The Internets came for Hot 97 program director Ebro Darden’s neck this week over the subject of airplay for underground and aspiring artists, particularly those from the station’s home market of New York City. Combat Jack invited him on to the show to defend his policy of relegating these lesser known artists to “Real Late with Rosenberg” and he accepted. I haven’t listened to this interview yet, but this is always an interesting debate and I can appreciate the arguments put forth by both sides.
I think on the one hand, people at major media outlets like to cast themselves in the role of the gatekeeper who’s co-sign must be earned before they will cover or play an artists music, and to a certain extent, this can be a good thing. Assuming these people have some taste in Rap music, in theory, this should mean that only the best music makes it to the airwaves, regardless of where the artist is signed or how much the label spent on advertising. As we all know, what works in theory doesn’t neccessarily work in practice and that’s clearly the case here.
On the other hand, a radio station is a mass market platform and the fact of the matter is, a good percentage of the people who listen to Hot 97 are just not interested in being exposed to underground Rap. I know for a fact that the majority of the people I grew up with are not trying to listen to a Homeboy Sandman song or the new Ratking project and no amount of radio rotation is going to change that.
And that’s just today’s Hip-Hop market. Maybe it would’ve been different if Radio had never stopped playing underground Rap, but that didn’t happen and so this is the world we live in. I have a hard time giving a fuck though because now we have blogs and podcasts and internet radio shows and countless apps and websites to help us discover new music. People who really want to find new music know how and where to do it, and people who want to listen to strictly commercial Rap tune to Hot 97 and Power 105.1.