Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Death of Urban Radio Part 2 from FMC

Last week I wrote about the demise of urban radio and discussed Eric K. Arnold's excellent article on this topic. In yesterday's installment of his multi-part series for the Future of Music Coalition (FMC) blog on "The Effects of Media Consolidation on Urban Radio," he references college radio's role in influencing hip hop and urban programming on commercial radio. He writes:

"...when hip-hop became a national phenomenon in the 1980s, it was still largely considered 'underground,' despite its obvious relevance and appeal to young people in urban communities. Early supporters of hip-hop radio tended to be devoted fans at college and community stations, who played records that commercial radio often wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot dookie stick. Though small in wattage, these stations' dedicated hip-hop specialty shows developed loyal followings who would tune in to hear 'their' music."

As part of this history, he discusses college radio DJ Bobbito Garcia's influential show "The Stretch Armstrong Show" on Columbia University's college radio station WKCR. He writes:

"Long before NYC’s Hot 97 adopted the phrase 'Where Hip-Hop Lives,' the genre thrived on college radio, which had few restrictions on the type of music that could be played.

In New York, college mixshows became important outlets for unsigned artists hoping to land a record deal. [Noted DJ] Bobbito Garcia proudly notes that 'The Stretch Armstrong Show' was the first to play artists like Nas, Notorious B.I.G., Big Pun, and the Wu-Tang Clan before they had record deals. Eventually, all of them became platinum-selling, major-label acts...."

Eric Arnold also credits San Francisco Bay Area college (KALX and KZSU) and community radio (KPOO) stations for their role in breaking hip hop artists, saying:

" the Bay Area, stations like KPOO, KALX, and KZSU were instrumental in breaking local artists like Too $hort, Timex Social Club, Hammer, Digital Underground and Paris, all of whom went on to national prominence and commercial success."

Continue reading Eric's piece (and stay tuned for part 3) to hear about the unfortunate turn of events after hip hop radio became commercialized.

And, I'd love to hear your thoughts on if college radio is still an oasis for underground hip hop and local artists.

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