It's Just Radio...


I wrote the following in response to this interview between Hot97's Ebro/DJ Cipha Sounds and famed Hip-Hop group, The Lox. See below for that:

If you didn't listen, the convo is once again breaching the subject of NYC/Tri-State MC's and Hip-Hop artists having to struggle to get airplay in their hometown. I posted the original response via Complex Magazine's article on it. To see their full story, Click Here. As far as my retort, it's a long one, so I hope you have your reading glasses on. *grin*

I've said it before, but Emmis Communications, Hot97, and Ebro specifically get no love from me regarding this topic. Last year around this time, Ebro got on his proverbial pulpit to explain that when it came to NY Hip-Hop and getting airplay, the most important aspect for making this happen was about "earning" the "privilege" to be presented on a mainstream radio market. I would assume that he was referring to an artist's sound, visibility, crowd factor, digital buzz, and above all else, concrete numbers re: audience attendance + dowloads/purchases from which someone like Ebro could easily use to gauge the potential for spinning a record from a NY Indie or up-and-coming MC.

Aside from this all sounding like self-centered BS...

I responded via Twitter that were such a kind of "rising through the ranks" the actual method by which Radio conglomerates allowed their DJ's/VJ's to break records from unknown/underground artists, New York City would have no need to ever play ANY Hip-Hop outside of its own region, since it has already been proven that there are dozens - literally dozens (I'm being VERY generous) - of NY/Tri-State MC's with clout, crowd appeal, brand power, booked tours, indie sponsorship, and a healthy history of successful merchandising who have yet to have their single dropped on Hot97 or Power105, much less get them to go in on any sort of joint business venture. And if you strip away all of these so-called 'qualifications' for airplay, there are HUNDREDS of rappers here whose talent and skill alone absolutely shit on most of the so-called 'Hip-Hop' being spun by folks like Flex and Cipha Sounds during their sets as part of their weekly stints on the air.

The hard truth is, as I've noted multiple times before, any radio station, regardless of genre, is under multiple contractual obligations with both record labels and advertisers to repeatedly spin singles and promote artists whose brands are direct affiliates of said contractual obligations. This is a basic tenet of the mainstream radio business structure. It has nothing to do with "earning your place," and everything to do with financial + economic partnerships forged by Communication + Entertainment monopolies long before Hip-Hop was even considered a viable genre of music. The fact that non-label, independent records get any love at all is a miracle, and every DJ/VJ knows that while they may have an aesthetic goal of playing good music (in this case, good New York Hip-Hop Music), they are not about to compromise their positions - or their paychecks - simply because some skillful MC wants to be heard on their radio show; they are still bound by the agreements they signed when first employed by the radio to follow directives meted out by their superiors (e.g. Program Directors, network executives, ad affiliates, etc.).

In other words, and to make a fat story thin, the radio game is still just as it has been for the last 75 years or so: a business. Nothing more, nothing less.

What kills me - and what pisses me off about this particular argument - is how folks like Ebro can know all of these things, being in his current position, and still throw out the hypothetical carrot-on-a-stick for up-and-coming artists to try and catch, in the hopes of getting some spin time on a DJ's set on the world-famous Hot97. It would be fine if he actually meant what he said and followed through with some of his preaching, but at the end of the day, ain't nobody's Ebro about to break nobody's underground record if ain't nobody important at his job willing to cosign it. Ultimately, good, hardworking MC's from NYC know this, and have long since moved on from throwing themselves blindly at the doors of Emmis Communications for the slim hope of being heard. We as artists (singer here) are tired of the runaround for 3-5 minutes of attention, knowing full well that thanks to the Digital Era and some sleepless nights, we can build our sound + brand with hard work, and without the help of the 'powers that be.' And frankly, I'm pretty sure most folks - even Ebro - would agree to that.