The 916 Leak brings local rap to mainstream radio
KBMB calls itself Sacramento’s official hip-hop station, usually with the “official” underlined or in capital letters. That might not sit well with anyone inclined to rue the trappings of corporate control. Does “official” mean micromanaged, mass-market-tested, unoriginal? Probably. Yet, for half a year now, 103.5 FM, or The Bomb, as it’s more colloquially known, also has been a font of homegrown hip-hop, thanks to an exuberant Sunday-afternoon showcase called The 916 Leak.
The show’s principal host, EQ, is a 24-year-old Yuba City native who has worked at the station for three years in various, sometimes thankless, capacities. “I knew I wanted to do something in broadcasting,” she said. “My main goal is to own my own radio station.” For now, she focuses on mixing local upstarts with national names, bringing out what’s new and what’s tried and true from Righteous Movement, TwiseWise, Outkast, Messy Marv, the Attik, Damian Marley, T-Pain, Jui Da Boss and others you’ve never heard of—because no one has, yet. It’s a worthy enterprise if for no other reason than because, as the Deep Fried Funk Brothers have observed, “The capital of Cali is Sac, and that’s a fact.”
As EQ put it, “I’m playing the music no one else would dare to play because they don’t think there’s an audience for it. Radio stations might be hesitant, but we feel it. The audience is there.” Perhaps rebuking any suggestion of corporate meddling, she describes 916 Leak playlists as “untouched goodness.”
On air, EQ has charm and confidence. She laughs a lot, appealingly. Whether chatting up Chief Xcel in a quick phoner before spinning the new Blackalicious single, or fielding live listener feedback afterward, she stays sociable without cloying. In the show’s weekly Head 2 Head feature, she plays a local tune next to a national one with similar hooks, and asks of listeners, “Which one you feeling more?” Then she takes calls. If the local act wins favor for the day, she’ll probably proclaim, “That’s what I’m talkin’ about! Sacramento hip-hop, representing!” You can hear the smile in her voice.
“She’s real energetic. She’s in the studio doing jumping jacks,” said 916 Leak co-host DJ Supe. “And I’m just ready as far as the experience. I think we’re like a yin and yang. She’s into easier, conscious, positive stuff. I bring some of the thug element, so she can have some street cred. I want to make sure she can navigate. I’m a sidekick.”
When screening new material, Supe said, he listens attentively enough to discern where in the city it came from. “Sacramento, pay attention to yo’ neighborhood, yo’ music,” he says on air.
He encourages artists hoping for airplay to hone their business sense. “Cats try to figure out, ‘Why didn’t you play me?’” he said. “Well, you gotta compel us to. For one thing, a song is a commercial to advertise an album. You don’t have an album, what am I playing it for?” But, he allowed, “I’m actually learning a lot from these cats. I thought it would be just sifting through the garbage.”
“I like the way they run their show,” said David Honeycutt, a Roseville DJ and promoter. “There’s a ton of talented people here in the 916 area, and people have tried to promote hip-hop, but not necessarily in the right ways. This show is doing a lot for local hip-hop.”
Of its most direct competition, KSFM 102.5 FM’s Future Flava Show (also on Sundays), Supe said only, “They have more wattage.” Another rival, the very independent KNOZ 96.5 FM, scofflaw of the Federal Communications Commission, has much less. And if Supe’s MySpace page is any indication, support for The 916 Leak is emphatic. As one listener recently enthused, “Hey Supe! Loved the 4:20 mix today. HOTTT!! Y’all got to get the LEAK to be on for just one extra hour. You and EQ got it locked. Sunday 3-5 is the only time I actually like radio.”
“I can see it getting longer,” EQ said, grinning. “They can give me all of Sunday if they want to.”