The show had started as it always does, with the muted trumpet squeal of an old Miles Davis track, blending into what would again be two hours of music and fast dialogue, racial politics and a harsh urban drama. This was host Michael Mixx'in Moor's special "post-nuclear happening," an audio collage for his listeners, just days after the not-guilty verdicts in the Rodney G. King beating.
Much had already happened, of course, by the midnight broadcast time of Moor's "Militant Master Mix" show that Saturday night. And here it all was again, all the rage and despair, the looting and the fires, violence and loss, recast in this bleak, funky radio signal from the Santa Monica studios of KCRW-FM. Now he was playing some smooth funk by Herbie Hancock, with its swirl of keyboards and horns and pre-hip-hop beats, mixed amid a storm of lurid news commentary and radical speechifying.
"The whole black nation has to be put together as a black army," roared some '60s-vintage Eldridge Cleaver, recorded during his Black Panther days. "And we're going to walk on this nation, we're going to walk on this racist power structure and we're going to say to the whole damn government: Stick 'em up! This is a holdup! We've come for what's ours!"
Soon enough, Moor quickened the musical pace, scratching and mixing in some harder beats with a racket of gunfire, sirens and outraged voices, leading ultimately to the tough rap of Public Enemy's "Burn Hollywood Burn." But if the night's show seemed particularly topical, given the week's events, the messages actually strayed little from Moor's ongoing theme of the past year, since launching the "Militant Master Mix" at another station within days of that infamous beating of March, 1991.
These aggressive on-air politics, Moor says now, were in a direction he'd been moving anyway, no longer content with the art of creating an upbeat party groove through clever blends of dance songs.
"I figured I needed to get another approach with this rap thing," says Moor, who has also worked as a record remix producer-editor for such artists as Chaka Khan and Ice-T. "And because I was already into the politically conscious rap, and coming into the teachings of Islam, it was time. The messages just had to be put out there, because as a people, the black people are asleep. And the ones who do have a way out just leave the community."
That first "Militant Master Mix" was broadcast on KJLH-FM in the Crenshaw District, and included sampled bits of melodramatic commentary on King from KCBS-TV anchor Michael Tuck and a rap number by the Main Source titled "An Early Game of Baseball." Moor had entered a new medium, one that emphasizes knowledge over dance-floor bliss. New York rapper KRS-One likes to call this blunt style of hip-hop "edutainment." And even as he's mixing these crazy beats, Moor says, "I don't want you partying to the 'Militant Master Mix.' "
He's had enough of that for now, after a decade of mixing party records, helping to build the contemporary Los Angeles dance club scene with a New York-style mix of pop and rap at such venues as the Hollywood Palladium and Florentine Gardens in Hollywood.
Moor's been at KCRW (89.9 FM) since August, after urban contemporary station KJLH ejected him for broadcasting words and messages its management says listeners found objectionable. But in the months since landing at the Santa Monica station, Moor has maintained the show's same style and content, dramatically spotlighting events he says illustrate a continuing injustice toward blacks in American society.
One recent program incorporated an unreleased rap song about Latasha Harlins, the young black girl fatally shot by a Korean grocer who was subsequently given probation. And several weeks ago, local hip-hop luminary Def Jef was visiting Moor's small home studio to record some freestyle rap verses for the "Militant Master Mix."
Even now, Def Jef is bobbing and strutting to the music Moor's got spinning on one of his turntables. It's an obscure funk track, even if the walls of this Los Angeles duplex are decorated with gold and platinum record awards from such pop artists as Madonna and Jody Watley.
And now Def Jef launches into his critical rap:
Columbus Day, Christmas, Easter and Thanksgivin';
But stop and think about the thanks you're givin'
Are you thanking the pilgrims for killing Indians?
Or giving gifts on the 25th to flaunt your dividends?
On the third day I heard they say Jesus rose;
It's not a church day, it's a day for new clothes.
The message is much like that on Def Jef's own "Soul Food" album, though the rapper says it's rare to hear such talk on commercial radio. So Jef was here, rapping in these cramped quarters, free of charge. "That's why I participate in it, because it's from a militant standpoint," he says. "I don't think all the radio stations should be militant and play the same things that Mike plays. That's what makes Mike stand out."