Last month Nielsen reported that Hip-Hop/RnB had officially surpassed Rock/ Pop in terms of popularity. A quick glance at the Spotify charts for Canada this week shows it's no different here, with 6 out of the top 10 hottest songs belonging to rappers. With so much streaming clout you would think traditional radio stations would take a hint and sprinkle a one, two freestyle or trap track into their daily rotations. But no... the same overplayed top 40 hits are all you'll be lucky to find. CBC specifically is dropping the ball on this one with coverage on CBC Radio 2 overwhelmingly catering to everything but Hip-hop. How do you have a weekly show dedicated to Opera but nothing focused on today's most streamed genre? I'll tell you how: old, white people.
Amanda Parris, host of the R&B focused CBC radio program Marvin's Room, wrote about the issue in 2016. She started the piece by recounting an interview David Bowie did with MTV in 1983. Bowie grills the interviewer, Mark Goodman on why the station doesn't feature more black artists. His response: "We have to try and do what we think not only New York or Los Angeles would appreciate but also what Poughkeepsie or some town in the Midwest that would be scared to death by Prince, which we're playing, or a string of other black faces and black music. You know, we have to play the music we think an entire country is gonna like." Parris writes "I've heard that reasoning before, I thought — not in the '80s or even the '90s, but in the past year, each time I questioned someone in a relative position of power on why so little room is given to hip-hop music in the Canadian music industry. The specific excuses change somewhat over time but nearly a quarter-century later the rationale remains just as weak and flimsy as Goodman's."
It's a bullshit excuse is what it is. Especially in light of the streaming numbers Hip-hop songs are doing across Canada and the US. Canadian artists Jazz Cartier and Kaytranada called out the whiteness of the Canadian radio establishment earlier this year. Cuzzi was the most public about it, telling Canadian radio to 'stop the bullshitting' and represent Hip-hop properly at the Juno Awards. “This means a lot to me but like I said this evening the Canadian radio is gonna have to stop bullshitting and start playing our own on our radio so these kids don’t feel the need to leave to the states in order to make it or get heard. And also @thejunoawards while you guys enjoy all the hip hop in the world at your after parties, next year you gotta have this category filmed on television.”
As an entity the CBC says it likes to model itself after the BBC. But when you look at their programming choices you see how bad the CBC is at mimicking the Brits. BBC 1Xtra alone features The Rap Show with Charlie Sloth, MistaJam, Semtex, Live Lounge, Twin B and that's not even counting their Garage and Electronic shows (which CBC has 0 of). These shows have helped legitimize and foster hip-hop/grime culture in London and the rest of the UK. This sort of common culture hasn't been seen on Toronto airwaves since Flow 93.5 was sold and is needed with the amount Hip-hop talent emerging across the country.
If CBC Radio wants any hope of adding new listeners and staying relevant moving forward they need to get some fresh faces in there. Preferably some fresh black faces bobbing up and down to Baka.
Words by Nuruddin Qorane