Boom 102.9 is third new classic Atlanta hip hop station in a week

For fans of 2Pac, Snoop Dogg and Lil Kim, the Atlanta FM dial is now an embarrassment of riches because a third station has suddenly to play classic hip hop, this time on Radio One's 102.9 signal. Called Boom 102.9, it debuted at 5 p.m. today, just five hours after Cumulus launched OG 97.9.

Just a week ago, Steve Hegwood had debuted Old School 99.3/AM1010.

"I went to work with one, I came back with three," exclaimed Hegwood, who chortled at the thought. "Who's going to outlast who? I have the least overhead. I have the least amount of debt. It's crazy!"

Crazy indeed.

Lil Kim is getting more love on Atlanta radio thanks to this sudden influx of 1990s hip hop. CREDIT: Getty Images

You want to listen to each station and compare online? You can try www.myboom1029.com (For some reason, they didn't use www.boom1029.com.). Over at 99.3, it's www.oldschool993.com. And for OG 97.9, it's www.og979.com.

All three signals are called translators and are not terribly strong on the FM dial. The Federal Communications Commission allowed these signals a few years ago and they have often been used to simulcast other stations. But real estate is real estate, even if it's not prime real estate. (This is the coverage map for Boom.)

Radio One, which also operates Hot 107.9, Praise 102.5 and Majic 107.5/97.5 in Atlanta, has launched Boom stations in other markets including Dallas and Philadelphia. As I noted in my earlier story today, this format is hot because the demographics are enticing. The people advertisers love to chase - people in their 30s and 40s - grew up with the era of hip hop these stations are focused on: mostly 1990 to 2005 with a few cuts from the 1980s and the later 2000s.

And while the genre chases a heavily black audience, non blacks of this Gen X demographic are also fans.

But do we really need three?

"This might just be overkill," said Mary Catherine Sneed, whose original Hot 97.5 in the mid-1990s played many of the cuts heard on these three stations when they were new. "With Cumulus and Radio One, it's going to be a race to the bottom in terms of who can drop their rates more. Hegwood has the most to gain. His stations are what they are. [He also runs Streetz 94.5]. His rates are what they are. They won't change."

The constant changes at Cumulus, especially, can't possibly make the advertisers (much less the listeners) happy, she noted. They have the least compatibility with their station to their other stations.

Old School 99.3 works well with Streetz 94.5. And Radio One, which started Boom, specializes in stations targeting black listeners. Cumulus, with OG 97.9, in this market has a rock station, a pop station, two country stations and a news/talk station.

The signal 102.9, by the way, previously simulcast gospel station Praise 102.5.

UPDATE 12/2/14: In Dallas, one of the two classic hip hop stations that flipped the same day last month lasted all of two weeks. It went straight urban today.

I can't imagine we'll have three classic hip-hop stations for long here either. We may have two for a bit, though. My bet is Cumulus blinks first at 97.9 and flips to something else before year end.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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