In the midst of a press run to promote his newly-released debut, There's Really A Wolf, Columbia Records artist Russ stopped by Hot 97 this week for an interview on Ebro in the Morning.
Before discussing the new album and his forthcoming tour, which he says will be "crazy," Russ begins the interview by talking about his frustrations over the "garbage songs" that are played on the radio, a popular topic we've discussed a lot on our pages and the impetus behind Chance The Rapper recently announcing the expansion of his Rapper Radio platform.
In response to Russ' extremely valid and fair criticism of radio, Ebro, a veteran broadcast stalwart, suggests that while radio can be fickle when it comes to supporting a wide variety of artists, it all depends on who owns the station.
"People talk to Hot 97 like we're every other radio station, we're owned by a company—especially now that we sold Power 106—owns one hip-hop station. Versus our competition, let's say iHeart, they own, 800? And a hundred of them are hip-hop stations. So, yeah, if they don't play your record, your record's not moving. Hot 97 could be playing your record here in New York City and it'd be great, but if iHeart doesn't fuck with you, then you're donezo. Or CBS. Or one of these bigger companies."
Where shall I begin?
Hot 97 is currently owned by Emmis Communications, a publically traded media company who owns a total of 19 radio stations across four U.S. markets—Indianapolis, Indiana; St. Louis, Missouri; New York, New York; and Austin, Texas. Following the sale of Los Angeles hip-hop station Power 106 earlier this month (pending FCC approval), as Ebro pointed out during the discussion, Hot 97 is now the lone Urban Contemporary/Hip Hop/Rhythmic Top 40 station in Emmis' radio portfolio.
While it's true Hot 97 is not like "every other radio station" in terms of parent company ownership, especially when you consider iHeartMedia, Inc., by comparison, owns 850 broadcast stations, in terms of song selection for airplay, they are no different than Power 105 (their chief competitor in the New York market) or any other major market urban station across the country.
Here are the last 15 songs played on air:
Aside from Diddy's classic "I Need A Girl," which the Hot 97 programming team deserves major kudos for adding into their rotation as a recurrent, the rest of their line-up is chalk: Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Big Sean, Gucci Mane, Migos and J. Cole. If out of curiosity, you were to hop over to Power 105 and review their recently-played line-up, to nobody's surprise, you would find... wait for it... Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Big Sean, Gucci Mane, Migos and J. Cole.
Sure, Hot 97 deserves credit for mixing things up with Afrobeats artist WizKid and dancehall veteran Vybz Kartel, but considering Power 105 has their own international horse in the race with Charly Black's "Gyal You A Party Animal," even the slight differences in song selection are minimal.
To be clear: radio doesn't uplift or create new voices, they merely ride the hot (paid for) hand. You can disagree with me, but that assessment actually came from radio host Charlamagne. And no matter what Ebro says, unless you're signed to a major label or you have a huge budget to throw at radio, your record is never being played on the air. Hell, you could even be signed to a major label—see Logic—and still never hear your records in regular rotation.
Ebro is right, people talk to and about Hot 97 like they're every other radio station—because they are like every other radio station.