Sunday, September 17, 2006

Wake Up Show

Chances are you've been frustrated by your local radio programming more than once. From the fact that outlets are owned in monopoly-like fashion by large-scale conglomerates to the playlists that insist on repeating the same five songs every six-song set, "turn off the radio" has become even more of an anthemic call since the days when O'Shea first did his best Howard Beale impersonation. On the other hand, if you're lucky, maybe you have a good college station nearby, KDAY on your dial, a satellite subscription, or just a really high tolerance for crap.

Speaking of KDAY, as L.A.'s original all Hip-Hop home, while it was Southern California's saving grace, for other Golden Staters, KMEL then would be the similar-minded, though very fallible, brethren up north. In fact, KMEL was even the launching ground for one of the longest-running and most consistent Hip-Hop programs, Sway and King Tech's Wake Up Show.

As The Bay's own haven for heads, the Wake Up Show afforded fans the opportunity to not only hear what other stations might not touch, but also to expose these artists often in a unique way, live and on air. Beginning Friday nights at 10PM (June 1991, where Live at the Barbeque was the opener), the WUS's popularity eventually expanded across the state, the country, and then the globe, truly earning the title of "world famous." Part of this popularity was due to the ever exclusive-like access listeners had to their favorite underground acts, especially highlighted by the show's many "anthems." These anthems, where some of the game's best MC's combined together in posse cut form, featured rappers ranging from Planet Asia to Masta Ace, all paying their lyrical respect to the Wake Up Show and its idea that beats and rhymes could exist on the radio dial and remain undiluted. But perhaps the most famous of these tracks grouped Nas and Organized Konfusion with the likes of Saafir and Ras Kass, with Lauryn Hill on the hook for good measure. Aside from its all-time great lineup, Nas, in the leadoff spot, showcased the early stages of his ultra-dexterous Escobar flow:

Tune it up, it's the corrupt novelist, Nas
Involved in this liveness radio waves
Slaves thrive inside of this
Wake Up Show flow, Hip-Hop's alarm clock, the bomb spot
Mellow with ganja, that makes my eyes turn yellow
However, Sway and Tech were equally known for putting MC's on the spot in studio to flex their freestyle muscle, or "feel the wrath" of the Wake Up Show. Because of this, in a small attempt to capture the program's place in Hip-Hop history, I've collected a series of some of most notable freestyle appearances. Many of these tracks accommodate the original definition of the word, where "freestyle" can be pre-written, although Black Thought and Common, for example, also cater to new-schoolers who'd argue "off the top" is the only way. Highlights include: a Crooked I verse that once put the fear of God into Chino XL; Ghostface doing Nutmeg live and talking about his inspiration for writing; Juice and Supernatural, just one day removed their hotly-contested battle, going back and forth still; Masta Ace reciting, "a gangsta wears black 'cause the shit he talks is dead"; Eminem, after inking his Interscope deal, returning to the spot that first broke his name; Biggie eerily spitting Long Kiss Goodnight after saying how he felt Pac's death especially; Nas blessing the beat to Large Pro's Gotta Get Over remix once more; Xzibit bogarting the mic from Ras Kass; and some vintage Reasonable Doubt Jay-Z.

Rebel To America: Wake Up Show collection
Includes: Big L, Chino XL, Doug E. Fresh, AZ, Masta Ace - The Anthem; Black Spooks, Planet Asia, Ras Kass, & Crooked I - The Anthem; Canibus freestyle; Common freestyle; Crooked I freestyle; Eminem freestyle; Ghostface freestyle; Jay-Z freestyle; Juice & Supernatural freestyle; Kurupt & Ahmad freestyle; Lauryn Hill, Nas, O.K., Ras Kass, Dred Scott, Shyheim, Jock, & Saafir: Wake Up Show 94; Masta Ace freestyle; Nas freestyle; Notorious BIG freestyle; Ras Kass & Xzibit freestyle; The Roots freestyle


Anonymous Colin said...

Cee-Lo's turn on the Wake Up Show is fucking phenomenal:

Props on the collection, all I had was the Nas Anthem and Crooked I freestyle. I wish my local radio had a station with a wake-up show like this. I'm stuck with generic ass "The Beat". Thus the only time I ever turn the radio on is as my alarm.

September 17, 2006 9:34 PM  
Blogger Fletch said...

Growing up, during those formative years, junior high and high school, college radio really saved me. So shoutout to KDVS. After 10PM, no curses, two hours of the "underground" scene was enough to overdose on.

But maybe my overwhelming complaint about major "urban stations" is that there is often not enough love for local acts. I don't mind if programmers wanna parrot each other and play Young Joc till infinity and beyond, but try to support the homegrown too.

As an example, Sacramento, growing up, offered 102.5 KSFM and 103.5 The Bomb. (The Bomb came much later, but they've been competitors for a while now.) KSFM was about as generic as generic could be. They'd play whatever was winning at the time, fine, but, as I would soon discover doing my own work, there was an entire Sacramento / Northern CA scene that was being ignored. Now, I know that Brotha Lynch Hung and X-Raided are not the easiest pills to swallow for programmers, but what of the The Cuf or the whole Quannum crew? I mean, Gab and Xcel went to Kennedy, and I think I heard "Deception" maybe once on a "bump it or dump it" segment. Compare this to the rock stations (98.5 / 106.5), and while they may not have always mixed locals acts into their regular playlists, they at least set a block of time aside every week to do so.

Upon their arrival, 103.5 switched up the formula a bit though. The Federation, Rick Rock's people, did an anthem-like song special for the station, and as they had more material, would often be featured. However, I think you could argue since the Federation's music was part of the then-burgeoning hyphy scene, musically a descendant to oh-so-popular crunk side of things, that it was an easier transition to make.

All in all, this is just a poor rant to say that regionalism is mostly dead in Hip-Hop, and that's a bad thing; and one of the main culprits is rap radio.

September 19, 2006 12:00 AM  
Blogger neo said...

This brought back memories. Though not being from here it wasn't until much later I got to actually hear these freestyles. One wishes radio could still do this for up and coming artists.

September 26, 2006 5:51 PM  

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