Saturday, February 5th, 2005

Goodies, Previews, and A Tribute To Billy Jam

This piece in the San Jose Mercury News is not only too kind, it’s got sound clips of the interview with Billy Jam at KALX (showing why I’ll never make it as a professional radio dude, unlike our boy, the proud new pappy O-Dub whose NPR-meets-Shaft voice makes ladies and babies swoon), plus short clips from the CSWS mixtape and even the Ghetto Brothers! Thank you, Nerissa.

Some minor thangs:

+ I met the crew at KDVS, not KALX where I also played reggae, African, jazz and Naked Raygun.

+ Bob Wing was my boss at ColorLines. So I wasn’t the founding editor, just one of them. Nerissa corrected it! Wish all journalists were this good.

+ It was a bad-hair day. Well, every day is a bad-hair day. Sorry Gary!

+ Our boy Sasha is still a boy! Nerissa corrected it! Sasha has his manhood back.

(On an unrelated note, finally got that Sticker Shock post up that I’ve been promising for 2 months. Hey at least it wasn’t four years.)

This show actually meant a whole lot to me, so it was beautiful to have Nerissa there to cover it. It was the first radio interview I did for the book. But also it was really real because I actually got my start in radio 20 years ago doing the cultural affairs show with KALX’s Third World Department. So to be able to come back and do the thang with one of my oldest friends, Billy, was just off the meter.

Can I tell you about Billy? (I know Danyel could.) Back in the 80s, this dude was probably the first white guy I heard playing hip-hop on the radio, or maybe I should say the first white guy who was clearly white–Billy’s got a wonderful Irish brogue to his voice that suits his devil-may-care attitude perfectly.

And the way he did it, boy. He had a show where he’d play Too Short uncensored, and all the underground groups you’d get at Leopold’s on cassette with their little cartoons on them (think Snoop Dogg’s “Doggystyle” cover) and he called everyone–his in-studio guests, his posse, the callers, the station management–biaaatches, usually but not always as a compliment.

The highlight of his show was always “Call-In Raps”. He’d throw on a beat and then the phones would light up. Fools would call from all over the Bay to try to get on and rap their own schoolboy rhymes, usually but not always on beat with the record.

Sometimes fools would be so juiced to be on the air they wouldn’t wait to be introduced, they’d just start spitting as soon as they were on the air. Hours of pure chaos over the airwaves. At some point he started calling his show “Hip-Hop Scud Attack”. The Berkeley longhairs were not happy.

At some point they conspired to get him off the air. If I’m not mistaken, it was when he stuck a middle finger at the FCC and played Public Enemy’s Fear of A Black Planet uncensored all the way through. This happened a few more times at a few more radio stations in almost exactly the same way. I remember Billy once said he’d been kicked out of almost every radio station in the Bay Area. Their loss.

For Billy’s loyal fans, like me, we’d wait to see where he resurfaced–on pirate radio, on the web, on videos, on CDs. Along with Davey D, he was one of the first hip-hop journalists to emerge from the West Coast. These days, he’s a one-man creative factory, churning out more incredible underground music and videos than anyone can imagine. And he is back at KALX, doing the Cultural Affairs show.

For me, he’s sealed his place in the Legends of Bay Area Hip-Hop Hall of Fame.

posted by @ 8:49 am | 1 Comment

One Response to “Goodies, Previews, and A Tribute To Billy Jam”

  1. Danyel says:

    No question! Long live Billy Jam. And thanks, Billy, for mailing me a CD copy of our (last year’s) radio interview. People always ask for your address, say they’re going to mail a copy, and then they never do.

    For this and a zillion other large-scale reasons, Billy’s a man among men.

    You all are making me mad homesick.

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