Dawg Eat Dawg

Q-95.5 and the Beat duke it out -- and the St. Louis hip-hop scene flourishes

Chuck Atkins of the Beat one-ups his adversary's bravado with a taunt of his own. "To be honest, technically there's only room for one," he declares. "You can look at it and say, 'Yeah, we have competition,' and two stations playing hip-hop music do exist right now. But only one of them is making money. This is about business. Radio, and music, and all the stuff we get into is entertainment, it's fun, it's show business, but at the same time, it's somebody else's business. This is Clear Channel, you know? And there ain't no room being the third urban in any market, there's no money there," Atkins concludes, relegating Q-95.5 to bronze status behind Clear Channel's Magic 105 FM, which offers a less hip-hop-centric format called adult urban.

"I'm rather shocked at Chuck's lack of confidence in the hip-hop format. I admit to being surprised that his station is not making money," Ervin retorts. "Q-95.5 is delivering a handsome profit to Radio One. Hip-hop is now bigger than rock & roll, and as such is supporting two, if not three, stations in markets all over the country. Perhaps Q-95.5's personality approach to hip-hop is more attractive to advertisers."

Neither honcho will get specific about his station's bottom line, but revenue information the stations supplied earlier this year to the St. Louis Business Journal put Q-95.5's 2002 gross revenues at $2.45 million and the Beat's at $4 million, although those numbers don't indicate the stations' profitability. (The local FM station with the largest estimated 2002 gross revenue was adult-contemporary KEZK, with $13.5 million, according to the Business Journal's published figures.)

Jennifer Silverberg
Q-95.5's J-Nicks (left) and DJ Kristyle at the Limelight in north county, where they host a weekly party for teens
Jennifer Silverberg
Q-95.5's J-Nicks (left) and DJ Kristyle at the Limelight in north county, where they host a weekly party for teens

The dollars and cents and the word bombs lobbed by the businessmen mean squat to J-Nicks and DJ Kaos. Each claims to respect the other; Kaos says he and Nicks talk on the phone and occasionally meet for dinner. "People think him and I have some kind of vendetta against one another, but it's not like that," Kaos says. "Jay is my boy, Jay is cool people. He looks to me like an older brother sometimes. I just talked to him last night."

Says Nicks: "I don't really look at it as competition, and it's not that serious to me. Even though it's good, and I like to compete, there's more things I want to do. And so I'm not going to base my life on what they're doing over there. I'm going to do it to the best of my ability and I think, overall, the best man is going to shine. And it's like, we're fighting for ratings or whatnot, but people have their favorite radio personalities that might necessarily carry the station. You might like Craig Blac, so you don't listen to any other station, you only listen when Craig Blac's on. You might love J-Nicks, and just listen to the radio when J-Nicks is on."

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