Gays and Hip Hop

Who is the Gay Rapper?

That’s a question that obsessed people after the Connecticut
publication One Nut set off a firestorm of speculation a few years ago
by publishing a series of interviews with an anonymous well-known
rapper who claimed to be gay. Hip-hop fans and industry insiders went
on a witch hunt, analyzing lyrics and theorizing about various
artists’ offstage behavior. Stars ranging from LL Cool J to Dr. Dre
to Jay-Z to Method Man found their sexual orientation being called
into question.

Sadly, the fascination was fueled by prevalent gay stereotypes. Far
too many people seem to think that being gay would somehow prevent a
rapper from busting a mind-altering dance move or kicking a dope
freestyle. But such notions are ridiculous. After all, there are gay
policemen, accountants and doctors who are as good at their jobs or
better than their straight colleagues. So why couldn’t the Gay Rapper
be a superstar?

A listen to the tracks “Straight Trippin’ ” or “Fam Biz Edit,” put
out by Bay Area rappers Tim’m T West and Juba Kalamka with their crew,
D/DC (Deep Dick Collective), lays to rest any idea that gay rappers
lack the necessary skills.Over the past couple of years, D/DC has
built a strong reputation at its frequent shows for both gay and
straight crowds. The D/DC group is best known for its innovations —
fusing spoken-word, as well as straight-up rap, with the music. Their
current CD has a title that’s hard to confuse with any other,
“Bourgiebohopostpomoafro Homo,” and they’re working on a new disc,
“The Famous Outlaw League of Proto-Negroes,” due out in the fall on
the Sugartruck/Agitprop/Cellular label. Check out the Web site to sample D/DC’s music.

Another Bay Area artist who is openly gay and has forged an awesome
reputation as an innovative rhymer is Hanifah Walidah. She first hit
the scene in 1994 using the name Sha-Key, having released the
impressive album “A Headnodda’s Journey.” Her single “Soulsville
was ahead of its time because it fused rap with spoken-word years
before that would become common. Walidah is featured on the new
compilation album “Shame the Devil” (Freedom Fighter Records) which
deals with the prison industrial complex. She’s currently at work on
a hip-hop opera.

Hanifah and D/DC are just a few of the gay artists taking their
rightful places in the world of hip-hop, and these artists are
building upon the trailblazing spirit of earlier gay hip-hoppers.The
Bay Area owes a debt of gratitude to people such as Page Hodell, one
of the first women to do a live mix show on commercial radio, working
the turntables on KSOL in the mid-’80s. She rivaled, and often
surpassed, her male counterparts. Hodell also deejayed and produced
one of the country’s longest-running hip-hop clubs. The Box, as it
was called, ran for more then 10 years in San Francisco, attracted
thousands of clubgoers, mostly gay, and became a Bay Area institution.

Props are also due for Dave Moss, who was on KSOL’s up-and-coming
rival station, KMEL, at the same time as Hodell. KMEL was then known
primarily as a dance station, but on Saturday nights Moss would put
together incredible East Coast-style break beat/hip-hop mixes that are
still talked about today.

DJ Neon Leon, well-known in London and among house music fans
everywhere, started in the mid-’80s as a hip-hop DJ on KALX, the
University of California-Berkeley station. He later earned his
stripes as a Hip Hop club DJ at the now-defunct I-Beam.

We could go on and on naming gay artists who have made an impact on
hip-hop. Gays have always been down with hip-hop. Many have embraced
the culture from day one….The question is: Do we accept our gay
brothers and sistas?

So who is the Gay Rapper? He or she might be the victor of a fierce
rhyme battle or the artist whose record you dance to every time it’s
played on the radio or at a club. So what difference does it make?

written by Davey D for San Jose Mercury News.. please send emails to

July 14 2002

Did KMEL Kill the Hyphy Movement?

The Demise of Hyphy
Thizzle, bling, and blunts may have helped bring down
the overhyped hyphy movement. But KMEL pulled the trigger.

By Eric K. Arnold

After breaking through to mainstream pop-culture awareness in 2006, the Bay Area’s youthful, party-oriented hyphy movement seemed poised to become the next big thing. Fueled by cannabis, thizz pills, and top-shelf tequila, hyphy’s uptempo, feverish sound put a psychedelic tint on turf rap. “Go dumb” became the rallying cry for an attention-deficit culture that spread like wildfire, taking over clubs and commercial radio. As silly as it seemed to outsiders, hyphy created an economy whose main selling point was regional pride, built around stunna shades, Bay Area–themed T-shirts, rims, mixtapes, and Mac Dre bobblehead dolls. Despite its ghetto origins, hyphy had surprising suburban appeal. Rebellious, rambunctious, and not a little subversive, its infectious energy was a shot in the arm to a moribund rap industry.

The Bay Area’s answer to Atlanta’s crunk, hyphy validated the efforts of the independent-label-saturated local scene, which had long struggled to gain a national toehold. Media coverage extended to such nontraditional rap outlets as NPR, Newsweek, and The New York Times. Hyphy’s potential seemed limitless; once it hit middle America, there was no telling what it might do.

Yet by last summer, it had all but disappeared from the music industry’s collective radar screens.

Many factors may have contributed to hyphy’s demise. Contractual snafus and bad business practices by some artists resulted in missed opportunities; major labels signed local artists, then delayed releasing their albums. National media made a big fuss over the controversial practice of “ghost-riding the whip” (putting a car in neutral and dancing on its hood or roof while the vehicle kept rolling). Additionally, hyphy was frequently linked to illegal sideshows, and there were reports of violence at concerts and clubs. Subsequently, overall sales figures never quite caught up with the hype.

Even so, the largest single factor in hyphy’s decline may have been the withdrawal of support for local music by KMEL 106.1FM, the Bay Area’s top urban radio station and a powerful industry tastemaker.

A year and a half ago, it wasn’t uncommon to find at least four or five songs by locally based indie rap artists in rotation at the San Francisco–based station. These days, however, you won’t find a current local rap release in KMEL’s top 50, or its top 100 for that matter. In fact, the highest-ranking recent single by a Bay Area rap artist the week of February 4 was the Federation‘s “Happy I Met You,” way back at number 187.

At present, KMEL is playing “a lot of Down South music … anything but the Bay,” according to Hannah Wagner, a publicist at SF indie digital music label INgrooves and a regular listener.

Author Jeff Chang, who has written extensively about commercial radio, feels the station has returned to standard programming: “You don’t hear a lot of [new] music breaking. You didn’t get a sense of excitement like you had a couple of years ago. It’s gone back.”

A closer look into the absence of hyphy from the airwaves found that while local artists bear a degree of responsibility for the decline of the homegrown art form, KMEL is far from blameless.

Specifically, the station

• yanked local rappers with buzzworthy records from rotation over petty personal beefs

• made it difficult, if not impossible, for artists not aligned with favored promoters to get access to station personnel

• ignored the advice of its own DJs on potential hit records by local artists

• put the kibosh on efforts to spread hyphy in other regions

• engaged in blatant favoritism toward certain artists, alongside other activities that contributed to the fragmentation of the local hip-hop community

• employed a two-tiered promotion system for major-label and independent acts

KMEL’s provincial attitude toward local rap artists is perhaps best exemplified by the station’s treatment of Mistah F.A.B., a charismatic Oaklander sometimes referred to as “hyphy’s crown prince.” According to F.A.B., a “personal situation” with current music director Big Von Johnson has existed for years. The rapper speculates that jealousy might be the cause: “Von wanted to be an artist.” Still, “It’s no bad blood, it’s no hatred from me,” he now emphasizes. (At press time, Johnson hadn’t responded to several requests for an interview.)

In 2005, the hyphy phenomenon was beginning to create a tangible buzz, and F.A.B. had the hottest song in the streets in “Super Sic wit It.” When it was initially played on KMEL, presenters announced it as a new song by E-40, one of the few major-label artists from the Bay, who appeared on the record.

Yet after E-40 invited F.A.B. onstage at the 2005 KMEL Summer Jam, the audience reaction was so overwhelming that even Johnson had to give F.A.B. his props. Soon after that, other F.A.B. songs were added to the station’s rotation. But his increased profile didn’t last long.

In March 2006, MTV aired a segment of the show My Block that focused on the Bay Area. Though other artists were featured, F.A.B.’s charming personality nearly stole the show; he appeared to be a safe bet to be the next rapper from the region to blow up nationally. With a hot album, numerous guest appearances, and several songs on the radio, F.A.B. suddenly found himself weighing deals from major labels.

Not long after that, F.A.B. pitched Johnson with an idea for a new, locally oriented show, to be called Yellow Bus Radio. But KMEL already had a similar show in E-40’s E-Feezy Radio, so F.A.B. took the concept to Jazzy Jim Archer, the program director at KYLD-FM (94.9) — located in the same building as KMEL. Archer green-lighted the show, which aired directly opposite Johnson’s on KMEL.

That, F.A.B. says, “really made it seem I was going after [Johnson’s] timeslot. I became his archenemy.”

By all accounts, Yellow Bus Radio was a success. The program garnered high ratings on KYLD and was syndicated by other stations across California and podcast by Web sites worldwide. In addition to playing his own music alongside songs by lower-profile locals, F.A.B. used his airtime as a vehicle for community interaction, conducting interviews, and, in keeping with hyphy’s special-education theme, reading book reports.

“I don’t necessarily want to use the word ‘movement,'” F.A.B. says, “but we actually started a big deal with Yellow Bus Radio, which was to give people a chance and an opportunity.” However, he adds, “I didn’t know it would stir up that much controversy.”

The show’s run ended because of the rapper’s busy tour schedule and because, Archer says, it was “causing F.A.B. some problems in other areas of his career.”

In retaliation for F.A.B.’s perceived disloyalty, sources say, someone at KMEL apparently deleted all of his music from the playlist; in addition, his verses began to be omitted from songs by other artists he had appeared on. “Once I started noticing that, I was like, ‘Goddamn,'” the rapper says. “That’s what made it look like it was an individualized effort to stop me.”

F.A.B. loudly blamed Johnson for the deletion of his music from KMEL. “I was real bitter about it,” he says now. “There might have been some things said out of spite.”

Without hometown radio trumpeting his buzzworthiness, F.A.B. says, major labels started to get cold feet. Atlantic eventually signed him in late 2006, but being persona non grata at KMEL “affected what their whole staff would be able to do promotionally” as far as breaking him, he claims.

Being blacklisted from KMEL also affected the rapper’s other major sources of income: money for “features” (appearances on other artists’ songs) and concert revenue. When he traveled outside the Bay, F.A.B. says that he was often asked, “Why you ain’t getting play in your own town?”

KMEL program director Stacy Cunningham confirms there was an “unofficial” ban on F.A.B., but says the station stopped playing his music not out of spite, but because he was “our competition in the ratings.” She claims to have “nothing but love” for F.A.B., but advises, “Don’t play the ‘Cry me a river’ card.”

Cunningham says the station never received a copy of F.A.B.’s latest album, Da Baydestrian, adding that even after Yellow Bus Radio went off the air, “there was no real follow-up by the artist.”

However, F.A.B.’s issues with KMEL may have had a domino-like effect on the entire Bay Area rap scene. Few of the artists signed to majors in hyphy’s wake saw their records released, and those that did come out were often significantly delayed. “Once they canceled my airplay, it put a big halt to the movement,” F.A.B. says.

According to former KMEL DJ BackSide, F.A.B.’s conflict with the station was “a very big part of why the hyphy shit stopped.”

The Bay Area has long had a love/hate relationship with KMEL. At 69,000 watts, the station casts a sizable shadow over the entire region, from Santa Rosa to San Jose. For many local rap artists, the perception is that the path to commercial success goes through KMEL.

In the late 1980s and early ’90s, KMEL earned a reputation for innovative programming, creating the blueprint for the “hot urban” format, a mix of hip-hop and R&B later adopted by New York’s Hot 97 and Los Angeles’ Power 106. Its annual all-star concert, Summer Jam, was widely copied. The station was the original home of The Wake Up Show, the first hip-hop program to be syndicated nationally. To this day, fans have fond memories of Wake Up Show exclusives like the 1995 Saafir vs. Casual battle, a defining moment in Bay Area hip-hop. KMEL is often credited with being the first commercial station to play the likes of Too $hort, MC Hammer, Digital Underground, Tony! Toni! Toné!, En Vogue, Tupac Shakur, E-40, Souls of Mischief, the Luniz, Mac Mall, Goapele, and the Federation.

Unfortunately, the station hasn’t always supported local artists. Following a backstage altercation at the 1995 Summer Jam, Too $hort was temporarily banned from the airwaves, as was Tupac just before his death in 1996 (“At least I’m in good company,” F.A.B. jokes).

In 1996, KMEL’s parent company, Evergreen, was purchased by Chancellor Media. In 1999, amid an industrywide consolidation trend, Chancellor’s Bay Area stations were bought by Texas-based media conglomerate Clear Channel Communications, becoming part of a national chain which at its peak had more than 1,200 stations, including several in the Bay Area. Even before the Clear Channel takeover, KMEL’s programming had become more mainstream. As former KMEL air personality Davey D recalls, “The playlist suddenly shrunk. We had to follow dictates. That was a rude awakening with respect to the local stuff.”

In 2000, Michael Martin, KYLD’s program director, became the overseer of both KMEL and KYLD, its sister station and onetime rival. Over the next year, Martin methodically cleaned house at KMEL, slowly but surely replacing the station’s core staff, who had forged key relationships with the local hip-hop community.

In 1998, Oakland’s Delinquents sold 30,000 copies of their album, Bosses Will Be Bosses. The group felt its single, “That Man,” had the potential to be a big commercial hit on KMEL. “We had a current record with a current single,” rapper G-Stack recalls. “We had a street buzz.” The Delinquents also had decent sales figures, moving 2,000 copies a week. Despite sending their music to the station, “they still wasn’t playing our stuff,” he says.

Out of frustration, the Delinquents and a large number of thuggy street dudes confronted former KMEL DJs Trace and Franzen at a club one night, demanding that they receive airplay; rumor has it that someone in the group’s entourage pulled a gun on one of the DJs. Urban legend or not, this incident led to a meeting at the station with the DJs and then-program director Joey Arbagey.

G-Stack remembers the meeting well: “We got up in there. They weren’t trying to let us in. We told them, ‘It ain’t gon’ be okay to ride your vans through the ‘hood.'”

Faced with the threat of retaliation against its marketing street team, KMEL grudgingly conceded a modicum of airplay to the Delinquents. But by then, their album had been out for six months, and the group’s momentum fizzled. “We never really had that radio support again,” G-Stack says.

The Delinquents’ experience wasn’t uncommon. In a 2001 interview, E-40 wondered aloud about KMEL, “If you’re ‘the people’s station,’ why aren’t you playing the people’s music?” And in 2003, producer EA-Ski complained that other regional scenes benefited from radio play: “Everybody else is supporting their music, but KMEL isn’t doing it.”

Rappers haven’t been the only ones upset with KMEL. Over the years, community activists have frequently targeted the station. One flashpoint came when Davey D, host of the popular public affairs show Street Knowledge, was fired three weeks after the 9/11 attacks when he hosted interviews with Rep. Barbara Lee and Boots Riley of the Coup that ran afoul of Clear Channel’s pro-Bush agenda.

In 2002, Malkia Cyril, executive director of Youth Media Council, formed the Community Coalition for Media Accountability, which studied KMEL’s social impact on young people in the Bay Area. Cyril says the station allowed local artists little airtime, and promoted music that tended to criminalize its primary listeners: young people of color.

In January 2003, the coalition met with Johnson, then-community affairs director Cunningham, and a Clear Channel executive who flew in from Texas, to discuss their concerns. Cyril says KMEL didn’t share the view that the station should be a public resource: “Big Von’s stance was — I’ll never forget him saying this — ‘This is my radio station.'”

Possibly as a result of the public pressure, KMEL added “Closer,” a jazz-tinged R&B single by then-unsigned Oakland singer Goapele, to its playlist. The song ended up being the most-played song on KMEL that year.

“Closer” may well have opened the station’s eyes to the fact that there were local records out there that could compete with national hits. Still, KMEL resisted opening up its playlist – until its hand was forced by the emergence of an unlikely rival that threatened its market dominance.

In April 2004, Power 92 (92.7 FM), an upstart station that branded itself “The Beat of the Bay,” began its existence by playing 48 straight hours of Tupac Shakur. Its playlist quickly evolved into a locally oriented version of the “hot urban” format. For perhaps the first time, KMEL was suddenly faced with real competition.

The battle for supremacy of the airwaves and the loyalty of the 18–34 urban listening bloc set the stage for what became known as the hyphy movement. Practically overnight, the radio was flooded with local rap music. If, prior to Power 92’s arrival, one or two Bay Area rap groups at a time broke through to KMEL’s or KYLD’s rotation, listeners now had a choice of hearing their music on three stations.

Though owned by the same company, KMEL and KYLD catered to slightly different demographics: KYLD skewed younger and more Hispanic, while KMEL’s core audience is older and more African American. By targeting the same demographic as KMEL, Power 92 represented a viable threat to the station’s hegemony. Once Power 92 emerged, artists could leverage their radio play by deciding to which station they would first take their music.

KMEL responded to Power 92 with what Davey D characterizes as a “corporate thuggin’ mentality.” He says labels, artists, and advertisers were allegedly told in no uncertain terms not to do business with Power 92. The new station’s street teams were harassed by what the East Bay Express called “Clear Channel shock troops,” who piled out of KMEL- and WYLD-branded vans and slapped bumper stickers advertising their stations on Power’s vehicles.

DJ BackSide had been a Power 92 street team member for just a week when she was offered a slot on KMEL. In July 2004, she started hosting The Hot Spot, a late-Friday, early-Saturday show. It quickly found an audience among hyphyites eager to keep their buzz going as they headed home after a night of clubbing.

BackSide rapidly became one of hyphy’s most visible proponents. In addition to her KMEL show, she hosted an online show at Warner Brothers-sponsored Web site; produced mixtapes hosted by such luminaries as Too $hort, San Quinn, and E-40; sold her own “Got Bay?” T-shirts; held residencies at non-KMEL-promoted clubs; and received exposure from national outlets like BET. There was a perception, she says, among longtime KMEL staffers that she was doing too much.

BackSide soon found herself an outsider among KMEL’s predominantly male DJ roster. She says she experienced some resentment because she was new and because she had come over from Power 92 (which has since changed owners and become LGBT-friendly dance station Energy 92). Cunningham says she respected BackSide’s hustle, but adds, “She was young. She didn’t know how to handle situations.”

BackSide alleges that certain individuals at the station did everything they could to get her fired or removed from the air, including accusing her of taking payola. On May 3, 2005, she remembers, she had just left the New York City offices of Bad Boy Records, where label owner P. Diddy thanked her personally for breaking one of his records on the air.

Not 20 minutes later, she says, she received an instant message from Scotty Fox, 3,000 miles away at KMEL. In a transcript of the conversation provided by BackSide, Fox takes an aggressive tone, accusing her of taking credit for breaking a record other KMEL DJs played on the air first. She denies it, but Fox berates her repeatedly. “U stay in your lane,” he warns.

Several times, Fox invokes the name of the station’s music director. “This is from Von,” he says at one point. After some more back-and-forth, he curtly states, “There’s nothing to talk about.”

A month and a half later, BackSide was told of a letter sent to the editor of RPM (an industry trade publication) accusing her of taking payola and requesting that she not attend the Mixshow Power Summit, a high-profile conference of the nation’s best radio mixers.

At first glance, the letter (which SF Weekly has reviewed, along with other documents supplied by BackSide) looks like an official document on letterhead from Clear Channel’s corporate HQ in San Antonio. It claims that the DJ was under internal investigation for accepting plane flights and other forms of payola from Universal and Bad Boy.

Curiously, though, the letter is unsigned, and has no return address. Furthermore, it seems odd that an internal investigation into illegal payola by a KMEL DJ would have originated not at the station, but at its parent company’s corporate offices.

After receiving a copy of the letter from RPM, BackSide says she met with Cunningham and Johnson. When asked who could have written it, BackSide gave a copy of her IM communications with Fox to Cunningham. She was then told she was suspended pending an investigation.

After consulting a lawyer, BackSide returned to the station the next day and handed a letter to the HR director detailing the conversation among her, Cunningham, and Johnson. A half-hour later, she says, Clear Channel honcho Michael Martin personally informed her that her show was reinstated, effective immediately.

From that time on, she says, she received a chilly reception at KMEL: “You could cut the tension with a knife.” Johnson, she says, “wouldn’t even look me in the eye.”

BackSide says there was no internal investigation into the letter’s authorship, although Cunningham told her the station had looked into her NYC trip and found she had paid for her own ticket. Cunningham says the station confirmed no one from the corporate office initiated any investigation: “Honestly, we don’t know who sent it.”

In February 2006, BackSide was fired from the station. Cunningham says the DJ didn’t help her own cause by falling asleep in her car when she was supposed to be doing her show, resulting in “dead air.” But BackSide says she played prerecorded music during that time, adding that she dozed off because her show was moved to 4 a.m. In any event, Cunningham says, “at that point, she knew she was not on the good side.”

BackSide’s departure from KMEL deprived the hyphy movement of one of its loudest supporters. By silencing her voice, the station closed a door which had allowed the artists community access to otherwise-impenetrable airwaves.

Currently living in Los Angeles, BackSide likens working at KMEL to working at a restaurant: “On the outside, it was great,” she recalls. “You go into the back and it’s a whole different story. Behind closed doors, [there] was a lot of stuff going on.”

Much of the dissatisfaction with KMEL’s support of local rap in recent years has centered on Johnson’s perceived attitude toward the homegrown scene. As the public face of the station, he is in the difficult position of having to balance the corporate agenda with community needs, while his boss remains behind the scenes. “Von gets the blame because he has allowed himself to be the go-to person,” says Davey D, who adds, “You’re not seeing Michael Martin; you’re seeing Von.”

In a 2004 interview, Johnson argued that commercial radio can’t placate everyone. “For the records that we do play, I could name 100 people that’s still upset,” he said, adding that he looks for “good records,” not necessarily because an artist is from “this clique or that clique.”

However, more than one local artist has found out the hard way that Johnson holds grudges for perceived slights — sometimes for years. “Big Von, he’s the biggest hater there could be,” says Sean Kennedy, CEO of ILL Trendz Productions, an Oakland street promotions company.

Frank Herrera, an independent promoter for several local labels, says that Johnson has done some positive things for the Bay Area, but “always seemed like he was unhappy with [local] music.” Herrera claims Johnson has “played God” with artists’ careers and says he often ignored the advice of DJs who advocated for local records they felt were deserving — most notably in the case of the late Mac Dre, often considered hyphy’s founding father. After Herrera brought Dre’s now-classic “Thizzle Dance” to the station in 2003, “his DJs had to tell him it was a requested song. Von was holding out on the record.”

Herrera also says that Johnson was nowhere to be found the day he brought Dre to the station for a prescheduled interview on Johnson’s show. Instead, the interview was conducted by another DJ. Although Dre’s 2004 hit, “Feelin’ Myself,” is currently in rotation, Herrera says KMEL “really didn’t start playing him until after he passed away” in late 2004.

In the July 2005 issue of Ruckus magazine, Johnson appears to take credit for breaking hyphy artists: “Name someone you knew of before I played them,” he boasts.

Yet Johnson may also have held the movement back. Davey D says he was present at a meeting with prominent Los Angeles radio DJs who had been supporting Bay Area artists. During the course of the meeting, it emerged that Johnson was asked by a well-respected veteran DJ whether L.A. musicians could get some KMEL love in return. Johnson reportedly denied the request; as a result, Davey D says, L.A. stations “stopped playing a lot of that hyphy stuff, almost overnight.” Reached by phone, the L.A. DJ (who asked not to be named) confirmed Von’s refusal.

According to Herrera, KMEL’s internal power dynamic shifted in 2005, when Jazzy Jim Archer left the station and Johnson took on a greater role in programming. “Jazzy fought for Bay Area music. I know that for a fact,” Herrera says.

The week after Archer’s departure, Herrera remembers going to the station and being made to wait for an hour and a half in the lobby of Clear Channel’s Townsend Street office as major-label reps paraded past. Eventually, the receptionist told Herrera that Johnson was unable to see him. He asked to speak with Cunningham, who reportedly told him, “Right now we’re not seeing any independent people.”

“It was a new regime. Things change,” Cunningham says when asked about the incident. But Herrera says other local promoters favored by Johnson were allowed access. Cunningham says the new policy allowed indie-label reps to make monthly appointments at the station, while reps from national companies were granted weekly access. “We have major-label Mondays,” she explains.

A similar thing happened to Kennedy, who says he had a personal and business relationship with Johnson dating back to the mid-’90s. But in 2005, the two had a falling-out. “That’s when he decided to roll with Rob Reyes,” he says, referring to the San Francisco DJ whose promotional company, M1, now handles the majority of major-label accounts as well as a significant portion of indie-label accounts for the Bay Area market.

When he was tight with Johnson, Kennedy was able to come into the station and give records to DJs personally, but after their disagreement, he says he was told to drop off the records at the front desk. With his access curtailed, Kennedy says the labels hired M1 instead, “because they can get radio.”

Now that he has fallen from favor with Johnson, Kennedy is willing to talk about the nature of their business dealings. Kennedy says he executive-produced five volumes of Big Von’s Chop Shop mixtape series, which didn’t do as well as other mixes by the Demolition Men, DJ Juice, or DJ BackSide. Kennedy says he ended up giving most of them away, but he still paid Johnson several thousand dollars per mixtape, with the unspoken understanding that Johnson would give special consideration to the label accounts Kennedy was working.

“I was coming back and giving [Johnson] money for records he never sold,” Kennedy says. However, he adds, “I never just outright gave him dough and said, ‘Play this record.’ I should have, though.”

Kennedy’s account appears to contradict what Johnson told Ruckus: “If you’re in the house thinking I take money, I never took a dime.”

Allegations of quid pro quo and backdoor arrangements might seem titillating, but the larger point is that KMEL’s machinations effectively limited station access to hand-picked local promoters and major-label employees. The end result has been a narrowing of diversity on the airwaves due to what appears to be widespread favoritism on the part of KMEL executives. This extended not only to major-label acts, but to local indies: Artists like the Team (for whom Big Von was the DJ) received considerable airplay, as did rappers with financial ties to M1, including Keak da Sneak and Kafani.

In 2005, KMEL appeared more than happy to go along for the ghost-ride. Yet both Malkia Cyril and Davey D contend the station had ulterior motives. They believe its support of local music at that time was a way to defuse activist efforts to challenge the station’s FCC license (which is renewed every eight years) during the public comment period that ended in November 2005. According to Davey D, “The KMEL that played local music did so begrudgingly, under pressure.”

In spring 2006, E-40‘s hit “Tell Me When to Go” made hyphy a national catchphrase. Davey D says KMEL responded by doing what he calls “superserving” local stuff, to the point where he started to feel that the station might be “trying to burn the audience out on the material.” Intentional or not, that’s just what happened.

According to Johnson, local music was outperforming national hits in 2004. Cunningham says Bay Area artists tested well in KMEL’s market research as late as 2006. But by March of 2007, she claims, “they slid down.” To the station, this showed that the “local stuff was no longer as relevant,” she says. “Everything has a shelf life … there’s only so much hyphy you can take.”

Asked why listeners aren’t hearing as much local music on KMEL anymore, morning drivetime DJ Chuy Gomez remarks, “There is not a lot of hot stuff out there. … It all starts to sound the same. Everybody wanted to sound like F.A.B. or sound like Keak. It got kinda stagnant.”

Archer says KYLD began to back away from hyphy because of concerns over violence. “The culture that was developing was, unfortunately, not a healthy one,” he says. Additionally, he says, KYLD’s programming became more focused on “core” artists like Justin Timberlake, which made hyphy less than a perfect fit.

It may be closer to the truth to say that once KMEL’s license was renewed, hyphy ultimately didn’t fit Clear Channel’s agenda. It’s well known that commercial radio has longstanding arrangements with major labels, such as artists who perform for free at Summer Jam for “promotional considerations.” By killing hyphy, the station could return to business as usual: playing national hits.

According to Cunningham, localism isn’t good for commercial radio’s image: “You can be a local artist and play up to where you’re from, but if every song is about where you’re from, there’s a problem.”

Ironically, she notes, San Quinn, Big Rich, and Boo Banga‘s “Frisco Anthem” is currently being spun on mix shows (though it appears on KMEL’s playlist as “Scotty Fox’s 6 O’Clock Chop Shop Mix“). In all fairness, local artists do show up frequently in mixshow airplay — which, coincidentally, happens at peak listening hours — but the artists don’t get name recognition for it on that all-important industry barometer of hotness: the playlist.

Even if hyphy has run its course, a larger question remains of why hyphy artists were the only local rappers KMEL was playing. The Bay Area, after all, doesn’t produce just one type of rap; nationally respected hip-hop artists like Lyrics Born, Blackalicious, and Hieroglyphics make music with socially responsible lyrics, yet were ignored by the station as hyphy scraped across the intersection of pop culture, leaving behind it a trail of empty Patrón bottles, half-smoked blunts, discarded pillboxes, and reckless-driving citations.

In a 2006 appearance at the Commonwealth Club, F.A.B. — who is clean and sober — told a sold-out house that he purposely “dumbed down” the lyrical content of his music in order to fit the popular radio formula and gain airplay. To a certain extent, the same could be said of KMEL, which stupefied the creative expression of a vibrant local culture — narrowcasting it to the point of redundancy and, ultimately, irrelevance.

Is Hip Hop’s Audience Really 80% White?


Is Hip Hop’s Audience Really 80% White?

By Davey D

original article-July 15, 2006

daveyd-raider2In recent days a debate has ensued on my website, around one of Hip Hop’s biggest myths. It started in 1991 when Newsweek Magazine did a cover story on Gangsta Rap and in their article they put out an un-researched statistic that said 80% of Hip Hop’s audience is white and that its reflected in record sales. That stat has been bantered about ever since as an undisputable stone cold fact.

Adding to this myth was a conversation that took place at the Gavin Convention in San Francisco around the same time when Ice T during a panel discussion stated that anything above his average 750 thousand record sales was attributed to white kids.

But is this really true? Granted if one goes to a Mos Def show or even a Wu-Tang concert you will see a majority white audience in many cities, but does that translate to that 80% white audience? How does an all white Wu-Tang show in Northern Cali compare to a sold out predominantly Black T.I. or Yung Joc show in Atlanta or in Oakland? How does that compare to a sold out predominantly Latino Psycho Realm or Sick Symphony show in East LA?

Back in 91 when this 80% first surfaced, there was no study or methodology that that kept track of race when it came to album sales. About the closest one could come was by estimating based upon record stores in a particular area, but that would yield far from accurate results. To start in many areas, folks from different ethnic backgrounds would frequent stores that were in sections of a city dominated by one race. For example, if you came to Berkeley in Northern Cali,  you found three main record stores up near the UC campus in an area that was statistically majority white. Folks from all over including predominantly Black South Berkeley and majority Black Oakland shopped at those stores. How were statistics based on purchases by race kept?

The truth of the matter is that this 80% white Hip Hop fan myth has long been a nice marketing tool used by media corporations to justify ad revenues for Top 40 radio stations. Here’s a little background on this.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, many rap artists complained how the urban (Black) radio stations did not play rap except on the weekends and even then it was only in the mix late at night. Chuck D highlighted this concern in his song ‘Don’t Believe the Hype’. He goes into further detail about this lack of support by Black urban programmers in a song called ‘How to Kill a Radio Consultant’.

According to Black radio programmers they avoided playing rap, because it was affecting their advertising. In spite of Hip Hop’s cross over success with groups like Run DMC and the ‘positive, vibe that existed within rap at that time-(it was the Golden Era), many companies associated Hip Hop with violence done by Black people. Hence a Black radio station playing Hip Hop was likely to have difficult time getting money.

The Showdown Between Urban & Top 40 Radio Over Hip Hop

Around this time several prominent Top 40 radio stations were starting to aggressively play Hip Hop. Most notably was KMEL in San Francisco which became very successful and quickly moved into the number one spot over its urban competition KSOL which had been number one for years.

This sparked a lot of controversy and resulted in a big face off in 1992 at the Gavin Convention in San Francisco between Black urban programmers and white Top 40 stations that were starting to play Hip Hop. The packed panel discussion was hosted by Lee Michaels an African American editor at Gavin who interestingly had laid down the groundwork and started Top 40 giant KMEL which went on to win Best Rap Station in the country 5 years in a row. He posed the question as to weather or not Top 40 stations should be playing Rap or were they exploiting it?

The argument put forth by Black programmers was that they were playing the music but not getting both the ad dollars and promotions benefits from record companies. They talked about how the industry had a dirty secret which two sets of rules and budgets, one for Black urban stations which were small and one for Top 40 stations which in some cases were 3 to 4 times bigger. These budget disparities were also reflected in the Black music departments of and the Crossover and Pop music departments of the record labels

They went on to talk about how major labels would come to town and show support to these urban stations by giving them a bunch of tapes and later CDs for giveaway to the audience while across town these new pop stations playing rap were given huge prizes like tickets and all expense paid flyaways to music awards and album release parties.

Black programmers contended that they were responsible for breaking a lot of the urban music into the market place only to see their cross town Top 40 rivals reap the benefits.

The biggest point of contention was that these Top 40 stations were being allowed to keep their Top40/ CHR classification in popular industry trades like Gavin, Billboard and R&R which kept them in a higher budget class. 

Hence Top 40 stations could walk into an ad agency and even though their playlist was 90% identical to their urban counterparts they could walk away with a higher ad rate even if they were not number one in the marketplace. Plus they wouldn’t have any negative stigma attached to them for playing rap. A white Top 40 station playing rap weighed differently in the minds of ad buyers compared to a Black station playing rap.

The top 40 programmers countered by saying that many of the urban stations were missing the boat by not playing rap. I remember it being said that the urban stations were not staying close to the streets and paying attention to what was going on with their own kids who no longer wanted to hear slow jamz and sappy R&B songs.

They also insisted that they keep their Top 40 classification. What they emphasized was that Hip Hop was the new Top 40 and that was what was being reflected in the playlists was what the mainstream (white audience) now wanted to hear. The compromise to this particular point was the creation of a new classification called Churban which meant Crossover-urban. However it got applied to the Top 40 stations playing rap and not to the urban stations so in many people’s mind they were still seen as Top 40 crossover entities

They also pointed out that like their urban counterparts their sales departments had a difficult time convincing ad buyers to purchase time on a station playing rap. One of the Top 40 programmers pointed out that this was a competitive field no matter how you sliced it and that it was up to the urban programmers not only to put together a strong programming team, but to also have a strong sales team as well that could successful convince skeptical advertiser to purchase air time.

What wasn’t stated and this is where this 80% myth comes in, is the fact that the Top 40 stations had this Newsweek quote along with their CHR status that they could present to ad buyers. Essentially they were able to say, ‘yes we’re playing Public Enemy, NWA and 2 Live Crew’ which we (KMEL) was doing at that time, ‘but this is what the mainstream (white audience wants). Look at this Newsweek article. It’s proof positive that 80% of the people who like this aggressive music are the main ones purchasing it. I recall specifically seeing sales kits with that page and quote highlighted.

The bottom line whether we like it or not is that many advertisers have a hierarchy of who they want as consumers. It may be as follows depending on the product; White males between 18-34, White males 25-54, White women 25-34. Women of color 25-34, white teens etc. Last on the list is often time Black males. The pervasive belief is that white males have the most disposable income and can afford to purchase expensive appliances, cars and computers.

Women are desirable because they not only have income of their own, but usually influence the purchasing in households if they are married.

Black men, especially young males are seen in many instances as unwelcome. We all got a glimpse of this several weeks ago with the Cristal debacle where their spokesperson dissed Hip Hop artists for supporting them. He said all the mentions by artists like Jay-Z and P-Diddy was ‘unwelcome attention’. Author and former ad agency executive Hadji Williams in his book ‘Don’t Knock the Hustle’ underscores a lot of what I’ve written and goes into greater depth about all this in his book.

So it’s with all this in mind that we can better understand how and why this 80% myth was sold over and over again.  It was if people’s lives depended on it or in this case, people’s livelihoods depended upon it.

Now the real question was weather or not Top 40 stations KMEL and later stations like Hot 97 in New York and Power 106 in Los Angeles which followed suit a couple of years later really had large white listening audiences.

Asians, White Folks, Arbitron and Hip Hop

Well as I mentioned earlier one of the first and more successful Top 40 stations to embrace rap was KMEL who’s sale staff definitely flipped that Newsweek quote their advantage. They had another thing to help them out, and that was Arbitron Ratings to show large white listener-ship.

If I remember correctly we were boosting a number one rating with half our audience being white.  However, you wouldn’t have known that from the large numbers of people of color who would show up at our events. You never saw like 50% of our crowds being white. It was always explained that many of our white listeners weren’t our ‘active’ P1 listeners who would enthusiastically show up at station functions. I later learned something different.

What wasn’t really publicly known or even taken into account was how Asians were classified when it came to radio ratings. They were always counted as white people. You see in the Bay Area where KMEL is based there is a huge Asian/Pacific Islander population. In San Francisco more then 50% of the population is Asian with Chinese followed by Filipino being the largest ethnic groups.  Outside of their respective countries, the largest concentration of Filipinos, Tongans and Cambodians live in the Bay Area. There’s a sizeable Vietnamese, Korean Samoan and Laotian populations. Many of the people within these Asian groups have grown up and listen primarily to urban music.  Many of the younger people went from listening to Latin Freestyle to Hip Hop as stations like KMEL evolved.

I recall when the Arbitron people came to our station to talk about ratings and this fact about Asians being counted as whites was made clear one of our Asian deejays damn near hit the roof and went off. She wanted to know why Asians did not have their own category and she said she found it offensive that they would put an entire population down as whites. She noted that it played into the model minority myth that was impacting a lot of Asian communities and it also added to this pervasive perception of them being an invisible group of people.

The Arbitron rep said he understood the concerns and acknowledged that although the Asian population was growing, it would be a while before they would count Asians as a separate group away from whites. Nevertheless the large amount of ‘white listeners’ enjoyed by Top 40 urban leaning stations in California was touted to advertisers and helped rake in a substantial amount of ad dollars. It was later estimated that the actual percentage of white listeners was more like 20% when we subtracted the Asian count, but we never really knew for certain.

But lets suppose for the moment many of these Top 40 Hip Hop radio stations have large white audiences as asserted with the 80% myth, why is that we rarely hear many of the artists being played in regular rotation that we know for fact have a large white audience?

When was the last time we heard Living Legends, Del, Sage Francis, Atmosphere etc etc? We might hear an Eminem song, but hardly a Mos Def, Public Enemy or even Talib Kweli. The aforementioned artists seem to always have packed houses at their shows. Some of those groups do pretty well in record sales as independent artists, but dont hear them now and we didnt in the past-why is that? Shouldnt they be getting airplay to satisfy the tastes of this 80% white audience?

Who is Hip Hop’s Biggest Ethnic Supporter?

So now that we understand how and why the 80% myth came about lets look at the results of an actual study that was done.In January 2003 Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Push organization held their 6th Annual Wall Street project conference.  In the past Jackson had not put together panels focusing on the entertainment industry and its impact on Wall Street, but that year he did. He put together is memorable standing room only panel which included some very distinguished guests including; former Vibe Magazine CEO Keith Clinkscales of Vanguarde Media, Carol H Williams of Carol H Williams Advertising, Thomas Burrell of Burrell Communications, Samuel Chisholm of the Chisholm Group, James L Winston of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters and Daisy Exposito-Ulla of the Bravo Group

The Bravo Group is part of the powerful Young and Rubicam company is considered the third largest multicultural agency in the US. The panel discussion talked about market share and leveraging dollars. During the discussion Daisy Exposito Ulla was making her remarks and while it wasn’t the main focus she mentioned that her company had done a study and come to find that the Latinos are the biggest purchasers of Rap music. They buy more rap music than both African Americans and whites.

Because this wasn’t a Hip Hop specific panel her remarks were made in the context of talking about some other issues, what she was not met with any big gasp from the audience or anything like that. But for me I took special note as she continued her presentation, because it basically coincided with the push in broadcast media to target Latinos as a primary audience.

Yes, Hip Hop is large and everybody enjoys it. And yes, a large part of that audience are white folks. But 80%? No way.  Unfortunately white Hip Hop fans were used to validate to skittish advertisers and even venue owners that Hip Hop is safe and non threatening. To me its no different and just as bad as those programmers and industry experts who hawk Black gangsterism and stereotypes and make it appear as if its a vital part of Black culture and a true representation of Hip Hop.

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

Too Many Groupies on the Radio

In lieu of our last article on Hip Hop Radio falling off in NY and LA Here’s a follow up article that was actually penned a while back from DJ Mark Skillz who’s an old school head who’s voice you can hear on various radio stations and TV commercials around the country including Breakdown FM… I thought this would give us some more food for thought… Holla back..
Too Many Groupies on the Radio
By Mark Skillz

original article-June 15, 2006
markskillzson-225Have you listened to hip hop radio lately? Or should I say what passes for hip hop radio. Like anything else in our culture the standards for urban radio have been lowered.

Instead of deejays on air being conversational they shout. The art of one to one conversation style radio is lost in hip hop. Maybe station managers think that blacks and Latinos dont want to be talked to intelligently. Or does keeping it real mean that you have to sound like you perceive your audience to be? For instance, take a station like KMEL, the on-air deejays recently, not only sound like theyre from the street but also like they are broadcasting live from a street corner.

Now, there is nothing wrong with being from the street, however, in our culture Im talking about African-American culture, historically, when a person is given the opportunity to communicate with our people, weve always strived to present a positive image. But for some reason, when people think of hip hop they automatically lower the standards of excellence.

Black people are not monolithic beings. We dont speak with one voice and one mind. Neither are all hip hoppers monolithic beings. We range in age and taste. Some of us prefer Mos Def and Talib Kweli, while others prefer Lil Flip. With preferences in tastes so vast youd think that the people who market music to us would realize that and would have more than one kind of on air personality talking to us.

When I was coming up, deejays like Frankie Crocker, Nick Harper, Greg Mack, Jeff Fox and many others sounded like intelligent people. They might not have been rocket scientists but never the less, these men sounded intelligent enough to communicate ideas to a mass audience without dumbing down to them. For some reason, people think that being a part of the hip hop culture or even black culture for that matter, means that you have to dumb things down to relate to people.

For instance, on the 70s sitcom Sanford and Son, whenever the Sanfords came in contact with the police it was always Officer Smitty (a brother) and some white cop, the white cop would speak in cop talk meaning he would say things like Hello Mr. Sanford we received a call about a domestic disturbance somewhere on these premises, and we came to ascertain the facts.

It is at that point that Fred and Lamont would look at each other bewildered, as if they couldnt understand what the white cop had said. They would then look at Officer Smitty for his interpretation Fred we got a call about a fight around here, do you know anything about it?

Like they were too dumb to understand what the white guy was saying, as if the words were too big for them to know. Now this kind of white-speak-black man-dont understand kinda thing exists today but on different levels.

What else do I mean by talking down? Well, when a grown man, is talking to teen-agers instead of raising the bar for what and whom they should strive to be like, he communicates with them on their level. Hearing thirty and forty year olds saying What’s crackalatin 20 times a day is embarrassing. Its the equivalent of that 50 year- old uncle, at the barbecue, trying to talk the latest slang and worse, trying to do the latest dance. Thats what’s happening on radio now.

One night I was listening to KMEL and I happened to turn it on in the middle of an interview, now this interview went on for like 10-15 minutes, and in all that time, never once did this guy say who he was, or who the artist was he was interviewing. However, what he did get across was that this artist had a fat platinum chain on and how much he wanted to have one as well. And also this guy enjoys hanging out with him poppin collars at the Beehive and checkin out breezies. Now what the hell does all that mean to a listener?

After 15 minutes of this crap when this artist was walking out the door I finally figured out he was talking to none other than Kanye West. Oh snap! I thought, damn I can think of a bunch of questions Id like to ask Kanye my damn self like; What was the Chi-town hip hop scene like when you were coming up? What influence did house music have on your style? The Nation of Islam is real strong out there, what influence did they have on you if any? The gang scene out there, how did you avoid that trap, when gang culture goes back 40 years plus out there? Did you start off rapping over house records? What Chi-town radio did you listen to, that influenced you to go the soulful hip hop route?

The art of the interview, the art of conversation, all of that is lost in current hip hop radio. Why is that? It’s because we’ve lost our culture to a bunch of groupies. Not just here in the Bay Area, but all over the country. Radio stations like record companies have people working there who are just happy to be down. They are content with the status quo, if you tell them that there is something wrong with hip hop radio, they look at you like your crazy. As far theyre concerned everything is all good and then some, because theyre going to concerts and theyre chilling backstage with their favorite rap stars.

gregmack-225Greg Mack, the pioneering LA dee-jay that was on KDAY back in the 80s and 90s, the man that any-artist-that-wanted-his-record broken in LA had to see. When he interviewed an artist, like, Big Daddy Kane, for instance, he asked Kane questions like; So Big Daddy, where did you first start performing? What year was it? Who were some of the people that you looked up to while you were coming up? What’s this whole thing with the Juice Crew and BDP, the reason I ask is because you seem to be respected by both sides so, what’s your take on things? How do you think it can be resolved?

See, now that was from a KDAY interview I heard in 1988. Never once did Greg Mack ask him how many hoes did he have waiting for him back at the hotel or in the limousine like you hear so often today in hip hop radio.

The groupie culture is one that loves to be seen in the places to be seen and to give the impression that they are down. But really ask yourself, do you care if some idiot on the radio was chillin in the club with some football or basketball player? What does the stations event that they are constantly promoting every 15 minutes have to do with your school closing down because the state has no money for teachers salaries and books for students?

Lets really go back, to WBLS and Mr. Magic, the man who was the first person to play rap records on the radio. I used to think that Mr. Magic was a big fan of the Force MCs, because they were on his show a lot, but to his credit he wasnt riding their dicks, he asked them good questions like; So fellas, you just won the battle out in New Jersey, how much rehearsal time did you put in for it? Ok, name some of your favorite doo-wop groups.

In defense of the deejays, I have to say, that they are only carrying out orders from up top. If station management didnt want that style of presentation they wouldve long since gotten rid of them. These are young brothers and sisters trying to make it, trying to find their way in a very competitive field. Managers are the ones that set the tone, so ultimately they are responsible. You’d think someone older with more experience would want to lead them better but not so. Dont get me wrong, there are some talented brothers and sisters on the radio today, and quite a few of them have real potential in the years to come.

So whats changed? What has changed in urban radio from the Frankie Crocker, Greg Mack era to now? Yes, hip hop music is more dominant today, but what about the quality of talent? Does a hip hop deejay have to sound like he just rolled out of the gutter? To a certain degree I can understand why urban radio programmers want their deejays to sound street, it makes them more relatable to a ghetto audience. But arent they doing the audience they serve a dis-service by going that route? Do the station managers know that they are reinforcing negative racial stereotypes of the inner-city audiences that they are catering to?

Yes, hip hop culture is far more influential today than it was when Frankie Crocker and Mr. Magic ruled the airwaves, but does that mean that radio has to appeal to the lowest common denominator? No.

Black people have always talked slang. As far back as the 50s, the first black radio jocks were rappers – people like Jocko Henderson and many others. Within that style they entertained and informed the community, later, people like Frankie Crocker took to the airwaves and just talked to people in a conversational style. There was no need to talk jive on air anymore.

Do station managers know that by reinforcing these stereotypes that they are helping to keep black and Latino youth forever ignorant?

Why is it I can turn on a rock station, and hear guys on there with a sense of humor and who aren’t talking down to their audience? But mostly I dont hear anyone yelling on rock radio. Except on the records. Is hip hop that low of a culture that standards have to be lower for us than anybody else?

Hip hop radio is now notorious for being shout out and request radio, instead of being informative as well as entertaining.

Now, the whole shout out style comes from the mix tape scene, which works really well in clubs and car systems, but radio should have a different standard. Dont get it twisted, I like the mix tape dee-jays, but there needs to be a balance between that and regular radio. I dont need to hear DJ Clue or Whoo Kidd, or even Kid Capri reading liners and doing interviews let them rock the party

Because I’m down for positive changes in our culture, heres what I think station owners can do to help change this situationStation managers talk with your dee-jays, talk to them about being conversational, talk to them about them being role models in our communities, talk to them about preparing for an interview, you know, stuff like researching the artist, so that you can ask different kinds of questions so that fans and non-fans can walk away with more thanDamn look at all that ice in that medallion!

And remember mediocrity is only realized in the presence of excellence.


A Response to Robert Hilburn’s LA Times Article on Payola

Davey-D-purple-frameHey Robert Hilburn

I just peeped your July 29th article regarding payola in which you stated it’s the public that determines what gets on the airwaves.…=359.topic

I have to say I am disappointed in your analysis. It’s disheartening because you are someone who is well-respected and your stature in the music world in well-known. For you to parrot the deliberately misleading notions hawked by radio and label executives does a disservice to the public by dismissing and in many ways, actually covering up the way things really work behind closed doors at these commercial radio stations.

I also feel that your article runs the risk of stirring the public in another direction now that their eyes are starting to open as they question the real reasons behind repetitive, narrowcasted airplay. Now is the time that people should be raising important questions surrounding the issue of payola. Now is the time for people to put pressure on radio and record executives as well as the FCC and any other agency that oversees our public airwaves.

Unless I misunderstood what you wrote in your article, you seemed to suggest that radio station executives pay close attention to public demands. Station executives will gladly tell you that they look at a variety of factors including purchasing data and trends, call out research and requests. They also take into account their own Arbitron ratings to decide whether they should play it safe and stick solely with the hits or be a bit more adventurous and cutting edge. Yes, they do these things and to that degree what you wrote was correct. However, here’s where things get sticky and how the public can be misled after reading your article.

Music Industry Interests vs. Public Needs and Wants

What we often have is a situation in which insular music industry interests are competing with numerous interests of the general public. The most glaring way this shows up, is how radio stations offer their listeners a limited amount of music within a particular genre. So a station will get 50 records a week, will play the public just ten which are determined by label priorities, favors and agreed upon marketing campaigns. These executives will then sit back wait and watch to see which does best out of the limited offering and then go around making the claim that what you hear on the airwaves is based on public support. Having worked in commercial radio for over 12 years and being a radio programmer for the past 4, I can tell you first hand having seen with my own eyes and hearing with my own ears, that what you wrote is NOT entirely accurate on a number of levels. This is totally misleading.

What I often observed is two things first, what is usually offered on the airwaves via urban radio are records chosen from one of the five major label groups or their subsidiaries. In other words, the only ones who are allowed to sit down and break bread on music day and more importantly be allowed to pull up a chair to the proverbial card table determining airplay are those who have the chips (resources) to play and pay. Some stations will try and counter this assertion and tell you that they meet with everybody and that smaller labels go to the mix show meetings. This is not the same thing. Yes, you are in the building, but you are not at the table.

Now as I said earlier, particular records played by most radio stations are chosen based upon the requests of major labels that are launching marketing campaigns behind a particular artist. It is for this reason that when you start to check the play lists of radio stations all over the country they are virtually the same. With the exception of one or two songs, you would be hard pressed to know what city a station resided in based upon their playlists or what you are actually hearing. Behind the scenes we know this is all brought and paid for. You do business with the big guys first-make sure they get their piece of the pie then if there’s leftovers you open things up.

A few years ago during the FCC Consolidation hearings conducted by FCC commissioners Aldelstein and Cox, whether you went to San Francisco, Seattle or North Carolina you heard the consistent complaint that local acts and independent record labels had little or no opportunity to get heard on their local radio station.

Radio stations executives over the years have made the erroneous assertions that the local talent was not up to par with the rest of the industry or that there was no interest from the public. I can tell you first hand such excuses were cover ups. In cities like Boston, San Francisco, Washington DC or Houston which have large independent music scenes you found that demand for local acts was high if not higher then so called established major label acts offered by local mainstream radio. This popularity can be shown by competitive record sales and attendant numbers at shows.

So in a city like San Francisco I can see a group like Hieroglyphics sell out their shows at a Clear Channeled owned venue like the Filmore and do online sales to the tune of 2-3 million dollars and yet not get any airplay on the local Clear Channeled owned radio station KMEL or KLYD. This is in spite the fact that the crowds they attract hit station demographics. Similar scenarios occur with other Bay Area groups like Blackalicious, Zion I and Paris who sold more than 200 thousand units of his independently released ‘Sonic Jihad’ album.

In Los Angeles where you’re at you see similar scenarios with acts like Living Legends who like Hiero sell out shows, and do brisk sales on albums but receive scant airplay. Similar situations occurred with acts like Mike Jones in Houston until he finally broke through and got hitched to major label. In DC you have the very popular GoGo music genre limited to late night (after midnight) airplay on weekend nights. Rarely do you hear any of this music indigenous to the nation’s capital during the day.

When further pressed as to why these local groups do not get airplay, radio station execs will give every excuse in the book with the most popular being the nebulous they don’t fit the stations sound. This of course leads to the question as to what determines the sound of the station; the expert opinions of program and music directors or the public as you suggested?

In San Francisco which is dominated by Clear Channel two urban stations, it took a year long campaign called ‘The People’s Station Campaign’ to force urban giant KMEL to open up and start playing local acts. Now you hear local acts on the regular, but it should never had had to come to protests, letter writing campaigns and marches for a station to do what the public had long been demanding. Now what’s being looked into is whether or not local acts are being forced to curry favors or pay for their limited airtime. There are media reform organizations looking into this right now.

National Public vs. Local Public-Who Does Radio Listen to?

Going back to some of the points raised in your LA Times article, if we follow your arguments we can point out that over the years the sound and style of Hip Hop has changed moving from P-Diddy’s brand of jiggy music to the crunk and southern styles of acts ranging from Lil Jon to Webbie. There was a time when the crunk styles were roundly dismissed especially in places like New York which has long been resistant to Hip Hop outside the region. Now we have this style of music being played everywhere. How did that happen? You say public demand. I pose the question to you Robert-Which public are we talking about? Is it the national public that we attach to MTV or BET or the local public that stations are supposed to cater to?

This is an important question to answer if we follow your argument. Let’s go back to an example I cited with a group like Heiro which consists of Del,Casual and Souls of Mischief. They never get any play here in the Bay Area yet manage to sell out shows. Now according to station powerhouse KMEL their number 8 song on their charts is Webbie who has a cut called ‘Gimme Dat’. The video is on BET all the time and you always hear it on the air. The point I’m making its being exposed to Bay Area residents all the time.

If you were to hold a concert at the Filmore next week with Webbie being the main act and the local station hyping it, there’s no way he would sell out or even come close. Local acts like Hiero or Michael Franti would and do on the regular. So why no airplay for them if this is about public demand?

Over the years I’ve sat in many promotional meetings where the station would be throwing concerts featuring artists we were banging day in and day out and hyping the show with all our respective firepower only to find we had slow ticket sales to the point of not being able to sell out a two thousand seat venue. Internally station managers would call up a label and get more acts added to the bill to entice our audience and even then the show although packed, would not be sold out. Still those artists would continue to get airplay at the requests of the label that would need to spins to move their campaign to the next level. If it was determined that slow ticket sales was the result of another concert by a new promoter, the head honchos at the station would call up a label and demand that they pull the act and not let them perform in the market in exchange for another favor. That is a form of payola and it goes on all the time.

If a major label and radio station are not seeing eye to eye on their backdoor business arrangements, then the public will get screwed especially if the radio station belongs a to a particular chain which makes it the only game in town. I’ve watched so called hit records get yanked off the air under the guise of ‘radio politics’, meaning the station didn’t get their check/ favors fulfilled. I’ve watched how really wack records got enormous amount of spins and in spite the public’s rejection of the artist and song.

Your own newspaper via Chuck Phillips a few years ago brought this practice to life when Damion ‘Damizza’ Young was trying to force the artist Shady Sheist down our throats here in Los Angeles.

In the article it was revealed that Young and his parent company Emmis broadcasting were connected to the label as owners and investors. What Phillips wrote was revealing to the public, but folks who worked within the industry on the label and record side knew this and knew of all the other unethical connections that were similar to the one attached to Young and Power 106. In other words it was the tip of the iceberg.

Going back to the Webbie scenario, Radio execs will tell you that an artist gets played because of record sales or requests. Well when Webbie first started getting all his airplay there was no record for you to buy. You could download his single, but you couldn’t buy the album. Last I checked folks were looking at sound scan figures to determine popularity.

Let’s take this a step further. Many radio stations will tell you that they do all sorts of research and focus groups to come up with ‘what the public wants to hear’. At the end of the day you find that it’s true, the public does wanna hear artists like Beyonce, Game and Usher. But that public also wants to hear several songs off Beyonce’s or Game’s album which is unlikely to happen with any sort of regularity especially if the label sends the word that they are setting up a campaign for a specific song.

Case in point,and this is not an unusual scenario, I recall getting into a heated discussion and with a label rep that was pissed off that I was programming an album cut from one of his artists (Usher) and not the single that the label was pushing. I was told that such ‘violations’ (his word not mine) might result in us no longer getting service and their artists not doing anything for outlets. A couple of weeks later I got the word from my bosses to start playing the label’s priority in heavy rotation. This was in spite of the fact that the artist’s album cuts were actually doing better in our internal research amongst our listeners then the label’s new single. So much for public demand, it was really all about label demand.

Another case illustrating my point centers around the campaign that comedian Steve Harvey had to lead against his own radio station (KKBT) when the programming honchos refused to play artists like Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and India.irie All three have been nominated or have won numerous prestigious music awards. Well several years ago Harvey while sitting on a music industry panel revealed to the audience that his bosses who head up Radio One the nation’s largest Black owned chain refused to touch any of these artists music. He quoted one of his bosses as saying that Black women don’t wanna listen to this crap’. It wasn’t until Harvey himself went on the air and started complaining publicly and later chastising his own boss that these artists finally get played. It was a bold move on Harvey’s part which netted big applause from the audience which was quickly tempered by stern warnings from other program directors who made it clear that if any jock not of Harvey’s stature tried some crap like that they would be fired on the spot.

How this ties into payola is that Kedar Massenbuarg who was behind Badu and Irie was there complaining that he simply did not have the marketing dollars to help develop these new artists. Translation=He didn’t have the budget to pay these urban stations to play these new artists at the time they first came out. Yes, it was public sentiment that finally got them on but only after Steve Harvey took it upon himself to lead an on air campaign forcing radio One which controls 70% of the Black urban landscape to give these artist a shot. Why did it have to come to that if the public really dictates?

As for song requests, how many are talking about and who is actually calling? Internally there is a profile/category that most radio stations have for people who call in. We call them P1s-meaning they are active listeners. Conventional wisdom says you don’t play for your p1s you play for your p2s and p3s who are the majority of your listeners and are NOT likely to call. In addition, you also have a certain age range of people who are likely to call and request a song. They tend to be younger in age. Lastly at the end of a day you may have 500 to 800 total requests for all songs which is not a heck of a lot considering the large amount of listeners most major market radio stations have.

The biggest irony to all this is the fact we have this catch 22 situation meaning that generally speaking listeners tend to call in requesting songs that they have been introduced to by the radio stations or videos. The more you play something, the more requests you get. You are not likely to get someone calling in telling you not to play a song. Hence at the end of the day these song requests which stations like to put out to the public as a the end all be all argument justifying airplay, behind the scenes is used only as a guide or a reinforcement for what was already cast in stone and on their agenda.

In other words let’s say a radio station commits to play an artist like Mike Jones 30-40 times a week. There would be an expectation to have a good amount of requests for that song. If not it would be an indication that Mike is not doing that well and the station would research other indicators to determine whether or not they should continue playing him. If everything has been ‘brought and paid for’, they will figure out where to best position his song so it minimizes what we call ‘tune outs’. Only if the record is really bad and a station is in a serious ratings war will they immediately pull it off the air. Otherwise they will at least be given a shot. That’s a luxury not afforded to those who haven’t put money in the station coffers. And again in many markets you have to be member of the major label club to even have your money, favors or resources accepted.

2004 Urban Network Summit: ‘Nothing gets on the Air For Free’

To substantiate this last point all you have to do is go back to the 2004 Urban Network Summit in Palm Springs. During the Radio Power Program Directors panel moderated by Kevin Fleming, PDs representing all of the major urban radio chains spoke openly and frankly about what they were dealing with. In attendance were reps from all the major labels and over 100 people. This meeting went on for over and hour and half with the discussion centering around the deluge of bad music PDs were being forced to program. Label reps were openly complaining that the stations had raised their price to the point that it made it extremely difficult for labels to develop campaigns around new acts and new trends.

Many of the program directors talked about being handcuffed and having to play records that lack passion. They spoke about how major deals were being cut between labels, regional VPs of programming, and a group of people who changed their title from ‘Indies’ to ‘consultants’. The end result was a good amount of music being forced down the chain with local programmers having little or no room to develop new sounds, new artists and more importantly accommodate local artists.

What was said on that panel from the program directors themselves was that they oftentimes found themselves having to work with records that were weak for the market but made sense for the national campaign the labels and VP of programming and the ‘consultants’ had agreed to. All this was spoken at one of the industry’s premiere music conferences. How did you come to these other conclusions because what you wrote about public determination seems to fly in direct opposition to what these program directors were saying at this 2004 conference?

Lastly at that 2004 Urban Network Summit, they spoke about trying to find new ways for record labels to penetrate the market place and increase sales because playing songs on the air was not enough. The labels themselves were given direct orders to start showing up with marketing budgets and not promotional budgets so the stations could work with them to develop other marketing schemes including product sampling via street teams, concerts, club dates, websites exposure etc, etc. The main point of contention was that major labels were throwing a lot of their money at the various video outlets and increasingly some of the mainstream commercial giants while giving a fraction to the urban outlets despite the fact that it was the urban stations had larger audiences. In other words the debate which format and departments get the most payola dollars. Of course words like ‘promotions’ and ‘resources’ were the coded buzz words.

The final words spoken to the attendees from one of the older participants, I think his name was Sidney Smalls of AUR [American Urban Radio Network]. Anyway this gentlemen gets up and puts the record labels on blast by telling them point blank; “NOTHING GETS ON THE AIR FOR FREE”. This was spoken loud and clear and was directed to one of the label execs who were complaining that it was costing him too much to get his records on the air. This guy goes on to add; that it would be in the labels best interests to pony up their funds and start working with the radio stations so they can help them penetrate the market. He told them at the end of the day their good efforts might result in airplay, but that was not guaranteed. What was guaranteed that the only ones who would get airplay would be clients, meaning those who agreed to this newly proposed market penetration scheme.

From what I gathered these station heads were setting the stage to create public demand through elaborate marketing strategies. It would be bolstered by the understanding that in nowadays the music outlets that present the music are more trustworthy and better known then the artists they present. During that meeting this fact was brought. In nutshell because listeners are fans of the outlets, whatever the outlets present will be the public demand. It was broken down in those plain terms Robert, I’m not sure how these other conclusions can be suggested via your article when the industry heads are seemingly on an entirely different page in both how they think and ultimately act.

The bottom line is 50 Cent or Young Buck or Guerilla Black were going to be played in heavy rotation whether they did good or not for a period of time to satisfy the timeline and marketing efforts of the label. The records would have to be an outright stiff.. But if was anywhere from medium to great then it got played. trust me. I recall fondly all those programmers around the country who found themselves playing Guerilla Black the Biggie sound a like, granting him prime time interviews and mix shows around the country playing his record every hour on the hour despite the public’s rejection of him. That’s one glaring example which is often cited as an industry joke. Again, what I speak of is only the tip of the iceberg. The people over at organizations like can break this down even more. I would encourage you to reach out and speak with them to get another perspective..

In closing Robert, I’m hoping what you wrote was based upon naivety to the inner workings of programming at major radio stations. I would hate to think that the labels themselves contacted you and you went along with them to keep up good relationships and strengthen industry ties. I clearly understand, that there’s definitely a price to pay if you come out against them and one to made if you support them. Forgive me if I crossed any sort of line in questioning your integrity, but this is the type of business where we are approach all the time in major and minor ways especially when things are at stake. Our personal relationships within the industry and oftentimes our parenting companies personal relationships oftentimes makes it difficult to really come out and speak accurately about how things really work behind the scenes..


July 29, 2005

The public, not payola, rules the air
By Robert Hilburn, LA Times Staff Writer

I love a plasma TV as much as the next guy, but it’s naive to think payola is responsible for the music that gets on the radio. In other words, it’s going to take more than Eliot Spitzer to stop the commercial juggernaut of hip-hop and R&B.

Yet lots of pop fans who detest what’s become of mainstream radio seem to feel the New York attorney general’s settlement Monday with Sony BMG means “real” music will soon be back on the airwaves.

Don’t hold your breath.

Mainstream radio stations play hip-hop, R&B and teen pop because that’s what target audiences want to hear. The payola settlement isn’t likely to change that.

Critics of today’s pop music falsely equate the corporate admission that millions were spent trying to alter radio station playlists as a sign that the sounds now dominating radio are being forced on us.

It’s as if big, bad Sony BMG used its vast resources to keep “real” music (rock ‘n’ roll, adult pop, jazz, what have you) off the air.

Trust me, Sony and other major labels aren’t interested in keeping anything off the air. They are interested in selling records. They’d release an album of dog howls if they thought it would go platinum.

To think otherwise is as misguided as believing that all those heavy metal albums years ago really had satanic messages woven into the music.

You knew it was nonsense because if the record industry really had such power, the message they would have slipped into the records was, “Buy more of our albums.”

The hip-hop revolution didn’t start because record executives suddenly took a fancy to the renegade sound. Hip-hop artists sold millions of albums on indie labels before most major labels woke up to the music’s potential. It was a repeat of what happened in the ’50s, when rock ‘n’ roll too was born on indie labels.

The power in determining hits rests with the public, and no one knows this better than radio programmers.

Radio executives respond more to ratings than a truckload of plasma TVs, the sexiest of the payola gifts revealed in e-mails released this week as part of the Spitzer settlement.

Good ratings, good bonus.

Bad ratings and you may find yourself watching your TV at home while combing through the want ads.

That’s not to say that promotion (including practices in violation of anti-payola laws) can’t help an individual new record worm its way onto radio playlists; of course it can. But the record won’t stay there unless listeners accept it. If you could guarantee a hit through payola, major labels wouldn’t have to drop artists left and right because of poor sales.

My suspicion is many record company executives are privately pleased by the payola settlement because they see the practice as throwing money down a sinkhole, in many cases.

The only reason moguls haven’t quit on their own is the fear of what might happen if their rivals continue to play the payola game — a risk they can’t afford to take in today’s ultra-cutthroat environment.

One better way to spend the promotion money would be greater tour support, which should help rock acts who have the most trouble getting mainstream airplay these days, or long-term career development. Many of the major rock acts of recent years, including Bruce Springsteen and U2, depended in their early days more on touring than on radio.

The more likely scenario is that executives will soon be back with new promotional schemes that again test the boundaries of payola.

Questionable practices won’t stop, one executive said flatly Wednesday, until someone goes to jail. That would be the ultimate deterrent because it would shake up the upper echelons of the corporate culture far more than a $10-million fine.

Indie label representatives expressed hope this week that the payola settlement will enable their acts to get more mainstream airplay, but that too sounds a lot like wishful thinking. Major labels will still employ massive promotion teams that will work day and night to persuade radio programmers to play their latest releases. Indie labels can’t compete with that firepower.

And there’s no reason to think mainstream programmers are going to be more open to indie rock sounds as long as research shows today’s hit music is what gets the ratings.

If radio programmers were more adventurous, you might hear mainstream stations playing the best music of the day, regardless of musical genre — a playlist that might include 50 Cent and Bright Eyes, Alicia Keys and the White Stripes.

But it’d take a dramatic shift in listener tastes to make that possible — and that’s one change that’s most certainly beyond the power of the New York attorney general’s office.

Robert Hilburn, pop music critic of The Times, can be reached at

Notorious BIG Killed in LA

Notorious BIG DiddyLast Tuesday March 4 1997 Notorious BIG rolled through KMEL’s Breakfast Club and did his last radio interview. I recall him being upbeat and playful… He was in good spirits and he seemed to have an air of optimism about him. He mentioned that he was ready to take the rap world by storm. He spoke about how he had put a lot of hard work into his upcoming album ‘Life After Death‘. The album was recorded over a 9 month period.

Biggie spoke very passionately about the importance of putting God in your life… ‘A lot of people are surprised to hear someone like me say that.. they think it makes you soft’, he said.. ‘But if God is with you no one can be against one is stronger then God’.

He mentioned that it was his good friend and the man he managed Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs who introduced this drug dealer turned rapper to God. It was a Biggie Smallz most have rarely seen or heard. It was an introspective Biggie who seemed to have matured…The Biggie I recall in his last radio interview was a Biggie who spoke emphatically about the hell he had been through with the this whole East/West Coast civil war within hip hop. He spoke frankly and earnestly about what it was like being in the middle of this whole drama…

2Pac in the movie Juice

2Pac in the movie Juice

He told our audience that most people didn’t really understand the relationship between him and 2Pac.. He spoke on the fact he and Pac were nothing more then rappers and that a lot of things were blown out of proportion by the media. However there was one comment that was a bit disturbing.. When asked directly as to whether or not he had a hand in the killing of his arch rival 2Pac Shakur, Biggie responded in a coy type of fashion that ‘he wasn’t that powerful yet’. When asked again he responded the same way. He didn’t put forth that unequivocal, undeniable answer of ‘No’. It was almost as if Biggie wanted to keep some mystery about him. It was as if he wanted people to somehow think that he was somehow capable of carrying out such a heinous crime’. Personally it wasn’t a very constructive thing to do… considering there were still so many people here on the West Coast that were both still grieving and somehow thought that Biggie had something to do with PAC’s demise.

This is not to say that his answers which incidentally were said on the Wake Up Show in LA the week before had anything to do with him being killed…but it leaves one to wonder…why he would go there.. Why not permanently put all those rumors to rest.According to witnesses, Notorious BIG was hanging out at an after party for the Soul Train Music Awards. The party was being thrown by Vibe Magazine at the Automotive Museum in downtown LA and Biggie was in full swing with an entourage of about 30 people including Lil Caesar, and Lil Kim.

Notorious BIG GangsterMany claim Biggie and company had been ‘flossin’ big time [steppin’ out] adorning fancy ‘gangster outfits’ and showing little concern for their safety in LA. Biggie and most of his entourage had been chillin’ in LA for the past couple of weeks laying down the groundwork for the promotion of his upcoming album. From the outside looking in, Biggie’s visible presence in LA indicated that everything was squashed and there’s was no longer any more bad blood between LA based Death Row and the New York based Bad Boy record companies who had embarked on a new and more peaceful direction for hip hop. A lot of this was reinforced by the recent ‘coming together’ of Snoop Dog and Sean Puffy Combs.. on the Steve Harvey Show. Folks simply felt it was all good…Industry insiders said such was not the case.The word on the streets was there were still a number of individuals angry at Biggie.. His high visible in Los Angeles was viewed by some as a smack in the face to 2Pac. People holding such sentiments may have been small in number…but they were nevertheless dangerous enough that Biggie should’ve been concerned and aware of his surroundings…

The actual shooting occurred when a drive by assailant let loose at Big as he sat in his Suburban. Biggie was on his way to 92.3 The Beat to do an interview. Lil Caesar was apparently with him but was unharmed. Nearby was a vehicle with Foxy Brown inside… The windshield to that vehicle was shattered… After the shooting, many of the NY based artist became very concerned.. Most left the LA area the next day [Sunday] as opposed to Monday when they were scheduled. The word was out that NY rappers best beware..

DJ Quik

DJ Quik

The fallout of this tragedy has left many within the hip hop community shocked and despaired. Rumors immediately began to surface. Witnesses claim that Notorious BIG has earlier that evening engaged in a heated argument with DJ Quik.. The rumors speculating that Quik had something to do with the shooting immediately circulated around the Bay Area.. Other rumors surfaced saying that Suge Knight was the mastermind behind the shootings.. It was a message from his jail cell to let Biggie and everyone else know that he was very much in control despite being handed a 8 year prison sentence.. Another theory was that Biggie was gunned down by LA Crips because him and Bad Boy refused to pay an extortion fee to members of the LA Based gang. Other speculated that it was a Mafia hit. The most outrageous and yet persistent rumor is that it was someone connected to 2Pac… perhaps even Pac himself was involved if you believe the rumors about him being alive. Ironically Biggie was killed 2 weeks before the release of his lp like 2Pac… It also occurred 6 month and a day after 2 Pac’s untimely demise. Another disheartening speculation is that there would be retaliation from the East Coast… Artist like Ice Cube and Mack 10 have been said to be next on the hit list of this on going saga. Whatever the case the shooting took place in front of a lot of people within the music industry.. and that Biggie was the intended target… Many are refusing to talk..

The Vibe on the streets out here in the Bay Area has been one of frustration.. Many have gotten fed up with a situation that has gotten totally out of hand.. Many have pledged to help bring about some substantial changes.. Still others have sadly celebrated Biggie’s death claiming that it was just revenge for PAC’s death.. ‘Now folks back east know how it feels’ was what many said. In San Francisco Fillmore district there were folks actually getting drunk and partying over the fact that Biggie got shot.. Things have definitely gotten bad within some circles.What’s so sad is that Biggie at age 24 leaves behind two children, a wife and his mom.

Harry Allen

Harry Allen

Hip Hop based radio station around the country immediately addressed this issue. Here in San Francisco on KMEL’s Street Knowledge Show, Public Enemy‘s Harry Allen and Christopher Mohammed from the Nation Of Islam… help set the tone and bring about a proper perspective on this scenario. As tragic as this even was.. many within the hip hop nation have taken a stance to recommit themselves to uplifting and bringing about redirect people down a more positive path.

Christopher Mohammed spoke about the influence of outside forces. He reminded people about the counter intelligence programs of the 60s in which African American organizations were deliberately pitted against one another. Through media manipulation the so called East/West Coast war has been brought to new and dangerous heights.. Brother Chris let it be known this whole incident was bigger Biggie and 2Pac and that the whole East/West coast war is an attempt to keep Black folks from uniting..

Harry Allen spoke about many people being left to feel powerless and how hip hop has become something that they no longer control. He stressed the importance of folks getting some sort of spiritual grounding and to resist the temptation of trying to fit into this whole East West War just to garner a reputation.

Sway and King Tech

Sway and King Tech

The following morning… Dr. Dre and Red Alert appeared on KMEL’s Breakfast Club morning show as did Chuck D from Public Enemy. The main topic at hand was parental responsibility and the role those of us in media play in helping solve or bring about problems. Red Alert noted that its important that the lines of communication between East and West be kept open.. The result has been the calling a radio summit… Currently Sway of the Wake Up Show and program director Michelle S of KMEL and others are trying to assemble key hip hop djs and artists from around the country for a soon to be announced on air town hall meeting/ hip hop summit. The plan is to have it air live in as many markets as possible simultaneously. Most important of course is Cali and New York.. Dr Dre took things a step further and insisted that this summit be televised as well as aired on the radio.. People are working to see if this can happen.. We will keep you posted as this on air summit develops.

In another strange twist of events…Suge Knight has reportedly been stabbed seven times while on lock down yesterday… The weapon was sharpened chicken bones…There has been no official report on his condition and who the assailant was…Death Row Records as of today 3/12/97 has issued a statement denying such an event has taken place…. Check out their official press release… [editor’s note]

Also KRS-One who is scheduled to do a concert here in the Bay Area has supposedly expressed some concern about being here out west…

Here at KMEL a commitment and a pledge of sorts have been taken by the on air staff to help foster a new change.. The station is getting ready to start accentuating positivity within hip hop.. The challenge has been issued to listeners to try and make a difference.. The underlying goal is to help increase consciousness amongst the hip hop generation.. Things are getting ready to change… Hip Hop is at a turning point… Either we’re gonna turn things around.. or we’re gonna continue down a path of destruction with the worse yet to come…


by Davey D


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