July 5 '98
The conversation I had..about the continuing conflict involving hip hop artist and radio stations got me thinking.. It's been an age old conflict where in the beginning radio stations were totally against this new music called rap.. Nowadays radio stations play rap all the time.. But the conflict continues because many artists feel the stations aren't playing the right type of rap. Nowadays, artists who started their own labels claim they can't get any commercial air play.. And in many parts of the country local artist bemoan the fact that radio stations only play east coast based music...Adding insult to injury.. many of the local artists find themselves not being able to get love from the college and community radio djs.. because the djs who do the rap shows on these stations are only into playing 'east coast' music..
Speaking from personal experience, what has happened on the college and community level is that the many of the djs have gotten caught up in playing the 'INDUSTRY GAME'.. Big Labels will get their rap departments to call these local djs and encourage them to report certain records to industry trades like Gavin, Hits and CMJ. Big label guys will send a rep to a certain market and they'll then treat the djs to dinner or lunch and in many cases 'sponsor' some kid to go to a fancy music conference.. The result of this is a type of co-opting.. Where these college and community kids get caught up in the hype of the music industry and stop being responsive to local needs.. and concerns. And to a large degree who can blame these djs for going for the bait..Most are trying to come up and get a name for themselves in the industry.
If a label like Def Jam sends a kid two copies of the new Redman single.. flies out to SF and then treats him to lunch and invites him to the Redman show.. That college or community radio dj is most likely gonna get hooked.. He'll be checking for Redman or any other piece of vinyl put out by Def Jam. A relationship is established.. It's one where the up and coming college or community dj finds himself exposed to the glamour of the music business. He finds himself wanting to hang out and be seen and known within that circle of people..That's where the opportunities to come up and advance seem to be waiting..
Now along comes the local artist who spent his last dime putting together his tape.. Yes, he needs some more polish.. Yes, he's still learning the business.. And he attempts to get his chops wet on the college and community circuit. Unfortunately the college radio dj ain't trying to fade this local artists.. because he's into the hype of the INDUSTRY GAME.. In addition his tastes have grown to usually reflect the flava that's being pushed by the industry.. It's no accident that in place after place, local artists find themselves being squeezed out.. I call this whole thing an INDUSTRY GAME because I see how many of the players are really about manipulating paper and not trying to really achieve serious impact.. I'll get numerous phone calls in a week with label guys from 3000 miles away asking me to report one of their projects to an industry trade.. They'll sometimes ask the perfunctory question. 'Is my artist blowing up out there?'.. Me, personally I'll just break it down honestly. 'No your artist isn't blowing up out here.. you'll need to do a lot more then get me to report a record to Hits or Gavin..
College and community radio has begun to lose it's impact because a lot of the djs are in positions where they're trying to appease label reps and street team promoters and not fulfill the needs their the surrounding community. So nowadays you'll have kids who do college radio shows who are more known to label reps in New York or LA then they are by folks two blocks away from the station. The local record stores don't know about these djs 'cause they don't have any bearings on sales.. Even when their pumping the product issued by the big label people.. A lot of the local artists aren't even aware of these shows.
A lot of college djs have made the mistake of thinking that folks will no about their show because everyone listening will spread the good word.. If you happen to be the one or two hip hop shows in town then, then yes that will happen.. In other places the good word about some one's college show gets spread around by the local artists who get heard and played and given access to the airwaves..In some places college radio has become so irrelevant that local artists don't even bother to check for them anymore.. They just go straight to the commercial stations and try their luck their.. They figure why argue with some kid who's on a 10 watt station in the middle of the night trying to get a free T-shirt or a free pizza dinner from some big label rep when he could expand the same energy arguing with a commercial station head.. At least the payoff will be a lot bigger if he can convince the commercial station to play the record..
Just out of curiosity how is hip hop radio in your market? Are the commercial stations doing the job? Is Hot 97 in NY really where Hip Hop Lives..? Is the new station in Atlanta bangin' that raw underground stuff.. Is The Beat [92.3 FM] and Power 106 in LA representin' correctly..? Have college and community stations been filling the void? If so what stations and shows are bangin'.? What djs in your area are really keeping hip hop alive? Is hip hop alive and well in those outlets..or do you find that there's some sort of bias on the airwaves.. Let me know what's happening.. what are the strengths and what are the weaknesses..? I wanna post up these letters and do a larger article dealing with hip hop and radio..If we start to see that the headz in a place like Detroit are experiencing the same problems as headz in San Diego.. Then maybe all of us can do some things to flip the script..
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