Hip-Hop radio

Same Ol' Song: What Happened to Hip-Hop Radio?

Image above found at faunanocturna.net.

“All around the world/ same song…” -“Same Song”, Digital Underground

When invaders take over a country, the first thing that they do is seize the radio station. So, when a group of terrorists tried to take over the ‘hood, of course, their first target was 99.9FM The Heat. As soon as they bum-rushed the lobby, they tied up the news director. Next they destroyed all the old school Hip-Hop to leave no trace of a once great culture. And finally, as a form of torture, they played the same wack rap song over and over again for 24 hours straight. Unfortunately for them, their hostile takeover was an epic fail because the loyal listeners of The Heat couldn’t tell the difference…Rap music has always had a strange relationship with commercial radio. During the early years, besides the short version of “Rapper’s Delight”, outside of NYC, you only heard real Hip-Hop on some college radio station at 2 0’clock in the morning. Not really a good time to blast your boom box.

Although Hip-Hop gradually made it into regular rotation thanks to more pop-friendly songs like MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” or Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”, some radio stations bragged about the fact that they didn’t play rap. Well into the ’90s. By the time that Hip-Hop fully infiltrated commercial radio during the mid ’90s, the Golden Era of Hip-Hop was over, and the airwaves were filled with either gangsta rap or Pop Hop that made you wanna “get jiggy wit’ it.”

What made matters worse was the loosening of FCC rules that made it possible for a couple of media corporations to own virtually every radio station in every city, as well as the fact that media companies were no longer required to do much in the way of public service programming.

Today, listeners are bombarded with the same five songs, and a radio programmer’s idea of diversity is which member of Young Money they’ll play next – Lil Wayne or Drake.

So, maybe, the question should not be what happened to Hip-Hop Radio, but whether it really existed in the first place on a commercial level.

Historically, Black radio has played a major part in the African American community. During the Civil Rights Era, it was the disc jockey who kept the people hip to where the next protest was going down. Also, Black radio has always been seen as the “voice of the community,” and all roads to reach the masses went thru the local radio station.

Herein lies the problem.

Whether Black owned or not, any station that plays Hip-Hop music is usually viewed as an advocate for the best interests of the boys and girls in the ‘hood, and they play on that empty symbolism to silence dissent, making them the media equivalent of “The Untouchables.”

This is why, regardless of how many people whine about the state of Hip-Hop, radio stations have gone virtually unchallenged. Nobody wants to get on the bad side of the person who reaches thousands of people every morning. So, it becomes a matter of ‘if you can’t beat ’em join ’em.’

Since every aspiring young rapper has a dream of one day having his girl hear his song played on the radio, even the most conscious artist isn’t going to diss the local radio station.

Also, many youth advocacy groups who should be on the front line fighting against the minstrel, murda music heard on the radio depend on their support. What community organization is gonna risk having the local radio station stop giving out Waka Flocka Flame CDs at their annual “Stay in School” rally?

They even have the main critics of destructive messages – Black leaders and churches – on lock as civil rights leader Rev. Jones ain’t giving up his Sunday morning show for none of y’all. And although Sista Smith and Mother Jackson hate rap music, they would enter the “twerk team “ contest in a minute if 99.9 FM was giving the winner free tickets to the latest Tyler Perry play.

It’s past time that we make those who control the airwaves responsible to the community. and not just their corporate sponsors.

This is especially critical during a political season as the same mega company that owns the right wing talk radio station that demonizes people in the ‘hood as “welfare cheats, no good parents and useless thugs” is the same company that owns the Hip-Hop station that promotes these very same stereotypes.

Davey D

Some people have raged against the machine. Media activists such as Davey D, Paul Porter, Lisa Fager Bediako, and Kwabena Rasuli have been constant thorns in the side of the industry. Also, Paul Billings of 103.7 The Beat in Muskegon, Michigan has used his station to educate as well as entertain. And, Silky Slim of Baton Rouge, Lousiana has used his radio show to stop Black-on-Black violence. North Carolina’s Scotty Reid has even created his own Internet based, Black Talk Radio News Network.

For the last few years, The Militant Mind Militia has launched a radio rebellion campaign the last week of August. Since radio personalities claim that they only play the songs that “we” want to hear we kick off a national campaign to e-mail, tweet, and jam station request lines with songs from conscious Hip-Hop artists, old and new, that should get airplay.

And, we ask them to have more programs dealing with issues facing their listeners, and not just every blue moon at 5AM on Sunday morning when the kids are asleep and the young adults are just getting home from the club with a hangover. Also, Labor Day Weekend is “Conscious Throwback” weekend when we use social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and convert our iPads, iPhones, etc. into our own radio networks by posting old school conscious Hip-Hop.

It is time that we demand change, and if the radio stations won’t get down with the program – thanks to the Internet – we, the people, have the power to tell the radio stations “either get down, or lay down.”

Like Lupe Fiasco said on “State Run Radio”:

“Make ‘em hear the records we play/ Build your own station/ Become your own DJ”

TRUTH Minista Paul Scott’s weekly column is This Ain’t Hip Hop, a column for intelligent Hip-Hop headz. For more information, contact info@nowarningshotsfired.com or visit NoWarningShotsfired.com. Follow on Twitter (@truthminista).


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  • I still listen to my city’s station daily and agree with the bulk of what you’re saying. You have to keep in mind though that the KEY WORD is ‘COMMERCIAL’. With that said, the folks at my station do care about the community, they offer job advice hourly, they’re always out helping the community. Just yesterday I was listening and they were out at a school drive handing out backpacks filled with supplies. You can blame commercial radio all you want but the real issue is EDUCATION.

    • ItGoesDownINtheDM

      but do you think they do that to really help the community or just to stay in good graces?? how are you about the community when most of the messages coming from thier stations promote adultery & violence … how do we sing to that but walk to that … it just dont make any sense … thier out for profit its a business … and commercial music brings in the advertisers … i totally fully understand why stations play a select list of songs daily … but just dont try to put the spin on me talking about this community stuff … nah your about profit … even alot of thier community stuff relates to earning a profit wether its getting C level artist to perform @ local events or enticing advertisers for free community giveaways … being from a small state that has its own local station but still being close enuff to bigger cities that have big FM stations ……….. i would say everyone doesnt fall under that umbrella … some stations actuallly do a pretty good job …………. its taken alot of fighting but our local stations is SOMEWHAT coming around … but they preach that community ish too but everything i see them doing for the community is worse then what i already wrote that border line stuff … everything i seen them do it came with a price tag …………………… so not knocking all of them cause there are a few that are about really reaching out and also most importantly having folks FROM the community working @ the station @LEAST!!

  • TruthSerum

    Radio DJ’s alot of the time dont have much of a choice in the matter, they get a short list of songs there allowed to choose from and gotta work with what there told. Kind of destroys the need for a DJ at all, might as well replace them with robots, way of the world tho, nothings fair.

    Thats why the Internet is such a blessing in that sense, artists like Tech N9ne and dozens of others I wont take the time to name off have prospered without them from appearing on blogs and what not. They put up decent numbers and sellout clubs from coast to coast without the radio.

    • ItGoesDownINtheDM

      true but them dudes been doing that before the internet …

    • KingsCountyCrooklyn


      • TruthSerum

        Tech had already sold over a million records before that lil gremlin knew who he was, he broke that with 2009’s killer….. sorry try again

  • Sparky Flinstone


  • upinsmoke3000

    Good article. It’s to the point now to where me and my 9 year old son take guesses on the next song to come on the radio down here in Atlanta, and 8 outta 10 times we are right. SMDH.

    • ItGoesDownINtheDM

      funny but sad @ the sametime shame on commercial radio

  • Great article……But I wanted to learn more about the radio stations accepting cash for radio spins…..Speak more about the payola effect…That is the real problem.

    • ItGoesDownINtheDM

      radio stations dont technically accept cash for spins … hand to hand … not saying there arent any cause im sure prob some small dumb station does that … but for the most part its not that direct … like i said below its a business and these stations reguardless what they say or preach are out for profit …. but major labels like WMG universal etc … invest in alot of advertising with these stations … which in turn the station pays back the favor of playing thier music … which is usually the music you hear during the day … over the years the mixshow was created now thats alot more crooked then them all cause these mixshow djz def be gouging artist for spins on the mixshow … and mixshows are generally programed by the DJ the station really has no play in this slot … but from my knowledge these are 2 ways payola enters the game … but 1 thing up coming artist gotta understand … it is what it is … without this system put in place the radio station would be generating stars but gaining no profits … its business … realize this is a business … you want to be an commercial artist … learn the business and youlll makes moves …. its not rocket science … its called investing in self …… good thing is once you get to a certain point folks will just play your music without all of the politics because of your popularity and mainstream position ….. think lil wayne and cmb …… u dont think they paid thier way to the top ????? and it dont stop them New Joints of the day on 106npark are also ways to pay your way into the game … i honestly dont know how deep it goes like being able to pay for a top 10-8 slot on the count down …. but i wouldnt doubt it based on a few artist i seen hit those slots over the years ….. it is what it tho cause like I said its a business …….. it just kind of hurt because they hide these facts like it dont exist ….. and up coming artist rebel because they feel these are things that they shouldnt encounter … not knowing every successfull artist out there encounters this if they dont thier label is handling it all for them the artist just isnt in the know ….

      • I appreciate you’re response..I learned a lot…But what I really hate is the fact that they make it seem as if it’s the fans who are requesting the same songs back to back….It’s not the fans it’s the machine that is pushing it.

  • Sinbk Legend

    fukk the radio

  • Dave Williams

    whack music and greedy DJ,s messed up radio and the record companies keep puming this garbage!! smh

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  • Bro. Adika

    Thumbs up!

  • Sosa_Limone

    i really enjoy the articles written by the minista, but i wish they could be longer and more in depth.. i feel like he has to cover too many issues into short a span, so its like he spreads everything too thing.. not his fault iam sure there is a word limit, but maybe a several part series would be cool every once in a while

  • Sosa_Limone

    on another note, the only time i listen to the radio is at 12 pm for Mister C’s throwback at noon on hot 97… other than that i cant listen to that ish… my ipod plays in the whip or big pun radio on pandora

  • Pubrety

    That article is bogus. It’s saying that there’s a problem and not gunning up to fix it, just like everyone else does that’s a wimp/
    Plus, how sexist?! There are rappers that are girls and they want to have :their man: hear their song on the radio station. You idiots.

  • Reminds me of Hot 97 ( NYC ) in the 90’s, 40 mins of Bad Boy, 15mins of commercials &5mins of 1 & 1/2 other songs. Only time I listen to the radio is when I’m in a whip with no system.

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