Even as the sound of music grips our daily lives in its power, and as the connection to the story of music seems to get obscured and pushed to the back; I remain a cheerleader for the arts—especially in the midst of the blizzard of sports. Think about it: in a sports-driven US society, the facts and the figures—not to mention the games behind the game—take up gigantic amounts of space in our lives. This is also reflected internationally, where big biz sports is revered equally as much as the culture.
In this so-called progressive era, the duty of knowing information about modern culture has regressed in my opinion. Once upon a time, the fanatics who loved a particular recording would probably also know all the facts and information about it as well. This applied to every genre and crossed over genres habitually as listeners “discovered” music beyond their typical liking. The “dig” for content led to the “digging” of more of it, so to speak. The radio DJs of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s had a lot to do with forming this fan-based research, and thus helped create, and then quench, this thirst. Knowing that Jeff Skunk Baxter played with Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers was key to any 1970s “rock head,” just as a basketball fan would know the steal assist stats of New York Knicks Hall of Famer, Walt Clyde Frazier.
In rap music and hip-hop, the first 15–20 years started off like that. Once again, tip this habit to the DJs who carried, transported, and played (long before Serato) thick record crates full of wax. They had to know thoroughly the labels, the producers, and studios who had that particular “sound” that made best beat-digging possible—first for in-house playing and then for sample uses in their own record productions.
By the late 1980s/early 1990s the emergence of the rap and hip-hop journalists and documentarians helped form the importance of the fact alongside the written opinion. Magazines like The Source, Rap Sheet, RAPpages, and others put the fact to the words while filtering and processing the myths from the real. The thirst was always there but the info falloff was dramatic at the turn of the twenty-first century. Mergers, particularly in the technology region’s programming sector, sold itself out and got paranoid. Black radio DJ rap shows—including the Awesome Two, Mr. Magic, Lady B, Greg MACK, Pinkhouse & Ramone Ski, Chicago Chuck Chill Out, Red Alert, and Tim Westwood in London with a slew of international shows; as well as the college Hip-Hop Jocks Wildman Steve, BARRY Benson, Mr. Bill Stephney, and later on 1990s shows like “Stretch & Bobbito” to name a few—all had dialogue about the records and artists they played. This fed the audience alongside the mags, which then started to have even multi-regional readers writing debates on the art form and genre.
Once brought into US law, the 1996 Clinton Powell Telecommunications Act allowed corporations to soak up and buy out individual independent regional radio stations. That was a nail struck deep into the hip-hop coffin of startups and Indies. “Indie” meaning Independent radio shows, promoters, record labels, and regional goods and services that could humbly build some rap real estate on the airwaves. The second blast was the World Wide Web, which many claimed as the death knell for record companies as we knew it. I agree yet disagree with that theory because it all ain’t that simple. The turn of the century signaled a redirection of what business heads called “content.” Technology took it all in and started reconfiguring it all as metadata. It was still a step up from the late 1990s CD, which reduced titles and musicians to “track whatever by what’s its name.” Mixtapes made their mark in hip-hop as identifiers with over-the-top, CD-sized cover art.
With gadgets galore, and especially during these past Obama years, the thirst for the stone-cold facts behind the music folks love is now evident in social media. Everyone has an opinion, voiced through the power of their text. That also means mass amounts of misinformation, in this so-called communication era, is prevalent. This is exactly what made me follow up the idea of This Day in Rap and Hip-Hop History, first as a radio show idea in 2009.
Backtracking to that year, after being approached by Andrea Clarke of the legendary WBAI 99.5 progressive radio station in New York City, I contemplated doing a different kind of rap show broadcast. I had just finished up a four-year stint with Air America Network 2004–2008 doing a talk interview show with Gia’na Garel. Andrea had been approaching me since 2007 about doing a hip-hop show. I couldn’t see how. Most hip-hop shows were stuck in the same rut format of endless mixes, and slapping the audience with records containing little or no spoken communication. This pattern across an hour (much less two), deterred and bored the avid fans and kept the non-fans out. Rap and hip-hop, regardless of its financial-WSJ hype, was killing itself in the diminishing returns of non-curation.
A light bulb hit me when I watched Bryant Gumbel’s Real Sports on HBO. I saw that he moderated a show about putting a show together, along with a group of contributors. It was really the 60 Minutes concept, I later found out. This gave me the idea of what kind of radio show to put on WBAI, one that would make sense over a two-hour period. I came up with and wrote out a recruitment plan to attract skilled hip-hop radio heads in key positions, to contribute segment blocks. WildMan Steve Adams was a standout legend who continued the hip-hop legacy on 90.3 WBAU, post Mr. Bill Stephney and André, Doctor Dré Brown. Steve had continued into the 1990s ushering in many artists and doing various voice-overs for record projects. “Songs in the Right Direction” was a perfect fit after my “Songs That Mean Something” block. Mikko Kapanen and Amkelwa Mbekeni delivered eloquently “Planet Earth Planet Rap,” the only show in the hip-hop world that played the music and acts of hip-hop across the world. There was an opening for some mixes by various DJs—something Public Enemy Hall of Fame founding member DJ Terminator X does with his partner DJ DVS today. Tim Einenkel came over from Air America to supply songs, scripts, and a great interview segment called “The Library.” Raven The Blazin Eurasian I met at a Club Classic event and since then she has dutifully projected women’s contributions in hip-hop in a segment called “Hip-Hop Queenz.”
From there I knew a chief editor would be necessary, as I would do an intro/outro as well as my “Songs That Mean Something” segment. Veteran DJ Johnny Juice was that guy to seamlessly do a few segments himself, measuring the blocks to do 1:55 minutes of blast casting, with all segments emailed in to him in MP3 form. Which leads into the segment that spurred this book, This Day in Rap and Hip-Hop History: I’d known Duke Eatmon and Ron Maskell for about a decade at that time, having met them before that in concerts. Diligent to the T as documentarians and hip-hop DJs from Montreal Canada (or Mount Real as we say) just an international car drive north from New York City. They were the most astute in explaining, and hence breaking down, the Public Enemy discography of words, reason, and music. With the details of every song, every member, and the track’s meaning and purpose, all broken down into documentary radio broadcasts, again the common theme here being they evolved from the Rap Radio realm. Their “This Is Not A Test” and Soul Experience Shows on Podamatic and Canadian station 101.9 FM CHAI offer amazing, never-to-be-forgotten CLASSICK Material.
With their outstanding dedication to this specific research, I proposed they could approach “This Week in Hip-Hop and Rap” as a segment on the “AndYouDontStop!” show. We had also launched the radio RAPstation.com at the same time, in 2010, that we would program. We proposed how they could approach “This Day in Hip-Hop and Rap” as a daily segment. They would research, write, record, and upload. The plans early on were a calendar, book, and application. Although there are a few books out there that deal with these “This Day” themes in music, this is the first that attempts to enter as a chronological read.
So, in full-circle recognition, this book would not be possible without that Mount Everest–level dedication of Duke and Ron. Adding in the extra notes of Baird “Flatline” Warnick, putting his endless fact work into RAPstation and HipHopGods. Along with Gia’na Garel, who has been so diligent in working to make this street work edited and presentable outside its stereotypical bag. And my former assistant, Kate Gammell, for getting the ball rolling on this, as well as manager Lorrie Boula for getting it going. Along with those at BTNE Garlyn and Gary G Wiz for the other technology that this book will thrive on.
The time is NOW regarding the official start time for this project, as a book, to enter hip-hop’s 44th year and rap recorded music and song’s 38th season. The facts, trivia, events, quotes, and notes make this book a mandatory must-have to dispel the myths about the most powerful genres the recent world has known.