Boom 92: A Eulogy

A farewell to the format-upending radio station that changed Houston—and the nation—in its two short years on the air.

By Shondrika Cook January 10, 2017

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The nation's very first classic hip-hop format, better known to local music lovers as Boom 92, departed Houston’s airwaves on January 6, 2017, at the tender age of two years old. I was out making a Target run the evening it happened. When I returned to the car a few minutes after 6 p.m. and turned on the radio, a newer song—definitely not classic or hip-hop—was blasting out from my car stereo. Was I listening to the right station? I asked myself. I hadn't changed the dial before I'd gone into Target. I even went as far as to look up the song on the Genius app to see what year it had been released.

Coming up short on answers as to why this Calvin Harris (feat. Rihanna) song was on Boom 92, I did some Googling, and to my great dismay, I came across the news that was quickly spreading across the Internet: Boom 92 was no more and classic hip-hop was no longer welcome in the city of Houston, even though many Houston classics were played on this very station.

I first encountered Boom 92 in 2015 upon moving back home after living on the East Coast for a few years. Old-school hip-hop? Why sure! I quickly fell head over heels in love with the station, because even though I was in my mid-20s, I have always been a fan of '90s hip-hop and R&B—and Boom 92 had it all. Every song played was a throwback from a time when I may not have understood the lyrics, but appreciated the sheer substance of the modern art form. And every time I'd catch a local song on, like “Tops Drop” by Fat Pat, the volume would automatically go sky high, as I cruised the crazy streets of Houston with immense hometown pride. Soon enough, 92.1 FM was my main preset in my car, in the number one spot. Boom 92 had captured my heart.

Like its sister stations, 97.9 The Box and Majic 102.1, Boom 92’s DJ’s and personalities ventured out into the community, hosting concerts and other events, encouraging a community to develop around the new format. Their first major concert was Boom Bash in June 2015; the headliner was LL Cool J. More legends in hip-hop were set to perform as well, and though I was too young to listen much to Big Daddy Kane and Whodini when they first came out, the idea of seeing such pioneers was an opportunity I could not miss. I attended the concert out of reverence to the artists who paved the way for the music that's out today, and what I got was an experience like no other, watching Generation X’ers singing along, word for word, to countless old-school jams, with a carefree energy that extended to the entire the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Being a Millennial, I felt fortunate to hear songs that were on airwaves when I was in high school, in the early 2000s. Boom 92 made me feel like an adult, too, occasionally spinning Ludacris and Cam’ron. Sure, songs were put on repeat a little more often than others, but so what? Some music is worth listening to over and over: I had heard “Paid in Full” by Eric B and Rakim three times in one day, and I didn’t mind one bit. As a devoted listener, I was not aware that others had started to feel differently; by late 2016, the station's ratings dropped to the kind of low levels that previously spurred KROI to change its format from news and talk shows to Boom 92 in the first place. Boom 92 had my loyalty, but it wasn't enough. And just like that, Radio One refocused its format to appeal to a younger crowd, and classic hip-hop vanished from Houston's airwaves.

That evening in the parking lot at Target, as I began to grasp the vacuum left behind by my beloved Boom 92, I found myself having an unexpectedly emotional reaction. I sat in the car for 15 minutes, almost paralyzed. I couldn’t believe my ears. The sole reason for me to even listen to local radio in this day and age was gone. A sense of mourning began to sink in. The very radio station that gained national attention and sent ripples of change into other markets across the nation was, like so many great artists of our time, gone too soon. You'll be missed, Boom 92, but never forgotten.

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