I've written previously about the dearth of hip hop on radio and that even when radio stations are devoted to hip hop, it isn't always the type of hip hop that audiences want to hear. Local and indie artists find it particularly difficult to get airplay. For that reason, college and underground radio stations have a huge opportunity to present the wide range of hip hop styles on their channels, but unfortunately not everyone is listening.
Tuesday's YPulse Mashup panel "Totally Wired Hip Hop: Reaching Urban Youth," ended up being a fascinating discussion that was more about addressing the audience's misunderstanding of hip hop than about marketing to urban youth.
The panelists eloquently spoke about the definitions and history of hip hop. My new hero, Adisa Banjoko of The Hip Hop Chess Federation, pointed out, "there are almost 100 subgenres of hip hop....a kid can just listen to backpack rap [if that's what he's into]..."
Despite this, audience questions tended to focus on the negative, stereotypical side of hip hop, which is thought to be full of violent content, dirty lyrics, and stolen samples. Panelists acknowledged that these are concerns in some forms of hip hop, but that it does not represent the whole scene. Additionally, there are lots of creative solutions to these concerns, from clean song edits, to instrumental hip hop to sample clearinghouses.
Additionally, MC Hammer (yes, the one and the same), argued that, "you can't expect...if I'm living in hell...you can't expect me to rap about heaven." He challenged the audience to think about working on "how...we change the conditions or the environment producing these songs..." rather than attacking a whole genre of music.
One of Adisa's closing points was "don't be afraid of the hip hop crowd...you can't reach them if you're afraid of them."
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