MTV’s runaway reality hit Making the Band 2 has been a guilty pleasure for millions of Americans for nearly two years. Unlike most other reality shows, which feature a token black face as a perfunctory gesture to black viewers and liberal media police, MB2 is all about providing a weekly glimpse into black “reality.” Unfortunately, the result has largely been a post-modern caricature of black life refracted through the lens of mass media. A curious addition to the third season of the show has been stoic road manager Jason Wiley (replacing the now ubiquitous minstrel Mr. Bentley), who serves as the straight man for the antics of Fred, Babs, Dylan, Ness, Chopper (a.k.a. Young City) and Sarah. While at first glance, the bright, handsome, and articulate Ivy League graduate may seem out of place, his presence has garnered favorable attention from viewers. PopMatters cultural critic Marc L. Hill caught up with Jason in between meetings at the Bad Boy headquarters.
PopMatters: So what’s Da Band up to these days?
Jason Wiley: The show wrapped in January so they’re working hard on the next album, which is due out sometime in the fall.
PM: How is this season of Making Da Band 2 different than the last?
JW: This season we’re trying to show Da Band in a good light. A lot was put on them about how bad they were. They need to be shown in a better light because we’re trying to sell records here.
PM: That’s interesting because you guys debuted right behind Outkast on the billboard charts with over 200,000 records sold but you barely made gold. What happened?
JW: I think it’s a situation with people not feeling they’re a worthy group to buy the album. The show got people to see them and know them but not their music. They were more interested in their buffoonery.
PM: What’s going be different this time? Aren’t you worried about that again?
JW: This season has focused a lot on their show performances and has their music throughout. Last season had other people’s music in it. Also, this time we’re showing their human side too.
PM: But even still there are some characters who we love to hate. Like Dylan. My sources tell me that he’s getting kicked out of the band. Is that true?
JW: Just watch the show. You might be surprised. The possibility that Puff is going to move one of them out of the group is there but he might not. To say that one of the members of the group is going to get cut is to jump to conclusions without the full story. The fact is, you’re not guaranteed a spot. People are going to have to prove their worth if they want to stay. This is not just a free ride and it can be any one of them. Just like any other job, if you don’t work hard you’ll be fired.
PM: Why would someone who worked so hard to get to this point stay home, not go to shows, and all the other stuff we see people do on the show?
JW: It becomes a situation of not feeling appreciated, not feeling like a part of the group. Everybody sees how they feel about Dylan but no one is like “I wonder how he feels about being in a group that isn’t from the same background that he is.” He feels that sometimes the producers don’t understand reggae. Sometimes he doesn’t feel like he’s part of the family or that the family likes him.
[Note: Reliable sources maintain that Dylan has been kicked out of the group and has not been heard from in over six weeks. No information has been given about his future with the label]
PM: Last year you’re a college student, then a summer intern, and now you’re on MTV every week. What’s that like?
JW: It’s been good and bad. A lot people are calling me for a job or thinking that I’m making a huge amount of money. It’s stressful but I can’t complain. But my parents are social workers and this isn’t anything like what they went through. I’m in the entertainment industry.
PM: You say you don’t have a stressful job but you sure look stressed. What band members would you say are the most difficult to work with?
JW: I think all six are the same honestly. All six have a breaking point.
PM: I know that television exaggerates things but often to proportion. Outside of fighting with Fred, little attention is on Ness. There’s not that much attention on Fred. But there always seems to be Sarah the diva, immature Chopper, and Dylan just being Dylan. You wouldn’t say that those three are more difficult to deal with than the others?
JW: No. Everybody has their thing. Even if Ness decides, “I don’t feel like speaking at this interview today,” that’s a problem. If we go to the radio station and he doesn’t feel like speaking, that’s just as bad as somebody not showing up. I think it’s easier to catch certain things on camera than somebody not wanting to speak.
PM: What’s the attention been like for you?
JW: Well, I’m in New York so it’s kind of different. But when I go to other places it’s like “Oh my god, Oh my god you’re from the band!!” It’s really unusual because I’m a really private person. It’s weird to me.
PM: Does this mean you’re not going to be the next Mr. Bentley?
JW: [laughs] Not at all. I will not be the next Bentley. I do not need to be all in front of the cameras. I do not need to be on film or anything like that. I just want to handle the business. I want to make sure there are hungry artists out there who have the ability and the knowledge to make it.
PM: Who else are you working with?
JW: No one already out there. I’m currently working with a producer and a songwriter. I’m working with a rapper and an R&B singer.
PM: What’s it like working with P. Diddy?
JW: Puff is a perfectionist and he works 24/7. The man literally doesn’t sleep. He calls meetings at 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning. It puts you on pins and needles because he expects a lot out of you. But he places the same expectation on himself. It’s hard but it makes me a better person. It makes me understand the industry better.