The term “Black radio” was something that was never meant to exclude non-blacks from listening to the airwaves. It’s music, commentary, news, and programming was created and targeted to a specific audience that was excluded by white-owned radio stations, and done as a way to say “we have been more than capable of creating our own entertainment, we’d also like to cater to our audiences as well, but everyone is free to listen.” However, what was defined as “black radio” started to change in the 1970’s as big companies wanted to own that influence so that they could make their own influences under the guise of “black radio”. It was in 1987 when Public Enemy‘s Chuck D said “radio stations, I question their blackness, they call themselves black, well let’s see if they’ll play this”. It was all money and politics, and 25 years later, things are far worse, especially with the state of radio.
In 2011, you might hear about the term “black Twitter”, which is in many ways a modern interpretation of what “black radio” used to be and represent. Jazz musician Robert Glasper is about to take on the world with a brand new album called Black Radio (Blue Note) and he’s doing it as Robert Glasper Experiment. He’s not along in this, as the album will include Erykah Badu, Me’Shell NdegeOcello, King, Lalah Hathaway, Lupe Fiasco, Bilal, Shafiq Husayn of SA-RA, Musiq Soulchild, Yasiin Bey/Mos Def, and others.
The guests are interesting, but as with any jazz album with its share of collaborators, look at what’s being covered. Badu will be heard in a cover of “Afro Blue”, Bilal shows up in David Bowie‘s “Letter To Hermione”, and Hathaway will be taking on Sade‘s “Cherish The Day”. Some of these artists will perhaps be heard on smooth jazz radio for the first time, one of the few places on mainstream radio where you may here them.
But how about a Nirvana song with a vocoder-treated vocal? You know this is going to irk the shit out of people, but I welcome it. In this case, Casey Benjamin will be singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, which may mean it will be the first time the song will be heard on not only Black Radio, but “black radio”. Glasper is questioning their blackness when radio stations call themselves black, but let’s see if they will play this and other songs from the album.
Glasper has been taking his music on some incredible adventures, so it will be interesting to see how fans and “black radio” will welcome this. The album is scheduled for release on February 28th.