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Author: Adam Bernard

[Hot 97] Even if you don't live in the NYC area, and can't tune your radio to Hot 97, you've no doubt seen the battle emerging between some highly educated, well respected, folks in hip-hop, and the station.

Personally, the entire thing has left me in precarious position, as while I respect many of the people taking a stand, including the likes of Chuck D, Homeboy Sandman, and Manny Faces of Birthplace Magazine (the latter two I consider very good friends), and I don't like the content Hot 97 currently promotes, I also don't agree with the fight against the station.

My timeline with Hot 97 is a familiar one for people in my age group (mid 30s). I listened to it a lot as a teenager, and in my 20s, but relegated it to the second tier of pre-sets in my car in the mid 2000s when the station turned into nothing more than a glorified home of Jay Z songs. It became so bad, and so obvious, that Star of Star and Bucwild joked, while on the air doing the station's morning show, that they were the home of "blazin hip-hop and Jay Z," rather than saying the station's actual tag line at the time, which was "blazin hip-hop and R&B."

While I wasn't a fan of the predominantly Jay Z playlist back then, I'm also not a fan of Hot 97's current playlist, which focuses on money, sex, drugs, crime, and misogyny. That being said, I think picking a fight against the station is the wrong way to go about trying to rectify things.

Last fall I wrote an article covering 35 realizations about turning 35 in hip-hop, and I think a few of those realizations apply to this situation.

2) Just because we were the first, or second, generation who grew up in/on hip-hop, doesn't mean we get to decide where it goes. The beauty of having grown up within the culture was the experience of having the culture take us somewhere, and shape us. It's completely backwards to attempt to force the culture in any one particular direction.

31) Just because a teenager is listening to music we consider wack doesn't mean he, or she, won't grow into loving better music. We all have a few albums in our collection that seem regrettable in retrospect, but without which we might not have been inspired to dive deeper into the culture.

35) Never tell a young person their favorite artist is wack. At best, they'll get into a fight with you about it. At worst, you will have discouraged them from pursuing hip-hop further. Sure, you want to help them out, but they won't look to the person who just insulted them as a guide, they'll just view you as an asshole.

Now let's take a look at a few quotes from critics.

"XXXXX are not merely awful; I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are god awful. They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music, even as the impostor popes went down in history as 'anti-popes.'"

"XXXXX vocal quality can be described as hoarsely incoherent, with the minimal enunciation necessary to communicate the schematic texts."

"XXXXX must be a huge joke, a wacky gag, a gigantic put-on."

Those quotes seem like a pretty big indictment of hip-hop. You read them and think, "Who on earth would support such so-called artists? Let's get them off the airwaves as soon as possible."

The problem is those quotes are not current.

They're not about Rick Ross, Lil' Wayne, or Chief Keef.

Those quotes were published in the Boston Globe, New York Times, and Chicago Tribune in 1964, and they're about the Beatles.

What this shows us is that, as an older generation, sometimes we just don't understand the appeal of certain things. Simply put, we're the wrong audience. It also shows that when you go against the youth, at least in terms of music and entertainment, there's a really good chance you'll find yourself on the wrong side of history.

I realize I say this while at the same time disliking what Hot 97 plays, and highly respecting the opinions of Chuck D, Homeboy Sandman, and Manny Faces. So what's the solution?

Once again, I'll go back to my 35 realizations article.

33) Focus on the artists you love, don't even bother discussing the ones you dislike. Bashing an artist just takes time away from talking about the good ones.

What's going to be accomplished by fighting Hot 97? Quite possibly, nothing. It could be a whole lot of effort for zero reward. Instead, let's focus our energies on promoting who we enjoy, and let's do it in a non-accusatory, positive manner. "You like {Hot 97 artist}? Maybe you'll like {actual dope artist}. He/she doesn't get as much airplay, but they're really good."

Also, instead of trying to take away what kids are enjoying, find a way to organize all-ages hip-hop events featuring lesser known, more talented, acts, where kids can get in for free, or parents can get in for free when they bring their kid. Basically, get the artists you love in front of the audiences you want to have hear them.

Kids aren't old enough to get into the venues that feature the artists who aren't getting airplay, but creating free, or low cost, events, which can be sponsored by companies that agree with the stance that the music of Hot 97 needs some more balance, could go a long way to fixing that problem, and would be a much more effective use of one's time and energy.

Do I, personally, have the ability to do this? Probably not, but what I can do, and what all of us can do, is tell that kid who's listening to Hot 97 about how we used to listen to it back in the day, too, but what really made us excited was discovering an artist BEFORE they made it on the air. We can create the next generation of crate diggers, we just need to embrace them, instead of fighting them.

Feel free to tweet all love, or hate, filled messages regarding this article to Adam at @AdamsWorldBlog and follow @RapReviews.

Originally posted: June 24th, 2014

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