How Hip-Hop Is Becoming the Oldies

Part demographic inevitability, part data-driven corporate genius.

Comments: 58

  1. Is there that much difference between "Me So Horny" and any Maroon 5 song?

    Rap music seems to me music to be blared from the car while driving or listened to and danced to at a club where you can feel every beat. Listening to it at home doesn't have the same appeal.

    When I listen to disco (on the oldies station!), I sometimes fire up my rotating disco ball (with lights) and dance the hours away. I have no idea what the equivalent complement is for rap music.

  2. "Is there that much difference between "Me So Horny" and any Maroon 5 song? "

    Not to Helen Keller, but that's a pretty short list.

  3. The genre is called Hip Hop; not Rap. Like most musical genres, some of it is not so good. But some of it is just great and even listenable at home.

  4. Agree with Robert Dana, there's good stuff and lame stuff in near any genre. Surprised at all the negativity in the comments. Me, I'm one if those 35-44 year old ladies, who'd be dancing in her car with a station like this.

  5. I think ZAKK is the BEST "DJ" I have ever listened to. He is a trip

  6. Oh yeah, all them 35 - 44 year old white ladies groovin' to Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back".


  7. while your belly hangs over like a case instead of a six-pack?

  8. The future of popular music is worrisome....

  9. Why? It's always changing. Always. Even when what we now consider "classical" or "serious" music was the popular music of its own day, it was always changing. At one time of transition in, I think it was Vienna, there were fights and angry newspaper articles about the emerging new music. Time always marches on.

  10. Annie, actually, classical music wasn't the popular music of its day. That was folk music. Classical music was the music of the church, the aristocracy, and then the middle class. And the works that we remember today, the greatest ones, generally appealed to a smaller subset of sophisticated listeners -- Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven were for all their fame considered difficult composers in their own time (and to a large extent still are).

  11. Earlier this year, while "de-cluttering," I watched about 40 hours of 90s rap/hip hop videos. They aren't much different from the music now. I suppose the music brings back the good times, while the bad times are gratefully forgotten.

  12. This will kill the diversity and creativity in hip-hop the same way oldies stations did in rock music.

  13. Commercial radio is designed to appeal to wide swaths of the population with a homogenized product. Urban hits from 1991-2004 certainly fit that bill as there was both radio and 24 hour video stations to support market saturation. The demographic listened to and embracing Biggie and Tupac in the mid 90s was a different one than the demographic breakdown of Indianapolis listeners in 2015 but certainly don't see that as a bad thing. The fact that the station veers away from the violent or misogynist songs (Me So Horny aside) doesn't paint the whole picture but as someone who worked at a major urban label in the 90s I can attest that the whole picture boiled down to "how can we sell the most records" vs "artistic integrity first." Don't see how this format will do less harm to underground/artistically adventurous hip-hop than when it first came out.

  14. Good thought but disagree with your conclusion. Radio may be the most import forum but it is far from the only. The climate is quite unlike things were when rock transitioned to oldies. There are many hip hop acts -- some extremely creative -- that don't really give a hoot about radio play.

  15. I've been listening to the old-school hip hop station in Denver nonstop since I discovered it a few months ago. I can't believe it took the big radio conglomerates this long to realize how popular this format would be.

  16. God, I'm getting old.

  17. prior to the 2000's, popular rap was being produced by people who grew up listening to their parent's music (parliament/funkadekic, Isaac hayes, the Isley brothers) and incorporated that into the samples. The Chronic, Dre's debut, is chock-full of parliament samples. Ice Cube's albums are production masterpieces in this regard (and you'd be shocked to hear what the star of Are We There Yet used to say).

    This gave the music a sense of creativity that was drawn from an authentic historical musical identity. It was a new and fresh style of music mixed with an authentic representation of both idealized and actual representations of life as a urban black male.

    fast forward to now. Good rap is still produced, but the popular jams lack a real sense of purpose. Like country music, there was outlaw biker music (David Allen Coe), but the new stuff is detached from the underlying environment that made that music great. It becomes a farcical reprsentation of what once was.

    Same goes for punk rock, or rock and roll. It's more a natural evolution of a genre than it is anything unique to rap.

  18. I love 90's hip hop and r&b. Missy Elliot's Supa Dupa Fly is a fantastic album. Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun is a classic. I remember setting my alarm to wake up in the middle of the night to watch hip hop videos when I was a teenager (the only time they were on.)
    If you don't get the appeal of contemporary R&B, listen to Mary J. Blige:
    If you don't understand that rap (at its highest form) is the poetry of the streets, check The Wu-Tang Clan:

  19. [[In 1993, it began as Ecstasy (WXTZ), an independently owned easy-listening station. It switched to a solid-gold soul format in 1996, then to smooth jazz the next year. It switched again in 1997, to country, and that year it was acquired by a conglomerate called Susquehanna Radio. Susquehanna moved its country station (104.5 the Bear, WGRL) down the dial to occupy the 93.9 frequency, before switching it to ’80s hits in 2001, and from that to contemporary Christian in 2004.]]

    That sounds like a slow descent into hell. I hate every one of those genres with a passion.

    I think I'll just stick with iTunes radio, thank you very much. I started typing in the name of a Brazilian singer, the app figured out where I was going and created a "station" around her.

  20. This article had caught my eye immediately. I am only 16 years old but i have seen many changes, some things I really do wish had not changed. This article reminded me of that. Music had been the one to change most of all throughout the years I've been here, now adding on from a millennia prior? I had always thought of how strange it would be to think that these things I had grown into, are now being grown out of. How strange to think that the Beatles or Elvis aren't the part of the oldies, they're more prehistoric in this time. I am still offend that my sister does not know of the Beatles... future generations won't be told about how Jackson was the king of pop...more about how Kanye is a "lyrical genius" so to say in this generation I suppose. But just as the radio stations are adapting, the older generations should too. I did complain a bit about how everything is changing but it is something we need to accept and I'm glad that this was written about because it reminds us all that things are changing, for better or for worse, but at we have to adapt.

  21. You are a visionary, Klaudia

  22. Thank goodness Taylor Swift has shown the world there is more out there then ghetto songs about aspiring to be rich and having a nice car. To me it's just the same thing the Sugar Hill Gang did in 1980 with Rappers Delight. And that was overplayed back then! The entire genre is just too bogged down in dark subjects drugs money sex. Rap is like a sung version of 60 Shades of Gray; describing situations that 98% of Americans are not part of. I love it when rich rap stars send their kids to NYC private schools so they are not part of what rap is about. But then I am the lucky one, we don't have any rap stations here in Maine.

  23. How can this article possibly fail to mention the venerable KDAY, classic hip hop mainstay and possibly the finest radio station in Los Angeles?

  24. Right ... !?!?
    LA has great radio.
    KDAY'S great with killer mixes
    KCRW is maybe the best public radio station for music in the country.
    KUSC classical, pretty much 24/7
    And a lot of other great stations as well.

  25. Hip-hop got old by the late 90s when every song started to be about how much money the artist makes, how many women he scores, and how much better and more famous he is than other rappers. Once it lost the anger and soul, it went the way of doo wop--period genre, appealing to those who enjoyed it when it emerged, and any hanger-on who liked the later watered-down version because it was still the style, and no one else.

  26. I wasn't crazy about the post Cypress Hill ( whom I liked) 'in spite of smoking immense amounts of cannabis I remain quite violent' phase but Hip Hop has always been about bragging. Ever Chuck D bragged about how radical he was, comparing himself to John Coltrane ( not way off, IMHO)

  27. Cheers for the tip. Streaming in Aust now.

  28. Please, young people: Isn't it about time to invent some new music? It's been decades!

  29. Hiphop as an art form is rather versatile, that is why it has endured as long. If the only type of hip-hop was the original or the hardcore gangster rap then it probably would have died by now, but when an art form that was created in the Bronx in the 70s can be used by artists to address the latest human condition (arab spring, syria, french youth...etc), you have to give the form credit.

  30. EDM? Never caught on in the US like it did in Europe ( I think because much of its audience in the USA listens to Jam bands) I think Algiers ( Atlanta) sounds pretty radical.

  31. One reason hip hop is becoming the oldies is that it's the only music that hasn't changed a bit in the last 30 years. Even country has developed somewhat.

  32. But country develops in a horrible way. It has just added hard rock and Hip Hop beats. Rap has changed much in 30 years but i prefer the late 80's pre Cypress Hill 90's period. I do not listen to much new hip hop but 1983 sounded way different than 1993.

  33. Every genre has its heyday. Almost nothing from the last ten years of rap will survive.

  34. Since there is no melody, no riff that would grab you in an elevator, no notes that allow a flood of memories, I don't see how rap could become nostalgia.

  35. Pull up the Beat's online stream, listen to three songs, and I guarantee each of them has a catchy chorus and melody that'll get stuck in your head.

  36. " I like big butts and I cannot lie, you other brothers can't deny, when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist and a round thing your face, you get sprung....."

    I've had that stuck in my head for about 24 years now, don't even have to hear the song!

  37. Who listens to the radio-radio anymore?

  38. Oh MR MC I am not as with it as you. I am old and listen to actual radio all the time. I am just lucky enough to live in a town with two amazing non commercial radio stations, Austin Tx. Commercial radio was good for a while, usually when a format is new. People my age remember 'free form ' FM where the DJ picked the songs and collge radio in the 80' where students were woed bug time by indie record companies because that is would made bands like Nirvana, REM and Pixies. I still listen to radio. So to answer your question who listens? People older than you. There are a lot of us.

  39. And to add to Tom, people who are probably younger than you too. I'm in my mid twenties and I listen to it in the car when I'm feeling too lazy/not in the mood to put on my own playlists.

  40. My dad still talks about AM radio which was the "Spotify" of his day. You had to tune in late at night to get the far away stations. At his boarding school, at night, they would have to cover the radio which had lights on it and glowed, so the headmaster couldn't see from outside the window after it was "lights out" for everybody.

    Personally, I still listen to the radio in the car, not all the time though. There are some good community radio stations where I live (like 88.1 KDHX St Louis), and HD radio is available, too. HD stations have improved sound quality and much fewer ads (much less hearing about local car dealers or testosterone supplements). The radio is good to just f***ing hear some music. No deciding "What should I listen to now?" And it's connected to the community, especially non-profit stations that have volunteer Dj's that play whatever the hell they want! Then there is news, local events, announcements, etc.... I still hate ads, though.

  41. HIP HOP OLDIES Well if young kids listened to hip hop at a deafening level, they will be pretty much deaf by the time they want to listen to Hip Hop on a Golden Oldies radio program. If radio's still around that is. One of the benefits of having softer, more mellow music among the oldies is that it's more comfortable for people to listen to with hearing aids. Loud music just makes a lot of hearing aids squeal in protest. That distorts the sound completely, making it unrecognizable. So, if you really want to Hip and Hop to the Oldies, softer is better.

  42. I hope a station like this comes to my neighborhood! I had that Geto Boys song mentioned, and others, on cassette tapes (actual singles, plus the ones I'd make directly recording off the radio, dutifully labelled in laughable little-kid handwriting). Where they are crumbling and where I can play them now I don't know. I guess I'm getting old. I don't mind being one of those laughable old ladies. I already love oldies from plenty other eras, makes sense my youth eventually joins the ranks. I like to think that the best songs live on; the lamer ones the DJ seemed paid to play over and over have less incentive to be remembered now.

  43. You can translate them into mp3 (I've done it with a lot of songs from the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's). Once in mp3 format you can record them to CD's or as I have done put them on a flash drive and plug it into my car USB slot and there you go. I tell anyone riding with me to be prepared to be transported back in time. It doesn't take a lot of tech know how, just do a search for software to convert music to mp3. Don't want to do a little work, then download "Audacity" and play, record, and export as mp3. There is a slight learning curve with Audacity but watch a few YouTube videos and you'll be a pro in no time. You'll thank me later.

  44. I recall listening in the 1970s to a hip-hop song ("Rappers' Delight") on a Top 40 AM radio station in Houston and thinking, "This new novelty style will likely be popular for 12 months, maybe even 18 months before people move on to the next fad."

  45. Good thing you don't work for Nielsen! :P

  46. As an early writer on Hip-hop (Spectacular Vernaculars, 1995) and radio DJ in the early 90's, this development doesn't surprise me. The new Nielsens are doing for radio what SoundScan did for retailers back then: replacing estimates and phony numbers with actual stats on listeners' preferences. Back in the day, the big-market stations would give some homeless folks a few bucks to fill out Arbitron ratings books, and hey, you were #1 -- on paper. Now, with the actual ears of actual listeners in charge, the good stuff is going to rise to the top -- and let's face it, the 'golden age' of Hip-hop (we could argue, but let's say 1988 to 1995) puts anything being released today to shame.

    I remember having to collect my jaw from off the floor a fews years ago when not a single student in my history of Hip-hop class had ever heard of A Tribe Called Quest. No more.

  47. "Ever since the earliest days of rock ’n’ roll, time has corroded yesterday’s musical radicalism into today’s pabulum. "

    Sometimes, but in this case as in many others, it's not so much time as capitalism. Corporate search for profits.

  48. Clearly most people in this comment section are over the age of 40 (including me). They've closed their ears to what no longer resonates with their youth anymore, or their ability to have a good time, using the standard comments about how hip hop was at its peak in the 90s, that all the rap about money, cars and bravado is what ruined rap after the 90s. Guess what? The Blues, the forefather of rap, all the way back since its birth, was discussing all those topics, too, although moreso in metaphor to avoid detection by the authorities or by their religious overseers. But because its been assimilated into mainstream intellectual culture, people refuse to acknowledge it as being the same thing. There is a lot of really relevant cultural cues in the music and lyrics of contemporary hip hop and if you were to remember correctly, hip hop began as a competitive art form, just like break dancing did, in which one was supposed to demonstrate their exceptional traits through their lyrics and their ability to exhibit them to their adversaries.

    And just like any other artform, there's great stuff and there's not so great stuff. Even Picasso had his B game.

    open your ears!

  49. The difference between the blue and rap is that the former is music.

  50. I have heard what WRWM in Indianapolis calls "Future Throwbacks" on the online stream.

    These are songs from the last 5 to 10 years, and include those by Drake (Take Care), which is referred to in the discussion about the classic hip hop format as a multi-racial guy from Toronto, Canada who did not struggle, Lil Wayne (Lollipop), T-Pain (Bartender) and Macklemore (Thrift Shop).

    My guess is that this is what is competitive in the Indianapolis radio market, against Radio One's WHHH and WNOW.

    The Classic Hip Hop format is quite obviously not designed to be kid friendly, like Aretha Franklin's Respect and disco songs (Jammin' Oldies), or for those expecting to hear Boogie Down Productions and Gang Starr.

    It is rather strange hearing Dropkick Murphys on a station that plays Throwbacks outside Boston, during a commercial break, that would indicate that the format is aimed at the general market.

    The song in question was heard on a Boston area radio station taken over by then Clear Channel.

  51. Well, nobody every went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

  52. Class hip-hop? Man, do I feel old!

  53. I could probably listen to some hip-hop, particularly if the lyrics were clever, but to me it sounds like so much angry shouting with too much emphasis on the bass. Others have different tastes, however, and they are going to listen to whatever makes them happy, but I hope everyone will remember to take care not to inflict our own favorite sounds on the ears of unwilling listeners. Earbuds with active noise-cancelling technology (to ensure that the listener doesn't have to turn up the volume so much as to damage his or her own hearing) are one of the greatest inventions of all time, in my opinion!

  54. As with any genre, there's good and bad hip-hop. Open your minds and listen. I'm 56 and grew up on other music. About 50% of the songs in any genre probably stink; we're willing to forgive the ones in our sentimental soft spot (for me, 1970's rock), but the ones in other genres not so much, so the bad hip-hop songs do sound horrible to me.

    I'll look for a local hip-hop classics station - most of the dreck will have been filtered out, I hope.

  55. Thanks to the NYT for backstory on this radio trend that has hit Minneapolis recently too. This married, white, 30-something female rather enjoys driving her Subaru Forrester with the cool summer breeze rushing in and "California Love" rushing out through the moon roof. I remember that song, and others, as the sound track to high school and college in the 90s. So what's wrong with a little nostalgia and dancing in our cars?

  56. Come on NYT. You missed the perfect co-branding opportunity to turn this article into a Spotify playlist for me to subscribe to. I guess I'll have to do it myself.

    As for all of the off-my-lawn'ers who can't get down with hip hop, whatever. You're old.

    (As am I considering some of my favorite songs are now considered oldies!)

  57. So does it make me Nostrodamus if I said the same things to Ice-T at a show in Tijuana in the mid 90's?

  58. Radio? Who listens to the radio anymore? Talk about old-tech.