How urban radio stations introduced listeners to Hip Hop

Crystal Cranmore Image
Thursday, August 10, 2023
How urban radio stations introduced listeners to Hip Hop
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It was 1979 and the radio took Hip Hop to new heights with "Rappers Delight." Reporter Crystal Cranmore has more.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- It was 1979 and the radio took Hip Hop to new heights with "Rappers Delight."

"I just was blown away, went down to the local record store got the 12-inch and brought it home and played the grooves off of it," said Skip Dillard, VP and Brand Manager, WXBK 94.7 "The Block."

MCs rapping, DJs mixing, the breakdancing, all familiar sights and sounds to New Yorkers by the early '80s but radio still hadn't fully made the transition to Hip Hop.

"Radio was very, very careful because stations that targeted Black audiences were often underserved in terms of advertising, advertisers were scared of it," Dillard said.

All that started to change with the help of local DJs who introduced listeners to the rising rap scene.

"BLS had Mr. Magic and Marley Marl, WRKS. DJs like Red Alert, Chuck Chill Out, and others, started to slowly come on board," Dillard said.

"What I was doing during that time, it was like trying to get people gain interest in what we believed in, because we were the ones that really believed in the beginning," DJ Red Alert said.

By the '90s, Hip Hop was all over the airwaves.

"Bad Boy ran everything. I mean, they ran Hot 97, they ran every radio station that I mean was out," DJ Enuff said.

And by the 2000s, Hip Hop's reach was international, influencing new sounds in the U.S. from artists like Daddy Yankee.

"We broke barriers," DJ Camilo said. "I was able to squeeze the Reggaeton feel where you know, it wasn't a thing on New York radio, especially Hip Hop stations."

Decades later, urban radio stations are keeping the legacy of Hip Hop alive while paving the way for today's newest stars.

"I remember the first 10 years, they still didn't believe in it," DJ Red Alert said. "40 years later, everybody, along with the radio, we here."

ALSO READ | Tour group shares Hip Hop's rich history in New York City with global fans

Watch our half-hour special 'The Bronx and Beyond: 50 years of Hip Hop' airing on Eyewitness News at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, August 11, followed by a one-hour extended look on Channel 7 at 1 p.m. on Sunday, August 13. Both editions will be made available to stream on-demand at or our ABC7NY app on Roku, FireTV, Apple TV and Android TV.


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