Remember that feeling of rushing home after school, homework neglected, lunch abandoned, only the television mattered? Waging war with your siblings for the remote because there was no DVR or On-Demand. The screens weren’t the biggest, the quality wasn’t the sharpest, but there was nothing more satisfying than watching Rap City while the Bagel Bites cooled off. Gameboys and Toonami, Gushers and Boy Meets World, UPN and long division, the days of a distant past.
We had cartoons and sitcoms, but music television was the epicenter of many lives. Before BET became a channel for Baby Boy re-reuns, it kept us in the loop of videos and news consistently. Of course times change, kids become adults, what’s popular on television shifts, but even with the rise of Flavor Flav’s reality show era and streaming services, we always had the sacred 106 & Park. For 14 years it entertained households, fueled school debates, and showcased the artists that filled our ears. After 14 years of service, the livest audience went indefinitely silent on December 19, 2014.
The first time I fell in love was during an episode of 106, when Cassie’s "Me & U" music video was premiered. The second time I fell in love was when Ciara’s "Promise" video was premiered. The tricks she did with the mic stand inspired a week worth of cold showers, even Lil Wayne was infatuated. 50 Cent vs. Kanye, freestyle Friday, Aaliyah’s final interview, Big Tigger escaping the basement to host after the departure of Free & AJ, Tom Cruise doing Yung Joc’s Motorcycle dance, the announcement of Michael Jackson’s passing, hours upon hours of teenage life was spent glued to their countdown, host and guest. A record deal, a freestyle in Rap City's Basement and a music video premier on 106 & Park was the rapper dream back-in-the-day. You couldn’t be a part of the conversation without sitting on that couch, it was hip-hop’s Oprah Winfrey Show (minus the car giveaway).
I stopped watching during the end of Rocsi and Terrence era, the beginning of my twenties, substituting the gem of my adolescents for blogs and YouTube to keep me updated. I was no longer in the target audience, my taste in tunes laid underneath their popular coverage. I figured the next group of teens would gravitate, adopting one of the few series from my childhood that was still in syndication, but even Bow Wow couldn’t compete with the internet. Before the finale, the only time the show reached any of my social media platforms was when Tyler proclaimed, “Iggy Stinks,” and when Chris Brown’s ex/lover Karrueche Tran made a snide remark about Blue Ivy’s hair. She didn’t call her a nappy headed hoe, but the Beyhive gave her Twitter mentions the wrath that Don Imus received for his out-of-line comment. The start was stronger than the finish, regardless 106 leaves behind an unforgettable legacy. Careers were started on that platform, the culture had a stage for up-comers, battle rappers, emcees, singers, everyone and anyone that was making a name for themselves.
Despite 106 & Park bidding farewell, televised performances are still a major part of an artist's campaign. Look at the impact of Kendrick’s SNL “i” performance, also his "Untitled" performance on Colbert Report is still a topic of discussion, and J. Cole’s heart wrenching live rendition of "Be Free" on David Letterman has over a million views. Even if people didn’t sit through the televised shows, once the clips are uploaded to YouTube, the viral ripple effects can be the same as a high budget music video. Jimmy Fallon’s Late Show has become the new stage for hip-hop acts. What Nardwaur is to hip-hop interviews, Jimmy Fallon is to hip-hop televised performances. Everyone from Odd Future to 2 Chainz has graced that platform, their music elevated thanks to backing from The Roots. He carries the torch that MTV and BET no longer bare, even if hip-hop viewers don’t tune in every night, his guest will make a huge commotion online. A testimony to the times.
The last time I was truly immersed in television was during the final season of Breaking Bad. There’s just too many outlets that allow you to miss the airing of a show. That eager feeling of excitement is gone, “I’ll catch it later online” is a common phrase I recite to myself. That’s why cable television is doomed; piracy doesn’t count toward the viewership, the same way downloaded albums don’t count toward the total sales. The internet has spoiled me rotten. At this rate, only ESPN and the news will survive the streaming epidemic. It’s evolve or die, and 106 & Park is just another casualty of an old maestro failing to learn a new tune. Hopefully, it finds success online as a web-base format. Still, BET needs to honor its contributions to raising an entire generation of hip-hop listeners on the small screen. It deserves to be remembered, for the better days, when they were the source of our trendy topics. Long live 106 & Park. Long live hip-hop.
[By Yoh, aka Yoh Cruise, aka @Yoh31]