On May 12, one of the only radio stations devoted to hip hop music in Portland will be no more. KXJM Jammin' 95.5 FM will be converting its format to sports talk radio.
Managers at Rose City Radio Corporation, the station's owners, declined to comment publicly until May 8, after The Skanner's publishing deadline.
According to DJ OG One, a nationally recognized DJ who worked at Jammin' 95.5, the station is currently running on autopilot – all live DJs and on-air personalities have been cut pending the upcoming format change. But losing Jammin' 95.5 means a lot more than a dozen or so out of work disc jockeys, it means local artists will have to try a lot harder to be heard in the Rose City, says OG One. It'll also leave a void for listeners.
"Are you frickin kidding?" posted "Robin" on the Jammin 95.5 Myspace page. "That sucks that you guys are going off the air. I guess I wont bother to listen to the radio anymore what does that leave us Z100 (no frickin way). Good luck to you guys!!!!!! I've listened to you guys since you started."
While stations KBOO 90.7 FM, Z100 and Movin' 107.5 play some hip hop, OG One says major record companies can't track songs played on KBOO, and he doubts Z100 – owned by media conglomerate Clear Channel – will be a place up and coming hip hop artists can get a foothold in the recording industry. Besides, both radio stations only devote a fraction of their programs to hip hop. Calls to Z100's programming manager, as well DJ OSO Fresh, weren't returned by The Skanner's press deadline. A spokeswoman for 107.5 said their radio station does not play local artists and didn't know of any changes to accommodate the loss of Jammin' 95.5.
"The radio was a way for an artist to enhance (their fan base)," OG One said. A rapper or DJ from Northeast Portland could get their music heard from all the way to Gresham to Beaverton, even Eugene.
"It's going to force local artists to work harder for local sales."
And any hip hop artist from Portland trying to make it nationally will find it much harder without a single radio station devoted to the format, says OG One, who has contacts in the recording industry that include NAS, De La Soul, 50 Cent and many others. When looking to sign new artists, OG One says industry representatives look at local sales, radio exposure and other factors when signing artists.
But it's also a mistake to think that radio is all about the music.
"It's about money," says OG One. "They don't get paid to play music."
Even OG One says he can understand why the business managers at Rose City Radio Corporation decided to switch from hip hop to sports talk radio. As powerful as hip hop is, he says, it can't compete with the advertising money in the sports industry.