How Long, Oh, Lord, How Long

Radio One, Inc.
5900 Princess Garden Parkway
Seventh Floor
Lanham, MD 20706

Dear Big Shot Program Director,

Well, you've done it again. I had known since May that KRTS owner Mike Stude had sold the station to your Washington, D.C.-based radio megacorporation for $72.5 million, but nobody knew what your plans were for the station. This was Houston's last independent commercial FM station and the only full-time classical outlet in town, and I was sad to see it bite the dust, but I had pretty high hopes that something decent might take its place.

Rumor had it that it would be something fairly interesting, and since you at Radio One bill yourself as the Nation's Urban Specialists, we all knew it would be a station geared toward black listeners. Some said it was going to become an R&B/real, non-smooth jazz station -- a sort of cross between KTSU and Majic 102, while others said it would become a classic hip-hop station. (Or maybe I started the latter rumor myself -- I really want a station like that here in town, and I think it would succeed.)

Well, I found out a couple of weeks ago just how tragically wrong I was. I should have known all along that it wouldn't have been a classic hip-hop or jazz/R&B station. After all, the Boxx and Majic 102 are your other two properties in town, and competing with yourself is the last thing you would want to do.

So instead you give us KROI, "The New 92.1 KROI -- The '90s and Today." Which means lots of Sheryl Crow, Smash Mouth, Train and Red Hot Chili Peppers on the one hand, and Maroon 5's "This Love," Finger Eleven's "One Thing" and Bowling for Soup's "1985" approximately three times an hour -- each -- on the other.

Be still my fucking beating heart. That's really great stuff. It's truly the innovative, groundbreaking concoction we've all been waiting for with bated breath.

Oh, I see you working there. You're going after the Mix -- they're no longer the "hot AC" monopoly in town. And watch out, Sunny 99.1 -- you're just as chipperly Dilbertish as they are. You'll nick a few listeners from the Buzz, which, like the Mix and Sunny, is a Clear Channel property. And you should outflank Cox Radio's the Point in their desperate, possibly last-ditch effort to be all things to all nostalgic people.

But the thing is, in your attempt to make the best fit on the existing Houston pop/rock dial in the place where you believe you can do the most damage to your competitors, you've missed the forest for the trees, just like every other radio programmer here for the last, oh, forever. You see the jigsaw puzzle of suckiness and you see where there's a missing piece, a tiny sliver where the suckiness is yet incomplete, and you slot yourself right in. And the puzzle of shite is made whole, for the time being, and that's the problem. The whole puzzle sucks, both when it's complete and when it's missing pieces.

Jesus H. Christ! Is more of the same tired crap all we deserve? Does our radio really have to be as hellish as our summer climate? You people have seen to it that every horrendous overplayed shit-ditty now has a permanent home on the dial here, except, that is, for the old-school hip-hop stuff, which would actually be cool. I mean, you've got this station hovering right next to KTRU, KPFT and KTSU, right there where the few adventurous listeners who still have yet to forsake the dial for satellite radio, CDs or cassettes all hang out, and you slap these tepid turds on there? Lame.

I've said it before (see Racket, February 12), and I'll say it again. There's a killer station waiting to happen in this town, one that would make lots of money and spawn lots of copycats nationwide. Take the smarter edge of modern rock -- the White Stripes, the Hives, Franz Ferdinand, Coldplay, Radiohead, the Killers, the Thrills, the Strokes and Modest Mouse. Add in the smarter edge of modern commercial hip-hop -- Black Eyed Peas, OutKast, the Roots, Kanye West and stuff like that. And play the music that influenced those bands -- Zeppelin, the Talking Heads, the Pixies, U2, the Clash, the Jam, Television on the one hand, and Public Enemy, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and the Jungle Brothers on the other. (Since this is Houston, spin plenty of local hip-hop from the Geto Boys through Slim Thug, too.) Maybe do some live remotes from Numbers, the Proletariat and Pamland Central. Bring in Ceeplus, the Danseparc girls and other hip DJs for special shows. Add a local rock and hip-hop program on a weekend night.

And that's all you would have to do to have a cutting-edge 21st-century rock station. It's that simple. There's a whole demo out there that would, as you would put it, "get aboard" -- and that would be the youth, the one demo you court the most assiduously, if unsuccessfully. Rock-loving youngsters are extremely ill served here right now, but I guarantee you this: Every hip kid in town -- everyone not totally into hip-hop, that is -- would tune in to a station like the one I described, as would the cooler grayhairs, and you'd get the same or better ratings than any hackneyed Mix rip-off. What's more, they would stay tuned through the commercial breaks, because they would never know what was coming next, unlike on this station, where you're well-nigh assured some guy's gonna be emoting in a fake British accent about some woman over puerile piano chords and jive-ass guitar.

Hey, take my blueprint and you'd win some broadcasting awards. Billboard and Radio and Records would chime in with positive write-ups. The nation would be watching, and you'd do well. Houston would be forever grateful; the station would go a long way toward changing national assumptions about people here -- the same ones you have long assumed were just a bunch of tools who deserve nothing better than Train and 3 Doors Down all day and night.

But no, you wouldn't ever do that, because that would be something smart, new and different, and I've just about given up hoping that you'll ever try anything like that here. You might try that in some city that your marketing wonks will tell you is "hip," some place like Austin, Portland or San Francisco, but as for Houston? Naah. You'll just continue to give us the same stupid old tired-ass crap, because, after all, we're just Houston, and Houston is not allowed to have cool radio stations. It seems like it must be engraved on some stone tablet somewhere in the bowels of City Hall near the "no zoning" commandment, the one that dictates that the Astros will always break our hearts, and that other one that says all our local TV commercials have to be made by half-bright orangutans.

Hell, who am I kidding? Nobody is allowed to have cool radio anymore, except, that is, for those of us who can afford Sirius or XM. Y'all trad radio cats just sit around and let a bunch of mooks in focus groups tell you what to play, and you let TV commercials, MTV, movies and VH1 break all the exciting new bands these days. You're the last to get aboard.

And $72.5 million is a lot of money, so I'm not surprised you played it safe. It's always been that way, and apparently it always will be. But in another ten years we'll all have satellite radios anyway, so all of us discriminating types will be out of your hair then. But then, so will everybody else. So please make sure the last person left working in your industry remembers to turn out the lights.

Scuttlebutt Caboose

Deep-voiced, dread-locked northside underground legend Slim Thug has just announced a signing to the Neptunes' Star Trak label. Expect the ensuing record, produced by Pharrell and Chad, to drop this fall and also for it to be a hit. The single "3 Kings" is already getting spins on MTV2's Advance Warning. Expect the underground types to start hatin' on the Boss Hawg Outlaw while he goes platinum…Speakin' of hatin', check out what Chamillionaire had to say about Mike Jones on "You Got Wrecked," off his recent Mixtape Messiah underground release: "I bet he e-mail me and try to send me Internet threats / Go and pop some damn X, go and pop some Xanax / Do something better with ya life and go and have some hand sex / You ain't bringin' Cham' plex / you on a pharmaceutical / What type of fool is you? / Im'a suit you for your funeral." And so Jones answered back with his own tune, "Advantage Jones": "The only reason you sold was 'cause of me/ 'Cause without me your shit / would have been stuck in the store / Now here's a challenge, can you do it? / Let's see, drop a CD with no beef and see if it blows in the street / You the past muthafucka and the future is here." Guys, guys, guys. Im'a have to go Rodney King on all a y'all: Can't we all just get along?

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
John Nova Lomax
Contact: John Nova Lomax