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Clearing the Air: Behind the DJ D-Lite / Holy Culture Split

Published on January 23, 2009

Breakups suck.

Whether it’s The Hulkster & Macho Man, EPMD, or Shaq & Kobe, inevitably half the fan base aligns with one side while the other 50 percent takes the contrary position.

On December 17, 2008 the Internet Christian rap community, never immune to disagreement, learned of a shocking breakup within their own ranks. DJ D-Lite was leaving Holy Culture Radio (and eventually the entire network) – an online hub where he previously held the titles of “Owner” and “President.”

This wasn’t a nicey-nice mutual agreement split and, on occasion, things did get ugly. But dust has settled since then and both of the primary players are now back to working together – just not in the fashion and under the same brands as before.

In an effort to clear the air and squash gossip, both Damon “DJ D-Lite” O’Brien and Victor “DJ MVP” Padilla agreed to share their stories and help fans and friends understand what truly went down and where things currently stand.
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To start, one needs a bit of background information.

Although birthed with passion roughly five years ago, the day-to-day managing of the entire Holy Culture brand (the radio network, message board, download store, and record pool) eventually became a burden to Victor Padilla. It was an understandably hefty workload packaged with stress that was starting to impact his health. So, in the first part of 2008, Vic made a decision to turn over his creation to a trusted friend and loyal worker – Damon O’Brien.

Although nothing was ever detailed on paper, D rightfully assumed the roles of owner and president and took over operations for every piece of the HCR universe except for the download store. At the time, it was a move that seemed both wise and mutually beneficial.

“The whole idea was to give him a jump start for something of his own,” Vic said. “But I have admitted to Damon that it wasn’t very well thought out.”

Then, in June of 2008, it was announced that both Holy Culture Radio and Holy Culture Download had forged a cross marketing partnership with ILLSPOT.net.

The press release stated that ILLSPOT would be the premier Christian hip hop content and information social networking community “exclusively promoted” by HCR and Holy Culture Radio.
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Everything seemed to be cool until Election Day when another gospel rap megasite (DaSouth.com) relaunched to the Internet-loving Christian hip hop masses. Aside from news and reviews, the portal also featured an online streaming radio station with several different shows and DJs. And although the respective owners have always been friendly and share a common goal, it was in many ways a direct competitor to ILLSPOT.

Behind the scenes, DJ D-Lite helped the DaSouth.com better organize and load programs into the site’s radio utility. And the November 4 launch day, on the front page was a link to download a free “DaSouth.com The Election” mixtape hosted by DJ D-Lite.

Viewing such moves in conflict with Holy Culture’s formal partnership with ILLSPOT, Vic decided he would ask to reclaim ownership of the Holy Culture Brand name and offer the opportunity for D-Lite to continue to operate the sites and services under a different identity.

“I expressed to him that I made a mistake and that I should have thought about handing everything over,” Vic said. “I knew this was going to be a difficult decision and a hard pill for Damon to swallow. But I had to at least ask.”

D-Lite initially declined the request.

Vic recalled, “At that point I said ‘Okay.’ There were no hard feelings. I later called Trig [Vic’s other HCR brand partner] and said ‘I blew it.’ I said I should have thought about how [my decision] would impact things I wanted to do later down the road.”

But after a few Instant Messenger conversations later that day, D-Lite decided to give in and return the name to Vic despite his reservations.
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Even when making peace, feelings can still get hurt. D-Lite resigned himself to renaming and relocating his radio network.

“Maybe I took it more personal than I should have, but I felt like I deserved that name,” D-Lite said. “Vic may have founded it, but I worked just as hard and spent my time and money over the last three and half years to build and restore the HCR brand to what it is today.

“But I really felt God saying that if [the HCR name] is going to be given with that kind of heart [to give and then ask for it back] then I should let it go. Like ‘Just give it up and know that I have something better for you.’”

Shortly after this online exchange, Vic posted a thread about the switch on the HCR message board. It did not include D-Lite’s official joint input and he was not aware of its content until after it was offered online.

Such news was obviously of great surprise and interest to the message board regulars. Soon speculation and opinions grew like wildfire.

Some sided with D, others with Vic, and some who had past run-ins with Vic joined in the conversation. Instead of a personal matter between business partners, the issue had escalated to full-on message board fodder. Thankfully, the thread was removed from the board and closed to outsiders later that day.

And it was then that D-Lite decided to give it all – control of the HCR message board, the radio network, the titles – back to MVP. It wasn’t the response Vic expected.

“In my view, he could have still had the platform and we would have assisted with the transition,” Vic said. “And it would have given him an opportunity to start something for himself and not have to ever worry about anyone else questioning his moves or asking why he did certain things. He could partner up with who he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted and this would be his thing.”
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Both men now realize part of the problem lies in their different personalities. Vic is a visionary, one who sees big pictures and launches new ventures. D-Lite is a team player, a get-the-details-done type of guy, who is more inclined to jump aboard a train that’s already running than to try and lay his own tracks.

Vic believed his original gift of the HCR brand and the subsequent request for it back were ways for Damon to start something of his own. D-Lite doesn’t see it the same.

“I know God has called me to be a leader,” D-Lite said. “But to me, my leadership is not to build my name, it’s to build His name.

“And it’s scary because a lot of times we want to think business minded but we don’t think Kingdom Business minded. And at the end of the day, if we’re building the Kingdom of God then our agenda should be last – period.”

The situation has also taught Vic and D-Lite the value of getting an agreement on paper.

“Definitely, I should have gotten an understanding [of the initial handover of the brand] in writing,” D-Lite said. “That way, without any confusion, I could have easily gone back and said ‘Look, this is what we agreed on.’”

Vic says the same.

“Yeah, I’ve had lots of people remind me of that now. But it really wouldn’t have made a difference in this case. I’ve never argued with the fact that he had what he had,” Vic said.

“Even if we wrote a contract I would have still would have had to make a decision and say ‘Hey, will you let me out of this contract? Will you understand my angle and my thinking? Will you show me grace in this area and let us write a new agreement?’”
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Where things stand now is that Vic and Trig will consolidate their various HCR properties for maximum effectiveness and management. They’re also looking to possibly expand their brand to apparel or other areas where there appears to be a need.

Meanwhile, DJ D-Lite has already launched DaSouth Radio Network and established a podcasting link for it via iTunes and other popular RSS feeds.

They even worked together on renaming and rebranding the record pool they co-founded.

Formerly known as the Holy Culture Record Pool, the venture now carries the name Kingdom Affiliates and sports a logo designed by Vic. The old URL, holyculturerecordpool.com, even re-directs to the new name due to behind-the-scenes work from both parties.

“At the end of the day, I love Damon. And if this is what he’s chosen to do then I support him and all power to him,” Vic said.

“I’m the same way. There’s no love lost between me and Vic,” D-Lite said. “I wish it hadn’t have ended the way it did but obviously God had a purpose for it and time will tell if it was the right or wrong decision for both of us.”

Author: jamesrosseau@thecorelinksolution.com

President/CEO of The Corelink Solution and Holy Culture

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