The strains of the sitcom theme song are familiar but hard to place. Then the listener is assaulted by two loud, slightly off-key voices singing their own rather sophomoric lyrics. The tune turns out to be the "Sanford and Son" opening theme, and the lyrics are what two young brothers might come up with if they were clowning around at home in front of the TV set: "It's the Baka/It's the Baka Boyz/In the Morning/In the Morning/It's the Baka Boyz/And we're gonna wake your ass right up/Because we're two fat Mexicans."
But don't be misled by the self-deprecation. The Baka Boyz--a.k.a. brothers Nick and Eric Vidal--have defied the odds in Los Angeles radio. Barely into their 20s, with only a few months experience in a big-city market and not much more in a small market, they've somehow managed to wangle a gig presiding over the airwaves from 6-10 a.m. at KPWR-FM (105.9), the most popular English-language station in the area.
And the audience seems to be responding. In the four months they've been on the morning shift, the show's ratings have climbed from 13th place to sixth, just one-tenth of a point behind the well-established "Mark and Brian Show" on KLOS-FM (95.5), according to Arbitron "trend tabulations." (The more reliable quarterly ratings won't be out until next month.)
Not bad for a couple of guys who only last year were toiling next to nowhere--at KKXX-FM, a small station in their hometown, Bakersfield (hence the name Baka Boyz). They'd been there for all of a year and a half.
"We don't try to consider it a big come-up because we figure whatever comes up must go down," said Nick Vidal, 21. "That's what I like to keep in my mind."
Eric, 24, spins off his brother's comments, as is his style: "You can never think you're too big. We try to stay humble. We don't ever want to feel like we made it. We don't want to lose sight of being small-town."
Unlike many other popular morning shows, "Baka Boyz" is not talk-heavy. The Vidals play a lot of music, filling the time between cuts with light banter, clowning, listener calls and their own singing and rapping--skills they've been honing since junior high school, when they began working as deejays at parties, clubs and weddings. It's a hip-hopping, spontaneous style that is completely unlike anything else on the dial.
"There are people that have been doing this for years and years, and they wake up at 3 in the morning and prepare," Nick Vidal said. "They have a staff of five writers. That's Old School radio. That don't work no more. We come in at 5:56 and go on the air. We talk about everyday things. That's what people like. We're not fake. We don't have nothin' written for us. We come in, be ourselves, introduce records and entertain people the way we know how."
One of their features is what they call a "rap roll call," an interactive rap tune with listeners. They sound as good as the rap stars whose records they play--sometimes better.
"This is Mr. Roll Call/Who's on the line?/That sounds cool and that may be/But where you calling from, baby?/What ci-ty?," they rap as callers offer names, city and a short message.
"I wouldn't say we're rappers," Nick explained off the air. "I'd say we're rythmically inclined."
Indeed, a few years ago they invested in some pricey record producing equipment and, through record company contacts in Los Angeles, produced cuts for the likes of Kid Frost, House of Paint and Cypress Hill--and continue to do so. Their original thought had been to find a night radio job and produce records during the day, but "our vision has flip-flopped now," Nick said with a laugh.
Throughout the show they scarf down a veritable smorgasbord of junk food--potato chips, Twinkies, Snickers bars, Cokes and high-cholesterol McDonald's fare.
Their diet has produced a kind of kiddy corpulence that seems out of place in KPWR's lean, high-tech corporate environment. Eric is the more serious brother. Baseball cap turned backward, mustache bristling, he tries to look menacing but really succeeds in looking shyly sweet. Nick is younger, plumper, more ebullient. With an engaging charm, he is often the spokesman for the two, talking a mile a minute. They live together in the Hollywood Hills.
It was a chance encounter in February, 1993, that led to their KPWR gig. The brothers were hanging out listening to mariachi music with a friend from a record company when they met KPWR disc jockey Dave Morales. Over dinner and succeeding rounds of drinks, Nick Vidal talked about wanting to work the airwaves in Los Angeles.
The station happened to be looking for somebody to host a hip-hop show and Morales suggested they apply. So the pair passed a tape along to program director Rick Cummings, who liked what he heard and hired them in March, 1993, for a Friday night show. When longtime morning host Jay Thomas was fired in May, 1993, the Vidals and several other KPWR deejays got a shot at trying out for the high-profile weekday job.