Cardinal Sin

DJ Kevvy Kev hosts the longest-running hip hop radio show in the world on Stanford's KZSU -- sans recognition

Assuredly, a boatload of Bay Area artists will line up to contribute. Ask a veteran of the local scene about Kev, and you're likely to get lamentations and cries of injustice. "It's a travesty that people don't know who Kev is after all those years supporting hip hop when no one else in the bay would," says Tajai of the Souls of Mischief, also a Stanford grad. "It's messed up that he doesn't get recognized or roasted while he's at the peak of what he's doing, but maybe he hasn't reached his peak yet or maybe we'll do it later on when he decides to give it up. Since it's been so constant, people take it for granted."

Christopher Wiedmann, a longtime listener who used The Drum as a lifeline back to his native New York while attending Stanford in the late '90s, also thinks it's tragic that Kev remains one of the Bay Area's unappreciated gems. He decided to take action while attending the anniversary party. "When I heard him say that it had been 20 years and it didn't seem like a big deal to anyone," he says, "I was like, 'That's it? That's all?' There just seemed to be this huge element of recognition that was missing."

Wiedmann realized that if The Drum was the longest-running hip hop radio show in the States, then it had to be the longest-running in the world, as there is little chance that a hip hop radio show has been broadcasting in Bangladesh since 1984. So he decided to try to bring this feat to light by getting it recognized in – where better? – the Guinness Book of World Records. He approached Kev, who signed on, and then began the somewhat Kafka-esque process of validating the record according to the book's requirements. "It's like the law, in that the burden of proof is on you to prove it," he says. "And the book is run by a bunch of people who see the world in a certain way – it's really set up for guys who do things like eat a thousand coins in an hour – so trying to match their format with something like a show that spans two decades is fairly awkward." Wiedmann also e-mailed the Hiphop Archive to tip it off to the Easter egg it had in its backyard. He got a form letter back.

Kev does want his props – this is hip hop we're talking about – but he says he never did the show to go professional, break records, or ask favors from famous artists. When asked what makes him tear himself away from his beloved NFL, drive down from his home in San Francisco, and play unknown records to a listenership of indeterminate size each week (college radio can't afford Arbitron), he starts pulling 12-inches out of his crate. "See these?" he says, holding up GZA, R.A. the Rugged Man, and O.C. "Nobody else has these. I want to play these on the air for the first time, not just for people who aren't up on good hip hop, but for the heads who know. That's what gets me out of bed on Sundays."

But Kev also has another favorite saying, a reply he gives when asked what's up. "Trying to get rich," he shoots back with a grin. And like the guests on his show, he wants to do that without a desk involved, or a boss, or anything else that is not directly related to hip hop. It seems, though, that what Kev does falls between the cracks. He's certainly a radio personality – his peers Sway and King Tech, hosts of The Wake-Up Show, which he helped found, are syndicated in 20 markets (not to mention Sway's current gig as MTV's official hip hop correspondent) – but Kev cringes at the words "commercial radio" (he does hold out some hope for satellite). He's also a party DJ – but hip hop DJs are struggling in San Francisco, with rock bands getting the choicest gigs again. And perhaps his biggest forte, which is building blazing playlists out of unimpeachable hip hop, is a needless art now that radio stations have replaced music directors with market researchers.

The none-too-surprising reality is that Kevvy Kev isn't rich because he gives his best product away for free. "I'm really, really lucky, though," he says, pointing to his Macy's gig, his Thursday weekly party at the Tunnel Top, and the total absence of offices and company meetings from his life. "I'm paying my mortgage and feeding my son on what I love. It is definitely a grind, but I wouldn't change it."

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