Last week Hot 97 Program Director Ebro Darden offered a weak explanation about his stations narrow playlist and why they don’t play up-and-coming locals, saying–in so many words–that artists not getting spins on the station simply aren’t ready for them. They’re too underground. They haven’t worked hard enough. They are, to quote Ebro, “minor league rappers”, not yet ready for the big stage. It’s a natural part of growing as an artist, you see. Jay-Z had to earn his Hot 97 roster spot–“The Majors”–so other New York City rappers have to too. Quit crying about it, and do work.
– Sean Price: “Cornell West Is the Devil”
– Action Bronson’s Best Tweets
– Meat Guns, Weed Brownies, and Riesling: Our Conversation With Roc Marciano
– Meet The A$AP Mob: Talking To Ant, Ferg, J. Scott, Nast, Twelvy, And Yams
Well, naturally, New York’s underground elite didn’t take too kindly to the assertion that they’re amateurs (Sean Price has since mockingly changed his Twitter handle to “Minor League Rapper”). And so, Ebro backtracked a little, going on Combat Jack’s Show a few nights later to talk about the process of selecting Hot’s playlist. His bosses want to know why each record is played. Everything the station plays is researched and analyzed, and the most important factor is whether or not people change the radio dial after a song has begun. For instance, Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now,” he said, maintains 100-percent of Hot’s listeners through the entirety of the track, while lesser known artists would cause some people to turn. The result: Chris Brown gets played. Lesser known artists do not. Simple math.
This may be true on paper, that it “all comes down to what’s performing the best,” but that analysis is heavily flawed. Because, ultimately, people like what they’re familiar with. If Flex played Action Bronson as much as Waka Flocka, people who didn’t like him at first and might’ve changed the dial eventually wouldn’t turn. Repetition plays a big part in making a song popular. Many a song goes from “Shit sucks” to “That’s my shit!” after a few listens. Expose listeners to something new and they’ll catch on.
Ebro made some other points about the radio biz, but mostly the overlying theme was that, like most every other business, is a numbers game. He’s been doing radio since he was 15 years old (22 years in total), so he’d know. And he’s from the Bay Area where out-of-the-trunk hip hop was practically invented, so he expressed appreciation for the indies.
Still, if Hot 97 played underground artists on the come up a fraction of the amount they played Rick Ross and Chris Brown, we bet you wouldn’t hear much complaining or see much dial turning. They could break many an artist. Listeners thirst for what’s new. Kendrick Lamar is a testament to that. So was Lupe Fiasco. And so would any of the upcoming rappers on this list.
The guy has been flying around the world doing hundreds of shows a year all the while creating some of the most humorous and detailed rhymes ever. His following is pretty strong and his lyrics got him accepted by NYC stalwarts like Large Professor.
A star in the making, Ferg has not only been able to stand out amongst his A$AP counterparts, his popularity at A$AP shows has begun to rival Rocky’s. With his videos now surpassing a million views and the “you’re up next” nod from A$AP Yams, Ferg would be a great artist for Hot to “break.”
Sean Price’s shit should be on semi regular rotation. He’s an OG who’s had songs like “Le Flaur Le Flah Eshkoshka” playing on Hot 97 ad nauseum. Now the kid can’t even get more than spin or two from anyone except Peter Rosenberg? Weak. Cool thing is, as I mentioned, Peabody isn’t even tripping. But fuck that, I am!
Another guy traveling the world booking at least 200 shows a year, with an imprint on Warner Brothers and over 36,000 copies of The Stoned Immaculate in it’s first week. He has songs with Pharrell, Raekwon and Snoop and not one of them has gotten much, if any, airplay at Hot 97.
Still pretty unpolished, but he’s getting his concepts together nicely. Songs like “Written In the Drums” and “Spike Lee Was My Hero” are ready for radio if Lupe’s tunes are.
When the summer comes back around and you’re relaxing by the pool, I don’t think there is any other rapper I want to hear on the radio, except maybe Curren$y. “1997” is way better than the flavor of moment playing for the 1,997th time.
Kind of weird for daytime airplay, but with New Jersey opening it’s first weed dispensary you might want to get Flex to play “Blunt After Blunt” a couple times.
Halle Berry or Hallelujah? KRIT picks both and rhymes about them with soul and a unique take that makes for not only soulful laments but uptempo wild-out anthems. he’s garnered a few spins here and there, but compared to his other Def Jam label mates he might as well be independent.
New York’s latest inductee into the “minor leagues” is this East Harlem born and bred MC. He’s got affiliates like A$AP bigging him up and his Tan Boys movement might be the next thing all these hypebeasts will be tattooing on their foreheads.
Ka is Brooklyn stripped down to the bare essentials. He’s a self contained entity who produces his own beats and directs his own videos and has a day job so he can make the music he likes and not worry about feeding himself. He’s so Brooklyn your Brooklyness would come into question if you’re not feeling “Cold Facts.”
A spitter through and through, you can never call Roc’s music boring or flat. He inspires dudes like Action Bronson and Sean Price who are at the top of this list. One of the more traditional New York guys out, and he’s from Long Island.