When frequenters of K-Soul 94.5 FM tuned to its position on the dial this weekend, it was to only quickly discover that without warning, their destination for "the best old school and R&B" had been replaced by something a little bolder and less conventional by radio standards. The silent makeover of K-Soul happened as the night turned to 12 a.m. Saturday morning, when Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" ushered in the station's new era of classic hip-hop.
Overnight, the new Boom 94.5 FM landed on the airwaves of Dallas just as a similar format suddenly popped up on the Top 40 pop-centric Hot 93.3 FM. Is this suddenly a tidal change for North Texas radio?
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With 94.5 now specializing in late-80s to early-2000s hip-hop, listeners have, in short time, come to expect anything from The Beastie Boys to that Jigga Man, Pimp C and B-U-N B. And according to Gary Spurgeon, the station's general manager, the success of the format has been overwhelming in its two initial markets: the month-old Houston launch site and its Philadelphia station, which has been spinning hip-hop for a few weeks.
Spurgeon describes the reinvention as following a "mass appeal" formula, serving a community of 24- to 49-year old radio listeners across several demographics. "This is the music that defines Generation X," Spurgeon said early Monday morning. "Recently released data has shown that listeners in our Houston and Philadelphia markets have an appetite for this format."
This isn't the first makeover the frequency, now in its 56th year, has seen. From its days as alternative rock mainstay The Edge (1989-2000) to the various incarnations K-Soul underwent in the last 12 years, this is the first local and one of only a few national radio epicenters for what's best described as "adult contemporary hip-hop."
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In similar fashion, Top 40 station Hot 93.3 began its old school Hip-Hop holiday format Friday night. Neither would comment on the seeming competitive "coincidence," but Boom 94.5 made a distinction clear. "We're full-time here," Spurgeon said. "94.5 is classic hip-hop all the time."
Boom 94.5fm will remain commercial-free for 94 hours before returning to commercial programming. All syndicated shows have been discontinued on the frequency, while management assures that fan-favorite "Big Baby" Kenny J. remains and future on-air talent will be pooled right from the city, "live and local."
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Thanks to the weekend developments, Dallas puts itself in a historical position as one of the first markets to embrace the need for adult contemporary hip hop radio. Before Boom, there existed no radio frequency where one could find Rakim, the Notorious B.I.G and Dr. Dre on an uninterrupted basis. So how long before the few kids who actually listen radio return to their beloved millennial favorites? And how much longer will the old heads enjoy the nostalgic brashness of Master P over the classic, easy-listening of Luther Vandross?
The scripture says "Hip-Hop don't stop," but can rap's Old Testament survive in the new age? Ironically, only time will tell.
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