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Big Boy Keeps Growing

KPWR's morning deejay is moving into television, rap and movies.

December 04, 1997|STEVE HOCHMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

During a commercial break on KPWR-FM (105.9) on a gorgeous morning, the deejay known as Big Boy stretches his arms as wide as the panoramic view of Burbank from the studio's eighth-floor window.

"I'm here, I'm there, I'm everywhere," he declares.

His producer, Vic Dunlop--who, in the guise of Grandpa, doubles as one of Big Boy's morning show sidekicks--replies, "You're omnipotent."

Dunlop had the wrong word, of course. He meant "omnipresent." But either might do. Big Boy is becoming a presence for more than mere size--and at 400 pounds he is a b-i-i-i-i-i-g boy indeed--in just about any medium he tackles.

In October, he not only moved up the radio ladder to the prized morning drive-time slot on hip-hop leader KPWR, swapping his afternoon gig with the popular Baka Boyz, he also entered the national TV spotlight when he moved on-screen in his role as the announcer for the syndicated "Vibe" talk show, hosted by Sinbad. He's proved to be a viewer favorite and has had an increasing role in sketches and unscripted exchanges with the host and his guests.

Meanwhile, he's broken into the movies (albeit barely) with a cameo in the upcoming "Player's Club," directed by rap star Ice Cube. He's also pursuing a rap career of his own, working on an album for the RCA-distributed PMP/Loud records label. And amid all this, he's finding himself in more and more demand for nightclub appearances and deejay stints as well as an invitee to celebrity parties.

Not bad for a guy who three years ago was employed as a bodyguard for the rap group the Pharcyde and had never even worked in radio.

This morning, though, he's paying the consequences for the multifaceted pursuits. As he ends his five-hour shift at 10 a.m., he turns to the next deejay, David Morales, with a bleary, blank expression.

"One hour sleep, man," he tells Morales. "Well, one hour and 10 minutes."

Not that Big Boy (who won't give his real name) is complaining about the early radio hours.

"You get in early, but you get out early," Big Boy, 28, says after his show, sitting in a small alcove office. "From here I go get some sleep, iron my clothes, go to 'Vibe' this afternoon and then a club tonight. Busy is good."

But he wants it made clear that his radio gig has not become just a stop-off on the way to other ventures.

"I gotta take care of this first," he says of his on-air duties. "Everything else came from this."

This came about, ironically, when the Baka Boyz, having gotten to know Big Boy through his club gigs, recommended him to station management.

"When I got the job here, it was my first radio job," he says. "The station people said, 'We can teach you radio, but we can't teach personality.' "

They didn't have to. Big Boy's bulk holds plenty of personality to fill five hours of radio a day. Tired as he may be, he exudes a natural charm and quick wit both on and off the air, bantering with Dunlop and fellow on-air crew members Shawn Juan and DJ Ray, totally spontaneous and scripted shtick-free, relying on none of the set bits and acted characters that have become the standard for morning radio.

"When we first got the [morning show], we said, 'We gotta do the bits,' and we did some," he says. "But when you do that, that becomes the only thing people tune in for. We want them tuning in for us and for the music."

Dunlop adds, "The craziness [on morning radio] was getting tired. Does everyone have a zoo? It was time for something different."

That's not a put-down of the Baka Boyz, who built their audience with a bit more of the craziness.

"The Baka Boyz had a great three-year run in that slot," says KPWR program director Michelle Mercer. "But for the station as a whole, we thought we could benefit by moving Big Boy to the morning and letting his natural talents come out and putting the Baka Boyz in the afternoon, where their commitment to the music can be more important."

Big Boy says he was uncomfortable with the idea at first but agreed after making sure the Bakas were OK with the move. So he's moving ahead with what he explains is a very simple formula.

"We sound like the listener," he says. "I am the listener. They all say, 'I know Big Boy, or someone like Big Boy.' "

*

The Name Game: So KIBB-FM (100.3) is holding a contest to name its new format? We couldn't resist making some suggestions:

Less Power?

The Beat Slows Down?

OK, it's not that bad. In fact, especially with no deejays hired yet to annoy us, it's quite listenable--a mix of retro R&B, both oldies (from the '60s and '70s mostly) and newer songs from artists either tied to that era or evoking it, all aimed at attracting a big chunk of L.A.'s Latino market, especially women.

But the introduction of the format, replacing the unfocused funk under the failed B100 tag, was facilitated with so much wind about this being some sort of earth-shaking, never-before-dared approach that the actual thing was inevitably a letdown, even if it is actually trying something more or less unprecedented--crossing cultural and generational boundaries.

You can hear Stevie Wonder on KACE-FM (103.9). You can hear Santana on KLOS-FM (95.5). You can hear Little Anthony & the Imperials on KRTH-FM (101.1). You can hear Erykah Badu on KKBT-FM (92.3). But odds are you've never heard all on one station before.

The mistake, as is the case with most retro-skewed radio, is that it has smoothed off all the rough edges of the music and culture that made it so vibrant in the first place. Still, even attempting such a mix is a noteworthy step

*

Seasonal Signals: Rather than doing the kind of charity concert that radio stations often sponsor this time of year, KPWR is going for the laughs with a comedy show to reward loyal listeners. Eddie Griffin is confirmed as one of the four performers scheduled for the event, which will be held Dec. 17 at a location that's being kept secret for now. Tickets are being given away on the air, with none being sold to the public.

* SHAKE-UP: Maureen Lesourd resigns as head of Disney's L.A. radio stations. Page 51

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