KUMS.fm: Sounds like the future of radio
Local producer Tofu De La Moore’s hip-hop Internet station rips up the envelope, kicks down new doors and KUMS all in your ear
Miss Ashleigh’s seated on a barstool at Flame Club, wearing big, round earrings, pearls and a black dress and nibbling on greasy tacos while nursing a stiff cocktail. Apparently Flame is the unofficial “official bar of KUMS.fm,” a locally based hip-hop Internet radio station three blocks north on 16th Street, where Ashleigh just spent the last couple hours jawing about rap, sex and relationships.
Her radio program, The Miss Ashleigh Show, is KUMS’ No. 1 act, which makes Ashleigh a local celebrity of sorts. But don’t tell her this. It’ll only encourage her.
“I wake up in the morning and piss excellence!”
This is the first thing I hear Ashleigh yell earlier that Friday evening when I arrive at KUMS headquarters at Omina Laboratories, a three-room recording studio owned by local producer J-Intell and housed inside the old West Coast World Wide building.
“What dude doesn’t love my titties? They fall in love, fool!”
Ashleigh continues with a never-ending string of bombastic yet memorable sound bytes. She doesn’t have a radio personality; she has a personality that was meant for radio.
Or at least Internet radio. The Federal Communications Commission would have a field day slapping Ashleigh with fines, because you can’t say choice phrases like “fuck you and suck cock,” one of Ashleigh’s countless trademark invectives, on AM or FM radio without earning a five-figure penalty.
But this is the radio of the future. And, like the Wild West in an age of 49ers, there are very few rules, if any.
KUMS.fm is the brainchild of Tofu De La Moore, local emcee/producer/deejay and member of local hip-hop troupe Righteous Movement. And KUMS is the latest in a long line of Tofu’s radio enterprises.
It all began back at Sacramento High School before it was a charter. During freshman year, Tofu and local producer Jae Synth had a radio show on KXHB, the school’s frequency, as part of a class taught by Mr. Peckham.
Tofu and Jae excelled in the class, but it was short lived, however, as Tofu eventually was expelled.
This didn’t discourage him, though. He’d go on to operate the sound board at a few other now-defunct stations, including a drum ’n’ bass radio show with Jae and Billy Lane on Power 105.5 FM, before its frequency was sold in 2001.
Next, Tofu headed to Las Vegas and began his first real Web broadcast venture: a “big beautiful women” radio station, no less, www.bbwradio.com, which he says was a “plus-sized radio” online site featuring forums and video chats tailored for a clientele of adult-entertainment models. It was popular, and at one point, even lucrative.
“All of our commercials were hella porn-related—and I made all the commercials,” Tofu says, laughing. “That’s how we were paid. First, it had to pay for itself, and then we started eating off it.”
Soon, Tofu was established as a go-to guy for Web radio in Vegas, which was how he met Payroll, a known hustler who was featured in the 1999 documentary American Pimp.
“I taught him how to do the whole Internet-radio game,” Tofu says; he helped Payroll start now-defunct Pimpin101.net.
Two years ago, however, Tofu sold BBW Radio and moved back to Sac.
KUMS came to fruition earlier this year, part of Tofu’s Underground Movement Sounds company. At first, Tofu and Jae only recorded podcasts, which they made available at www.KUMS.fm. Rapper Blee, who has since left the station, and The Gantana Show’s Ganja Green and Smokey Montana also were original KUMS disc jockeys.
Eventually, Tofu gathered enough cash to pay for royalty packages and third-party server space, which allowed KUMS to become a live, 24-seven broadcast. “[This] used to be really easy to do, but the FCC and the [Recording Industry Association of America] keep driving up the royalty prices,” Tofu explains, noting that he had to fork over hundreds of dollars just to start up KUMS and still submits playlists to these organizations every two months.
And that’s a lot of songs: all day, seven days a week, nine unique local deejay programs of talk radio and live hip-hop, which can be a lot of work. “Let me tell you something: I put out small fires all day,” Tofu shares, but he doesn’t seem too stressed out.
It’s an early Friday evening in August inside KUMS, a narrow studio with a corkboard splattered with musicians and guests’ yearbook-like autographs on one wall and Styrofoam soundproofing on the others. Tofu’s engineering things while Miss Ashleigh jabbers.
“I wouldn’t suck a dick unless I planned on swallowing,” Ashleigh proclaims, putting an exclamation mark on a chat session about the dos and don’ts of oral sex, including an explicit discussion of the exfoliating nature of bukkake.
Later, Ashleigh jokes with Tofu that her mom still can’t figure out how to listen to her show on the Web site—which is probably a good thing.
Her voice fades out and a mix, kicked off by Righteous Movement, starts up. “I make a point to always play Righteous Movement on my show. I even have them tattooed on my hand,” Ashleigh says, flashing her knuckles. She met Tais of Righteous Movement while taking English classes at Sacramento City College together. She’s been the group’s No. 1 fan since.
“If it wasn’t for Righteous Movement, I’d never be into hip-hop,” Ashleigh says, removing her 1980s vintage headphones, which she’s owned since she was a kid.
There’s definitely a lot of love for local hip-hop on KUMS, probably because most of the deejays are locals who are active in the scene. KUMS’ second-most-popular program, TRS Classics, is deejayed by Ran-D, also a songwriter/producer. He mixes four hours of talk and old-school rap every Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. DJ Oasis crafts his distinctive mixes for airplay every Tuesday, as does J-Intell during his Hooka Man program.
And KUMS represents pretty much every local producer, emcee and deejay in the local rap scene, many of whom have made appearances on at least one of the programs: Bueno, E-40, Skurge, Dezit-Eaze, TmosBeatZ, Chase Moore, etc.
Short-E, a “real” deejay from 103.5 FM The Bomb, even made a cameo appearance on Tofu and Jae’s Wednesday night SnT Radio Show, during which he said “shit” on the radio for the first time in his esteemed career—and, of course, didn’t receive a $25,000 FCC fine.
Maybe Short-E should get used to it. Podcasts are more popular than ever, and KUMS deejays receive hundreds of downloads. Sure, telecommunications are going deep into debt investing in wireless communications technology, but no doubt mobile telecommunications someday will allow for Web-based radio stations like KUMS to stream live directly into your car or phone.
Sounds like the future, which might be a more apt slogan than the station’s existing tagline: “KUMS all in your ear.”
Actually, that’s probably more appropriate. For now.