Monday, August 24, 2015

WBAU and Public Enemy


WBAU no longer exists. Some people might argue the same thing about Public Enemy. Their two tales become entwined in 1979.  WBAU was located at 90.3 FM under a day share agreement with WHPC at Nassau Community College. They were not the only college day share agreement out there (WYBF and WXVU still share today) But they never found a comfortable split and then came judgement day.

In 1968 the Ridenhour family (including Chuck D aka Carton) moved to Roosevelt, Long Island.  Six miles away was Adelphi University, home of the 1,100 watt college radio station 90.3 WBAU. Chuck D would eventually graduate from received Adelphi with a B.F.A. in 1984. Chuck and Public Enemy would remain forever connected to the station and the university. They awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2013. But his priority was hip hop. More here.

WBAU was originally called WALI, and broadcast only via carrier current. In 1971, the school acquired an FM license and filed for the callsign WALI. Long Island station 1100 WHLI-AM saw this as a branding issue and the calls changed to WBAU in 1972.  They originally broadcast from a tower at Mitchel Field but in 1981 they reduced power to 130 watts and moved their antenna to the top of the Adelphi student center. The new HAAT and location gave them an ERP of 1,100 watts. This incarnation of WBAU was to be Chuck D's NYC metro megaphone.

In 1976 Chuck joined a group of mobile DJs called Spectrum City; they were rappers and DJs in both senses of the word. He became their emcee in about 1979. Hip-hop fanatic and WBAU Program director Bill Stephney gave them a Saturday night  radio program changing rap history forever.  It was called the "Super Spectrum Mixx Show." [Different sources show different variations on the name.] The staff included Flavor Flav, the Boxley brothers and Chuck D. They were connected to record pools focusing on the nascent hip hop genre. They even interviewed Run DMC live on WBAU. But  thsi was pre-Rick Rubin. There was very little recorded Hip hop to broadcast. So they filled in bits of the program with their own demos including a some called "Public Enemy #1." In 1985 Spectrum City released a 12-inch single but they had been Public Enemy since 1982.


Their debut album "Yo! Bum Rush The Show" was released in 1987 to very mixed reviews. The lukewarm praise and verbal abuse led them to record the much more aggressive 1988 LP "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back." Whole books have been written about this seminal hip hop album. [LINK] Had they never recorded another note, their musical achievement would still have been huge. Public Enemy went on to record more albums and a strong of hits. WBAU and Public Enemy remained loyal to each other with ongoing airplay and live radio appearances well into the 1990s. [LINK]

Btu it came to an end in 1995. Adelphi University pulled the plug on WBAU calling it a" luxury the school can no longer afford."  The license was sold for an undisclosed sum to Nassau Community College who used it to take WPHC full time. WHPC also received the WBAU music library and one can hope... perhaps with it... some Deep tracks by Public Enemy. More here.