Raymond Tyler has long lamented that commercial urban radio seems to have little room for what he believes are positive messages.
"There are even the famous and semi-famous who can't get onto urban radio because their message isn't about drinking and how many cars they have and how many women they can get," said Tyler, who has a marketing firm, Dark Seed Communications, and writes a column for Atlantic City Weekly. "We need to honor them, to make sure they don't stop."
So Tyler and his brother, Mark, a former Atlantic City Press reporter, and Philadelphia spoken-word performer Stephanie Renee are putting on the 2007 Alternative Soul Awards on Sunday in Atlantic City.
Tyler and Renee will emcee awards and performances in spoken word, hip-hop, alternative soul music and poetry. They are also giving Alternative Soul Awards to various kinds of CDs, superior venues, and even Web sites and newsletters.
"It is about encouraging positive hip-hop and innovative artists, particularly those who are from the New Jersey, Philadelphia and Delaware area," he said.
Tyler said the first Alternative Soul Pioneer Award will go to Tiffany Bacon, of Philadelphia's Power 99 (WUSL 98.9-FM), whose Sunday night show, "Inner City," Tyler said, helps young alternative-soul artists "realize their dreams."
"It is really one of the few places positive hip-hop and other artists like the Roots and Jill Scott and Floetry can have their music played on urban radio," he said. "Marsha Ambrosia of Floetry. Oooh. I am 39 and have been around for a while, and she is the best vocalist there is, save for Aretha Franklin, and it would be a shame if there were no place for her."
Tyler said it was appropriate to bring the Alternative Soul Awards to Atlantic City to show that there is a place for smaller acts, and different kinds of performances, while the big acts go on in the casino showrooms.
"In my work, and my brother saw the same thing, we found that there are so many ways to perform, and that doesn't mean they can't make a little money doing so, too," said Tyler. He points to his co-host, Renee, whom he called the queen of the spoken-word movement in Philadelphia.
"It seemed impossible to me that you could make money reading poetry, but Stephanie, by finding good venues and times, has shown us the business part of the equation can work if you work at it."
DJing is part of the Alternative Soul Awards, too, with DJ Swoosh, who holds court at Club Heat in Old City and at various places in Atlantic City, helping put on Sunday's show.
"DJs are instrumental in getting alternative music and performance to the public," said Tyler. He believes his mission is to get the Alternative Soul Awards into a niche, that the point is to have them ongoing, not just one spectacular show.
"I'm hoping this is a good show, but my idea is that there will be a 10th and a 20th Alternative Soul Awards," he said. "I would have loved to be there when Aretha got her first Grammy, so I am hoping there will be a moment like that on Sunday, and that in 2012, someone will look back and say, 'Wasn't it great at that first Alternative Soul Awards when . . . ' " *
Planet Rose at Tropicana Hotel and Casino, 2831 Boardwalk, 609-340-4000, 6 p.m. Sunday, $10, www.myspace.com/