In a wide-ranging stream of tweets that began by calling Hot 97’s Summer Jam a “sloppy fiasco” on June 2 and has continued as recently as Thursday evening, Chuck D’s timeline has been scattered with the remnants of a conversation about hip-hop, social activism and radio business.
Hot 97 on-air hosts Ebro Darden and Peter Rosenberg were pulled into the fray directly and indirectly, responding to remarks that include the charge that Hot 97 is a “CORPlantation.”
“I assume what he was trying to get at is what a lot of people say as far as blaming Hot 97 and radio in general for the demise of hip-hop culture,” Rosenberg told Billboard Thursday. “In Chuck’s case, and what I thought made his points particularly not salient, was he was like blaming the ills of the world basically on radio. Like talking about the prison system and all these terrible things that he was basically attributing to the powers that be.”
In a telephone interview, Darden and Rosenberg expressed having a cordial, albeit not intimate, friendship with the Public Enemy frontman and said neither had spoken to him on the phone about the tweets.
During Darden’s tenure as the station’s program director (which officially ended in March), he has been consistent in using a clear, open rhetoric to explain how ratings metrics drive song selection.
“I think there’s validity to what he’s saying as to, ‘I guess Hot 97 could be more local,” Darden said. “But people that listen to us when we research the songs don’t vote those songs high enough to stay around. I have this debate and I put the onus back on the public to participate.”
This has been in response to the sentiment that Hot 97 doesn’t do enough to help develop and provide a platform for local underground artists.
“When people ask (the audience) what their favorite music is, they should be talking about these songs that supposedly represent these ideas that are more conscious and socially aware,” Darden said.
Darden and music director Karlie “Hustle” Stenius have demonstrated a concerted effort to grow local music — in addition to its festival stage at Summer Jam, Hot 97 sponsors a monthly “Who’s Next Live” showcase for up-and-coming artists and has an online “Battle of the Beats” voting forum for new songs.
“I’m sure that if I was to have a conversation with Chuck D, I would agree with him on certain issues about what more radio could do,” Rosenberg said. “But the way he stated it now, it’s not accurate. It’s not reflective of what the actual role of the station is.”
Chuck D and Rosenberg traded several tweets, including Rosenberg explaining the purpose of his Sunday evening underground hip-hop show.
“I didn’t really understand everything he was saying,” Rosenberg said. “I understood the beginning of it and then some of it was like, ‘I don’t fully follow this anymore and I’m going to get out.’ What’s really the upside to me trying to argue on social media with someone who is as admirable, awesome and as important of an artist as Chuck D?”
In addition to stars like Nas and Drake, the 55,000 Summer Jam attendees also saw Troy Ave perform – a New York artist that progressed from “Who’s Next Live” to the festival stage to the concert’s main stage.
“When you’re talking about people like Ebro and myself, you’re talking about people that literally are lifetime radio people who love it and listen to it,” Rosenberg said. “I wish radio sort of served a more grand, positive purpose. But it’s entertainment and a business. And that’s it.”