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In the black Ac, (I don’t have a Mac in the Back), I’ve got a 4 stations programmed.

  1. The Urban Station – Hip Hop and R&B
  2. NPR – Cause i’m old
  3. The Top 40 Station – cause the Urban station plays the same 20 songs
  4. The Alternative Station – And exactly when did Metallica become alternative?

In the year of 2013, there have been a couple of mega hits that you could hear on all 4 stations.  First it was Thrift Store Rapper, Mackelmore.  And during the summer, Marvin Gaye I mean Robin Thicke and Pharell dominated the airwaves.   Oddly enough, for all of the media attention, I actually didn’t hear too much of Miley Cyrus music on the Urban station.  She  might have made more appearances on their website than their playlist.

Rolling down that 59, following that Kelly Roland, this new joint comes on

Wait, I thought I was on the Urban station…..*checks dash*…I guess I am.

It’s a pretty good tune.  Easy to sing along with, harmonize….good little pop song.  But it’s not an “urban” song.

Apparently that detail has got the Cultural Critics in a flurry. Lorde’s entry into heavy rotation on the urban station is a cause for alarm.  Seems the powers that be at urban radio stations are being diverse, and this is another instance of the white washing of “urban” music.  That’s what the critics will have you believe.

Is Lorde’s song being played next to Rick Ross and Kelly Rowland the sort of thing we need to be concerned with?

On top 40,  Pit Bull and Flo-Rida have dominated for the past 4-5 years.  A$AP Rocky single with Skrillex made it to my Urban mix shows.  Weezy signed some Aussie EDM dudes and did a cameo verse for them. Waka Flocka Flame just put out a Dub Step Record.  I won’t address the LL Cool J fiasco, but Nelly has been trying to recapture his “Over and Over” success from his good old days by going straight to the Country and Western Market.  Bubba Sparxxx has gone full circle and is doing songs with artists in the Hick Hop genre.

What do all of these things say about pop culture?

I’ll tell you what it says. Hip Hop won. We won big.

We, and by we I mean the select group of millionaires that doesn’t actually include me, run everything. We decide what the cool pop culture is. Without us, you get stuff like “Tucker Max”, “Kelly Ripa”, and “Duck Dynasty”.

And this win is not unprecedented, but I’m not going to drop a history lesson about hip hop’s contribution, or the larger cultural factor of young Black and Brown folks being at the foundations of Rock and EDM, genre’s which are considered white.

But back to Lorde.

What’s interesting about Lorde’s song, is that once you get past the fact she mentions Lac’s, the song is anti-materialism.  Instead of an endorsement of that Rick Ross lifestyle, it’s an indictment of it.   Macklemore’s Thrift Shop is also another one of those message songs that’s anti-consumerism, anti-excess.   It’s the sort of thing a particular kind of hip hop fan will latch on to and use as their battle cry.  Brandon Soderberg makes the same connection, and goes so far as to suggest the “R” word.  (Republican? )

What B.S. doesn’t seem to see is what Urban Radio is doing and not doing.  Program Directors seem to be willing to take a chance with the Macklemore’s and Lorde’s out there, presenting “left of center” material to an audience that they believe is usually not willing to accept new sounds.  That’s the thought process it seems.

We’ll experiment with our conservative audience using white artists.

Now imagine if Lorde was black.

Actually you don’t have to imagine it.   All you need to do is look through the RIK catalogue.  Artist after artist making great music that doesn’t necessarily fit the mental constructs of Urban Program Directors or critics at Spin.  Think of the Afropunk Festival.  Think of Black Lily.

“Frank Ocean?  Doesn’t he pursue an alternative lifestyle?  Not like Luther…A little edgy, but we’ll play it.”

“Play Tyler the Creator?  What are you crazy?”

The same energy, the same cultural conditions that lead to the creation of Jazz, R&B, Funk, Soul,  House, all manner of Electronica all comes out of the same community that created hip hop.  But if it doesn’t fit the mold, it has to go somewhere else, has to be done by someone else, for our own media and institutions to embrace it and promote it.  There are probably dozens of Lorde’s in any given city.  All making music that would be the next thing if only someone would listen.

They have mercy for Lorde.  Will they ever have mercy for us?



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