It is difficult surviving local music radio in any city, but Houston in particular. Imagine doing that when you are basically the antithesis of the stereotype most assigned to your position. Think a punk rocker working at a country station. Jim Kovacik -- Jimbo or Jimbeazy as he is known to listeners -- has done it and lived to tell the tale.
Kovacik has worked as a producer and on-air personality at hip-hop station 97.9 the Box for over 20 years and, while that might seem like an interesting story, it gets even more interesting when you realize the wisecracking morning producer on Houston's largest urban radio station is white. He's clearly doing something right, and we asked him about it in our five questions.
1. How have you managed to stay at the same station for so many years in an industry where guys change stations with regularity?
A whole lot of luck. We have the best listeners in the city. People who have been with us since 1991 as kids and now their kids listen. I've been a part of every morning show and it's been a lot of fun. I did go to Philly for about six months in 2002, but I'm so glad I came back and things worked out this way. The crew on the Madd Hatta Morning Show is like a family.
2. Were you into rap and hip-hop before you got your start with the Box?
Mostly the commercial stuff. LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, and I liked De La Soul for sampling Hall and Oates and Steely Dan.
3. Do you ever get odd looks when you tell people you are an on-air personality at the Box, given the fact that it is a hip-hop station and you're white?
All the time. In fact, I was in L.A. at a press junket last week and had to convince other jocks that I was part of the station when we broke hip-hop classics like "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" and "Baby's Got Back." I got a little respect after that. And since I've been at the station, I do get a lot of "I didn't know you were white" comments when I make personal appearances (there was one last week). This is always strange to me because Madd Hatta points it out at least two or three times a show.
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4. What is the weirdest moment you've had on the air or at a remote?
There's got to be a couple good ones. We used to do a prank call feature called "The Birthday Call." One day we called a woman and I said I was a bill collector looking for money. Well, it was a bogus bill and naturally she got mad. Shortly after, she started speaking in tongues. The sounds were pretty chilling -- almost demonic. The call became popular that week. We played back and I put it on a DAT (it was '90s) to preserve for history. Well, every other piece of audio I put on tape was there except that call. I wish I had it. As for remotes, we did a "Big Ole Butt" contest for LL Cool J tickets...nuf said.
5. When is your hardcore rap album hitting shelves? You are working on one, right?
Yes, my suburban rap group, The Atascocita Thugz, are looking to follow up their last album, The United States of Atascocita (which featured the hits "Blame It On Hip-Hop" and "Put My D on Your Phone"), with an even more gritty depiction of the street life in the streets of Atascocita...tentatively titled Straight Up the Big A. We are also doing an album of hardcore songs to celebrate holidays, titled Song to F up Every Occasion (featuring "Thugsgiving"). I'm hoping to reach out to Beanz n' Kornbread, Z-ro and Kirko Bangz to collaborate...or maybe at least J Mac.