The song “Vice City” by Jay Rock featuring Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul runs four minutes and 43 seconds and curses 36 times.
It is Ryan Flannery’s job to censor this track and all others before it hits the airwaves of Seton Hall’s FM radio station, WSOU.
Many know Flannery as “DJ Quick.” I’ve known him personally as a runner and a guy who likes hip-hop. For him, the censor’s job at WSOU is just an added task to a long list of responsibilities he must take care of before another busy weekend comes to a close. It is almost 11 p.m. on a Sunday, and he has a three-hour hip-hop show to do before he returns home, sleeps and wakes up to train at 7 a.m. on Monday.
The jockey and producer of “WhatChu Been Missin’” by night, Flannery is a cross country runner and student at Seton Hall by day. He also covers sports for the station and is a part-time employee at Hot 97’s station. It is a grueling schedule for the 22-year-old runner seeking a career in the music industry.
“He’s spreading himself real, real thin,” head coach John Moon, an avid listener of Flannery’s, said. “He understands it (though), he can deal with it and he’s enjoying it.”
The senior has been spreading himself thin for a long time. On the surface there is running, working, hosting his show and going to class, but Flannery’s pile of responsibilities goes far beyond that.
With a mother, Michele, working Walmart night shifts the past 10 years and a younger brother with autism, Sean, back home in Forked River, N.J., Flannery has been the “man of the house” since the summer before his senior year of high school. It was that summer – on July 27, 2011 – that Flannery’s father, Mickey, passed away. The family had been at his side for a few days prior to his death, but he was already in a coma when they arrived. They never got to say goodbye.
“He just drank himself to death,” Ryan explained. “I just broke down [when he passed]. It was the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen. Those couple days we basically just had to wait for him to die.”
Ryan, who elects not to drink, knew of his father’s alcoholism long before he died. He picked up on the problem around age 13. Two years later Mickey was laid off at the Asbury Park Press, at which point Ryan said he “spiraled out of control.” Michele, who had dealt with his drinking before the kids were born, kicked him out of the house. It was rough on the brothers, especially Ryan.
“It was hard,” Michele said. “His father passed away and we had separated earlier than that. He really didn’t have him around for a long time. I had to support the family on my own financial means – I work a pretty thankless job – so it was hard, but we persevered.”
Despite the problems, Ryan misses his dad. The tattoo on his right arm reads “Like Father, Like Son,” along with a Celtic cross wrapped in an Irish flag, a nod to Mickey’s same tattoo in the same place. Ryan calls it a tribute to his late father.
He also says his mother’s positivity is what got the rest of the family through.
“She’s definitely the strongest person I’ll ever meet in my life,” he said. “To go through that twice with him and then raise me and my brother by herself for the last eight years is just incredible…she’s like this superwoman.”
Originally having taken up cross country as a way to get in shape for high school basketball, Ryan eventually realized running was a ticket to a college education and a way to ease the pressure on his mother.
Now a team captain for the Hall, he has been able to apply the lessons learned through cross country to life.
“It’s taught me to be physically and mentally tough,” he said of the sport. “You go through stuff in life but you’ve got to be able to push your mind through it and say, ‘I’m going to get through this and be a better person.’”
Flannery, who recorded a 28:31.85 8K time on Sept. 19, but did not place at the Cappy Anderson Invitational, added that what Moon has taught him has impacted him greatly.
“He’s a great guy, he’s a legend,” he said of the coach in his 44th year at Seton Hall. “He’s seen it all and done it all but the one thing I take from Moon is that he really teaches you to be a good person.”
“It’s an honor to be his coach,” Moon said in return.
“I will forever be grateful to him,” Michele said of Moon. “Ryan looks up to him as a father figure.”
While Moon and cross country have provided Ryan with invaluable life lessons, it is music that has allowed him to understand the things he has learned.
“I love music because it’s just life,” he explained. “You can relate anything you’re going through to music.”
“I think maybe it’s a coping mechanism for him,” his mom said. “I think it’s helped him cope with a lot of personal issues that he’s had in his life.”
Ryan’s favorite artist – and admitted hero – is Eminem. The speedy DJ can relate to what the rapper says in his songs, so when he has a bad day he can drift away and put them on.
“Eminem has a lot of meaningful songs,” Ryan said. “I can relate to him because his dad left and his mom kind of had to raise him on her own, but he had to fend for himself, too, which I’ve had to do in my life.”
In addition, Ryan has taught himself the majority of what he knows about the music industry; from mixing on soundboards to turning tables. He has transformed “WhatChu Been Missin’” into a top-flight show, no different than what Peter Rosenberg, Ryan’s co-worker and another idol, does at Hot 97. Soon, his college career will be over and he will have to leave it in someone else’s hands, but he is appreciative of the experience and knowledge it has given him. He says that not just of the radio show, but of Seton Hall as a whole.
“I’m going to miss everything,” he said. “I’m going to miss my teammates, I’m going to miss competing – as much as I don’t think I will, I will – I’ll miss the practices, the camaraderie of the team. I’ll miss working here [at WSOU], doing games and being surrounded by the Seton Hall community. I’ll miss doing the show for sure. I’ve done this show for three straight years. I’ve made this my child… I’m going to miss everything about this experience.”
Come May, Flannery will end one chapter and begin another of what has been a young life filled with responsibility, hard times and success. It has not always been easy for him, but with the help of others, he feels he has made the best of some bad situations.
“I feel like I’m tough-minded,” he said. “I’ve been through all this stuff in my life that’s been negative and I’ve spinned it into a positive. I’ve learned that from great life-teaching from my mom, from Coach Moon.”
“Everybody goes through s***,” he said.
Gary Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @GPhillips2727.