I recently realized that i don’t listen to the radio. Ever. I can’t even remember the last time I tuned in or searched for a good station on the AM or FM dial. Now, that’s not to say that i don’t listen to music or stay informed. I mean, that’s what the internet is for right?
Saying that times have changed would be an understatement. Fridays in Montreal during the 90s, for my guys and myself, meant two things. First, no school for two days. Second, we were but a few hours away from one of the best radio shows on Earth : Masters at Work, which aired every Saturday evening at 7, on CKUT 90.3 FM. The show lasted 2 hours and let me tell you, it was THE weekly happening. It was a cult. Thousands of Montrealers tuned in at the same time, blank or taped cassettes and armed tape decks on deck, waiting to hear the newest hip hop gems for the first, second, or third time, depending on where they were during the previous weeks.
On Saturdays, for the couple of hours preceding the show, total strangers became friends, brothers. If i saw you on the bus and you had a certain aura, i would sense that aura and you would sense mine. We would acknowledge each other with a head nod, a head nod which could be interpreted as « peace and blessings to you and yours Brother. I don’t know you but I know where you will be in a couple of hours. Please know that I appreciate your passion, your dedication, and your skill set ». Skill set? What do skills have to do with anything? Everything.
The radio host was the talkative type. He talked a lot, and his sense of timing was the worst. In hindsight, I am convinced that he was doing it on purpose, to annoy the overexcited listeners which he knew were ready for him to shut the hell up. That is how this man got his kicks, by torturing listeners. The listeners. The ones possessing the aforementioned « skill set ». We were an odd, obsessed and talented bunch. We were patient hunters, waiting for our prey (perfect timing) to manifest itself. I have clear memories of being anchored in front of the cassette player which was connected to the radio, immobile, with the play, record and pause buttons pressed down, patiently waiting for the right moment to « unpress » pause and immortalize whatever was playing. Then the DJ would speak, and I would cuss him out, because I had to stop the recording, rewind the tape to the exact preselected spot, and start the whole thing over. I hated this ridiculous back and forth as much as I loved it. As annoying as it was, there was a certain satisfaction to be found in the fact that at the end of the two hour show, with enough patience and skills, one could have a pretty solid mixtape in his hands. Come Monday, the school yard or the cafeteria were the rally points of choice where one could discuss Saturday’s hip hop showcase with fellow fanatics. It was the only weekly assignment that mattered. Forget homework, forget exams, none of them mattered. As far as we were concerned that show was the only weekly lesson we needed.
« – Yooooo, did you hear the new KRS-One song they played at 7:23 saturday night?
– The MC? Man that track was craaaazy! I counted the number of times that he said MC and I got 32 yo!!! 32!!!!!!
– Really? I’m going to listen to the song again and count it as soon as I get home. I can’t wait!»
Yup, typical 90s school yard geeked out hip-hop talk. Good times guys, good times.