H2: An End of an Era (Part 1 of 3)


Kevin Beacham with his renovated Sharp GF-575
Kevin Beacham, pictured in 2016 with his renovated Sharp GF-575 boombox. (courtesy Kevin Beacham)

The Current's specialty hip-hop program, H2, will air its final program on Wednesday, June 21. H2 Co-Host Kevin Beacham shares the first of three posts, looking back on his life in music and in radio, as the program counts down to its sunset.

Part 1 of 3

As much as Siddiq and I appreciate and value the opportunity to share our music taste with the world, the time has unfortunately come to bring H2 to an end. There are a handful of reasons behind the decision to end the show, but the primary reason centers on ever-increasing busy schedules, and for me personally, a need to shift the bulk of my life from being work related, particularly music related, and instead, to find some time for my other passions … and maybe even try to relax a little. That is assuming I even have the capacity to do such a thing (as relax) — time will tell. Additionally, for me, it's not only about leaving behind H2, but also my longer history with The Current, as well as my even longer history with radio before moving to the Twin Cities.

That in mind, I've been officially on the radio in some capacity or another since 1995, and throughout all that time, it is something that I have really enjoyed, as well as put a lot of time, thought, and effort into. Since I started, I thought radio hosting was something I would do for the rest of my life, because beyond my passion to share music with other people, there is also an aspect of it that has always been therapeutic. And, while I recognize how important my various radio shows have been to me over the many years, I just recently put all the pieces together of how it connects to my lifelong passion with music.

When I turned four years old, while living in El Paso, Texas (Fort Bliss Army Base), for my birthday, my parents gave me a record, and it still remains one of the most memorable gifts I have ever received. It was the 45 of Carl Douglas's "Kung Fu Fighting." But before I got the gift, my parents took me out to eat, and then as we pulled into the driveway, listening to the local popular radio station, my parents told me to hurry in the house, turn on our woodgrain Kenwood home stereo and turn the radio up. It seemed to be a strange request to place urgency upon, and surely my young inquisitive mind questioned this, but they insisted I hurry, so I did. Moments later, the radio announcer said something to the effect of, "Today's a special young man's birthday, so this next one's for Kevin, 'Kung Fu Fighting'!" I was blown away!! I'm sure, even at four years old, I had a basic understanding of how radio worked. I had heard people get their requests honored before that day, so even if I never thought about it, I'm guessing I had an instinctive understanding that someone would call the station, make a request, and the announcer honored that request by first sharing it with the listeners. However, hearing one directed to me, especially not knowing it was coming, was like the highest form of magical wizardry at work. Regardless of the fact that I had heard requests be honored before, there was a sense that I was the first person to every experience such a thing. It was my moment and my moment alone, although I wasn't thinking about it so philosophically then, as I danced around with an assortment of karate kicks, chops and other assorted odd (somewhat) rhythmic movements.

Kevin Beacham at age 4 in El Paso
Me (age 4), Sis, and Mom in El Paso, Texas. (courtesy Kevin Beacham)

I've often considered that moment a key turning point in my life. It's a tangible memory that solidifies my love for music at a young age. The record itself is the first (music-related) record in my collection, which has continued to grow to over 15,000 records currently. And, though I never officially trained in martial arts, I've self-trained in the basic principles and aspects of it off and on throughout my life. And, I still turn to those teachings when I'm seeking to find some mental and emotional balance. But, here's where I am just realizing some other intriguing intersections: As I was having that Carl Douglas experience on an army base in Texas, around the same time, out in New York, the movement that would eventually be named Hip Hop was in its critical early development stage. And, one thing that I never really considered, it's also likely the first time I had a true understanding of the power of the DJ, and the concept that from sharing music, and especially by adding a personal touch, you can enhance a listener's life, and in some cases, create memories that can endure forever. That is such a beautiful thing.

Kung Fu Fighting
My first music record, "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas. (courtesy Kevin Beacham)

Fast-forward 21 years later, when Shawn Boyd, the program director at WNUR in Evanston, Ill., during that time, asked me to fill in for the host of the Thursday-night rap show on the night of April 20, 1995. I found it to be an unexpected request because I had never considered doing a radio show myself. However, I did have some loose experience with it, which just so happened to be with the host I was being asked to fill in for. I met Jello thru J-Bird, and they had done some projects together. Jello was going to school in Champaign, Ill., and he was doing a radio show on WEFT. This was circa 1992, and at that same time, I was running my own business, Rage Productions, which revolved around artist development with a home studio to produce and record their demos.

Kevin and friends in Champaign, Ill., circa 1992
Champaign, Ill., circa 1992, left to right: Space Ghost of ISPI, KBATE of Underground Soulution, Black Man Zeke, Jello, and Kevin Beacham dramatically in front. (courtesy Kevin Beacham)

That same year, I had also recently started doing record-label promotion work in order to get my foot in the door of the record industry, in order to help the artists I was working with to find opportunities. So, as one part of that, my crew and I would regularly travel to Champaign to explore options by doing shows, freestyle sessions, and also using WEFT as a radio outlet via our connection with Jello. At that point in my life, I was less concerned with MCing and was trying to focus on the business side of things. So, I was usually the one in the crew to make announcements about where we were going be in town that night, or to help introduce the demos of ours that Jello would play, which were mostly by Undaground Soulution and S.P.O at that time. Eventually, that led to Jello asking me to be involved in other ways. The first thing I remember doing for WEFT was helping him do an on-air phone interview with Arrested Development to help promote their debut album and upcoming show in Champaign. Soon after, I was asked to come along and assist with recording an interview with Das Efx at their Chicago hotel when they were doing a promotional run for the soon to be released debut album.

Das Efx interview in Chicago
Das Efx Chicago hotel interview, around 1991/1992; back row, left to right: Black Man Zeke, Kevin Beacham, Skoob of Das Efx, Jello, Drayz Of Das Efx. Front row: S.P.O and J-Bird. (courtesy Kevin Beacham)

However, even earlier than that, one of the artists I was producing tracks for, Black Man Zeke, had convinced the Sunday night Hip Hop hosts on WNUR to let us do a 15-minute segment each week, interviewing a different local artist on-air and playing some of their demos. However, that was really Zeke's concept, and I was merely along for the ride. I think we only did it once, and I believe it was with a rising underground group called Kinetic Order who had an amazing demo at the time and had just got signed to a record deal. I think we were planning to do a group named Madphace next (later the members formed Whatnoxic), but for some reason that segment didn't last, or if it lasted beyond that first one, I wasn't involved anymore. I honestly barely remember it, because although I thought it was a great idea, I didn't particularly initially have the interest to pursue radio in that way. I'm almost certain that was partially because I didn't know it was an accessible option to me. I thought I had to go to school, have training, or something to that degree, and while that might be the most common path, as I've learned repeatedly in life, often times, simply being passionate, professional and present can surpass the need for following the most common path…

Look for part two of three from Kevin Beacham next week, right here at thecurrent.org..

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A note from The Current's Program Director Jim McGuinn:

Like thousands of fans who have listened both to H2 and to Redefinition Radio over the past dozen years, we're sad that Kevin Beacham and Brent "Siddiq" Sayers have decided to stop hosting The Current's H2 radio show. Having Kevin and Siddiq on our airwaves every week has been a thrill and an honor. Their knowledge of hip hop (and funk, soul and a whole lotta other music) is deep and encyclopedic, and listening to H2 was like dropping in on two passionate, funny, smart musicheads sharing a conversation and musical discoveries across the radio dial. We will miss them and their show(s), but they will always be part of The Current family.

So what does this mean for The Current and hip hop? We don't exactly know yet, but we hope it's an opportunity to look at what we do and try to figure out the best way to incorporate the music into the station, and the station into the music. With that in mind, if you've got thoughts on it, from what we should play (or shouldn't), to how we can best serve the music and audience, we'd love to hear from you — let us know via the form below.

Thanks again to Kevin and Siddiq for letting The Current host one of the best hip hop shows on the planet, and together let's celebrate the next month of H2 episodes, Wednesdays, 10 to 11 p.m.

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  • Reunited with an old friend: Kevin Beacham's renovated boombox, the Sharp GF-575 I got this Sharp GF-575 radio for my 12th birthday. It was an integral part of my life from middle school thru high school (and slightly beyond). First off, this was the main way I heard music during that time, which includes playing tapes and listening to radio shows. It's also how I usually got new music in that same time period.
  • H2 on The Current Co-hosted by former Redefinition Radio host and Twin Cities hip-hop fixture Kevin Beacham and Rhymesayers Entertainment President and CEO Siddiq, H2 features a great mix of hip-hop both new and old, from all over the place. Sure to become one of Minnesota's premier hip-hop radio shows, it airs at 10 p.m. on Wendesdays.

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