There’s something special, even still, about hearing something on the radio. Ask any artist and they’ll tell you that it isn’t when their track went up on Soundcloud or Spotify that brings them the most pride, but when they first heard their track get played on the airwaves of their local town or city. So for all our collective lambasting of the medium as dying, both the statistics and the cultural imagination surrounding radio trump those notions.
According to Nielsen, 31 million African-Americans listen to the radio at least 12 hours a week. To put that in some perspective, there are only 41.5 million African-Americans in the country at last count of the CDC in 2013. That puts the saturation rate of A-A’s listening to the radio at 91%. That’s a staggering number considering the amount of weight we put on streaming platforms and the like. So despite anything that’s been said or written about the end of radio that reality isn’t coming anytime soon. And there’s a good reason for that. Not only is the technology more ubiquitous, but also it democratizes in a way that the web may never be able to match. We are all while streaming; in our little bubbles of music listening to whatever we think is amazing enough to be played. But the radio provides true participation for all. They ask people not what they say they want, but what they actually want. It’s no secret that “Fancy” was the most streamed record in Hip Hop last year, but I will also bet money that it was the most spun on the radio. Now, that may have something to do with all that iHeartRadio money backing it, but it speaks to how radio spills over into other platforms in ways that the Internet doesn’t. If it’s on the radio, it will blow up or already has blown up on the web: guaranteed.
So, like Ebro stated, Meek Mill said he had a track for Funk Flex last night and it spilled into your subconscious somehow and you listened in. Yes, you did. The energy around the announcement of a response to Drake was palpable, for all of us who huddle for warmth around the Twitter or Facebook fire we couldn’t help but reach back to radio to get our fix for exclusivity. We waited and waited only to have to hear Fetty Wap get played a god awful amount of times and left with no return fire. But we stayed tuned, some for hours, because the radio is one of the few places that can keep you rapt in that way. Then, this morning, Ebro came on to defend his comrade and admonish Meek Mill for not keeping that promise and it was the radio that continued to dominate our conversations, or imaginations. That mini beef was started by rival station Power 105 naming Funk Flex the “donkey of the day” for keeping us all waiting with no joy. In fact, Charlemagne called it a eulogy, comparing Funk to Bill Cosby: an 80s icon who has once again let us down.
But you know what pissed us off about the Funk Flex/Meek Mill fiasco? Because when you listen to the radio there’s an expectation of credibility, an expectation of accountability. That what you say on the radio still holds some glimpse of truth. And whatever happened with that situation is what happened, but that doesn’t stop the radio from being a dominating force in the marketplace and in our imaginations. The radio is still the place where we are all listening to the same thing at the same time. Where we all know what’s going to come up next and where it’s important to note that millions of people are listening to your song, like that song, love that riff and feeling just about the same thing at the same time. Streaming can’t provide that. And, apparently, for the black community and for Hip Hop, we still need that.
Then today, Angie Martinez presented the snippets of an interview with Birdman surrounding all the allegations and rumors associated with Lil Wayne and we can’t think of a better place for that to be presented than on the radio. For something of that magnitude, the radio just fits. So despite the Internet nipping at radio’s heels and ad buys and whatever else, all this just proves that the vast majority of us still radio Raheem the hell out of our radio.-
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.