Hip-hop was once a rebellious music that sampled songs without permission, was the subject of derision by politicians and became a target of law enforcement. But even as its teenage adherents got minivans and had kids, their love of hip-hop never left – and, with its fans’ maturation, came a new life for the originators of an art form that used to long for the mainstream legitimacy its progeny now enjoys.
But while new music by Nicki Minaj and Drake may rule the pop and urban charts, the hip-hop of a generation ago (like Salt-N-Pepa’s Push It, Young MC’s Bust A Move and others) is penetrating the most mainstream of venues, fromclassrooms to movie theaters to insurance commercials. And nowhere is “old school” hip-hop’s growth more evident than on your radio dial.
The New York Times reports that Houston station KROI tripled its audience when it switched to a classic hip-hop format. Indianapolis’ WRWM went from 15th most-listened to number 1 in just a month when it did the same. Rolling Stonereports that corporations like iHeartRadio (formerly Clear Channel) and others are now jumping to change flailing stations’ formats to hip-hop oldies as a result.
The emergence of classic hip-hop as a radio format is fantastic news for listeners who love the music – and it means a second chance for legacy artists and their families, many of whom saw little-to-no money in their heyday, to potentially reap royalties anew. Producers whose techniques shaped genres as divergent as pop, electronic dance music and soul, but who may have languished in obscurity, will finally get to be heard.
But as delightful as it is to hear the music of our youth back on the radio, the lack of diversity in the industry threatens to derail the resurgence of classic hip-hop and bury its history.
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