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Radio, them suckas never play us

I don’t know about all of you, but I can’t stand the radio. They never play my favorite artists. For instance, I have never heard the Clipse on any radio station. Anywhere. [1] As a result, I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve bothered to turn on the radio in the last year. When I’m in New York, I listen to Jay Smooth’s Underground Railroad show. When I’m in Vancouver, I listen to J-Swing and Flipout’s Straight Goods. [2] And really, that’s about it. Pretty much every other time I’ve randomly tuned in, I’ve heard the same handful of boring, clownish hip-pop singles over and over again, ad infinitum. Listen to the rap attack and hold the radio close? Not so much. Why suffer through that mess when you have the Internet?

I don’t think I’m alone on this. A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Pusha T for Pound Magazine. We were talking about why rhymes are so simplistic these days and why the art of lyricism isn’t particularly valued in hip-hop. Here’s what he had to say:

Why is it not valued? I’m going to blame radio. Because I think they doing a lot of things based on research. And when they look to this research, it’s research on children. Dealing with kids is cheap. The kids want the big hook, the repetitive ad lib, they want everything that’s just easy.

Coincidentally, I was reading an interview this morning with Phonte of Little Brother, who had a similar take:

I guess my hip-hop pet peeve is nowadays, it being focused too much on the youth…you have kids dictating what adults are doing. You have cats making singles trying to get the 106 crowd and TRL crowd and you got grown ass men in their 30’s trying to write some shit that’s going to appeal to a 13 year old. That’s ass backwards to me.

Tay goes on to point out why marketing to the pre-teen demographic is counterproductive. Although they may have disposable income, their tastes are incredibly fickle. “You gotta look at the turnover,” he noted. “You were 13 once, I’m sure your taste, just like mine, changed every other week. So, there’s no longevity trying to market to that crowd.”

There’s been a lot of discussion here at XXL Blogs about the generation gap between the 60s/70s and 80s babies. I wonder if we’re not missing a key piece to the “who’s killing hip-hop?” puzzle. Maybe it’s not about the twenty-somethings duking it out with the thirty-somethings. Maybe the rap rug is being pulled out from under all of us by some suits that have decided pandering to rocking, leaning and snapping 13 year-olds is a stellar idea.


[1] You already know what I’m going to say. They dropped it, now go cop it.

[2] I’ve yet to find any radio shows I like in Toronto. Get at me if you know of any.

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