Back in the day, a group of young men descended on Portland and took the Hip Hop radio scene ova!
It was the late 90’s and Portland was poppin’ … this was back in the days of Balzers, Portland’s version of Love Jones, and former Trail Blazer Rasheed Wallace. Big Up Sheed! It was a time when concerts were plenty and gaining backstage entrance was nothing. Portland’s burgeoning Hip Hop scene was taking off and Joe Thunda was in the mix of it all.
Many of you may remember Joe Thunda — if not the man, his voice. Joe Thunda was one of many radio personalities on Jammin’ 95.5. At that time, Jammin’ 95.5 was Portland’s first and only mainstream Hip Hop radio station. He was joined by Portland’s Stan the Man, Ebro (Yes, Ebro from Love and Hip Hop NY and NY’s Hot 97) and a host of others including Portland’s own Star Chile. Remember Star Chile? We caught up with the former Joe Thunda — now Bro Yasawap — and here’s what he had to say:
Joe Thunda! What up? How are you doing?
I’m good. Thanks for asking. No complaints over here. LOL!
Is it okay to still call you that?
Joe Thunder, come on now. LOL. Mr. Watson is fine.
For those who don’t know, let folks know how you came up with the name Joe Thunder?
The name Joe Thunder came from a Hip Hop group that I was a part of back in 1987 while still in High School back in Philly. The name of the group was called Double Image and they had the #1 song on the local Rap Countdown on WUSL Power 99FM. I was the “bodyguard” of the group and every Hip Hop group bodyguard had a handle. At the time, Run-DMC’s bodyguard’s name was Hurricane (DJ Hurricane of the Afros & Beastie Boy) so we came up with the handle Joe Thunder and the legend was born.
Hold up, let’s back up a bit. Where are you from originally and how did you end up in Portland?
I’m a Philly guy born and raised. I relocated to Oregon in 1996 as the Managing Director of the Rasheed Wallace Foundation and never left.
In many ways, 95.5 pioneered Hip Hop radio in Portland. You guys had it poppin’! There were concerts and all sorts of stuff jumping’ off in the 90’s. Were you aware of the impact you all had back then?
I really didn’t realize what impact we (Rasheed & Da Fam) was having on the city of Portland until I ran into a couple of Hip Hop Promoters a couple of years ago inside of a supermarket and they referred to myself as a legend in the game to a colleague of mine. My only mindset was that if I was going to be living in Oregon, is that I wanted it to be poppin like Philly.
When I think of other Hip Hop radio markets in NY, Cali, Philly and more, do you think Portland was ready for what a station like 95.5 brought to the table back then?
Yes, I think Portland was definitely ready to blow and be a major part of Hip Hop’s Golden era back in the 90’s.
How about now?
I don’t know. There are a couple of crews out there like Young Life Entertainment and Cool Nutz Movement with the Jus Family and Young Mill but I think in order to really put Oregon back out there strong everyone needs to come together and put out a mixtape and start another movement. Plus, there really is no Hip Hop anymore on FM radio or in the clubs.
What ever happened to the ‘real’ Jammin’ 95.5? You know what I’m talking about, the originators. It was as if you all just faded away. One day I look up and Ebro is in LA, Stan the Man is gone…can you speak to that?
To be honest, I don’t know. I think Portland just got tired of Hip Hop (and of course the unnecessary fights that came with the lifestyle). But I was told that the owner of the station (Paul Allen) wanted to change the format because the advertising dollars weren’t coming in from 95.5 under the Hip Hop format.
I know you’re doing big things but I don’t want to blow up your spot 🙂 What are you up to these days?
LOL, you are funny. These days I run a small boutique PR firm called The Watson Agency (www.thewatsonagency.com), the content manager for the website www.theurbanchannel.info and an independent contractor for Nike WHQ so I’m staying busy.
People don’t really know you by Joe Thunder anymore, they know you by Bro Yawasap, feel us in…
Yawasap is the Ancient or Aramaic translation for the name Joseph, and is my born again Israelite name. These days you can pretty much catch me Monday through Wednesday at the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ (www.icgjcpdx.org) at 309 NE Wygant Street, across from the Portland Observer off of MLK Blvd and Garfield, ministering the Truth of the Holy Bible. On Thursday evenings, I volunteer at the Donald E. Long Juvenile Justice Center and hold Bible Studies and Real Talk discussions with the young men incarcerated between the ages of 13 & 17. And I produce and sponsor a show on cable access throughout the metro area called “The Hidden Truth.”
With me, its all about giving back to the youth. I’ve had my day and time and now its about giving back. I also conduct Truth Seminars on the third Saturday of the month inside the community room of Gladys McCoy Village on MLK at Prescott, with titles like “Does America have a plan to destroy the minorities?” For more information people can reach me at (503) 238-9739 or email me at Yawasapga@gmail.com or hit me up on Twitter @JosephWatson2.
I usually end all of my interviews with this question, “Are you single?” I already know the answer to this question, sorry ladies. Bro Yawasap is married and raising some gorgeous children…
Thank you on the compliment to my young Princes and Princesses. Yes, I’m happily married (9 years now) and have 3 boys and 2 girls. Praise the Lord.