Fighting The Power 

Upstart rap station Power 92.7 had its eyes on big, bad KMEL, but didn't watch its back.

Page 3 of 6

But Simpson said he suspected that KMEL and Wild might start paying a more sinister kind of attention to Power. After all, he said, he knew how the two stations operated from the inside. In May 2001, he was working on Wild's promotions team when the Los Angeles-based Spanish Broadcasting System unveiled Party 92.7, a dance music station that would directly compete with Wild. As he sat in a staff meeting, he listened quietly as Wild managers instructed their street team to go head-to-head with the competition and to promote their station as aggressively as possible. A few minutes into the lecture, three employees strutted into the meeting with grins on their faces. "Some of the street team walked in and they said, 'We sent Party a welcome message,'" he said.

Unbeknownst to his bosses, Simpson was secretly talking with Party management about a job at the new station. And when he arrived there a few days later for an interview, he was certain that he saw what his Wild colleagues had been so tickled about. Someone had snuck onto the grounds of Party's downtown Oakland studio and spray-painted phrases like "Radio Is War," "Suck a Dick," and "Fuck the Party!" all over the front of the building. The tags glowed in bright pinks and yellows, the colors of Wild 94.9.

Julia Westland, who was Party's sales manager at the time, suspects that Wild employees were responsible for the graffiti, but refused to elaborate. Spanish Broadcasting chief revenue officer Marco Radlovic refuses to guess who could have tagged his building. "It could have been anybody," he said. "It could have been listeners. There was never anything proven." But Simpson was convinced his own colleagues were the culprits. This, he concluded, was the way that Wild and KMEL dealt with competition.

Simpson didn't let that stop him from taking a job at Party 92.7. He claimed that his old Wild 94.9 colleagues soon began stalking him outside his home in retaliation. "I lived a few blocks away from the station at the time," he recalled. "They had vans sitting out in front of my house when I got home. They followed me into my garage at one point. They put stickers on the window of my apartment, the garage door of my apartment. Just basically tried to harass me as much as they could. It was nothing to me, but it was just funny that they tried."

Michael Martin, who served then and now as program director for Wild as well as KMEL, said he has no idea what Simpson is talking about. "I couldn't comment on that, because I have no knowledge of that," he said. "And considering that this is coming from someone on our payroll who is interviewing for a job across town, that person does not sound like a very credible person to me."

Party 92.7 never rose very high in the ratings, and in 2003, Spanish Broadcasting System tentatively agreed to sell the station to Three Point Media. The new company leased the station from Spanish Broadcasting while the deal closed -- a process that wasn't finally concluded until last week -- and Simpson stayed on as the director of marketing and promotion for the new station.

According to Simpson, the harassment of Power started shortly after the new format debuted. "We had just purchased our brand-new Hummer H-2, and it was sitting in the parking lot," he said. "And I looked out the front window, and outside Wild rode by with their brand-new Hummer, and the promotion director of Wild, Ray Wong, was standing in front of our building, taking pictures of our building. And there were various street-team members walking around the block, and every parking meter and every stop sign and every city sign for a couple-block radius was tagged with Wild stickers. I just thought that was interesting, that the promotion director of a station that's billing $20 million a year had time in his day to stand out in front of our station." Wong did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Soon, Simpson said, KMEL vans were bird-dogging Power's street teams around the Bay Area. "The first one that I remember was we were in the Mission District," he recalled. "Two or three KMEL vans ended up following our van." When Power pulled into a parking lot, KMEL's vans boxed it in place, and street-team kids jumped out and plastered it with stickers. One guy walked up to the driver's side and pitched a "big brick" of fliers into the window, smacking the driver, Simpson said. Then they jumped in their vans and hit the road. "At that point, for safety reasons, we made amendments to have two vans out all the time, caravanning," he said. "It's more safe; they can't box you in as easily."

According to Angel "Supafly" Galindo, who ran Power's street team, KMEL vans messed with his crew all over the Bay Area. "I had me and another van, and we basically did a van hit," Galindo said of one incident. "I did a call-in, 'I'm out here at the Cala Foods parking lot,' whatnot, and people were coming up. ... They're like, 'Whassup,' you know? They find out where we're at, and they come, we put a sticker on their car, we hook them up with CDs, T-shirts, whatnot. And you know, they leave happy." But as he was pulling out, Galindo claims, he spied a KMEL van rolling in. That told him that KMEL's street teamers were listening to Power, trying to get a fix on his location so they could swoop in to counterattack. Galindo told his crew to circle back, and claims that KMEL's knuckleheads had hit each car in the parking lot. "They were just covering up all my stickers or taking them down, acting the fool," he said. "Acting like they're thugs more than they are employees. ... These are guys just wilding out, thinking just 'cause they work in radio, they're somebody important."

One time, Galindo said, a Wild 94.9 Party Crew van even buzzed his house, speeding up and down the street and throwing stares, as a Power truck idled next to the curb. "I'm hopping in the vehicle, and you know, my mother's across the street with my son," he said. "And they were like, 'Man, the van's following us.' And I turn around, and I see from the corner of my house, it was a Wild 94.9 truck. And then they mashed, and they mashed this way, going back and forth. ... And you know, my mom's about to cross the street with my kid, too, you know what I mean? So that kinda, you know, ticked me off." Galindo produced a letter of complaint, which he claims his mother sent to Wild 94.9 management. "I have a day care in the Visitacion Valley district, and have parents taking and picking up their children, and here I see a vehicle racing up and down my block," she wrote. "I would appreciate if you could please inform your drivers to behave."


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