Thug Radio

Beef and bullets in rap's corporate ratings war

Friday's rally against Hot 97 attracted only a few hundred people. But Chang sees the Union Square gathering as part of a "popular kind of uprising against what we're getting on urban radio" that has broken out in San Francisco, Atlanta, and elsewhere. And while earlier crusades against rap radio were led by people who disliked the music, this one is run by people who love hip-hop but feel it has been polluted by cash. Rejecting the charge that Hot 97 has failed to reflect its community's values, Dudley points to the station's long-standing ranking as No. 1 among 18- to 34-year-olds. "I think that's a pretty accurate reflection of the community we serve," he says.

Oddly enough, those same market forces are also the best weapon for reform. The outrage over the "Tsunami Song" spurred real action by Emmis only after Hot 97 began losing sponsors. "That is their lifeline," the rapper Immortal Technique told the Voice by e-mail. "Threaten that and they will listen."

A player in the dissing game: 50 Cent
photo: Sacha Waldman
A player in the dissing game: 50 Cent

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    Indeed, Hot's DJs themselves hint at a thirst for something better. The morning after last week's shooting, before they dug into the beef between 50 and Game, the crew at Hot 97 was actually on the same page as their critics. Their talk was about newspapers' failing to put Jamie Foxx, winner of the Oscar for Best Actor, on their covers. One of Miss Jones's on-air colleagues was skeptical that people of color could unify to fight that sort of thing—they paid too much attention to distractions like the "unfortunate incident" the night before. "Yeah, but can't we mobilize for other issues?" Jones asked. Her colleague replied, "I wish."

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