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Dr. Demento's Hip-Hop Hour
Our newest show features more than an hour of hip-hop music. It's not the first time I've featured rap music as a topic, but it is the first time since 1997, and the first time I've featured mainstream hip-hop instead of just songs that were created for comedy connoisseurs like the listeners to our show. ("Rap music" is almost, but not quite, a synonym for hip-hop – Wikipedia sorts out the difference between the two terms fairly well, so I won't belabor that here).
A lot of hip-hop is deadly serious. It is often misogynistic and/or violent in its subject matter. However, there's also a lot of totally hilarious hip-hop. It's full of amazingly clever and skillful wordplay. Rappers make very funny comments about such things as pop culture, bodily functions, and other rappers. The instrumental accompaniment, often rudimentary and repetitive in the early years of the movement, can now be as inventive and skillfully executed as anything in rock music, if not more so.
As I point out on this week's show, the main reason I haven't played more mainstream hip-hop in the past has to do with the way my show was distributed. During the last 15 years or so that the Dr. Demento Show was on FM radio, most of our outlets were "classic rock" stations. These stations generally play a limited rotating selection of the songs that were most popular on rock radio stations of the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Since the Dr. Demento Show was often a regular feature on those rock stations back then, it fit nicely enough into the classic rock format as a weekly diversion.
I'm still very grateful to the classic rock stations that carried my show in the 1990s and 2000s. However, the classic rock format lacked the sense of adventure and exploration that marked the best rock stations in the days when Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, Hendrix and Springsteen were pushing the boundaries. The classic rock format was driven by research, which included elaborate surveys to find out exactly which songs the format's intended audience (generally males from around 25 into their 50s) liked the most. Formula classic rock stations then played those songs repeatedly, and nothing else.
Research also found that these kinds of listeners often had a deep distaste for certain forms of music. Classic rock listeners tended to greatly dislike hip-hop music in particular. Without getting into the sociological implications of that, we all know people who venerate Hendrix and Springsteen but go ballistic over hip-hop's perceived lack of melody and harmony, its harsh and abrasive sound (especially those subwoofer bass tones that disturb the peace at stoplights) and its seemingly aggressive and/or incomprehensible lyrics.
To stay in the good graces of the classic rock program directors whose support was crucial to the survival of the show in the 1990s and 2000s, I left most mainstream hip-hop alone. Meanwhile, Devo Spice (aka Sudden Death) and The Great Luke Ski, who along with a few others produced tracks with hip-hop musical style (often parodies of actual hip-hop hits) but with appealing comedy lyrics about Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, malfunctioning cell phones or the minor infirmities of middle age. Our listeners requested those songs often, and I was happy to oblige.
This week's show mixes established Dr. Demento Show favorites with choices from the hip-hop mainstream, or maelstrom if you prefer. A big tip of my top-hat to Luke Ski who talked me into this, and sent me CD-R's of his favorites along with extensive notes about them, and also to Devo Spice who suggested several more excellent choices.
I still wouldn't say mainstream hip-hop is my very favorite music, but wonderful things are being done in that area and I can't ignore them. This show barely scratched the surface, and I look forward to doing this again, with different songs, in the not too far distant future. Please – let me know what you thought of this, and if you have some special favorites I didn't get to, use the "Request a Song" feature on the home page.
From: SunBaked Records
I just listened to this one yesterday, and I did quite enjoy the majority of it, though as one other poster here mentioned, I'm also no great fan of hip hop. The only thing I didn't like about the show was the Insane Clown Posse...
From: Dr. Demento
Johnny - Yes. We're licensed for a two hour show. For awhile I thought it didn't matter if I ran overtime, but turns out it does. The shows will still be longer than they were in the past, though, when they were two hours minus commercials, or around 1:40 - 1:45.
Thanks for this thoughtful perspective on hip-hop and rap music. As you note, it's generally disliked by rock listeners, especially those who are in their 40s and beyond. Personally, I find it terribly amusing to hear a Baby Boomer intone, "I have very eclectic tastes! I like ALL KINDS OF MUSIC ... except rap, of course!" Though I can understand not liking one genre or another, it seems there are a lot of closed minds and ears out there. Thanks for helping me to open mine.
I noticed that the last couple of shows were two hours long, instead of two and a half hours like they have been for several months. Is this how long the show will be for the foreseeable future?
Hip Hop salute
Hi,Doc-Admittedly,I'm not a huge fan of hip hop music,but your salute to the genre on this week's show was fantastic-I thought of a couple of other songs that would be appropriate & I will post them to your Request A Song page.