Once regarded as one of Charlotte’s top urban DJs, Jaye Delai was suddenly cut loose last spring when Q92.7 switched to syndicated daytime talk. Now the 39-year-old Delai is back, but not where some might expect to find him.
Along with wife Monica, he recently launched a live jazz series called “A Peace of Jazz.” Every Tuesday from 6 p.m. 10 p.m., the couple can be found hosting a growing audience of jazz enthusiasts who make their way to the Kiss Ultra Lounge off Woodlawn Avenue.
Delai says he harbors no anger or regrets. He recently sat with Qcitymetro.com to talk about his departure from radio and the lessons he learned along the way.
What follows is an edited transcript of that interview.
Q. Your father was a veteran DJ. Did you naturally assume you’d always make your living behind a mike?
Let me say this. I saw myself behind a mike doing one of two things. I honestly thought I would be a minister. I wanted to be behind a microphone, whether it was ministering and inspiring people or on the radio.
I love radio. I’ve done stand-up comedy. I wanted to reach the people, make the people laugh and understand that if you don’t laugh at life, life will laugh at you.
Q. Were you angry when the radio station decided to go a different way?
I’m not mad because business is business. If they can downsize to save money, then so be it. Syndicated radio is much cheaper than paying a salary.
It took me by surprise the day they told me I would not be going on the air the next day. I thought there would be more opportunity, or by the end of the month. But it was, “no, today is your last day,” and I was like, “whoa! whoa!”
But as my father said, you’re only as good as your last show. You’re not in radio until you’ve been fired.
Q. So how have you been since then?
It’s been some ups and some downs. But now at 39 I’m coming to understand that I wouldn’t trade nothing for this journey.
Even the hard parts you learn from, even the parts where it seems God just let you go and you’re in the middle of the sea by yourself. He wants you out there in the sea by yourself because there’s something he wants you to learn out there in the middle of the sea.
Q. And what do you think it was he wanted you to learn?
Patience. He wanted me to learn that my wife was one the greatest gifts he ever gave me, and I was not seeing or utilizing that to full potential.
Q. How so?
I’ve had success promoting shows, DJ-ing shows, doing this, doing that. But never have I been as peaceful until I came together with my wife and said, “You want to do this?” Until my wife showed me what she wanted to do, I never understood it, and thus was born “A Peace of Jazz.”
Q. Why jazz?
I don’t want to do hip-hop anymore. I don’t want to do R&B anymore. When you hear jazz, it inspires you, it gives you the ability to reach down in your soul, to feel peace.
We want to bring together an event that truly, for four or five hours, can take away the fact that you might have gotten an eviction notice, or they picked up your car, or they might have given you a pink slip on your job.
Q. Some say husbands and wives shouldn’t work together. How is it working with Monica?
Like everything, it has its ups and downs. But you know what? It’s amazing. The things that I can’t stand and the things that drive me crazy and I hate are the things that I need to do. You know how you fight discipline? She’s ultimately right.
Q. Has launching this venture been harder than you thought it would be?
Yes, yes it is.
Let me say it like my grandmother used to say it. Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody’s willing to die. Everybody wants fried chicken, but ain’t nobody willing to pick feathers or wring a neck.
I think Charlotte has been a market where people think you have to give away something good in our community. In other communities people pay for what they want. But in our community people are like, “It costs? Are you kidding me?”
Well, absolutely it costs you something.
You give one hundred percent, and people want to pay ten, twenty-five percent.
Q. This was a real gamble for you.
Absolutely it was a gamble. I put my 401(k) on the line. I put my family on the line. I make no bones about it.
I took the money that I had, personal money, besides my 401(k), and the Creator has blessed me beyond…I don’t want to say beyond belief because I knew it was coming. But the people he’s put in my path are helping me.
My staff. None of my staff is getting paid. They are doing it because they believe in me and they love me and they want to be a part of something that’s bigger than all of us.
Q. What does success look like for you?
A perfect bill of health from the doctor (laughter).
My father, my grandfather…they told me, “Son, with good health you can make all the money, diamonds and gold and accumulate all the wealth you ever wanted. But with all that wealth, when your time is up you can’t go to God and try to buy another second of time.”
So, I realize that. I want my babies to see what their mother and their father are doing. That’s success for me.
Q. Any regrets you didn’t go into the ministry?
No, because I still can.
Q. Do you think you will?
Do I think I will? (long pause) Yeah, absolutely.