A commentary on Hot 97 & the Commercial Radio Machine backed by a 2005 interview crate w/Duck Down’s Buckshot
– – “Slave”
When the world eats by collected sheets of legal tender, integrity starves and principles beg for utensils. Utensils to offer themselves as a better way to this life. With Hip Hop, our culture of Arts, we made the illest spoons, forks and knives to cut through the silence, spoon out lost talents of the ghetto and fork the devils’ oppressive yoke. The music became the food that the God ate when I learned that my education was only playing me genetically modified ciphers. And the sound that captured me was earning its own station in New York City. The radio waves realized the music had commercial power and the depth to be viable. And artists as Black Moon, led by Buckshot’s dynamic intensity and charismatic stylistic diversity, gave Hot 97 its first legitimate hits.
In 1999, I wrote my unpublished paper Why Hip Hop Died, finding massive amounts of underdeveloped talent never developing. Often brothers would just take the commercial route turning their character and persona to filth before we may have noticed. Selling out before you even sold became the way to be real. The artists ready for a greater spotlight (i.e. Hot 97, bigger radio spins, etc.) received none. They were trapped in wage cages not suitable for a career they were earning. So when the Black and Brown stallions [note: the Brown MC has almost always been shut down by the industry with BIG PUN an exception that was literally fought for by Fat Joe and others] were stabled it enabled white MCs of good to weak measure from the above (i.e. eminem) to the below (i.e. Cage to Esoteric to Aesop to Sage Francis to Slug, etc.) to reign. And now the only niggas out the stable mic’d up were the cooning donkeys. As Hakim Green noted HERE, often men with college education in varying degrees (i.e. Lil’ Wayne, Ludacris, etc.) savaging with pop pleas were mightily decreed by radio. And the radio became an overt payola palace of bad records, the same records, played again…and again…and again…
It was then Puffy’s pre-revisionist success on the reality of Biggie that gave a blueprint to Jay-Z and Jigga was the only artist Hot 97 played. The depth of Brooklyn, of New York City, of all of the East Coast was one Marcy kid. He gave you summers because no one else but the South had rappers that could play dumber. And in 2005, I completed my tour of duty of major rap magazine powerhouses with my Assistant Editor position at The Source. There I wrote on Funkmaster Flex. Not about his ugly fucking Lugz or his corny laugh or his mix show’s last 5 minutes playing the best songs of the night at chipmunk’d rpm. It was about the connections between Flex and payola as a leading DJ at Hot 97. But when I followed up the story, it had to be about the radio. M-1 and stic told me it should be so. And so did Duck Down’s Buckshot back in 2005.
Today, Ebro walks big and tall through the halls of Hot 97. Hip Hop music now thrives without radio but the masses are still led by Hot 97 and radio as a trend setter. The masses? Those are our people, the average man—the poor Black and Latino that doesn’t have an ipod filled with freely found and downloaded RAR files of all the best classic and new LPs. The young schoolers who still, like we did, use the radio as a unifying pulse of pop-ular union. So they now are united by aggressively tight pants and wildly colored non-military camo prints with passive verses and savagely simpleton showtunes as their score. And as they use this radio pulse, Hot 97’s Ebro, like every other radio director I’ve ever spoken too, has a sick science of why we need to be programmed. He pathetically champions a success formula that has no MC quotients, snare variables or break calculations that solve for Hip Hop. And he’ll call the best MCs minor league while his major league is a siege that blood sucks us tostupidity to exult the capital captives of the music. You check these lists of “major league” playlists and the scorecard is filled with a bunch of bitch singles hitters led by the sellout salvation songs of Jigga McDuck and Kanye’s club cries of Yeezus’ Heist.
But we still have one last Buckshot visible by the light of the Black Moon none can Duck Down from. Buckshot, like Lord Jamar, is not a veteran looking to capture the youth market with “new hate.” This is an understanding from a consistently excelling MC, with a superior catalog and one of the two most important independent Hip Hop labels through the 00’s [the other the Hieroglyphics Imperium] that has helped make radio useless. In 2005, Buckshot wanted to continue to fight to take back the great forum of radio that he helped erect. Today, he reveals that the “Duncan Hines” robotically boxed formula they use to package music and sell it consistently is all they will ever be able to do. That radio isn’t necessary is proven with every powerful album they release from the Boot Camp Clik or the legendary Pharaoahe Monch or the young word wizard Skyzoo. In nine more years, Ebro may be onto a newer sellout scandal while Hot 97 and all radio decays completely. So while Ebro huffs and puffs his own pighouse down do the knowledge to this build I was honored to have with Buckshot back in 2005…
“Shit, today it take niggas too long to recognize/Just because I’m not commercialized/Or when I’m in your town I rock the underground/But you don’t know me…”
– – “Two Turntables & A Mic”
BUCKSHOT: The game changed. Radio has changed a lot. You know what’s crazy. I don’t know if you heard Flex on the radio. I actually didn’t hear it. Dru heard it. I was in LA. You didn’t hear it from me but DJs that aren’t even in tune. They’re on TV. When’s the last time you heard that radio station or that individual break a new record. Most DJs like that. They spin the records that are already hot. They don’t know what’s cracking in the streets so they say I’m gonna play what other DJs are playing to stay hot. What are the young DJs playing is what they’ll play. Not knowing that they are so powerful. Everybody takes that fall back whether young DJs or not. That’s always been the format. It’s just that at some point in time people have gotten lazy. That’s really the problem. Radio has changed but it’s so cloudy. Everyone’s in a cloud because no one knows how to see through this. No one knows how to get around it. We’re all in a cloud. We wake up every day frustrated cause every time we speak we talk but have no solutions in what we saying.
SUNEZ: I spoke to a few great young MCs of today and they raised the point of why bother with radio at all?
BUCKSHOT: the reason why is because that is what started—you gotta understand that is our outlet. We can’t run away from that outlet. We created Rap City. We created Hot 97. We created these outlets and how we gonna dig a tunnel from here to kingdom come and just give it to somebody. How we gonna build a tunnel from here to Fort Knox where all the gold is at and then to surrender that shit to soldiers. Then say we don’t need it anymore because it so commercial. That’s bullshit. Lord finesse is a highly respected mc but his biggest record that got him noticed and recognized in a commercial market was “Strictly For The Ladies.” It fits the format for anyone that most rappers ever made a record about a fucking bitch or female to some extent. It’s an easy access to getting on the map. Now every other record after really didn’t bubble as hard as “Strictly For The Ladies” and the reason why that bubbled so hard is that it was made at the same time as “Gyrlz They Love Me” because it had the same beat and it was in a commercial topic. But let’s get away from that and talk about “Who Got Da Props.” That blew up on Ralph McDaniels (Video Music Box) and then it got so big it blew up on Hot 97, WBLS then Rap City, MTV. Then came “I Got Ya Open” [RMX]. That practically made Hot 97. That was one of the records that was part of building that station. Black Moon, Wu-Tang, NaS, we were some of the first foundations of making that a Hip Hop station. When they said we’re going to be a Hip Hop station that no one can touch we were the artists that they were using to do that. To shit on us later—that was the bad part. It wasn’t like we got bad records and were trying to get recognized. We had good records and were trying to get those recognized. Their response was like, ‘well, we’re not going to do that because we’re changing our format.’ We didn’t change. They changed. That was the bad part. You say radio changed and you’re right.
SUNEZ: now you have the Triple Threat albums this year was there any success getting those singles out?
BUCKSHOT: You gotta look at it like this. Hot 97 has a list that if you’re not on the list you cannot get played on that station. It’s a physical list that is up there. You can see it on the screen. Everybody that comes up to that station will see a computer that’s right there in front of you. There’s records on that screen. If you play anything that’s not on that screen you will get your ass in trouble, maybe suspended or even fired. If you’re not on that list you’re not going to get played. Ninety percent of the artists that are out are not on that list. In order to get on the list you either have to be in the system or have some connection to the system which is Ebro. Now Ebro can say, ‘I give you the green light.’ It’s that simple and that’s what makes it a monopoly, a mafia monopoly. Ebro could say fuck that list.
SUNEZ: What about the mix shows?
BUCKSHOT: Mix shows don’t exist anymore. Jot that down and get it out your head. Mix shows started as DJs had free will to play what they wanted in an hour. Then commercial DJs had to play what they had to play because it was on the list. That’s no longer the case anymore. As about seven or eight years ago, radio mix show DJs were under tight scrutiny to play what the major commercial DJs were playing. As of five years ago, mix show DJs have strict rules to only play the records that are on that list as well. There is no difference anymore between a mix show DJ and a mainstream DJ anymore because the mix show DJ is playing during the same hours as the mainstream DJs. DJ Enuff is considered a mix show DJ but played in the mainstream hour? Why is he played at that time? If he’s playing during the mainstream hour then what records is he playing? He’s playing records that should be played at night then what records are being played at night? The records being played at the day? Then where do the records to be played at the night fit in? Nowhere. When brothers say forget that radio altogether I disagree. I’m not saying that they’re wrong about what they feel. I’m just saying I don’t have that view. I feel we should take back our position and get our shit back.