Is Black Radio Worth Saving?

AllHipHop Staff


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.’ It’s over. It’s not about ‘free speech.’ It’s about you’re 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**!/ … What’s on the radio—propaganda, 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, that’s the basis upon which they hire you… Don’t you know why Black people are not productive—it’s because their minds are being

controlled. And you are the agent that they’re using. You—in 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 didn’t 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 cause—to 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 aren’t so willing to give him that much credit



D explained, in plain English, the content and character of Conyers’ handiwork.

It’s 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 don’t have more stations? It’s 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 we’ve 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, hasn’t 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 lion’s

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 hoe’s” 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

about that?”


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

about that?”


we’ll 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 DJ’s, whose sole claim to fame is the ability

to read scripts—pre-written by record label executives—about how “ill,”

"hot," “siccckkk,” “phat,” “dope,” and “crack,” a select few of

commercial artists are.


fu**ed-up “on-air personalities” couldn’t 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 dive—as 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

it. C’mon.


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

terrestrial radio:

1. Jasiri X

2. Amir Sulaiman


4. Immortal Technique

5. Invincible

6. K’Naan

7. Rebel


8. Paris

9. Kam

10. The Conscious Daughters


by now you remain unconvinced, you’re probably one—or an avid fan—of the DJ’s

I’m 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 morality—dialogical morality.

Gone are the days of Herb Kent, Richard Pegue, Eddie O’Jay, Frankie Crocker,

and Hal Jackson Jr.


year, when Black folks would rather go watch “Who’s 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 concerned—at



it on the i-i-i-i-i-ignorance?!


left with the last of a dying breed—Davey 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 us—judging

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 people—for 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 DJ’s, probably aren’t. THEY GOT TO GO!Tolu Olorunda is a Columnist for views expressed inside this editorial arenât necessarily the views of or its employees.