Episode 7 – Gold without radio play

Question: When did it become possible for a Hip Hop Artist or Group to sell 500,000 units without radio airplay?

N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton

N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton

This feat was successfully done by west cost Hip Hop group N.W.A. with their LP entitled “Straight Outta Compton” which they led up to with their self titles LP “N.W.A. And The Posse.” Let’s realize when this was done too. This was done in the late 1980s. Downloading music was not a concept yet and vinyl and cassette tape were the mediums in which music was produced and sold to the masses. All throughout the music world, getting radio play was a sure way to sell records. If the song got played on radio, then it would sell. Therefore Hip Hop artists made their songs radio friendly for just that purpose. I’m not just talking about clean lyrics… music production was a little more polished and hooks and choruses were very catchy. N.W.A. did the very opposite. In fact their name N.W.A. stands for N****s With Attitudes and they really meant that. They cursed, berated women and made sure they said extremely negative things about the public law enforcement agencies. To be honest they just didn’t give a f**k!! Most radio stations have “Family Value” images to uphold and playing a song from N.W.A. would not be appropriate. Even though N.W.A. made a conscious effort to make radio friendly versions of their songs none of them really got radio play.

Some might say that N.W.A. Did get radio play when Dr. Dre did the remix for “Express Yourself” but they were gold before that single released. That remix just made the LP sell more even though that remix version was only on the 12” single.

The shock value and unapologetic attitude of their music of their spread throughout the Hip Hop underground.

Now you are wondering how Hip Hop changed… Well artists decided to get a little, if not a lot harder with their lyrics since getting radio play was apparently not needed to sell their music. More artists from the west coast came just as hard and went gold. East cost Hip Hop artists followed suite as well. Parental Advisory Warning logos had to be put in albums with extreme language.

Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics

Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics

This also is in my humble opinion…the start of the end of Hip Hop artists needing radio airplay to sell records. Everyone still wants to be on radio but if you did not get on radio… so what! Going hard and going “Underground” was a proven method to selling records.

To bring this to a point…before N.W.A., radio play was a necessary tool to sell records and potentially go gold. After N.W.A. put out “Straight Outta Compton” and went platinum, the need for radio play to sell records decreased and Hip Hop artists were not hindered by trying to make radio friendly music and this is how N.W.A. “Changed The Game.”

If you have any discrepancies to what you just heard, comments on what you just heard or have new ideas on who or what changed hip hop and I will challenge your ideas too then send an email to patrick@patrickscientific.com

Until next time peace

Audio Verison as done originally on Strictly Hip Hop on WEAA 88.9 FM below.

Note:
Some of you might be thinking of the 2 Live Crew who went double gold and their sexually explicit lyrics. However, they actually got radio play. Their radio versions somehow got on air. I remember hearing “Throw That D” on the radio stations in Baltimore. However, N.W.A. got no airplay.

Additional Notes:
N.W.A. members at the time of “Straight Outta Compton” were Easy E, Ice Cube, MC Ren, Dre. Dre, DJ Yella and Arabian Prince. There were additional people involved with the N.W.A. and The Posse LP.

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  • DJ Ykcor

    These days the Internet is bigger then Radio but at the same time, Radio still remains important! But you gotta start someone and Radio don’t support indy’s like they use to so that why the Internet is just as important if not more because you have to get your buzz up in order to sell and Radio will only keep that alive AFTER you have done it on the Internet and in the Streets.

    • Anonymous

      You have a point. The Internet and Internet Radio (as opposed to FM
      Radio which was the medium that the post was talking about) is another
      tool used to sell records today. In todays times, people have been
      signed by hype from MySpace and Facebook. They are virtual gold
      (500000 listeners without selling a song) already without radio. The
      next step would be just selling music and touring. The radio play
      they get can help with tours and selling even more music. This works
      well for indy artists. N.W.A. were indy artists at one time. Think
      about it. Very good post Ykcor!

      Quoting Disqus :

  • DJ Ykcor

    Oh and let’s also not forget there is a bunch of Artist ON the Radio and still NOT Selling… Yea, they booking a lot of shows but ain’t selling no records…

    • Anonymous

      This is also true. Good point!

      Quoting Disqus :

  • DJ Mr-Doc

    Yes that is correct they did not get any radio play, but most hip hop did not get radio play. There was not one rap or hiphop song in the top 100 billboard chart for that year (1988). The thing that people do forget was that was also the year that Yo! Mtv Raps premiered and NWA was front and center. I mean they even had an episode out in compton which, if I remember correctly, was when they were recording the straight out of compton video. From that they got really popular, and also because it was a whole new trend, from the east coast party rappers, or the native tongue, heres a whole new dynamic….gangstas.

    • Anonymous

      I remember “Yo! MTV Raps.” You are correct. Music videos and MTV were
      other ways to get your music to the masses. At one time it was only
      radio but with these new mediums more artists could shine on a
      nationwide platform without needing or getting radio airplay. This
      aided in “Hip Hop artists not needing radio to sell units!” MTV gets
      some credit in this. Good post DJ Mr-Doc.

      Quoting Disqus :

  • marlon

    very dope and true blog rite here. I liked it an prefer this to everyone into music. hit me up if you have another one coming out