job in dealing with the violence?
For the most part, yes. Art imitates life and you’ve got an industry that is thriving, in a recession, off the ignorance of a culture. This is what the police have to deal with. You’ve got idiots out there leading the charge such as rappers like Game and Young Jeezy. You also have Busta Rhymes who, allegedly, witnessed a homicide and has never spoken with police. When you have these types of studio gangsters, and that’s what they are, it makes the job harder for police to communicate with young people. There is such a wall there and the police can only do but so much. This is why there has to be a new curriculum. There has to be a reconditioning of young people’s morals, values and ethics in terms of fantasy and reality. In Philly you’ve got a mayor who’s passionate to the community and you’ve also got a deputy commissioner Richard Ross, who took a big chance by coming on my controversial radio show show -- that spoke volumes. He came on the show and spoke about his concern and what it is that the Philadelphia Police Department is trying to do.
Who in the community do you feel needs to step up and play a bigger role in helping to deal with the violence?
I’m one of the people who always said for a long time, you can’t keep blaming the parents. You’ve got a lot of hardworking parents out there who are losing their babies. So it’s not just who needs to step up, there needs to be a new process, a new understanding of what society wants and needs. I’m not just doing a show talking about “start snitching.” I’m trying to get into schools to speak, to Temple, to Drexel, to UPenn. I’m trying to get into all these schools to speak about a new process, about social media. So when you ask who needs to step up, it’s a new regime that needs to come in. I’m trying to spearhead that regime along with some other key people that I know to help get a better understanding of what it is that will turn things around. And I do believe things will turn around.
What do you think of Mayor Michael Nutter’s efforts in fighting crime, including his new initiative?
I’ve gotten nothing but support from Mayor Nutter. I’ve never had a problem getting through to his office. I think what he’s now doing is a great start. I’m supportive of his new initiative and policies. I think the offering of money right now to help people speak up is a beautiful thing.
What are some of the main factors that you think cause people to turn to crime?
There are so many different reasons why people turn to crime. It can be a number of things. At the same time information is the most valuable commodity. There is a lot of information to help young people. There are so many different organizations and groups out there that offer assistance and guidance. I’m not a politician so I can’t say exactly what has brought about the circumstances in every local region, but I do know that it just can’t be tolerated. You do have to understand the root of the problem but at the same time you have to lay down the law. Everybody who commits a crime can’t get a police escort to the police station by way of a lawyer or some representative. If you commit a crime you have to be arrested the way criminals are arrested and dealt with.
You mentioned earlier that you applied to be a Philadelphia Police Officer. What influenced your decision to apply?
I’ve been a cop supporter most of my life and since I started doing radio in 2000 in New York City. I’m 47 years of age now, I’ve probably waited too long since I’ve been distracted by various media opportunities over the years but hopefully there’s some type of special unit I can join to be a part of the much needed process of bringing about change. It’s been a desire of mine for many years. Martin Luther King Jr. and countless others have been on the front lines of not just talking the talk but walking the walk, so this is where it’s at for me.
With the success that you’ve had as a hip hop personality, was it a tough decision to turn away from hip hop towards what you’re focusing on now?
I’ve had so much success over the years so it’s not really about giving something up, It’s about enhancing my personal journey. I’m giving up nothing. What am I giving up? Interviewing the next rapper, going to another party, chopping it up with someone who sold two million CDs. Success is a personal thing. If I can get on a police force that would be success to me --personal success.
Tell us more about your upcoming “Stop Snitching” show on UStream.
The UStream show will launch later this month. We have the UStream channel which is start snitching. So people will be able to see all the episodes as they unfold. I still want to do radio. But I want to do talk radio. I recently reached out to the general manager of WURD and hopefully I’ll hear back from them and maybe I can get a specialty show, just one hour a week.
With the change in direction that you’re taking with your career, how are you reacting to fans who want you to stick to hip hop?
I’ve never used the word fans. People know this about me. I’ve always offered clarity to people who’ve called themselves my fan. I’ve always told them you’re either a supporter or you listen objectively. With that being said, it’s not about trying to hang onto the past. It’s about opening up a new door and people who have known me by way of Star & Buc Wild, that’s great, but we all have to grow up at some point. So I don’t look at naysayers who were with me once upon a time as anybody that I have to coddle or that I have to worry about how they feel towards me now. I’m a man of substance.