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Is Hip-Hop Being Strangled By Radio?
By: Emory Brown
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In the formative years of hip-hop, the music was free. It was an expression the trials and creativity of inner-city youths. Emcees and D.J.s graced the stage with style and everyone had a moment to shine in their own way. Today we are witnessing a control over the hip-hop genre that we marketing folk would say is “off-brand.” Somewhere, the art has lost some of its texture and depth for profits.

For all of us old enough or young enough to remember, hip-hop came in all shapes, forms, and sizes. It revolutionized street culture and corporate culture and opened the door for many great things to happen in American culture. Yet today we are witnessing a hip-hop form of “redlining”; a shutting out of artists that speak about bigger truths such as social afflictions, politics, education, spirituality…the list goes on and on. Think about the last time you heard a song like Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” with major radio support. When have you heard something like Scarface’s “Some Day” with major radio support? Most songs we hear for those of us who are fans of the culture are geared towards violence and partying. Is this just because labels know and believe that violence and sex sell? Yet how did artists like LL Cool J, Will Smith, and Mos Def become superstars by making hip-hop music that celebrates all the elements of street culture without a major focus on drug selling, shootouts, and pimping? 

Unfortunately, what we are seeing is a lack of labels that are willing to take chances on hip-hop music that is outside of what they deem to be hip-hop. My synopsis is that “Gangster Rap” has created an artificial bottom-line mentality in hip-hop that has put a chokehold on the culture. Don’t get me wrong; Jay-Z is awesome, and to make it from the streets to the corporate suites is an accomplishment.

However, there are hip-hop artists like La’Crae, who does Christian hip-hop, and you will never hear him on Power 92 during the day. There are up-and-coming artists like Dessa and if you’re not a “Head” for hip-hop you wouldn’t know she existed. This lack of diversity in the hip-hop culture on radio and other major media outlets only promotes one mindset and ignores the tastes of others who may like other styles of hip-hop. People are always wondering why there is so much violence among our youth. Why there is so much disrespect and hate? Well, if you listen or watch the musical culture, once in a while you might get a glimpse into what some urban youth think the world is about. People say, “Don’t let T.V. raise your kids.” I would say add certain forms of hip-hop music to that saying as well. Because when it comes down to it, listeners mean dollars to labels and labels are in business to make money, not monitor who’s influencing your kids’ views on life.


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About the Author
Emory Brown is an award-winning creative director/writer whose mission is to spread the gospel of what great marketers can do when they put their heads together and work together for the greater good and not the bottom line. Working with many esteemed clients, his portfolio of work ranges in genre from conservative to ultra-modern including American Family Insurance, United Airlines, Mazda 6 and RX-8, Illinois Lottery, Tyson, Miller Genuine Draft, Nike Air Force 1, and Mercedes Benz, to name a few.  
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