It’s 2:20 p.m. Friday and Sean Woods is standing in James S. Rickards High School’s gymnasium. He’s tired. His black hoodie covers his freshly braided hair, and his fatigue, as he paces across the gym floor. He hugs students and consults with school officials about the rally while text messaging on his Blackberry.
He deejayed last night at Baja’s Beachclub, and left at 1:30 a.m., which he considers early. He woke up at 8:30 a.m. and followed his pre-work routine: reading up on current events for his radio show on WANM 90.5 and recording a few commercials.
Today is Rickard’s homecoming pep rally, which he’s scheduled to emcee. He’s appeared at the school more than 10 times.
Woods considers community events, especially for kids, paramount. He gives away homecoming shirts, concert tickets and other prizes and invites rapper M-Beezy to perform for the students. It’s show time.
The 25-year-old from Daytona uncovers his head dropping his lethargy along with his hoodie. He switches his signature white tee with a Rickard’s homecoming shirt, grabs his microphone and runs onto the floor. Sean D is in the building!
“When I say Rick, ya’ll say High”
“Rick!” “High!” “Rick!” “High!”
Woods is enjoying his second love – entertainment. His first is the radio, a passion that has gotten him televised, invited to appear on music panels and rewarded for his deejaying.
His slogan, “You can’t hate Sean D,” is so well known, that his friends cringe when fans recite it around town.
Some think his talent is too big for Tallahassee. But he’s happy where he is, believing that his hard work and patience will pay off one day, regardless of residency.
YEARS OF SOWING
After the rally, Woods headed back to Florida A&M University’s campus to host his radio show, which airs Monday and Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. on 90.5 FM.
He sits wearing his studio headphones and fitted cap cocked at an angle. As he swivels back and forth from the computerized music library to the mixing board to the telephone to the shortcut 360 that edits the phone calls, he pauses long enough to check a text message.
Immediately the studio phone is flooded with listeners.
“We love you for doing that for the Rickard’s Raiders,” said a mother of two students at the high school.
“Mom get off the phone with Sean D,” Woods jokes with the mother as he blushes, while other listeners call multiple times.
“This is going to be my last time I’m calling, but I want to give a shout out to my momma,” said a male listener named Gabriel.
“You can call as much as you want,” Woods replied, all smiles.
“That stuff means more to me than any type of money,” he said. “You can’t put a dollar value on that type of love.”
The love didn’t come easy. It took Woods four years on the air at FAMU’s college radio station before he made it blasphemous to hate him. He feels, only now, that he can enjoy the benefits of his hard work: free dinners, clothing discounts, women, which he assures he never takes advantage of, and paid appearances.
In fact, when Woods entered FAMU as a freshman in 2002, he had no idea what he wanted to do. He started as a computer science student and made his way to the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication two years later after attending a professional development class with a friend. He switched his major to public relations.
From there he set his sights on the school’s radio station introducing himself to former program director Gregg Bishop.
“I was walking across the quad and this kid (Woods) came up to me and said, ‘I really want to get on this radio thing.'” Bishop responded skeptically, “Oh really?”
FAMU’s campus is littered with wannabe deejays, but few who were dedicated. What made Sean Woods different, Bishop said, is that he followed through and was eager to learn.
“He was always in the production room doing something,” Bishop recalled. “If he didn’t know it, he would figure it out himself. He was hungry.”
But balancing an appetite for radio, an obligation to school and the need for money was not easy. Woods did his radio show on Mondays, took 15 credits a semester and worked at Ross Dress for Less in between.
“Whatever time classes ended, I would go to Ross after,” he said.
He would change into his uniform, hop into his 1988 Buick LeSabre and go to work until, sometimes, 2 a.m.
Woods said he was constantly in trouble at work because of the radio station.
“I done skipped so many days at Ross because of the radio,” he laughed. “And I got in trouble with Ross because they heard me on the radio.” But Woods didn’t care.
“I was in love with the radio,” Woods said.
By the following school year he quit Ross and was promoted to music director. Unable to survive on just his radio paycheck, Woods began deejaying at any and everything, birthday parties to cookouts, it didn’t matter. He was hustling.
“If you talked to me two years ago I could give you a dictionary of problems,” Woods said, referring to anxiety over paying his bills. But his focus was still the radio.
The following year he became the station’s operations manager. And the next school year brought him two accolades: becoming program director and receiving his degree in public relations.
Woods’ drive for success and music started when he was younger. Surrounded by music and entertainment, he received his first drum set when he was 2 years old. In elementary school he did the televised school announcements. He even tried to sing along and deejay in his mother’s car.
“Those were hard times … because that brother can’t sing,” said Jackie Boyce, Woods’ mom.
By middle school he played the snare drums in the marching band at Campbell Middle School. In two years, he became first chair in the band. His success followed him to high school where he became a drum major at Mainland High School, a sophomore in the position was a rare occurrence.
“He was the strongest, most influential leader I had,” said Jerry L. Picott, former band director for Campbell Middle School and Mainland High School.
Picott said Woods had a lot of energy and used it to help others.
“It’s all about what I can do to help others,” he said about Woods, a trait many say he’s transferred to 90.5.
“Some try to use the station to build themselves up, but Woods was trying to take the station higher,” Bishop said.
Woods’ determination to learn and to share his knowledge was something he learned from his stepfather Frederick Boyce.
Standing over the damaged engine of his LeSabre sophomore year, Woods couldn’t help but cry.
“Remember Sean, it’s right here,” he recalled his stepfather saying about a part under the hood. But Woods was young and mad, not trying to pay attention.
Woods’ stepfather was killed during his 11th grade in high school. It was finals week. Boyce took Woods to school every morning and was outside waiting for his stepson to come out. He was shot in the driveway of their house.
Woods ran out and saw his father laying on the ground bleeding.
“Sean I’m going to be all right,” Woods recalled.
When Woods was buzzed to the office later that day, he knew ‘Fred didn’t make it.’
“I learned respect from him,” Woods reminisced.
Woods said Boyce never went to college but was not afraid to learn. He said Boyce would study day and night to become a certified mechanic and “He had no problem saying, ‘Aye, Sean, do you know what this means?'”
At the time, Woods regarded Boyce’s relentless questions as stupid but as he grew older he understood the importance of being inquisitive in order to become self-reliant.
Now, “I hate not understanding stuff,” he said.
IN DUE TIME
Woods’ drive has enabled him to blossom in Tallahassee, yet he is not eager to uproot.
“I really think he’s outgrowing Tallahassee,”said Anna Taylor, former marketing and promotions director for the station.
She said his connection to FAMU, the community and the kids is probably the reason he stays.
Taylor was raised in Miami and lives in Atlanta now, two big radio markets and said she could see Woods fitting into either market easily. Bishop, now the assistant commissioner in New York City, agrees.
“He’s a gem,” Bishop said. “And in order for him to really shine, he’s going to have to leave Tallahassee.”
But Woods doesn’t see it that way.
“I haven’t hit the top part of the roof just yet,” he said.
For those who only deejay, the city does have limits. But Woods is not just a hype man. He’s also a public relations professional. He uses his PR skills to help produce press kits for local artists. He made national connections in Tallahassee.
“If all I’m going to do is be someone’s weekend talent, I don’t want to do it,” he said, “I want to own a radio station.”
Woods recently recorded three episodes of BET’s Rap City with fellow members Torrey “DJ Speedracer” Ford and Edris “Dreesey Baby” Morse of Tallahassee’s local deejaying group, The School Boyz.
During FAMU’s homecoming he sat on two panels: All HipHop.com and a TJs DJs record pool discussion. The School Boyz were also awarded Best DJ Crew at the 2008 Gainseville Music Summit.
Woods’ eyes are set on owning a radio station, helping artists develop their stage performance and holding community events for local students.
But until then, he’s just fine where he is, leaving nothing for any one to hate.
To view a slide show about Sean D, log on to www.famunewsnetwork.com and click on the FNN Media Gallery, got to the Student Gallery tab and click the student videos tab.