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Music

Boom Goes the Radio: Why Dallas’ Classic Hip-Hop Station Is the Best in Town

Turn the dial to 94.5 for classic hip-hop ahead of the radio station's new music festival this weekend.
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On the drive home from work not long ago, this is what I heard on Boom 94.5: Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear” (unfortunately not the remix with Notorious B.I.G.), Ludacris’ “Southern Hospitality,” J-Kwon’s “Tipsy,” House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” Heavy D’s “Big Daddy,” finally the Biggie Smalls I was craving via “Sky’s the Limit,” Jay Z’s “Encore,” Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby,” Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” UGK’s “Tell Me Something Good,” and—sort of incongruously—Newcleus’ “Jam On It,” a single from 1984 that barely qualifies as hip-hop as most people know it today.

Can you hear all of those songs on Spotify or YouTube? Absolutely. Should you? Oh, yes. Do it as soon as you finish reading this. Even “Ice Ice Baby.” It may be a cheesy bit of cultural appropriation that is full of more fiction than a Barnes & Noble—but you know every single word, and don’t try to pretend like you don’t.

But the real question isn’t whether you can or should hear those songs. It’s this: left to your own devices, would you have re-created that playlist on your own? To quote the great Ed Lover: C’mon, son. That’s why, though many things have tried to kill terrestrial radio, nothing has succeeded or even come that close. People still crave the primal reaction that happens when they unexpectedly hear a song they love.

Boom 94.5 has been my go-to source of that feeling since it debuted in November. It plays the majority of the songs I really love—hip-hop recorded between the mid-1980s and the early 2000s. Sometimes it’s an undisputed classic, like LL Cool J’s “Around the Way Girl” or the Geto Boys’ “Mind Playing Tricks on Me.” Sometimes it’s a borderline novelty song, like Candyman’s “Knockin’ Boots.” Sometimes it’s somewhere in between, like the West Coast Rap All-Stars’ “We’re All in the Same Gang.”

Strangely, Boom 94.5 popped up within hours of another station playing classic hip-hop, Hot 93.3. I remember at one point switching back and forth between the two as they played the same Tupac song. But Boom was clearly the better iteration; Jeff “Skin” Wade said it best when he tweeted that Hot 93.3 was what urban radio used to sound like, and Boom 94.5 was what people wanted urban radio to sound like. Hot 93.3 gave up on the format by December.

Boom 94.5 uses the same format (and name) that its parent Radio One first rolled out in Houston, then brought to Philadelphia and Atlanta at the end of last year. But it has its own flavor. I doubt you’ll hear as much of The D.O.C. on Radio One’s other Booms, and there is a heavy regional influence. It makes sense, then, that its first concert features rappers from Texas (Bun B and Scarface) and Louisiana (Juvenile and Mystikal). It makes less sense that also on the bill are a handful of zydeco acts, like Step Rideau & the Zydeco Outlaws and Brian Jack & the Zydeco Gamblers.

But that’s what radio is meant to do: surprise you.

 

DO THIS:

Boom Music Festival

May 2, 11 am

Fair Park, 3809 Grand Ave. 972-331-5500

 

Where To Go On The Dial For…

Local Music on a Sports Station
The Local Ticket, KTCK-FM 96.7, Sundays, 8-10 pm, hosted by Mark Schectman

Classic Country in Far North Texas
KXEZ-FM 92.1
The Possum, spinning hits out of Farmersville by George Jones et al.

The Best College Radio Station
The University of North Texas’ KNTU-FM 88.1, which plays almost nothing but jazz

A version of this article appears in the May issue of D Magazine.

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