Called WGBZ-The Beat, the radio station is the area’s first locally broadcast hip-hop program in stereo.
“Basically, our goal is to make radio fun and exciting,” said Justin Simane, WGBZ-The Beat’s programming director. “People don’t want to listen the same-old, same-old. And until now, the area never had a hip-hop, R&B FM radio station.”
Music programming for WGBZ-The Beat debuted Sunday night on 104.3 FM, 99.1 FM and 1430 AM.
Simane said the station’s programming, while relatively simple and music-oriented in its early stages, will expand to include syndicated and local entertainment segments hosted by internationally acclaimed rappers and local disc jockeys, most notably Anniston native DJ Steen.
“I am very excited; I think that this has been a long time in the making for Anniston,” Simane said. “It will probably go to number-one in a matter of weeks.”
The idea for WGBZ-The Beat was first developed after Simane teamed up with Gadsden resident Henry Granger last month, Simane said.
Around that time, Simane said, Granger had entered into a broadcast programming agreement with Jacobs Broadcast Group, Inc., a local broadcasting company based in Oxford that owns a series of radio frequencies and is known best for its country music program, WTDR-Thunder on 92.7 FM.
Jim Jacobs, general manager and owner of Jacobs Broadcast Group, said he and Granger hammered out a deal which allows Granger to control programming and sell advertising on three of Jacobs’ frequencies — 104.3 FM, 99.1 FM and 1430 AM. Jacobs said he agreed to the deal because it seemed like a smart financial move for his company.
“It’s a good thing when you put a business deal together that you think is a win-win for everyone,” Jacobs said. “And the type of station he (Granger) wants to have will be good for the community because it didn’t exist (until now). He has the potential to be very successful.”
Simane said that he’d approached Jacobs with an idea for a locally broadcast hip-hop station last year. But the problem was Simane didn’t have a plan about how to attract advertisers to a new station.
When Granger came up with a similar idea — and a business proposal — last month, Jacobs put him in contact with Simane.
Simane was hired on as the programming director, and WGBZ-The Beat was born.
Simane said he is particularly excited about a planned segment for the new station that will allow local rappers to battle each other on air and have residents vote to choose a winner.
“It’s going to be segment hosted by DJ Steen called ‘Battle of the Beats,’” he said. “It’s going to be a hit … people were waiting for this.”
Of course, hip-hop and R&B styles have been found on Anniston-area airwaves since 1991, the year that WHOG, an AM station based in the radio building downtown, began airing them. And while WHOG has offered a variety of “urban top 40” music for much of its career, general manager Mark Hogan says the station labeled itself “Hip Hop 1120” almost a decade ago.
But WGBZ would be the first hip-hop offering on the FM dial.
Local residents interviewed by The Star on Friday expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of another locally broadcast hip-hop station.
Jacksonville resident Josh Hughes, 21, said rap is his favorite kind of music and looks forward to hearing the selection of artists played by WGBZ-The Beat.
“Oh yeah, I listen to rap all the time,” Hughes said. “You know, L’il Wayne, T.I., Dr. Dre, Eminem. And it gets old listening to the same CDs over and over again.”
Latasha Kirkland, 28, said she never listens to local radio stations because they never played the hip-hop and R&B music she liked.
“Yes, I will definitely check out this new station,” the Calhoun County resident said.
WGBZ-The Beat is broadcast out of the same Oxford studio where Jacobs broadcasts WTDR-Thunder.
Jacobs said the contract with Granger allows Granger to buy the frequencies he’s leasing from Jacobs Broadcast Group.
Simane said the new station already has several local advertisers, including On-Time Fashions, Food Outlet and Tim’s Barbershop.
“And we’re going to continue to expand,” Simane said. “This is the kind of music I listen to; I love it.”
Star staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562.