Why We Need Classic Hip Hop FM Stations
Urban DJ's seem to love Slick Rick's 1988 classic "Children's Story." On almost every hip hop DJ's 'old school mix,' they throw on the legendary storyteller's signature song about a violent kid who meets an untimely end. As a result, virtually everyone, regardless of how young they may be--seems to know the song that starts with the infamous couplet, "Once upon a time/Not long ago/When people wore pajamas/And lived life slow…"
06:00PM ET August 23rd, 2010
Contributor: Todd Williams
A Rocky Williform Company
But there was more to Slick Rick's career than "Children's Story." Sadly, hip hop has done a poor job of celebrating legendary figures like Rick and other stars of his era. Even hip-hop's most iconic group, Run-D.M.C., gets more love from younger fans for it's historical importance than for the impressive music it created. It's not because the music isn't good--quite the opposite, actually, the music is great--it's because they've never heard it.
They've never heard it because FM radio has ignored classic hip hop. While classic rock and soul stations abound on FM dials throughout the country, there are little-to-no hip hop stations devoted to playing the music of the 1980s and 1990s. And the end result is a genre that has completely abandoned it's Golden Age. Meanwhile, the legends of other musical genres are celebrated ubiquitously--even amongst hip hop fans. Ask a rap fan about an older, legendary R&B artist for example, and you'll get a very different reaction to their music and legacy than you would a hip hop star of generations past.
Marvin Gaye is 'classic.' Run-D.M.C. is 'old.'
It isn't at all uncommon to see old school R&B stations in the presets of many hip hop heads' car stereos. After all, just because you love Drake or Weezy doesn't mean you can't appreciate Patti Labelle or Luther Vandross. Never mind the fact that most of these listeners are a generation removed from these songs and artists--their parents instilled a love for this music. And their children have carried that love with them all these years later. Classic soul stations serve a variety of purposes; they keep older music alive for younger generations who are too young to have experienced it firsthand, they provide a platform for older artists who want to debut new music or promote current tours, and they give older fans a place on the FM dial to hear the songs that they grew up on.
But for hip hop fans, there isn't anywhere for them to go to hear the songs that shaped their love for the genre. Most cities don't have a major FM station dedicated to classic hip hop; so if an older hip hop fan wants to hear the classic songs of the 1980s and 1990s--there's nowhere for them to turn. And younger fans are robbed of the chance to become more familiar with the artists that rocked the mic before their youthful ears were old enough to appreciate the music.
As a result, the music becomes virtually irrelevant. A kid younger than 25 doesn't know that Jay-Z's "The Ruler's Back" is a rehash of Slick Rick's 1988 song of the same name. Why? Because he's never heard it. Fans don't hear the masterful lyrical skills of vintage Rakim, Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane so they never learn to love the music these MCs created and the legacy they forged. Young femcees never hear the brilliance of MC Lyte, Da Brat or Queen Latifah.
Before we just assume that younger people have no interest in hearing these older artists, think of how many of us can sing along with R&B songs that were released before we were born. Think of how many young artists in 2010 are influenced by Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson--entertainers who's careers were at their peak more than 25 years ago. Those young people love and know these artists because pop culture and mainstream radio has made sure that these artists are celebrated and their music continues to thrive in the hearts and minds of the people.
It's past time that we do the same for hip hop.