11 "Minor League Rappers" We Want To Hear on Hot 97

Categories: Hot 97

Ebro Darden on Combat Jack
Last week Hot 97 Program Director Ebro Darden offered a weak explanation about his stations narrow playlist and why they don't play up-and-coming locals, saying--in so many words--that artists not getting spins on the station simply aren't ready for them. They're too underground. They haven't worked hard enough. They are, to quote Ebro, "minor league rappers", not yet ready for the big stage. It's a natural part of growing as an artist, you see. Jay-Z had to earn his Hot 97 roster spot--"The Majors"--so other New York City rappers have to too. Quit crying about it, and do work.

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Well, naturally, New York's underground elite didn't take too kindly to the assertion that they're amateurs (Sean Price has since mockingly changed his Twitter handle to "Minor League Rapper"). And so, Ebro backtracked a little, going on Combat Jack's Show a few nights later to talk about the process of selecting Hot's playlist. His bosses want to know why each record is played. Everything the station plays is researched and analyzed, and the most important factor is whether or not people change the radio dial after a song has begun. For instance, Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now," he said, maintains 100-percent of Hot's listeners through the entirety of the track, while lesser known artists would cause some people to turn. The result: Chris Brown gets played. Lesser known artists do not. Simple math.

This may be true on paper, that it "all comes down to what's performing the best," but that analysis is heavily flawed. Because, ultimately, people like what they're familiar with. If Flex played Action Bronson as much as Waka Flocka, people who didn't like him at first and might've changed the dial eventually wouldn't turn. Repetition plays a big part in making a song popular. Many a song goes from "Shit sucks" to "That's my shit!" after a few listens. Expose listeners to something new and they'll catch on.

Ebro made some other points about the radio biz, but mostly the overlying theme was that, like most every other business, is a numbers game. He's been doing radio since he was 15 years old (22 years in total), so he'd know. And he's from the Bay Area where out-of-the-trunk hip hop was practically invented, so he expressed appreciation for the indies.

Still, if Hot 97 played underground artists on the come up a fraction of the amount they played Rick Ross and Chris Brown, we bet you wouldn't hear much complaining or see much dial turning. They could break many an artist. Listeners thirst for what's new. Kendrick Lamar is a testament to that. So was Lupe Fiasco. And so would any of the upcoming rappers on this list.

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