Thursday, February 3, 2005

Ebony & Ivory, Part II

  For the last two weeks, we’ve been talking “Black Music.” 

  It all started about three weeks ago when I was reading an online interview with a Top 40 radio programmer from Lafayette, LA named Bobby Novosad.  He was asked how radio has changed in the past twenty years, and he responded, “That’s easy.  It’s not “Black Music” anymore.  It’s Hip-Hop!  Listeners are accepting it as mainstream.  As recently as 2002, when the sound had completely taken over and we’d started playing more of it, there were quite a lot of listener/client complaints.  Now they love it.”

  Think about that.  And think about how mainstream music has changed in the past three years.  For the sake of making the term “mainstream” easily definable, think of it in terms of the music you hear in television commercials.  In movie soundtracks.  On MTV.  Hip-Hop is everywhere.

  Last week, according to Billboard, four of the five best-selling albums in the country were by Hip-Hop artists.  Green Day’s new album came in at number two, and all the rest were by hip-hop artists.  Before hip-hop blew up, who knows how long it’s been since a predominantly-black genre could boast an accomplishment like that?  R&B?  Funk?  Soul?  Motown?  Jazz?  Blues?  It’s been a while.

  Two weeks ago, I went into the history of the term “Black Music,” and why it no longer applies.  If there has been a constant theme that ties all of these columns together, it is the simple notion that the mainstream is broadening.  And I suspect that it has to do with how we are raised.

  Since the early 1970’s, in the aftermath of the civil rights movements, schools have taught tolerance and sensitivity.  It was a gradual process, but our generation—a generation of twenty-somethings—and subsequent generations have been bombarded with this multicultural curriculum of understanding and embracing cultural and biological differences our entire lives.  And this broadening of the mainstream is its direct result.  That’s a good thing. 

  While this may be the most awe-inspiring reason for the seemingly-sudden success of Hip-Hop, it’s certainly not the only reason.  A lot of also has to do with Britney-burnout.  The pop acts of the late ’90s and the early part of this decade have become tired.  The Britneys, Backstreets, Justins and Christinas are not exciting anymore.  We’re looking for something new and refreshing, something shocking and unique.  And we have found that in Hip-Hop.

  Pop music has been on the downslide for three years or so.  The new acts are not interesting.  And I’m not blaming Ashlee Simpson alone for this.  It’s the Avrils and Hilarys and the whole lot.  And rock music isn’t bringing too many thrilling acts to the scene, either.  Sure, one or two squeak through from time to time, but that’s hardly enough to save the struggling Top 40 radio stations.

  And so they have turned to Hip-Hop.  America has turned to Hip-Hop. 

-From Pulse
  February 3, 2005