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Imbalanced Radio Stations Shrink Their Own Appeal

BY MORGAN BROWN

It is easy – almost reflexive in this day and age – to see radio DJ as a nearly obsolete profession considering that mobile digital media players (MP3 players/devices) are still increasing in popularity worldwide and have been since their initial market boom in the early-mid 2000s. Additionally, music streaming service apps such as Spotify and Pandora have further diminished the appeal of radio.

Radio music stations have done little to nothing to safeguard their place in the modern era, and many radio personalities seem to actually rely solely on their charm or wit to garner loyal listeners. Aside from the sheer convenience of MP3 devices and music streaming apps, most of the appeal of digital media has to do with the fact that users are able to consume various musical styles all through one device without restriction. Radio, even those stations that claim to provide a wide variety, simply does not have this same allure.

To be clear, this is not a denunciation of pop stations that play pop, old rock stations that play old rock, or alternative stations that play music of that captivating but ill-explained genre. The criticism is for those stations that emphasize a variety of genres, especially those that claim to play “new music,” as in newly released music, but neglect the evidently guilty pleasure that is hip-hop.

There is no reason for the exclusion of hip-hop music. Radio edits remove profanity and clean up the content, as they do with commonly – excessively – played pop songs. In addition to its hypocrisy in consideration of pop songs, the vulgarity argument also is not enough to disregard those songs that are not explicit.

The exclusion of hip-hop also often reaches discriminatory levels. This can be seen in those stations such as Hits 102.7 in Rapid City, South Dakota, 96.3 WDVD in Detroit, Now 1005 in Sacramento, Fresh 94.7 in Washington D.C., or to come a bit closer to home, Star 94.1 in Atlanta, which are currently using or have in the recent past used the tagline “Today’s Hits Without The Rap.” This tagline has its roots in hip-hop’s genesis, when hip-hop was widely looked upon with more open hostility than discomfort.

Though they have played songs without the rap portions before and after the use of the tagline, the question of why remains unanswered. The idea that the songs are better without the rap portion is unsupported by the growth in fame and riches of hip-hop artists.

The tagline comes off as distinctly passive aggressive – covert racism at its finest. It is too difficult to understand why a station can supposedly have nothing against hip-hop or rap and yet reject the use of them in top 40 pop songs.

The point that these stations would play songs without the rap portions regardless of the tagline is not a strong defense. If the stations hold no opposition against rap, there are two major questions that this weak justification does not answer: 1) Why does the fact that the songs are being played without the rap parts entail stating in a tagline meant to enhance attractiveness? 2) Why are they are being played without the rap parts at all?

People are understandably going to be offended by the inherent insinuation that these stations find rap so objectionable that oddly long instrumental or musical breaks create a better listening experience.

These radio stations will soon be burying themselves under their own partiality. People may still go to classical stations for classical music or jazz stations for jazz, but there is clear inconvenience in stipulations like “new music” (except for…) or “today’s hits without…” The tide has long since turned toward digital and mobile media where quite frankly, the selection is greater, the variety is unquestionable, the trivial commentary is absent, and the ads – if any – are shorter and more infrequent.

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