By Tamara Dodd (Bates) At the Taco Bell on Natural Bridge and Kingshighway Blvd., a teenage boy rocks a Wiz Kalifah shirt, and is a walking billboard for Wiz’s debut single, “Black and Yellow”; St. Louis’ hip-hop and R&B radio station, HOT 104.1, keeps the new Trinidad James in constant rotation until it is embedded in our minds; Yo Gotti sells out The Loft nightclub, located in downtown St. Louis, leaving 100+ disappointed fans waiting in line with no chance of entry.
Meanwhile, St. Louis remains irrelevant and voiceless in the rap game. Now, “thaz this sh@t I don’t like!” Consumers in St. Louis are insensitive to the plight of the local artist. They can’t fathom, nor do they consider the pain-staking trials driven by “words, sweat and tears” that the hip-hop artist who lives next door endures. From half-empty venues and janky promoters who capitalize on the hunger of the local artist by luring them with fake A&Rs who have no real interest in signing a STL artist, to little or no radio play or widespread recognition, to the hopelessness birthed by stepped on /played on dreams, it’s not far-fetched for the local artist to want to commit “lyrical suicide,” and forfeit their “calling” due to the lingering and common attitude that no one cares. They waited patiently for the once-upon-a-time STL Home Jams Sunday special that featured local artists, for at most, two out of the 168 hours in a week, hoping that they would get heard by the masses. They spent years, sometimes decades, perfecting their craft, developing their vocabulary, only to be over-looked, under-booked and often ignored. They anxiously anticipated for their names to be called so they’ll have a chance to hit the stage and tell their story to a crowd that would respond with more excitement, had they been Jeezy or Drake. Hopefully, they’ll land on a good slot, because of the 50 or 60 people that came out to the event, only ten or twenty of STL’s die-hard hip-hop fans will embrace them in the end. Just a few miles away, some famous artist from somewhere else has a packed venue and not a single local artist showcased. Instead of throwing in the towel, the local artist returns to the pen and pad, closes himself/herself in the booth, and gets back to the street hustle, selling copies of their CD for five dollars or less. They get on the stage and rock it even though there are only 10 people there to hear them, and of those ten, two have drank too much, one is a bouncer, one is the bartender and one is the DJ. This is sad and a damn shame. Who’s at fault? Is it the DJ that won’t spin the artist who won’t maneuver, or the consumer that won’t listen? A vast majority of what we listen to has been under the direction of a very small few. Clear Channel now owns what used to be 100.3 the Beat and Radio One owns Hot 104.1. These corporations dictate what is played, thereby dictating what is heard and also what we live for and by. The DJs have a job to do, which is play what the administrators tell them to. The DJ’s concern is not to break the next hot artist, but to continue to provide for their families. I have a few four-letter words for Clear Channel and Radio One. Adding insult to injury, St. Louisans are followers, yes-men, like we were never “rag-timing,” blues-playing, innovators. Until the radio plays the artist or, they are nobody. We have no name, face or opinion and no one gives a damn about our struggle, lifestyle or sound unless we are played somewhere between Jay-Z and J. Cole. If the radio doesn’t play us, who will? After the radio only plays “the outsiders,” and the people only listen to whomever the radio plays, the desperate artist only listens to the artist. Recently, I’ve realized that some artists refer to themselves as “crabs in a barrel.” The local artist rarely gives the other local artist any play, but expects everyone to play them. So, there are local artists that don’t like local music? How contradictory is that? To top it off, the rappers that show love and support local artists end up getting lost in the midst of all the wanna-be rappers that are self-proclaimed “So St. Louis” but have yet to capture their own sound. When Wacka Flocka was poppin’, they sounded like Wacka Flocka; 2Chains and Trinidad James have everybody in STL rapping like they ride the short bus. All of a sudden it’s trendy to have a speech impediment. I’m starting to wonder, do local artists even like themselves? How is it that people from our city relate to “the outsiders” more than they relate to the artists that live the same life, hustle the same blocks, get “flagged” by the same police, see the same vision, and are a product of the same environment? That makes no sense. Do we not realize that what we label as “cool” has little or nothing to do with us? It’s OK to think “the outsiders” are cool, but to deny the local artist that goes hard is like saying that YOU aren’t cool. St. Louis has its own sound and it’s time that we support it and push for it to be recognized. It’s time for the artists to unite. There is power in numbers and when we all stand up in concerted efforts to debunk the myth that there isn’t any good music in STL, and then our stories will be considered amongst the millions. We will not achieve this by sounding like everyone else. The industry already has an “everyone else,” they don’t need another. If we stand together we can make enough noise. Unity is the answer, not units. With that being said- SUPPORT YOURSELF! SUPPORT STL SOUND! #boycottradio.