Is Black Radio Worth Saving?
a new mother, with a two-month old, I refuse to let these companies, these corporations, call my daughter a bitch, a hoe, a n***er. Its over. Its not about free speech. Its about youre peddling drugs into the mind of our
community. What you do is addicting our children to violence.
Clemente, Hot 97 protest, 2005.
off the radio!/ Turn off that bullsh**!/ Whats on the radiopropaganda, mind control/
And turnin it on is like puttin on a blindfold/
Prez, Turn off the Radio, Turn off the Radio: The Mixtape Vol. 1, 2002.
you get down, can you talk trash, can you get funky, can you get nasty? You got the job! Now look, Brother, thats the basis upon which they hire you Dont you know why Black people are not productiveits because their minds are being
controlled. And you are the agent that theyre using. Youin Black music.
Min. Louis Farrakhan, Jack the
Rapper Convention, 1980.
rare to have Rep. John Conyers (Detroit) and Rev. Al Sharpton (Heaven?)
publicly split against each other, but a recently-passed bill (H.R. 848),
championed by Conyers, just accomplished that. The Performance Rights Act has
created a full-blown spectacle, even enlisting the megaphone of media mogul,
Cathy Hughes, who called it a bill that could put many black owned radio
stations out of business. And force others to abandon their commitment to
provide free music, entertainment, news, information, and money losing formats
like gospel and black talk. In recent weeks, many, including the inimitable
Dick Gregory, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Tom Joyner, have rallied in opposition to
bill passed last Wednesday in the house, but not before a rally organized by
Ms. Hughes, herself, outside Conyers office.
should be duly noted that H.R. 848 didnt just spring up like a thief in the
night. For months it had been in the works, and for months, faithful public
servants like award-winning Hip-Hop journalist, Davey D, had been raising their
voices against the dangers it could causeto Black radio.
early as January 27, 2009,
Davey D had begun sounding the alarm. By February 24, he was convinced
that if Conyers greased the wheels for the passage of the bill, He and his
collogues will be regretting their shortsightedness Conyers and his ilk will
one day sadly discover that those outlets will not be able to accommodate them
in an effective way because many outlets like mine play music with our talk.
At the time, Davey D speculated that perhaps the esteemed Congressman has been
duped and bamboozled. Someone on his staff has given him bad information; but
many of Conyers opponents arent so willing to give him that much credit
D explained, in plain English, the content and character of Conyers handiwork.
Its worth quoting at-length:
this goes through, what will essentially happen is that we will find ourselves in a situation where it will become real costly to play music. This new coalition is really the same outfit that went and gutted internet radio making it so it costs 18 cent a song per listener. Do the math and ask yourself why we dont have more stations? Its too damn expensive after you reach a certain amount of listeners. The rate is scheduled to go up to 25 cent a song per listener in 3 years. This means if you have something cracking and you get even half a million listeners it will be impossible for you to pay for it, even with
But as much as weve been alerted to the danger involved in
a potential loss of this vibrant part of our culture, we must be just as willing to question if this effort, on the part of executives like Cathy Hughes, is even worth it. We should also demand from them what their true motive, in this fight, is. After all, Cathy Hughes, as founder and CEO of Radio
One, hasnt been so beneficial to the younger Black community.
In 2007, Jahi, the California-based Hip-Hop artist, asked a timely question: When will Radio One be held
accountable for the music they are feeding to our kids, matter of fact, all of
us? Jahi railed against Radio One and Cathy Hughes for promoting a Spring Fest
Miami concert series, with artists whose only prerogatives seem to be the
pursuit of material wealth and other self-destructive acquisitions. Jahi felt
that as much as Don Imus, the disgrace radio jock, was tossed into the lions
den for his nappy-headed hoes comment, and justly so, the Black Imus-lites
on the airwaves should be met with equal amounts of antagonism, from an irate
community: [T]he date after the controversy broke, I heard an artist say
beautiful hoes on the radio (RADIO ONE). Yeah they bleeped out hoes but
[we] all know what [was] said. What does Radio One and Kathy Hughes have to say
has a valid point; but the question, in my view, should be broadened and more
inclusive: What do WE, as a people, as a generation, as a culture, have to say
well be frank, and I certainly hope we can, most of what is played on Black or
urban radio stations across the country is unadulterated bullsh**! Bullsh**
in perpetuity. The same hedonistic, materialistic, misogynistic set of 5 10
songs is rotated by slow-witted DJs, whose sole claim to fame is the ability
to read scriptspre-written by record label executivesabout how ill,
"hot," siccckkk, phat, dope, and crack, a select few of
commercial artists are.
fu**ed-up on-air personalities couldnt care less what impact their role is
having on the collective psyche of the Hip-Hop community. They take pride and
joy in a job which trained-robots and machines can do effortlessly and, dare I
add, more eloquently. These backbone-less puppets have no depth into which
their integrity refuses to diveas long as the promise of financial solvency
abounds. Anyone who doubts the verity of my contention need only switch their
radio frequencies to any station with the title Hot or Power before it. Try
experiment for the non-believers and doubting-Thomases out there: Here are 10
well-known, fairly successful artists who, for sake of their political audacity
alone, are less likely, if not totally unexpected, to be heard on Black
1. Jasiri X
by now you remain unconvinced, youre probably oneor an avid fanof the DJs
Im referring to. To make it plain: Black talk/music radio is just not where it
used to be. To be sure, some evolvement has taken place, but the greater
differentiator appears to be deterioration of moralitydialogical morality.
Gone are the days of Herb Kent, Richard Pegue, Eddie OJay, Frankie Crocker,
and Hal Jackson Jr.
year, when Black folks would rather go watch Whos Your Caddy? than Talk to
Me, a movie based on the life of radio legend, Ralph Petey Greene, the truth
became plain too see. We could no longer deny our acquiescence to the festival
of drivel that now passes for commentary on Black radio stations. The
proverbial genie had popped out of the bottle, and very few seemed concernedat
it on the i-i-i-i-i-ignorance?!
left with the last of a dying breedDavey D (KPFA), Mark Thompson (Sirius /
XM), Dr. Jared Ball (WPFW), Harry Allen (WBAI), Bev Smith (WAOK), Cedric
Muhammad (Black Coffee Channel), Santita Jackson (WVON), Rip Daniels (WJZD),
etc.but the reality and severity of this crisis might be escaping usjudging
by our apparent nonchalance.
future of Black radio depends on what Dr. King described, in 1967, as the role
which the radio announcer plays in the life of our peoplefor better or for
worse. The better we assess this role, the better the likelihood of success
we attain, and the better a strategic plan we map-out to secure the future of
Black mass media. Most importantly, we will come to concede that Black radio
might be worth saving, but many of the announcers and executives, on-air
personalities and DJs, probably arent. THEY GOT TO GO!Tolu Olorunda is a Columnist for BlackCommentator.com.The views expressed inside this editorial arenât necessarily the views of AllHipHop.com or its employees.