My Mind Is Playing Tricks On Me: 98.9 Switches Formats?

Posted by Holly Whitfield | November 3rd 2017 19490 0

Ed. Note. On October 31, 2017, at approximately 12 p.m. Central Standard Time, Memphis’ 98.9 The Vibe FM radio station switched formats. We are gathered here today, with contributor Wesley and feedback from other Memphians, to discuss. 

98.9 The Vibe was necessary for my morning commute. Sure, Biggie’s “Juicy” was in such heavy rotation that you’d think it dropped last week, but sometimes I’d get treated to Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack”, which is the greatest song ever made, and I have backup on this.

So imagine my surprise Wednesday morning when I hear Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby” on the station. I figured, okay, it’s not throwback hip hop, but everyone loves Eartha Kitt. Maybe they’re weaving in a couple sexy Christmas songs with the regular rotation.

I was wrong.

A screenshot of 98.9’s new website. Nothing puts you in the holiday mood like lederhosen and Actual Predator Kevin Spacey

While my requests for comment from the station were not returned, I did find this statement from the station manager:

“We are really excited to offer a new and unique listening experience for the hundreds of thousands of people that enjoy non-stop Christmas music. ‘Christmas 98.9’ offers the River City an exciting choice as soon as you cross the bridge.”

My thoughts…

As you can see, there are dozens of us (dozens!!) in our feelings about this. 

Good question, Aisha! They can’t. At all. Let me show you:

This is a timeline I made of all the formats 98.9 has held since they arrived in Memphis from Kennett, Missouri. That’s seven formats in 10 years, all with varying degrees of…popularity.

click to expand

(Ed. Note: I’ve been monitoring the situation online, and it’s only fair to say that there are plenty of folks who are in favor of this switch. There are others who are more concerned that we couldn’t even get through the entire day of Halloween before it was already Christmas music time. Most seem annoyed at the loss of a station they loved rather than just against holiday tunes in general. A search for “98.9 christmas” on Twitter and Facebook reveals strong feelings all around.)

The format after the holiday season has yet to be announced. Hopefully we’ll get The Vibe back, but I’m not optimistic. However, Al Kapone, the Memphis rapper who was spearheading the station, actually is.

We need 98.9 to remain a classic rap station because it added to the diversity of Memphis radio, and was a good alternative to Hot 107 and K97, which both played Top 40 rap. I listen to both of those stations, but sometimes I don’t want to hear Migos on a loop. Seriously, when “Bad and Boujee” was at its peak, it was completely common to hear that song being broadcast simultaneously on both stations.

We’ve got 59 FM radio stations in Memphis, and now only two of them play rap music. And those two stations play the same songs. That’s boring.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not some scrooge who hates Christmas. I actually love this time of year, mostly because I hate hot weather and I get to listen to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio in proper context. But not all Christmas songs are worth listening to. Some of them might even be trash.

 Most Christmas songs fall towards the “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas” end of the spectrum and not Donny Hathaway. That being said “Silent Night” slaps, especially when Boyz II Men sang it on that one Fresh Prince Christmas special.

And before y’all tell me to just use Spotify in my car, I’m not trying to die in a wreck because I was driving and trying to search for “no scrubs”. Because typing and driving is a scrub thing to do.

Anyway, here’s a list of ten songs on 98.9 The Vibe I’m going to miss the most:

  1. Lil Kim – “Crush On You”
  2. Geto Boys – “My Mind Playing Tricks On Me”
  3. DJ Zirk – “Lock Em In Da Trunk”
  4. Kanye West – “Through The Wire”
  5. Jermaine Dupri – “Money Ain’t A Thang”
  6. Missy Elliot ft. Ciara – “Lose Control”
  7. Ludacris – “Saturday (Oooh! Ooooh!)
  8. 2Pac – “Dear Mama”
  9. Digable Planets – “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)”

And of course,

  1. Mark Morrison – “Return of the Mack.”

Which songs will you miss?


About The Author 
Wesley Morgan Paraham is a Memphis native and University of Memphis graduate who spends most of his free time in his Midtown apartment playing video games with his partner. He’s currently DCA‘s PR+Social Media Coordinator, but continues to do freelance writing every now and then.


Holly has some more questions for y’all:

– What do you think about the station’s switch?
– If you’re not a fan of the switch, is it bad altogether or is it just too early?
– Aren’t there other stations in Memphis that will play holiday tunes later in the season?
– Do you think The Vibe should return on Dec. 26 or is there another kind of station you’d like to see in Memphis?

This article is about our opinions. Feel free to leave yours in the comments!

Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

Show Comments


  1. sheldan says:

    I remember some of these formats. I think I recall the Smooth Jazz format. My favorite was probably “KIM 98.9” with Kim herself talking to the listeners. (I happen to enjoy soft rock–I still remember “Quad 104” (WQUD) before it became The River.) And being a talk show fan since the days of WHER/WWEE, I also was a fan of the talk format. The hip-hop formats, not so much.

    When a format changes, sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t. I enjoyed 94.1 KQK, but hated when they changed. Now at least there’s Guess FM, which is somewhat similar, and radio personalities seem to adapt to their surroundings. Maybe 98.9 is transitioning to something else, so I think after December we can actually see what they have in mind for the station.

  2. Steve Steffens says:

    Clearly, they need to switch to 24/7 polka on December 26. (ducks)

  3. SP says:

    1. What do you think about the station’s switch?
    Hate. It. With a passion. I took 98.9 off my presents in my car.
    – If you’re not a fan of the switch, is it bad altogether or is it just too early?
    – Aren’t there other stations in Memphis that will play holiday tunes later in the season?
    Not if I can avoid them. Plus, why can’t people flip to am, if they want treacle all the time?
    – Do you think The Vibe should return on Dec. 26 or is there another kind of station you’d like to see in Memphis? The Vibe needs to return. The DJs were some of the best on local air, and the music helped broaden Memphis’s scope. Thank God for 96.1.

  4. Lexie says:

    Really hoping it comes back after Christmas!! It is a commute lifesaver for sure and Iam already deeply missing it. Also, starting Christmas music on Halloween is plain crazy. I was in a rage when I realized what happened. This is just dumb.

  5. Rosemary Askew says:

    When I started my car about a week ago immediately I noticed it making a terrible frightening sound! And it originated from the radio!!! “What’s this?!” I puzzled. I punched buttons and landed back on “home base”, 98.9!!! Omg! I couldn’t believe it and paused, listening to the cacaphony of Christmas music, dry as toast blaring Christmas music, on “MY” radio station!!! I tried calling their request line over and over, no answer! Not only in the car but in our house 98.9 was our go to station. There’s no proper substitute! I’m rounding the corner now on the five stages of grief about it. Anger, disbelief, etc etc. Please Santa when you think everybody’s had their fill of the charming beloved ballad about Grandmaw being run down by one of your reindeer, please let all of us have our classic hip hop back!!! I’m begging you Santa baby, (Eartha Kitt version if you please).

  6. Leigh says:

    My family and I are loving the Christmas music!!! 104.5 the River is usually the only station that plays any Christmas music besides a rare tune that might pop up elsewhere. It’s great to have another station playing Christmas music as well. My daughter was ecstatic when I told her 98.9 was playing Christmas music. She has had it playing non stop in her room! The moment I told her they were playing Christmas music, she lit up and had a beaming smile stretching from ear to ear. Anything that makes anyone especially a child smile cannot be THAT BAD. More extra Christmas cheer could never be a bad thing. 🙂

  7. Jamie says:

    Aaahh! So I’m not going crazy! I wasn’t sure what happened. I’m so torn- I do love Christmas music, but I loooooved The Vibe! It offered variety and took me back to my younger days. 🙁

  8. Albert says:

    I completely agree. 98.9 old school hip hop was one of my favorite things in memphis. And having Christmas music on in early November replacing it is disappointing and premature..

  9. SM says:

    Will 98.9 change back to old school rap after Christmas??!!? Someone PLEASE MAKE THIS HAPPEN!!! I can’t stand that it is gone

  10. BP says:

    Actually Memphis could use a good hard rock station (not 98.1) that plays old school hard rock and a little bit of metal from the 70’s thru the early 90’s. I think there would be a good audience for that.

  11. Judy says:

    Love it, just love it……one suggestion–how about some Christmas songs from the country stars like
    Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Alan Jackson and all the rest!!!!!! We will have more different songs to hear by different artists…………………………………………..

    thanks for everything

  12. Christi says:

    I only listen to this station a few times a year during my drive to Texas. I even have the station programed in my car so I won’t have trouble finding the station because it’s my absolute favorite portion of the 10 hour drive! I turn it up and dance like a fool in my car until the station fades out. It was with great disappointment to hear Christmas music on this station during my drive this year! This is a horrible decision made by the station manager! Extremely disappointed!!! Bring back the old school rap!!! But I’m thankful for this article because now I know what happened! I spent several minutes scanning through the stations thinking someone must have messed with my programmed stations.

  13. Eli says:

    I went to Memphis on a business trip in 2016 and randomly found the Vibe in my rental car. On returning home, I would stream it on the computer because it was literally the greatest hip hop station I had ever heard.
    Just tried again for the first time in a bit and could not believe what I was seeing with Christmas music!

    Missing the Vibe, way west of the Mississippi.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    When I wasn’t at school before The Vibe changed to a modern music station, I listened the classic hip-hop station. One day , I tuned in to find they were playing different music. Nevertheless, I was distraught that one of my favorite stations were gone.

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