Has it been 25 years already? I find it hard to believe that I’m only one year younger than hip hop.
I remember back in the days rushing home to catch DJ Red Alert on 98.7 Kiss FM. I had my blank tape ready in the recording position in the tape deck. It was my form of bootlegging at the time.
Hip hop has grown over the past 25 years. Just like me, hip hop has had its formative years, training years, rebellious years, superficial years and maturity period.
Hip hop has established itself as the voice of a generation that was seeking to find itself.
When someone asks what hip hop means to me, I say it’s more than music. Hip hop is a culture. It’s my culture.
Growing up in Brooklyn, hip hop was all around me, from the graffiti covered trains, to the double cassette deck boom boxes pulsating to the beat of L.L. Cool J’s “Rock the Bells” or Run DMC’s “My A.D.I.D.A.S.”
It was radio that brought the hip-hop culture to life for me, not MTV.
Radio, for the most part, brought hip hop to the mainstream, but lately it has been the reason why hip hop has lost its luster.
Thanks to conglomerates such as Cumulus, Clear Channel, Radio One and others, commercial radio has become a programmed virtual prison for your mind.
The Federal Communications Commission’s relaxation of ownership rules have allowed conglomerates to snap up smaller radio stations and turn them into cookie-cutter operations.
Where is the variety?
Commercial radio has become a marketing tool for the major recording companies, becoming a real life version of “The Matrix,” programming you with its definition of a hit.
Gone are the days when artists had to drop albums that not only reflected them, but their entire neighborhood, their city and their state. Radio conglomerates have forced artists to focus on the “hook,” or the beat, instead of overall lyrical content.
Commercial radio is not the only one to be blamed, the hip-hop culture left the confines of New York City, Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles and ended up in places like Kalamazoo, USA. Small towns began to embrace the culture. The growth was explosive, but the newcomers were not properly trained to weed out wack music and they consumed all of it. Record labels sprung up, and the wackness exploded.
Artists such as J-Live and Big L were regulated to underground shows on college radio because mainstream America wanted what they were programmed to listen to.
It might be too late for commercial radio, but you as a listener have options. Turn the dial.
Changing the dial allows you, the listener, to become de-programmed, freeing your mind. Once you see how deep the rabbit hole gets, you’ll find artists such as Saigon, Murs, Bahamadia, Cunninlynguists and Pharoahe Monch, just to name a few.
Can hip hop last another 25 years? Without a doubt.
But will we run to our radios to record the latest single?
Probably not, unless it’s non-commercial.
Gregg Bishop is a senior business administration student from Brooklyn, N.Y. He’s an on-air personality and the program director at WANM 90.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.