Speaking of hip-hop and DJ Premier, Gang Starr became a favorite along the way as well while I was at WRSU.
It was an interesting time; there weren’t many DJs of color on air outside of weekend specialty programming, so most of the world music, hip-hop, jazz, and gospel went to those shows. I did a stint as music director and worked hard to change that. Since I got to open all the music when it came in, I put albums like Gang Starr’s in for regular rotation. It took time and conversation to convince the specialty show hosts that 1) allowing the music into regular rotation didn’t mean they couldn’t play it and 2) having it in regular rotation meant if it got good play, I’d be able to put it in for Billboard playlists.
As more hip-hop, both current and older at that time started getting more airplay (I’ve written in past posts so I have to do it here as well. If anyone knows Sam Figueroa, who DJ’ed on WRSU in the late 1980s and early 1990s, know that I’m shouting out to him. Mad respect. I think of you often, Sam!), I started recognizing more of the talent in it. Folks like DJ Kool Herc, DJ Premier, and others were doing things with vinyl that hadn’t been done. People like KRS-One, Public Enemy, and NWA were talking about the ills of the world. When I heard ‘Express Yourself’ (and later saw the video for it), I knew that there was more to the genre than people were giving it credit for.
I incorporated various music genres into my shows, often devoting an hour each across my four-hour slot. Each week, I offered listeners what I hope was a variety of hip-hop and that in addition to the fantastic beats (I love the drum line in ‘Express Yourself’ at the start and end where you can really hear it), they were listening to the stories and words.
And of course, were would we be without those fellas with the commanding voices, like Chuck D (Public Enemy — if you want to take it back, check out the video for Don’t Believe the Hype on Youtube and select the 50+ video mix from the suggestions … Or, check out the hip hop mix from AARP — no really! It includes the original version of James Brown’s Funky Drummer, which is the core of more hip-hop than I can name. That link will take you to Spotify, where you can create a free account) and Rakim (from those early Eric B. and Rakim days especially)? I still love both the tracks linked here and likely played the grooves off the vinyl back when I was on-air. And let’s not even start me on how many times, then or since, I’ve played Craig Mack’s (rest in power, brother) Flava in Ya Ear (because who else had the style to include an obscure Jetson’s reference in their rap? Uniblab, am I right?).