West Coast Hip Hop: Where you at?
West Coast artists have complained that West Coast stations are playing few local artists in comparison to Southern artists. Some people agree, whereas others blame the quality of music. Who is to blame?
Let me tell you why we fell off”. “For one, L.A. radio don’t support us. We got DJs out there that don’t come from L.A., that don’t support our music, that don’t give us love, don’t give us a shot. They’d rather play Drake, Lil Wayne, whoever else is hot. No disrespect. Hey, I love they music. That shit is hot. They bangin. They got hot records. But fuck that, them niggas ain’t from the West Coast. So, nigga, they should be on the back burner.” : Snoop Dogg interview with a well known hip hop magazine.
On Power 106 recent playlist, only 5 out of 30 artists on the playlist are West Coast artists.
Throughout most of the 1990’s, Death Row Records and Priority Records had a duopoly on the West Coast, but Priority was able to increase its market share once Death Row lost its biggest artists, and staff either left or were incarcerated.
Both labels eventually ceased, which led to a power vacuum in West Coast Hip Hop, which Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope filled. Interscope Records is now Universal’s leading label, mostly as a result of the “Gangsta Rap” sub genre that saved Interscope from bankruptcy in 1992. Death Row Records made hundreds of millions of dollars for Jimmy Iovine and Ted Field. Death Row made Interscope’s shares rise, which is why it’s valued so highly.
Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope is now the biggest hip hop label on the West Coast, so most people would believe that to make it as a rapper in California, you would have to be associated with them some how. There is some truth to this, as we saw with the last prominent West Coast artist, The Game.
Playola vs Payola:
Playola is indirect. For example, if we wanted to break a record nationwide , we would simply pay a third party radio promoter to pay a network. Payola is direct, and involves a label going straight to a DJ or executive, to give the record spins for an exchange for money or something of value.
In the 90’s, Nielsen Soundscan figures would show that labels such as Bad Boy Records, were selling significantly less out West in comparison to Death Row, and later No Limit Records (No Limit started in the West). Scarface, Jay-Z and Warren G helped Def Jam sustain sales and spins on the West.
Anybody who worked at Communications for Sony or Def Jam in the 90’s, will be able to tell you that East Coast Labels were afraid of a monopoly on radio from West Coast labels, so they gave stations even more money to stop playing their records. This also happened with Latin Music stations too.
It has nothing to do with Gangsta Rap. The executives in charge of Urban Radio will play anything as long as it increases their audience figures. Increased listeners leads to increased commercial prices from advertisers ( which equals more money and bonuses).
Over at Power 106/Emmis Communications, there is a long history of Payola. Shade Sheist was managed by an executive at Power 106, which as a result led to his Money Owners track enjoying increased spins. What was even more of a scandal was that, Shade Shiest’s label was being financed by Emmis Communications.
Can this problem be solved? :
West Coast indepedent labels and unsigned artists need to use other forms of media to breakthrough. It can be done, for example, Loud Records was a label that had very little airplay but was able to produce household names like Wu Tang, Big Pun, Xzibit through innovative marketing methods. Too Short has sold millions of records without much airplay in his career.
Artists such as Nipsey Hussle, Pac Div, Jay Rock, have been able to use the Internet to raise awareness for their music, but radio is arguably the most effective form of marketing for music, mainly due to its narrowed target audience. As far as payola goes, the only way things will change is through political legislation and lobbying.