September marks the seventh month
that Americans have been under some sort of stay-at-home order. COVID-19 has led to historically high unemployment, leaving 30 million people without a steady paycheck. The forced stillness has made creatives re-envision entrepreneurship, their brands, and how they market themselves. 

A month before Dion “Showtime” Chavis got laid off from K97.5, where he was an on-air personality, the Raleigh hip-hop radio station had furloughed employees because of the pandemic. With more than 10 years of radio experience and an impressive ratings record, Chavis felt relatively safe. 

But the pandemic might be accelerating a pre-existing trend in radio. A recent article in the industry publication Radio World quoted a corporate executive at a major radio group: “It is pretty clear that corporate radio is trending to more centralized operations in general, similar to what iHeartMedia is doing,” the executive said. “If anything, this pandemic proved remote operation could be achieved much more easily than first thought. I think we will generally see facilities with fewer people and more on-air content being generated centrally instead of locally.”

That trend makes local, independent voices like Chavis’s more important than ever, and while he was caught a bit off-guard by the layoff, he quickly pivoted. Before he was on K97.5, he did a college radio show in Norfolk, Virginia called The Talk of the Town, which he rebooted—reuniting with the original cohosts—as The Talk of the Town, Unfiltered, which he streams on YouTube and Facebook. So far, former No Limit Records artist Mystikal and actor/comedian Jay Pharoah have been featured guests. 

Chavis is also leading workshops on “cultural competency basics” to help people understand how media and pop culture influence racism and bias, and he and his wife have launched a T-shirt line that builds on their prior “Black Love” brunch series.

I caught up with the husband, father of two, and proud stay-at-home dad to discuss his radio journey and his impeccable hustle. 

INDY: What was going through your mind when K97.5 let you go? 

DION “SHOWTIME” CHAVIS: A part of being in this field is that you have to foresee the things that are coming. And I think it’s important, particularly in a field that many folks say is dying, like radio, that you kind of look at the writing on the wall. I never wanted to be the person who was caught off-guard, and then I’m left trying to figure out how to pay my mortgage. This had been on my mind for at least five years prior to them letting me go.

Also, I wasn’t passionate about it, to be honest with you. I felt like I lost my passion. I lost my fight for doing what I was doing because I’ve been doing it for so long, and it just started to become redundant. Sometimes, when you don’t move and it’s time for you to move, God will find a way to move you. We put ourselves in these situations where we get stuck and comfortable, and then God comes and he’s like, “Nah, player, there’s some other work for you to do.”

Did you have a game plan in place?

No, it took me a minute to process it. Because if someone tells you that you’re going to lose your main stream of income, right? Your mind should automatically go to, “All right, well, what am I going to do to keep food on the table?” I got a wife, two kids, and a dog, so I got to be sure they straight. I took a couple of days. I talked to my wife about it and began to process it. You know, your routine changes. I had the same routine for five years. 

You have been super productive since the layoff, with the revitalization of The Talk of the Town

It’s so crazy how things just have a way of coming full circle. The Talk of the Town was a morning show that I created over 10 years ago. My cohosts and I, Rich Girl, D. Marie, and DJ Green, had this chemistry. When I moved here, we didn’t pursue it anymore. But for the last 10 years we have all remained in contact even though we were pursuing different things. You know, people grow up and kind of move on with their lives. 

But during the pandemic, of course, everybody was in this whole “Let’s go live” thing. And of course, DJ D-Nice set it off with the Club Quarantine parties he was doing. That was the inception of everyone saying, “All right, let’s create some content where we go live.” So I reached out to all of them individually, and I said, “You know, what do y’all think about doing a Talk of the Town reunion show? 

People hadn’t seen us together in over 10 years. The way that we ended the show was kind of abrupt back in the day. Nobody ever knew what happened. People still come up to me or hate me to this day and say, “Oh, I miss y’all on the radio. I miss Talk of the Town.” It felt like this was the perfect way to kind of seal what our legacy was as a unit. You know what I mean? 

So we linked up and we did a virtual reunion show. The show was supposed to be for like an hour and ended up being like three hours on Facebook Live. The chemistry was still there. It was super crazy. 

Afterwards, I said, “Well, what do y’all think about turning this reunion into like a real thing? A real piece of content that we produced and work on?” And everyone agreed. We started doing our show every Thursday night, and the show is something that’s growing organically. We started off with maybe a couple of views every Thursday. And now, one of our most recent episodes where we interviewed Mystikal during the airing of the No Limit Chronicles has 49,000 views.

Comment on this story at

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.