Rap radio is an odd beast, there is a huge community of people like myself that fiend for those dusty tapes of hissy broadcasts from the days of way-back. Along with the park jams and community centre parties with now well known names like Herc and Flash, and the uncelebrated and often overlooked talents of early Rappers like Grandmaster Caz and Johnny Wah, the early days of Hip-Hop are some of the purist to those that lived through them, so those old tapes arent simply a throwback to better times for the elders, they are capsules of the golden era, the silver era, and all eras in-between. An historic cache for future generations to enjoy too.
The radio shows that initiated Hip-Hop listeners on a path to pure righteousness are paved with gold school nuggets that only they can ponder with their peers, without sounding like some old fool archeologists. Thankfully, younger generations are catching up too, but the aural capital of those dusty old ferric, chrome and even metal cassettes can generate the oddest reactions in those that understand little of the culture.
The history of Hip-Hop wouldnt be the same without New York radio station WBLS [the BLS an abbreviation of Black Listening Station or Best Looking Sound]. The frequency of 107.5 MHz was a regular for NY listeners that listened in for what is now considered the ‘urban contemporary sound’, fine tuning to hear that panning station ident voiced by station director the legendary Frankie Crocker. Whether people wanted music from club DJs Timmy Regisford and David Morales on the famous Saturday Night Dance Party, or later with Reggae visionary Bobby Konders, people tuned in in their thousands.
I first knew of WBLS when I was 16, answering pen-pal ads in Blues and Soul to feed my Hip-Hop habit. I’d been educated in the ways of Kool DJ Fred Alert and the WRKS shows and then I rediscovered an archive of classic Rap radio presented by legends in the game; Mr Magic, Chuck Chillout, Marley Marl & Pete Rock [not forgetting Chilly Q and Kevy Kev], Silver D and of course, Superman DJ Clark Kent.
Outside of the 5 boroughs, who knew they were advertising on TV back in 78?