Los Angeles' 93.5 FM KDAY: Back To The Original
Back in the early 80s, a station emerged out of Los Angeles on the AM dials that catered to the urban community by playing the music that the streets were listening to. That station was known as 1580 AM KDAY led by legendary Program Director Greg Mack, who had a unique vision of creating a station that played Hip-Hop, Funk and R & B on a full scale basis day and night all week long. The station introduced us to a young Compton DJ known as Dr. Dre, who would do mix-shows on Saturday Nights in what would be the launching of the Mack Attack Mix-Masters which also included the likes of DJ Joe Cooley, Tony G, DJ Jammin Gemini, and other now-legendary Los Angeles DJs. KDAY also introduced the world to the Traffic Jam which is now a staple for most radio stations around the nation. Los Angeles now had a place where local artists could take their music to be heard and many songs such as Eazy-Es Boyz N The Hood were able to launch a huge street buzz that would carry beyond the Southern California area.
As beloved as the station was with the Los Angeles community, 1580 KDAY changed to a business-talk radio format as it could no longer compete with the emergence of Hip-Hop on the FM dials. The AM frequency was just too weak as listeners chose stations that were playing the same music but with a stronger reception. After nearly 15 years off the air, KDAY was reborn on 93.5 FM and many had hoped to once again hear the station that they loved as some felt that the other L.A. Hip-Hop stations had become too commercialized. That hope was short-lived as KDAY soon followed the same playlists that the other radio stations were using and it become just another Rap/Top 40 station. But on August 17, 2009 something interesting took place and out of nowhere the station decided to scrap its current format in place of the original 1580 AM format. Songs such as La-Di-Da-Di by Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh, Radio by Eazy-E, Deep Cover by Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre, and other notable classics from the 80s and 90s could be heard from 93.5 FM. The station then continued to play commercials announcing that they were sorry for subjecting listeners to music that was being played continuously over again and that from now on Los Angeles had a station that it could finally identify itself with. AllHipHop.com took a trip to the KDAY offices to talk with Adrian A.D. Scott, the Program Director behind this current radical change. Like Rock N Roll, Hip-Hop now has an FM station dedicated to its classic hits. Will this risk pay off? Only time and the audience can answer that. For those outside of the Los Angeles area, you can hear 93.5 KDAY streamed live at www.935kday.com.
AllHipHop.com: One minute your listeners are hearing the standard mainstream rap format that is heard on most urban stations and then on August 17th at midnight, the station completely changes to an All-Classic Hip-Hop format. What was the reason for the change?
A.D.: We knew that we had a lot of equity in the name KDAY. Growing up in Los Angeles, I've known that name from the womb. It was like having your star quarterback sitting on the bench. I said, "You know what? We haven't used you in a while. It's time for you to go out and play." We decided to go back to what got us here to begin with.
AllHipHop.com: Rock N Roll has its stations that have a classic format and there are oldies stations as well. Rap has 30 years of music that's just sitting around. I can't recall of a single FM station in America that has switched to a Rap Classic format. What makes you believe this can work?
A.D.: You said it yourself! There's 30 years of music that is just sitting around. Think of all of the listeners that are now in their 30's or close to it. Where is the music that they grew up listening to? Kids also love the music of old because this is where it came from. To say that you can't build a format out of this music is absolutely wrong. You said it! There is 30 years of music that has not been played in God knows how long. I'm here to bring it back. To play those classics where you remember what you were doing when you first heard that song. When you heard Cypress Hill's "Insane In The Brain", what were you doing? Or "Deep Cover" by Snoop & Dre - and Snoop had that flat-top? I'll tell you what I was doing. I was going to middle school in Long Beach and I was on the bus playing those tapes with my headphones and tape-deck. The music has evolved. If you listen to the other radio stations, rap has gone to a pop vibe which is cool because it's evolved and that is what music is supposed to do. We are just taking it back to where that all originated. It's not all just Hip-Hop. The original KDAY played Prince, The L.A. Dream Team, Mary Jane Girls, Nuance and Stevie B. We are bringing all of that back too. We are a station about good times - stuff that you can play at a Bar-B-Q.
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AllHipHop.com: Aside from a few one hour Old School shows, I don't know of any other FM station that is doing this on a full scale. Do you?
A.D.: In 2004, the KDAY station tried to relaunch with an Old School feel but they didn't get the formula right. There was a station in Phoenix that tried to do what KDAY was doing but I don't know if they are still on the air or not. Los Angeles is a melting pot. For people who don't know L.A., we accept music from New York. We accept music from the South. We are so diverse out here; we can absorb all of that music and put it in to one. That is the beauty of Los Angeles. We will play Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, Boogie Down Productions and all that while playing our own older artists like Paperboy, Domino, Snoop, Ice-T and Cube - those artists who are significant to the L.A. sound and who also revolutionized Hip-Hop. We tried to do this in 2004 but it wasn't done right - but we are going to do it right this time. I will pull this off and you can mark my words. Once I pull this off, there are going to be a lot of other markets that are going to follow us.
AllHipHop.com: You just launched the first "oldies" station for Hip-Hop on the FM airwaves.
A.D.: I don't even want to call it oldies, its just good music. I am building this format. We've got 30 years of music to select from and there is enough to go around.
AllHipHop.com: How much like the original 1580 KDAY are you going to become? Will there be radio personalities? Are you bringing back the KDAY Mix-Masters like Tony G and Joe Cooley? Is the legendary radio host Julio G coming back?
A.D.: As far as bringing on talent, there will be a pool of talent that I will be choosing from. As far as bringing back some of the originals, those conversations will happen. I haven't spoken to anybody yet but I am getting a lot of calls from the old school cats. While we do this, we have to remember that we are in a different world now. We deal with PPM's and for those that don't know what that is, those are Personal People Meters. PPM is based on familiarity while the old way was based on TSL which is time-spent-listening. You have to ask yourself if people are familiar with what you are doing, so I am adjusting to the new way of doing things while trying to bring you a unique format.
AllHipHop.com: Have you received any support from the old school artists since you've launched?
A.D.: What's funny is that I am getting more love from the artists of today! The Clipse were at the station the other day and they were digging it. I had Jeremih singing an old Biggie verse. Nipsey Hussle, who is going to be the next big thing, came to our Fresh Fest concert and he told me that this music is what he grew up on and what he wants to base his music on. He told me that 25 years from now he wants people to sing his records like the ones that we are playing. Ive received more love from the newer cats which is a good thing because that means I am reaching a new market. Im sure the old school cats will reach out to me soon.
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AllHipHop.com: How are you selecting the music? Are you basing everything off of the old KDAY playlists? Or are you drawing up your own playlist?
A.D.: Its a combination of both. I started out as a DJ. All DJs are either great music producers or real good music people. The thought process starts with me and ends with me but I have a few people in the office helping me out. Theyll bring up songs from the past. We also get a lot of requests from the audience. They are picking the songs too. Ill play some songs that they remember and they will call back requesting more songs. We are about 4,000 songs deep already. There are people that believe that you cant get away without playing the current songs but we are going to test it. I havent decided on that yet.
AllHipHop.com: I was just about to ask you that. The original KDAY was known for breaking artists, specifically in Los Angeles. Do you plan to do the same? Or just play old school music?
A.D.: I think that everything is going to evolve and that the audience is going to tell me what we need to do. If the people want me to start breaking artists, I believe that they will let me know. I am not opposed to it but right now I am letting this brand build. We are bringing KDAY back. We started this and without us there would be no Hot 97 in New York or Power 106 in L.A. We started this and we are going to finish it.
AllHipHop.com: Radio can be a very political business as its run as a numbers game based on collected data. How did you convince the station owner to take a huge risk like this?
A.D.: If you look at the Los Angeles market, there are about 5 stations that play Hip-Hop/Top 40 Hits. The powers that be understand the vision that I have and the equity that is in the call letters of KDAY. I had to convince them that the original station was beyond a ghetto or thug mentality. Its music for a melting pot of people just wanting to have a good time. This format sets us apart from the others. I no longer have to worry about competing and playing Lady Gaga 125 times. We have our own identity now. Im not trying to fight in this game playing the Black Eyed Peas over and over. Its cool and I love them but thats for those other stations. I am not going to play Flo-rida 450 times a week.
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AllHipHop.com: Have you had any backlash from advertisers over this new format? Nobody is upset that their commercials are going to be associated with current music?
A.D.: No. Its actually refreshing because its a product that everybody likes. The average buyer in this market is 30 years and up. I am playing music that they remember. Im playing the songs that they tell their kids about when they were out shaking their rumps. At the end of the day we are playing music thats bringing families together. There has been no backlash at all. People are actually telling us, Finally! A station is doing something different. We are different from Power 106, KIIS FM and everybody else.