[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, “Bizarre Ride,” normally appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]
Tupac asked that question on “To Live & Die in LA,” but the answer was obvious. Makaveli never even lived in Southern California during the first AM incarnation of KDAY, but the memory of America's first all-rap radio station was already a rallying cry by 1996.
So when its call letters were revived here in 2004, it was the next best thing to Tupac's resurrection. Eventually settling in as one of America's only classic hip-hop signals, KDAY's return was better than the announcement of new episodes of Arrested Development. The Bluth family will get older, but '90s G-Funk stays the same age. Then in 2008, KDAY closed again.
When it received its third resuscitation in 2009 (also programmed as classic rap), it was too good to be true. Where else on earth could you turn on terrestrial radio and randomly hear Ice Cube's “You Know How We Do It”? A numb spring night could suddenly come alive. Your Civic could become a Coupe Deville. “Buster-ass tricks” emerge in the rear view. A blunt materializes in your palm–your fingers reflexively cross themselves into a “W.” You know.
That's just one eternal banger that came on last night while I listened to KDAY (93.5 FM) on my way to get some iced coffee. It was sandwiched by “Déjà vu,” from Bronx Shaq affiliates Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz, and “Who Dat,” from Miami bass legend, JT Money. Sure, you could have them on your iPod or luck out on Pandora, but there's something to be said for being able to turn on the radio and get a carefully curated and cross-regional index of the best rap ever made (mixed in with the occasional Young Joc song).
Now, if the news reports are to be believed, KDAY will be shuttering its signal once again. (The reported sale to a company called RBC Communications for $19.5 million and a change to a Mandarin-language format has not yet been approved, and apparently a format change won't happen until summer at earliest.) In any case, I think I speak for the entire city of LA when I say, “STOP FUCKING WITH US.”
As Ben Westhoff reported in his feature on the station in August, ratings had been strong. And to be sure roughly 85 percent of folks in my Twitter and Facebook feeds are devastated about the news. To us, KDAY's closure was more catastrophic than Margaret Thatcher's death and possible nuclear war with North Korea. Kim Jong-Un's brinkmanship might make international headlines, but it won't get anyone through an hour commute. We'll probably forget about it in five months, but we won't forget KDAY.
KDAY is the best radio station in LA. That's a subjective decision slanted towards my tastes and age, but…
…it's more than mere nostalgia. For a place famously described as “72 suburbs in search of a city,” it offers a rare bond and a rarer preservation of cultural history. Transplants move here daily and bring their own team allegiances. Not everyone loves the Lakers, but we can all agree on KDAY.
We spend more time in our cars than with most of our family. KDAY was the consolation, a place where you could hear forgotten hydraulic funk from the Conscious Daughters, the perm-fection of Suga Free and DJ Quik, and Wu-Tang head bangers. It reminds you that G-Funk is now our genealogy. It was L.A. at its best: inclusive, diverse, and best enjoyed at maximum volume.
I'm not sure what there is that we can do. When I suggested a Kickstarter, everyone from garage rock bands to electronic music labels chimed their support. But unless Dre donates all his headphone money, raising $20 million is unlikely. I imagine that a petition would be similarly useless.
As for KDAY, they have yet to release an official statement. It could be another false alarm, but I doubt it. This isn't like when Indie 103.1 had a few good years in the middle of the last decade. KDAY is a municipal treasure, as sacred as Disneyland and Dodger Dogs. We need to stop this from happening, but I'm not sure how. Maybe we should be asking ourselves: what would Tupac do?