|Music has a way of finding the people who need it. A teenage Kevin Beacham had already been bitten by hip hop when he found a stack of records staring at him from a neighboring bus seat. Junction City, Kansas, is by no means a big town, but its Fort Riley Army Base sprawls out enough to need a bus to shuttle soldiers and their families around the facility.
Kevin Beacham-Gap Rating 1010
Today Beacham has two high-profile posts in local hip hop, as a DJ on the Current (KCMP-FM, 89.3) and a Rhymesayers staffer. Back then, he was just another Army brat who was fixated a little too obviously on a stack of records. Their owner, a soldier named Anthony Pittman, had to say something. "Finally he was like, 'Do you want to see these?'" Beacham recalls. "I was like, 'Hey, the new Spoonie G!'"
Pittman, a.k.a. DJ Pill, from New York, took the rap-obsessed Beacham under his wing. The first time Beacham had his hands on DJ gear was in Pill's barracks, against Army regulations. Pill took the risk to "have his friends distract the guards," Beacham recalls, to sneak in his new devotee. Pill's setup must have been modest, but to hear Beacham tell it, this was the door to the next world. It was set up on "a little dresser--two turntables, a mixer hooked up to that, and an echo chamber, this giant obnoxious echo chamber," he says. "I remember going in there, seeing all the crates of records, and being like, wow. He started showing me stuff. Eventually he was just like, 'You try it.'"
Redefinition Radio (11:00 p.m. Saturdays), like Pill's time with his younger protégé, is Beacham's effort to give hip hop away. The show is made up of underground and independent rap from every decade. Beacham grew up, like millions of Americans in their 30s, in hip hop, watching it grow from an NYC "novelty" into a moral-majoritarian bugbear, and then into the ruling sound of American pop. But that history isn't always present. Between the milestone five-mic records and the revolving crop of top-40 rap hits, there's a wealth of tracks that rarely get heard.
"My job, my, whatever, responsibility, is to give these [songs] time," Beacham says. "Even if people don't remember, you'll play them something, and they'll be like, 'Oh yeah, that was my track!'