Friday, May 15, 2009

Hip-Hop Radio's Slow Death

In the late 90's I attended Grambling State University to pursue a degree in Mass Communications. I concentrated on TV because, I figured, that's what I enjoy doing (watching TV) so why not work in it. Once I got to college the golden age of Hip-Hop was in full effect. 2Pac and B.I.G. was in their primes. Master P and No Limit was taking over the nation, Cash Money was on the come up along with Bone Thugs N Harmony and an relatively unknown rapper from New York was at the beginning of a decade of dominance by the name of Jay-Z. Needless to say that as I hung around with cats in my field of study it became clear that radio was going to be the place to be. The future seemed so bright.

In the clouds of chronic smoke and late night liquor store runs, I soon discovered that I wasn't disciplined or mature enough to go to college at that time, so I dropped out. Until recently I re-discovered that passion to help bring great new music to the masses. But as time has gone on I realized that this task is becoming harder and harder to do.

After messing around for a few years, I began to drive 18-wheelers nationwide. It was exciting to me because in my mind I'm thinking "Wow, I'm going to see and hear so many great artists from across the country!". Boy was I wrong. I've been to all 4 parts of the country. From kicking it in the streets of the Bronx and Brick City New Jersey to South Florida, to Chicago to the Yay Area. I've been exposed to so many different kinds of rap and I know that I'm the better for it. But as I drove across the nation listening to various hip-hop stations one thing became perfectly clear,

Everybody's playing the same thing!!!
Even the great Hot 97, the mecca of Hip-Hop radio would play the same 10 songs every hour just like a small station in Dodge City, Kansas and to be honest it was disheartening. Of course based on your region you might get one or two local acts getting airplay but it was the same all over the nation.
When I was in college, I had to write a final term paper for a broadcasting class and I discovered this book written in 1983 called "The Media Monopoly" written by Ben H. Bagdikian. Its about the increasing centralization of media by a small number of companies and how dangerous this is to our way of life and the flow of ideas. With only a few companies controlling nearly every way we are able to receive information and entertainment (including Hip-Hop) our ideas and thoughts and values will be soon shifted into thinking the way these companies want us to think.
Now I'm not a conspiracy theorist. No, don't ask me about Zeitgeist nor do I think there's anything sinister going on. But what I do see is how this is affecting Hip-Hop. No matter how great alot of the music is these companies will more than likely side with the sounds that are more "Party & Bullshit" (No disrespect to the Immortal B.I.G.) than "Fight The Power" over the airwaves. How else do you explain a song like Dead Prez's "Hell Yeah (Pimp The System)" has a feature with one of the most radio bankable artists on the planet (Jay-Z) received very little to no airplay? I know that might sound extreme but its also one of the reasons that Hip-Hop and R&B radio is being choked to death slowly by media conglomerates.
They are more likely to have ladies act like a "Bust It Baby" than be respected by a great song like "Woman" by Raheem Devaughn. That may also explain the reasons why even though we have 2 of the greatest role models a kid can ever ask for in the Obamas, all I see on TV is "Meet The Browns" about overweight black folks dressing like bafoons and acting crazy.
All is not lost, hope still remains and of course the options are many. Great internet radio stations, Pandora, Podcasts, Ipods, Imeem, satellite radio (to a certain extent) and many more exist to help you steer clear of the garbage. But somedays I want to turn on Hot, Z, or Power and be pleasantly surprised by something new not the same old song and dance.
I guess I'll continue listening to the same 8 gigs of music on my iPhone's iPod.

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