“ ‘If you fucking niggers got any problems with us, we’ll be sitting right over there.’ ” Big Boy, DJ of Power 106 FM’s wildly popularBig Boy’s Neighborhood morning show, is in the station’s lounge, recalling words directed his way back in the early ’90s, when he was the Pharcyde’s bodyguard.
The rap group and road crew were on the outskirts of Dayton, Ohio. “It was such a small, rural area that when you called room service in the hotel, they just connected you to Denny’s next door.” So a few of the posse went to the Denny’s, which was where they received the local welcome. “I had never been called ‘nigger’ to my face like that in my life. We couldn’t believe it.” Big Boy shakes his head ruefully. “They were these little dudes too! So my man Seal and I went to tell Suave, the tour manager, what the deal was. We put on our boots and went back to confront them in the parking lot. Man, we beat the shit outta them cats. Then we all ran back to the bus and broke out of the city. We were like spooks in the night, peeking out of the tour-bus windows, flying down the freeway.”
It’s been a scenic drive from Big Boy’s Illinois birthplace to this modest Burbank office building, where a virtual sitcom cast of characters throngs the premises. There’s Big Boy himself; by now, we’re used to seeing the much smaller frame he’s maintained since losing almost 300 pounds. There’s DJ Jeff Garcia, broadcasting the daily “old-school” hip-hop mix at noon with afternoon jock Yesi Ortiz. There’s comely Stacey Stace, beloved by men across L.A. for her bikini-clad pose on a recent Power 106 billboard. And there’s Jason, whom you might know as one of the hosts of Wilmer Valderrama’s oddly fascinating competitive trash-talking reality show, Yo Momma. Jason has just outed Big Boy on the air as the previously uncredited narrative voice of that program, while proudly announcing that its initial ratings were the highest for an MTV series in years, even besting the 2003 premiere of Punk’d, hosted by Valderrama’s fellow That ’70s Show star Ashton Kutcher.
Big Boy just rolls his eyes. “People really watch that mess?” he says, laughing.
Big Boy was born Kurt Alexander in Chicago; when he was 2, his family relocated to Culver City, where as a teen he deejayed local parties. He made friends, among them fledgling rap outfit the Pharcyde, who would give him his first real taste of life in the music industry.
“Those were some cool cats. They weren’t the dangerous group to be on the road with,” Big Boy remembers of the irreverent rappers, whose first two albums, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde and Labcabincalifornia, are now indie hip-hop classics. “I grew up with no money and never traveled,” he says. “I got my first passport because of the Pharcyde. It’s funny, because when I first got the call to do radio, I almost turned it down out of loyalty to the band. But then I started to realize that my success hinged on their success. They’d have to be eating well for me just to eat. So it made sense to strike out on my own and seize the opportunity. Besides, once they started dissing each other, I got the hell outta there,” he adds, laughing, in reference to the group’s highly publicized fracture. “But it’s mostly good memories with the Pharcyde. Mostly.”
It would be another key friendship — and the pursuit of free food — that would lead Big Boy to his next gig in 1994. “The Baka Boys, who were on the air at Power 106 at the time, were good friends of mine,” he says of the DJ duo, now on the Miami airwaves. “I was never really interested in radio. I listened to it growing up, but it wasn’t a daily part of my life. One Memorial Day, the Baka Boys, who were also known as the ‘Two Fat Mexicans,’ and I had an itinerary of barbecues we were planning to hit over the course of the day. They were plus-sized guys, and I was around 470 pounds at the time. They were like, ‘We have to stop at our boss’s house,’ and I didn’t want to go. I thought it was going to be an uptight white family with a picket fence. We got there, and it was a white family with a picket fence, but they were cool. I got a call about a week later from the owner of the house, Rick Cummings [then the program director of Power 106]. He asked if I ever thought about doing radio, and offered me a spot one night for $35 an hour. At that point, I was so broke I would’ve done KKK radio for some cash!”