Category Archives: Know Your History

Know Your History 37 – The History of Radio Broadcasting

We have a need for home entertainment. A true need for it.

Nowadays we don’t even think much about it. There are so many ways for us to keep busy while relaxing at home. We can kick back with a book and spend a quiet afternoon reading. We can play a video game on a console system such as a Wii, Xbox, or Playstation. We can play all sorts of games on our computers or waste the day away surfing around online. We can watch videos on YouTube, movies on DVD, or episodes of our favourite shows on TV. All without ever leaving the confines of our homes.

We can be constantly entertained. And we can bring our entertainment with us. Many of us have portable computers that we carry in our pocket all the time. We have so-called “smart” or “super” phones that allow us to listen to music, to watch videos, and to interact with social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

But where did home entertainment, as we know it, truly start?

I think you’ll be surprised at the answer.

Hi, my name is Chase March and welcome to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. I’m not about to say that hip-hop started the home entertainment phenomenon. But this is a radio show and as such I want to take this episode to examine something that we all take for granted, radio.

It’s hard to imagine a time before radio. It’s something that has been instrumental in my life. I grew up with the radio playing almost all day long. My mother kept the dial locked to a country station. I soon discovered that there were other genres of music.

I listened to AM 680, which is now an all-news station, but when I was a kid, it played music from a wide variety of acts and genres. It soon had competition with a station that billed itself as “contemporary hit radio” on AM 640.

The radio was good when I was a kid. My mom had her station and I had mine. My grandpa even had a favourite station that played oldies. It seemed liked there was something on the radio for all. And that’s the way it should be. Unfortunately, things changed at some point over the years and the radio doesn’t seem to offer as diverse a programming as it used to. Not on the commercial airwaves anyway.

The programming that we offer here on 93.3 CFMU is quite diverse. It truly is a community radio station that reflects the voices of that community. I could go on an on about that but I’m afraid I’d start sounding like it’s pledge week and if you’ve come to this program because you’ve been listening for the last three years, you expect to be entertained with some music and talk about the history behind it.

This is Season 4 of Know Your History, a monthly documentary radio show that focuses on hip-hop music and culture. It’s part of a larger program called DOPEfm that has been on the air for nine years now. We bring you the best in underground hip-hop music and talk each and every week, Saturday Overnights.

We have big things planned for the 2013 season. Big things. We continue our affiliation with The Word is as well. Please go there for daily hip-hop news and a dope weekly podcast, hosted by yours truly.

For the next half hour, we are going to look at the grandfather of all home entertainment mediums. The first broadcasts that sent programming right into our homes, like magic. I’m talking about radio.

The pioneers of radio entertainment are a lot like the pioneers of hip-hop. They started something absolutely incredible and changed the world as we know it. Yet, they were not recognized for their contributions or compensated fairly.

The same thing happened in the world of visual art. Vincent Van Gogh is heralded as one of the all-time greats. Yet in his time, he lived in abject poverty.

Sometimes the art or genius gets buried in time and it really is a shame.

I think it’s important to know names such as Kool Herc and Grandmaster Caz. These are just two of the pioneers of hip-hop and I have mentioned them several times over the past three years I’ve been on the radio.

But truth be told, I never thought much about the pioneers of radio. The technological aspect doesn’t interest me much. I know that it was a culture back in the day. Enthusiasts would build equipment to send and receive signals. It had some great implications for communication, especially to send and receive signals from a boat where wired technology such as telephones simply couldn’t reach.

At this point, using radio as a medium to deliver entertainment was still pretty much unheard of. But not for long.

Christmas Eve, 1906, Reginald Fessenden hosted the first radio broadcast. He was a Canadian inventor and he outfitted ships with his radio technology to send them an entire program. He announced the program, played a recording of Handel’s “Largo,” and then played a Chirstmas carol on his violin.

Fessenden was the first person to transmit human voices over the airwaves and he was the first person to play music on it as well. Perhaps, this makes him the first DJ.

This historic broadcast didn’t even have a name at the time. The term broadcast, in fact, wasn’t even used for a few more years in this context.

And while Fessenden is acknowledged as the inventor of radio by modern scholars, he was never recognized for it in his own time. Instead, other people won the patents for what would become radio as we know it now and they in turn would achieve the wealth that unfairly eluded this pioneer of radio.

We’re used to radio programming being available at all times. You can turn on your radio at any time day or night and receive a signal. This wasn’t always the case.

In fact, radio might not even have took off as a commercial endeavour if it were not for one tragedy at sea.

April 14th, 1912. The unsinkable Titanic is sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. The crew members that operated the radio sent and received all sorts of personal messages from the wealthy clientele on board. They sent over 250 such messages prior to the ship hitting the iceberg.

They were then able to send out a distress call over the radio. They sent over 30 messages before having to abandon ship. Tragically, a lot of lives were lost that day. It’s conceivable that this tragedy could have been even worse if a rescue operation hadn’t been started as quickly as it was. And all of this was thanks to the radio.

The power of radio is something that cannot be taken lightly. Used simply as a communication tool, much like a phone, it allowed us to stay in contact over large distances without the need for wires. It was the original wireless before cellphones and the Internet.

If you’re just tuning in, this is Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. Today we are taking a special look at the medium of radio, focusing on the pioneers of radio broadcasting.

This show can be heard each and every Saturday night on 93.3 CFMU on your radio dial in the Hamilton, Ontario area. You can also stream it worldwide on

I remember my favourite radio programs from back in the day. The Mastermind Street Jam on Energy 108 was required listening. It was on Saturday afternoons and I’d stop whatever I was doing to run home and listen to it. I’d even tape the shows onto audio cassette so I could relive the program over and over again.

Unfortunately, that show and even that station are now defunct. Mastermind can still be heard on the radio but not in a specialized hip-hop mix show format. If you want that kind of programming now, you need to look at campus radio stations such as this one. Stations that operate by a diverse team of volunteers to bring you programming they are dedicated and passionate about.

I think of all of the radio shows I have loved over time. I think of how I ended up in radio myself and how it just seems so natural. Hip-hop shows on terrestrial radio or on podcasts are just a great way to get music. I discovered all sorts of great music by listening to the radio. I learned about things I wouldn’t otherwise have.

Radio shows are just something we take for granted. It’s hard to imagine not having regular programs to listen to. I rely on the morning show to give me traffic and weather updates. On the drive home, I get educated and entertained by talk radio. Thursday nights, I catch In Tha Kut for a dope hip-hop show. And I listen to podcasts of radio shows I don’t tune in live to every week.

In fact, I couldn’t live without my radio

That was LL Cool J “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” and the perfect song to play for the 37th episode of Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. This kicks off the fourth season of the show. Today’s topic is long overdue as well. It’s time we looked more closely at the history of radio broadcasts.

I consume a lot of radio programs. And it seems like this is just the way it always has been. It’s hard to believe that radio as I know it didn’t get its start until 100 years ago. 1912 to be exact. That was when Charles Herrold started broadcasting a regularly scheduled radio program.

Charles Herrold. That is a name we should all know. He is one of the founding fathers of broadcasting and if not for him, I wouldn’t be here on the airwaves for you right now.

He was the first person to use the term broadcasting to describe what he was doing in radio. Prior to this, the word was only used by farmers and it meant to scatter seeds out in all directions from a single source, to broadcast them.

Charles Herrold not only invented and built devices to send and receive radio signals, he taught other people how to do it as well. In fact, he’d been doing just that for three years prior to starting the world’s first radio show. He’d opened his own school in 1909 in San Jose, The Herrold College of Wireless and Engineering.

He started playing records into microphones as an easy way to test the radio signals his students were experimenting with. He then took this a step further by producing the first scheduled radio program. It was called The Little Hams Program. Ham refered to the hobbyists who built and operated short-wave radios.

Of course all of this was happening in the second decade of the 20th century. And just like the start of hip-hop culture, you had to be there to experience it. There aren’t any recordings of those early broadcasts for me to play for you. You had to be there. And unfortunately, this founding father of radio is no longer with us to tell his story.

But the good news is that there are quite a few radio scholars who are. Otherwise, his name might have been lost in history. One of the best places to find out more about Charles Herrold is the PBS documentary entitled “Broadcasting’s Forgotten Father. It celebrates the life of Charles “Doc” Herrold and shows his influence in the creation of radio as we know it today.

I want to play a clip from that documentary for you in a moment. First, let me just set the scene. Herrold began broadcasting his radio show in 1912. His assistant, Ray Newby said, “It was a religion for ‘Prof’ Herrold to have his equipment ready every Wednesday night at nine o’clock. He would have his records ready, all laid out, and what he wanted to say. And the public or listeners, it became a habit for them to wait for it.”

I wish I had more audio to share with you today, but the earliest radio broadcast couldn’t be recorded for posterity. So here’s a clip from the documentary “Broadcasting’s Forgotten Father” that was produced in 1995.

“Herrold tells his students that the Wednesday night programs are “broadcasting for the people of San Jose.” He also tells them that everyone else transmitting voice at the time is only “Narrowcasting.” He is on every week at the same time, and he knows that he is entertaining a public audience. And, as an early form of advertising, the broadcasts help attract students to his college.”

How cool is that? No one was doing what Charles Herrold was doing. He was at least eight years ahead of his time since the first commercial radio stations didn’t get started until 1920. He was on the air every week at the same time delivering a radio program for close to five years. And he started doing it in 1912.

He even had a regular audience. Of course, they were all radio hobybyists themselves as commerical radio receivers weren’t available at this time. But that didn’t stop his audience from calling in and requesting songs.

His radio program included music, talk, news, and even giveaways. It was everything that we’ve come to expect radio to be and pretty much what we hear every day on our radio waves now, 101 years after he established what radio could be.

Here’s another clip from the documentary television show PBS produced . . .

“One reason that the Wednesday night broadcasts attract so much attention is because of Herrold’s young wife Sybil. She became a disc jockey if you may. They didn’t use that term in those days. And I guess she liked it because I remember I interviewed her years later, and she was very very pleased because she got a lot of responses in the community. People called her up, she got a lot of fan letters, people talked to her on the street that they heard the programs.”

One of the first radio deejays was a woman. How cool is that?

I tell ya, I’m having a lot of fun putting this show together for you today. I’m learning all sorts of things about the medium I’ve been working in for close to five years now. This is Know Your History and I’m your host Chase March and we still have a lot to explore about the birth of radio broadcasting.

Press play to hear the rest of the show or you can download the podcast now for free.

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Know Your History – Back to School Edition

It’s that dreaded time of year again. . . at least for some. For others it sparks an air of excitement. Summer holidays may be coming to an end but there is a hint of promise for the new school year that is about to start. Some of us are ready to go back to school, while others want the holiday to last just a little longer. No matter what category you fit into, it is time to start getting prepared to go back to school.

Hello, my name is Chase March, and welcome to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. I do my best to educate and entertain you once a month with this documentary radio program. I truly believe that learning is lifelong process and that hip-hop has the power to inform as well as entertain.

So in the immortal words of Krs-One, let’s get things started with this track, “You Must Learn.”

That was Boogie Down Productions “You Must Learn” and it’s the mindset I hope my students will be coming back to the classroom with this fall. The rapper in that song was Krs-One and his name actually means “Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone.

That song came out in 1989 and it addressed some of the problems with public education at the time. One of those was the history curriculum and the way the subject was delivered in school. In the lyrics, Krs-One said,

“I believe that if you’re teaching history
Deal with straight up facts no mystery
Teach the student what needs to be taught
Cause Black and White kids both take shorts
When one doesn’t know about the other ones’ culture
Ignorance swoops down like a vulture.”

That’s why it is important to learn about other peoples’ cultures. I think we need to do that more regularly. Textbooks and novels need to include stories of all people. Our students need to see themselves in books, film, and television. And all of our students need to see that diversity. That is exactly what Boogie Down Productions were doing with that verse.

In fact, the lead emcee of the group is known as “The teacher.” He saw the power that hip-hop music had to inform and educate while entertaining. He even created a new term to describe that power by combining those two words. Educate and entertain combined form the word “Edutainment” and served as the title for the new album that came out one year later in 1990.

It’s a brilliant term that shows that education doesn’t have to be boring. It should be updated for the times we live in now. The old ways of doing things in school simply aren’t working anymore.

In the song, we just heard Krs-one said,

“The point I’m getting at it it might be harsh
Is we’re just walking around brainwashed
So what I’m saying is not to diss ‘em, man
We need the 89 school system
One that caters to a Black fratern because
You must learn.”

Very wise words. It’s time for things to change in the public education system. But one thing that probably won’t ever change, is that kids will still find ways to get into mischief.

You’re listening to the “Back to School” edition of Know Your History. That was “Principal’s Office” by Young MC from the 1989 album “Stone Cold Rhyming.”

I could have featured that song on the show two months ago when we looked at storytelling in rap songs because it tells a day-in-the-life story of a not-so-typical school day.

Young MC arrives late for school for the third time in a week. He runs down the hall to his classroom and quietly takes his seat. He tries to catch up on the few minutes of work he has missed by looking at a fellow student’s notebook but only then does he discover that he has sit in gum. He tries to get the teacher’s attention about it but ends up getting sent to the principal’s office for interrupting the lesson. Tough break.

He continues to have quite the day, he chips a tooth on his lunch and gets a late pass this time. Instead of heading directly back to class though, he decides to take a moment to play basketball on the yard. He gets caught, however, and gets sent back to the principal’s office. That’s twice now and it’s only lunchtime.

Later in the day, he gets in trouble for passing a note to a girl he likes. He then wraps up hi story by saying, “You think this is bad, wait till you see my report card.”

As bad as this character was in the story, the actual rapper was a fairly good student. Young MC earned a degree in economics from USC. I know many people think rappers are uneducated but that simply isn’t the truth. In fact, I know quite a few rappers who are teachers in the literal sense, meaning they teach high school. I myself, teach elementary school. That’s one of the reasons I can relate to this next song.

This is “Case of the PTA” by Leaders of the New School. This is the back to school edition of Know Your History and this is Chase March bringing it all to you. Don’t go anywhere!

Welcome back to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. This is the back to school edition and you just heard Leaders of the New School with their take on the subject.

Those kids sound like they got into a lot more mischief in school than Young MC ever did. One of them admits to being a class clown. He says that he didn’t start the food fight in the cafeteria but sounds like he was happy to partake in it. Another shows that he was quite the ladies man in school. And then there is Busta Rhymes, sounds like he was a joy to have in class. I’m speaking as a teacher when I say that, simply based on his lyrics there. He went on to have quite the successful solo career as well.

This song was the first single from the group and was released in 1991. It’s interesting that their name even has the word school in it. School is an important word in hip-hop. We’ve already discussed how this art form has the power to educate while entertaining but that isn’t is meant by their name “Leaders of the New School.”

New School described the sound of the music. Artists emerging in the mid 1980s wanted to distance themselves from the old style of rapping. The backdrops of the songs moved away from breakbeats on records that often utilized disco-type sounds to the minimalistic sound of a drum machine accompanied by rock guitars and other sounds. The songs were shorter as well. Long versions of songs became a thing of the past. It was the dawning of a new age, and this age was referred to as New School Rap.

But there still is a certain nostalgia for the early songs of hip-hop culture. There is value to the songs of old. And while rock music has Classic Rock, hip-hop has the Old School. Great music is timeless and rap has its share of tunes that fit into that category as well.

I really love how 2Pac celebrated all of this with his song “Old School.”

That was the late great 2Pac Shakur and his salute to the old school. You’re listening to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge right here on DOPEfm and The Word is Bond Rap Radio Hour. This is the back to school edition of the show so of course, I had to talk about old school rap, which of course has nothing whatsoever to do with school.

So, let’s focus our attention back to the classrooms and hallways, the school yard and bus stop.

School should definitely not give you brain damage. That’s a sad tale that Eminem weaves in that song. He was bullied and had to deal with it all on his own. This is a very real situation for many young people and unfortunately, Eminem penned that tale from experience. He was bullied in school and even calls out one of the bullies that tormented him all those years ago.

Ya know, I had the chance to interview a teenaged author about this very topic. She wrote a book entitled Bully in The Mirror. She was an inspiring young lady to talk to and while this is a hip-hop program, I really want to run that interview for you here on the program today.

I know this is a bit outside of what we normally do here on the program. I interview authors regularly on my blog but this is the first time I’ve featured one of those author interviews on the radio. But if you stick with me, you might learn something and be inspired by this incredible young lady.

I did this interview back in February and featured it on my blog but I think it is important to air since we are touching on the topic of bullying in schools.

But first, let’s hear “Us” by Brother Ali. It is an anti-bullying song if I’ve ever heard one. It’s beautiful and a great way to transition to the interview with Shanaya.

Download this podcast for free or stream it with the player below. Thanks for listening!

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Know Your History – Storytelling Rap

Today, I want to look at one of the most difficult things a rapper can do throughout the course of a song – tell a story. Doesn’t sound very difficult, does it? After all, we tell stories all the time in our daily lives. But I am sure you have a friend or two who just can’t seem to tell a story well. Their yarns simply don’t hold your attention. They leave out key details. They rush through parts. They give too much information. It’s boring and you quickly change the subject to keep things moving. Am I right?

I find that we have the same thing in hip-hop. For some reason, not all rappers can craft a good story rhyme. It’s an art unto itself. It requires a precision to detail in a way that other songwriting does not. Rappers need to be able to establish the story in a rhyme that holds attention, sets up the scene, builds anticipation, and has us yearning to see how it all turns out. That is easier said than done.

I’m sure we have all heard storytelling in rap songs. Some rappers will tell a quick story in a verse or part of a verse. For today’s purposes, I am not going to look at those ones. Today, we will focus on songs that complete one story. Songs that are built around a narrative with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Songs that are perfect short stories told through rhyme.

And of course, a hip-hop history lesson on the power of storytelling has to start out with this artist. He is the undisputed king of storytelling rap. He is a veteran who has been dropping hip-hop since its inception. In fact, his family moved to The Bronx in 1977 and he began his rap career almost immediately.

This song is one of the finest examples we have of a storytelling rhyme. This is “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick from the 1989 album “The Great Adventures of Slick Rick.” This is Chase March for Know Your History on DOPEfm and The Word is Bond Rap Radio Hour. Don’t go anywhere. We will be back to continue our discussion on storytelling rap in this 43rd edition of Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. Now, it’s time for Slick Rick to do what he does best. Tell us a story.

That was Slick Rick, a track called “Children’s Story.” And quite possibly the best storytelling rap song ever. Slick Rick is a master storyteller. There aren’t many emcees who can match what he does on the mic.

By the time this album came out, Slick Rick was already a star. He worked with Doug E Fresh and released a single in 1985 entitled “The Show” but it was the b-side of that track that got the most attention. I could have featured that song here as well since it tells a day-in-the-life story and does so in a very memorable way. Snoop Dogg even covered the song in his 1993 solo debut album “Doggystyle.” And up until that point in time, I really hadn’t seen many rappers covering someone’s song in such a straightforward way.

Rappers often pay homage to other rappers with shared lines but rarely do they remake a song. Cover songs are rare in hip-hop. And the fact that Slick Rick has been covered more than once just goes to show how respected he is in this genre, and more specifically in this sub-genre of storytelling rap.

The song I just played was called “Children’s Story.” It isn’t exactly your all ages tale, but it does start out that way. We hear young children asking their Uncle Ricky to tell them a story. It sounds like Slick Rick is going to tell them a fairy tale, especially when we hear the opening, “Once upon a time” but the tale quickly becomes a dark one. It is about a boy who turns to a life of crime. He tries to rob an undercover cop and a chase ensues. He then steals a car and eventually holds a pregnant woman hostage. He lets her go and at several points in the story we can see that he tries to do the right thing. Slick Rick even says, “Deep in his heart, he knew he was wrong.”

The character in the story doesn’t shoot the cop when he has the chance and he doesn’t hurt the hostage he took either. He was a petty thief for the most part who was just mislead. Unfortunately though, he meets a tragic end.

But Slick Rick concludes this story with a moral like all good fairy tales. He says, “This ain’t funny so don’t ya dare laugh / Just another case about the wrong path / Straight ‘n narrow or yo’ soul gets cast. Good night”

And with that, he leaves the story for the listener and the children he was entertaining to contemplate its meaning. He doesn’t beat us over the head with the narrative. He simply mentions how it’s best to stay on the straight and narrow path and to avoid a life of crime.

In this song, a life of crime caught up with the main character. In the next story rhyme we are going to feature the culprit is a bit more sinister.

This is Chase March and you are listening to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. Today, we are exploring storytelling in rap songs. We started out with the undisputed king of this form, Slick Rick, and we will be featuring many more examples and analysis over the course of the show.

So, the sinister culprit I mentioned just now. It’s something that can catch up with all of us. It something that will get ‘cha if you’re not careful. And it’s something that Boogie Down Productions explore in this song, “Love’s Gonna Getcha.”

That was “Love’s Gonna Getcha” by Boogie Down Productions. It isn’t a sad break-up song either. Krs-one weaves a story about how the love of material possessions can lead people astray.

In typical rap style, this song is told in a first person account. The main character gets good grades in school and tries his best to stay out of trouble. He acts tough when need be so he can stay on the straight and narrow. Maybe this kid listened to the moral of the first song we played today.

The next character we meet in this story is Rob, a drug dealer, who owns a fancy car. The main character greets him quickly and then heads home where he hugs his mother and punches his brother. Sounds like a pretty normal kid so far. But then the sounds of gunfire break out from down the street and he narrates that this happens almost every day where he lives.

He also tells us that he doesn’t have much money for clothes. In fact, he only has three pairs of pants, which he has to share with his brother. He gets teased about it in school too. He has just enough to eat and he sees that his mom struggles to give his family the meager existence that they do have.

He makes a bad choice one day and does a run for the drug dealer. He gets paid $200 for it. It is quick and easy money. So he does it again. He shares the money with his family and treats them to a nice dinner. It’s been a while since they’ve ate so well. Mom is nervous about it but accepts his generosity.

The boy gets deeper in the drug game and enlists the help of his brother. Three months later and they are big players in the game. “My family is happy. Everything is new. Now tell me what the f- am I supposed to do.”

Things escalate. He and his brother take up arms for protection and to help keep their new empire strong. They have all the material possessions they could possibly want. They get to relax and watch big screen televisions while their foot soldiers do the work.

Things get heated when his brother gets shot. And it looks like it was Rob, the original drug dealer from this story. He tracks down Rob and shoots him but the cops surrounded them and kill two of his men and take him off to jail.

And just like Slick Rick in “Children’s Story,” Krs-One ends his tale with a message. He says, “It’s alright to like or want a material item, but when you fall in love with it and you start scheming and carrying on for it, just remember, it’s gonna get’cha.”

It’s a good story that keeps our attention for an entire song. It’s got setting, character, a rising action, a climax, and a resolution. It’s a mini-movie told in verse. Very nice stuff.

Telling short stories in rhyme is a difficult skill. It’s easy enough to write a short children’s book in that style but rap listeners are a lot more discerning.

The stories we have heard so far in this episode have had unhappy endings. I think it’s time to brighten things up a bit. This is one of my all-time favourite songs. This is “It was a Good Day” by Ice Cube and this is Chase March focusing on the master storytellers we have in hip-hop culture for this edition of Know Your History. Don’t go anywhere, we’ll be right back right here on DOPEfm and The Word is Bond Rap Radio Hour.

I love that song. Ice Cube starts out his narrative with some foreshadowing. He only just woke up but has a strange feeling that it’s going to be a good day. The neighbour’s dog isn’t barking, there isn’t any smog, and his mom is cooking exactly what he wanted to have for breakfast. It’s shaping up to be a fantastic day.

He goes out and about his business for the day and doesn’t get stopped or harassed by the cops once. He plays an amazing game of basketball at neighbourhood park. He doesn’t get into any confrontations with rivals. He watches an episode of Yo! MTV Raps, wins a game of Bones, and takes home some money for it. None of his friends get shot or injured that day either. He finally gets lucky with a girl he’s had his eye on for a while. He is a Lakers fan and they win the game that night. He goes home and declares “It was a Good Day.”

Several people have tried to determine the exact date of this good day. Donovan Strain painstakingly went through all of these details to conclude that Ice Cube’s “Good Day” was January 20th, 1992.

According to his research, the Lakers did in fact beat the SuperSonics on a clear and smogless day when Yo MTV Raps aired an episode. Sadly, though, no statistics for Cube’s local basketball game were available to confirm his triple-double. Maybe if Twitter had been around back then instead of just beepers, we would all have known about it.

Mike B, expanded on Strain’s research by looking at biographical information from a variety of sources to conclude that this “good day” had to be earlier in Ice Cube’s career. It makes a lot of sense for Ice Cube’s “Good Day” to be November 30th, 1988.

But I’ll argue that they are both wrong. This was pure fiction. Ice Cube was telling a story of a hypothetically perfect day. He wasn’t relating a specific day anymore than Slick Rick was at the top of the show. We can come to this conclusion with the line “Even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp and it read ‘Ice Cube’s a Pimp.’” That’s highly unlikely to have actually happened. Goodyear runs advertising on their Blimps but I doubt they would display praise for rap artists for no reason whatsoever. But kudos to these fellow hip-hop historians who did all that research and were able to peg down Ice Cube’s “Good Day” to two possible dates.

I love how creative rappers can be with their storytelling rhymes. So far, we have heard from three master storytellers; Slick Rick, Krs-One, and Ice Cube. But a show on storytelling rap would not be complete without another great storytelling emcee. This rapper has told all sorts of stories in rhyme. One such song even earned him an Academy Award. That is a huge moment for storytelling rap and for hip-hop in general,

I am sure we are probably all familiar with “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. It is a great song. It’s inspiring and uplifting. It truly deserved the Oscar for best original song in 2003. The song is about overcoming obstacles, pursuing a dream, and never giving up on it. And it is the song we are going to end off our show with today.

That was “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. A great song about going after your dreams and not letting anything stop you. It was featured in the movie 8 Mile which was a semi-autobiographical tale starring Eminem as an aspiring young rapper named Rabbit.

The song you just heard starts out moments before he is to take the stage in a rap battle. He is really nervous and the whole scene is a little too much for him. He forgets the rhymes he worked on for this battle and ultimately gets booed off stage. But he doesn’t let this one failure stop him. Instead, he redoubles his efforts, goes back home and writes, practises, and improves.

In the second verse, he imagines what life would be like as a successful rapper. He is living the dream but doesn’t like that it has taken him away from his family. He says, “He’s no father. He goes home and barely knows his own daughter.” That’s a sad tale of the road when you have young children. They really do grow up fast.

He then talks about the poverty he is still dealing with and makes a decision. He is tired of just barely scraping by. He has the talent and a dream. He is going to go after a music career. Success is the only option and he’s taking his shot.

What a great song. Eminem is a master storyteller. He touches on a variety of topics in quite a few of his songs.

This brings an end to the 43rd edition of Know Your History – Storytelling Rap.

If you like what you heard, remember that we do this once a month. Of course, The Word is Bond Rap Radio Hour is broadcast every single week. We bring you the best in real hip-hop music and talk with artist interviews, hip-hop history segments just like the one you just heard, contests, guest deejays, and of course great music. Tune in live every Saturday night at midnight to hear the program on DOPEfm.

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Hashtag Rap Explained

Welcome back to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. Today we are exploring the poetic device known as the simile. More aptly, we are looking at instances where rappers have taken the word “like” out of the comparison in a style that has been branded “hashtage rap”.

If you missed part one, you can go back and read it now, download the podcast for free, stream it with the player below, or just continue reading.

An emcee made it part of his style several years before this became the popular thing to do. Nowadays, you can’t listen to the radio or the latest mixtape or album without hearing an example of hashtag rap. In fact, it is getting so overused that it is now played out. It has become cliche and therefore something to be avoided according to the unwritten rules of rap.

In fact, this style was used in the early 2000s by a particular artist and members of his camp. It didn’t become employed by the masses until the second decade of this millennium.

So who was this early pioneer? I tell you he was part of the Dipset Crew. That’s right, I am talking about Cam’ron. Here is an example of how he used this style.

“I’m on the westside of Chicago, lookin’ for a bust down
And make me put my two arms up – Touchdown!”

That was from his song “Dipset Anthem.” Here is another example from “Girls.”

“And hope is hopeless, disappear in the air – Hocus Pocus.”

There are countless examples of the Dipset Crew using the truncated simile. Some of time, their use of non-sequitors seemed a bit absurd. The words didn’t quite connect as powerfully as we heard Drake or Kanye West do it several years later. Maybe that is why the style didn’t catch on until the late 00 decade.

But we can trace its use back even further. These rappers didn’t make it a style like Cam’ron did. In fact, when Cam’ron employing similes with use of “like” or “as,” Twitter hadn’t even been launched yet. That’s something to consider, the style that owes its name to Twitter was around before the popular micro-blogging platform was.

And speaking of Twitter, remember to follow us on there. You can find me @chasemarch just like you are running after the month. Daddy J maintains @DOPEfm and Jose reps @thewordisbond. Great hip-hop news, links, music, vidoes, podcasts, and real talk can be found on those platforms every day.

So Twitter launched in 2006 and quickly grew to become one of the biggest social media sites online. There are over 500 million users who generate 340 million tweets every day. Pretty impressive numbers.

I’ve got some impressive numbers to. I found some early examples of hashtag rap that will probably surprise you.

Method Man used this style in 1999. “The aliens they just landed/Any you in the way/Overthrow these niggas planet – independence day / fellons get slip melons.”

That was from a song he did with Left Eye called “Cradle Rock”

But we can go back even further. The Notorious B.I.G. did it in 1997 on the hit song “It’s All About the Benjamins.”

He says, “uhhh, undercover, “Donnie Brasco”

It would have been nice to credit the first use of Hashtag rap to Biggie. He really was a gifted lyricist and we lost him way too soon. But I found earlier examples.

Jay Z did one year earlier with his song Dead Presidents II. He says, “At the end of the fiscal year than these niggaz can wish to/ The dead presidential — candidate.”

But we can go even further back. ODB of the Wu-Tang Clan used it in 1995.

“I get psycho killer, Norman Bates”

That was an awesome rhyme. It shows that ODB really could kill a track just like the character he references from the horror film Psycho. The comparison really works well without him having to say “like.” That word wasn’t necessary for him to paint that picture for the listener.

Can we stop there? Or are there earlier examples of hashtag rap in hip-hop history?

I tell ya, I’ve been working on this show for weeks now. I tend to get a bit obsessed about things and I don’t mind sharing that with you. But there comes a time when the research needs to end. Otherwise I could drive myself nuts trying to find earlier examples. I have this fear that after I complete this show, and after it is aired, I will find an even earlier example than the one will end with today. Oh well. so is life, I suppose.

It’s a bit hard to find these examples without carefully listening to records and there are so many albums, singles, MP3s, videos, and whatnot vying for my attention that some might slip by.

In my digging, the earliest example I could originally find was from A Tribe Called Quest.

“Mind gets flooded, ejaculation”

That’s from the slamming track “Bugging Out” from the classic album “Low End Theory” by A Tribe Called Quest. It was released on September 24, 1991.

One month early, PM Dawn released “Of the heart of the soul and of the cross.” Their stand-out hit from that album was a tracked called “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” and it is the best example of the modern hashtag rap style that I have been able to find.

“I guess I’ll leave that question to the experts, Assuming that there are some out there/ They’re probably alone — solitaire.”

They set up the comparison, pause, and then deliver the punchline. It’s an effective use of a truncated simile. And exactly the kind of thing that Drake did and made popular twenty years later.

The hip-hop historian in me didn’t want this trail to end with PM Dawn. Although, truth be told I bought that album on cassette back in the day. Their second album was even better, in my humble opinion, but they are a pop act. I wanted to be able to attribute this style to a real hip-hop group.

So I kept digging. I listened to some of my old school tapes. I searched the lyric archives online, and I talked to my brother about this topic. He immediately reminded me that Public Enemy employed this style a bunch of times. He should know, he might just be their biggest fan.

So here is an example from their debut album way back in 1987. I’ll play a portion of it fro you right now.

This is Public Enemy “Raise the Roof”

Did you catch the hashtag rap. If not, let me spell it out for you. “Fly ladies of the 80s – sororities”

That is awesome!

I am so glad I found an old-school example of hashtag rap. I knew there had to be one and it is so cool to have this trail end with Public Enemy.

So there you have it, Public Enemy employed similes without the use of “like” or “as” way back in 1987. This is hashtag rap when the pound symbol really had no useful function. I always wondered why it was on our phones. Now I use it all the time on Twitter and so rappers use it all way too often.

It has become a style where rappers are running out of comparisons to make but still feel the need to throw in a hashtag or a ridiculous non-sequitor. It is getting way out of hand.

I remember back in the early 90s when rappers would overuse the simile. Erick Sermon used to litter his rhymes with them. And I don’t mean to pick on him because I love EPMD but some of his comparisons seemed a little off.

Rappers need to be creative. This is a poetic artform afterall. But maybe it is time to hang up our reliance on simile. When used too often in rap, it really starts to water down the message, It doesn’t paint a clear picture in the listeners’ minds. It just becomes noise.

Back in the ’90s, in the backpacker era, rhymes were so littered with similes that it was starting to get out of hand. Wordsworth joked about it in High and Mighty’s Open Night Mic Remix. He said, ‘You can’t write without using ‘like’/ What are you, some sort of valley girl?”

In this second decade of the 2000s, we really need to hear someone taking shots at the overuse of hashtag rap. Thank goodness we have this track from Taboo.

That was Now Yous Can’t Leave by Taboo. He talks about the overuse of hashtag rap in that song. I especially like the line, “these bitch MC’s are gimmicky Took the like out your similes so I don’t like your similies”

That’s nice!

This whole thing reminds me of another gimmick that got played out in the 1990s. Das Efx had a tongue-twisting kind of flow that many rappers tried to imitate. The Beatnuts called out the overuse of that style in their song “No Equal”

“But all that tiggedy-tiggedy tongue-twistin shit don’t impress me
It’s just a phase, and you know damn well
That you’ll fall off in a minute, cause that shit don’t sell
Funny how you think you could surpass me, or outlast me
With that bullshit style, you’re fallin fast, gee
See, I suggest you go back where you came from
(Your mic, and my mic) Come on, don’t play, son”

That was The Beatnuts “No Equal” and if that song came out today, they wouldn’t be calling out tongue-twisting. They would have said, “All that hashtag rap don’t impress me / It’s just a phase, and you know damn well / That you’ll fall off in a minute, cause that shit don’t sell.”

So, it really is time to retire this poetic device. Hashtag rap has become cliche. It works in moderation and has been diluted from overuse. We need to take a pause on this pause-stop-flow. See what I did there?

There is a lot of room for creativity in hip-hop. Let’s not forget that.

Before we rap things up on this topic, I did manage to find an even earlier example than the Public Enemy one I played for you. I’m cheating a bit because I am going outside of hip-hop culture, but good music is good music and this artist is definitely a pioneer in his genre as well.

I am talking about John Lennon. We wrote a hashtag line way back in 1965

That was from “It’s Only Love” by The Beatles and the hashtag line is “When you sigh my, my inside just flies, butterflies.”

I wanted to see if hashtag style rhymes had been used in literary poetry but this is a show on the history of music. As such, I am happy with this search bringing us back to a music pioneer such as John Lennon. He might not have influenced the style of rap, but then again?

Thanks so much for tuning in today. I have had a lot of fun exploring this topic in detail. If you have any comment about the show and what we do. get at us on Twitter. @DOPEfm for the radio show @thewordisbond for the hip-hop magazine website and podcast, and @chasemarch to reach me about anything hip-hop, education, writing, skateboarding, or anything else.

Gotta love the hashtag and how easy it is to communicate online with anyone, anywhere in the world. We continue our mandate to bring you the best in real hip-hop music and talk every single week over the airwaves or wi-fi.

This is Chase March signing off till next week reminding you, “You Better Know Your History!”

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Know Your History – Hashtag Rap

Rap is poetry. I know a lot of people would disagree with that succinct statement but if you really think about it, where in modern society do we such wordplay, such poetic expression, such commentary, such emotion and feeling, and a wealth of rhyme. We can get all those things in a single rap song in less than 3 minutes.

Of course with a limited amount of time and an excessive amount of listening choices, the rapper as a poet has to command attention quickly and capture wandering ears if only for a moment.

Adam Bradley writes, “In poetry where a premium is put upon verbal economy, any technique that has the capacity of expanding the meaning of a single word is valuable. When artfully rendered, puns do just that: opening a range of associations that the poet/MC can exploit for the purposes of oral expression.”

One word. That is all an MC needs to call forth a variety of images and details. That’s all a talented rapper needs to command the attention of fickle listeners. One word is enough to spark an entire style and trigger a crowd of copycats hoping to cash in on that success.

So what is this one word? How does it fit into a show on the history of hip-hop music and culture? We will get to that in a second.

Hi, my name is Chase March and welcome to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. You can stream this show with the player at the bottom of the post or download it for free.

For the next half hour we are going to explore the phenomenon of what some people call Hashtag Rap, other people call it Pause-Stop Flow or Delayed Punchline Flow. Whatever you call it, it all comes down to a single word . . .

Simile – “the most accessible and versatile way that MCs can dress up their words. A simile is a direct comparison between two distinctly different things, usually using like or as to connect them. In their simplest form, similes offer direct comparisons for the purpose of revealing the unexpected similarity of disparate things.”

That’s another quote from Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Style by Adam Bradley. It’s a great read that analyzes how poetic this art form really is. And it’s nice to see scholars acknowledging the lyricism and artistry that is often hiding in plain sight. The music can overshadow the brilliance of a pithy rhyme, the content of a an entire verse, and the message in a song or album.

This book was published in 2009 and that was right around the time that a new trend was developing in rap. A trend that hadn’t yet been branded. And a trend that now, four years later, has just about run its course. At least I hope so.

Everything in moderation, right? I mean, when something is overdone, it becomes tired. The most brilliant example of linguistic expression can become cliche. And the chief job of a decent writer is avoid cliches.

George Orwell wrote an essay in 1946 entitled “Politics and The English Language” where he states some pretty solid writing rules. Talented rap artists apply these rules all the time in their songs.

Rule # 1 – Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print

Of course, we would modify that rule to say – never use a metaphor or simile that you have heard in another song or by another artist.

Rappers are always striving to come up with creative similes. And it’s simply because they “have the capacity to reshape our vision of the world. More than any other contemporary form of linguistic expression, rap plays with words in ways that jar us from our settled sense of reality, opening up new ways of seeing and even feeling. This too, makes it poetry.”

Man, with a quote like that, you have to love rap music and Adam Bradley’s book about the poetics of it.

There is almost no way to trace where similes began in rap music because you can hear them in so many songs from the earliest rap recordings right up to the present day. But when was the first time we heard a simile without the use of “like” or “as” connecting the two things being compared?

Drake is probably the one responsible for making this a style unto itself. He would set up the comparison, pause for a moment, and then deliver the simile as is it were a punchline.

In his hit Forever, he says, “Swimming in the money, come and find me — Nemo/ If I was at the club, you know I balled – Chemo.”

He is using two different similes here. He could have said, “Swimming in the money, come find me like Nemo. If I was at the club, you know I balled like Chemo” and that would have been fine. It doens’t sound nearly as fresh as the way he actually delivered those lines though.

He basically traded the word “like” in both of those similes for a rest. In other words, he pauses, doesn’t say a thing, and then completes the simile without ever having to say “like.” It somehow makes these simply similes even more powerful.

This is a brilliant technique. Taking a simile and punching it up by pausing, not saying “like,” and then delivering the pay-off.

Maybe Drake was following George Orwell’s 5 Rules of Writing.

Rule # 3 – If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

His meaning comes across perfectly well without the use of the word like. The comparison is made, we get the visual in our heads, and it sounds fresh and original.

That original version of that song came out in 2008 and a star-studded remake came out one year later. At the time, we didn’t have a name for that particular style but it did seem like it belonged to Drake and no one else. He made it his own in a way that no rapper before him really had done.

But he was not the first rapper to employ this technique. He wasn’t the first person to use a truncated simile.

Kanye West did it two years prior. He said, “Here’s another hit… BARRY BONDS.”

And he even coined a term for this poetic device. We no longer have to describe it as “simile without the us of like” or refer to it as a “truncated simile” or label it “pause-stop-flow” or even worse “delayed punchline flow.” It now has a name. A name that comes from an unlikely source. That’s right, it comes from Twitter.

Kanye West had this to say on Funkmaster Flex’s radio program . . .

“We develop and change rap styles all together. Like, look at say the hashtag rap–that’s what we call it when you take the ‘like’ or ‘as’ out of the metaphor. ‘Flex, sweater red–firetruck.’ Everybody raps like that, right? That’s really spawned from like ‘Barry Bonds’: ‘Here’s another hit–Barry Bonds.’ So even like when I sat with Nicki [Minaj] in Hawaii, I was like, for this album, particularly–and I still like that, that style is super fresh–but this album, we not even doing similes. It’s just a series of statements. We get on some real push the culture forward–I think that’s the biggest reason ‘Power’ took me like five thousand man hours to sit there and write it.”

Hashtag Rap. It’s not the worst name. And it does aptly describe the style.

In Twitter a hashtag is a way to label our posts so the can be easily tracked and shared. You do so by using the pound sign, that weird tic-tac-toe symbol that was pretty much only ever used as the short form of writing out the word “number.” Now it you want people who search “hiphop” to find your tweet, you type a pound symbol and then the word hip-hop without using any spaces or dashes.

Here is an example #hiphop

Kanye West and Drake both creatively used hashtag rap as a style to deliver a powerful simile to make explicit comparisons between things. Their wordplay called up imagery in our minds and was quite frankly brilliant.

But where did this style come from?

Drake actually credits it to Big Sean. In “Supa Dupa Flow,” Big Sean strings together a seemingly endless trail of hashtag rap.

Click through to read the conclusion of this transcript or you can stream the entire show right now with the player below. It is also available as a free download.

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A Hip-Hop Tribute for Mother’s Day

Listen to this special Mother’s Day edition of Know Your History with the player at the bottom of the post. Download the podcast for free. Or continue reading.

Happy Mother’s Day!

“One of the most important things you can give in life is love. The first thing I knew from my mother was love. Love that came in a pure way. Love that came in a disciplinary way. Love that came, just from a mother loving her son.

At one point, in the first seven and a half years in my life, it was just she and I. That love was really strong and it taught me how to love. It taught me to love myself and gave me a great foundation. And along with that, I got to see my mother as an educator and a teacher.

She tried to help out her students on an extra level. She helped out my friends who didn’t have mothers, who had lost their mothers, mothers who’d been on drugs – she’d help them too.

I got to see my mother being a giving person, be someone who was able to reach out to others, and somewhere in my life that shaped me to want to give, just seeing that example.”

That was rapper / actor / Common, talking about his mother. It’s a great quote and a fitting way to start off the Mother’s Day Tribute episode of Know Your History. It really does say a lot.

Common wrote a memoir entitled “One Day It’ll All Make Sense” which is a nice little play on words. He originally came out as Common Sense but got into some legal troubles because another band already had that name, so he had to drop the “Sense” and just became Common. That is why we know him as Common these days.

Common Releasing One Day It'll All Make Sense ...

His mother actually writes part of the book as well. In one section, she retells a time when she was on the phone speaking to someone from the university. As she talked, her son looked at her a little strangely. When she hung up, Common asked her, “Why were you speaking white?” She explained that you talk differently to different people depending upon who you were talking to. She related it like this – you don’t talk to me the same way you talk to your cousin or your best friend, right? She was basically saying, ‘The words you choose matter.’

It’s really cool to see that he had so much respect for her that she is actually a co-author of his memoir and that he could talk about her like that in front of an audience. Especially in hip-hop, a music form that can be really demeaning to women. I don’t know why this is the case, but one woman in particular is held up above all others in this culture and that is mom.

Today, I want to pay tribute to mothers everywhere. Happy Mother’s Day to everyone out there doing their thing. Much respect to you. We are going to play some songs that are celebrating motherhood today and we have to start out with this one – the quintessential hip-hop Mother’s Day song. This is 2Pac “Dear Mama”

That’s an amazing track. 2Pac is one of my favourite rappers ever. He is talking about motherhood there and it is not always a good thing. He shows some of the downsides, some of the mistakes his mother has made, but he still is able to say – I appreciate everything you’ve done! I love you. This track is for you!

It’s really cool to see a rapper being able to do that because you really have to put yourself out there. You have to open yourself up there and you have to show some kind of vulnerability to be able to do that. I know that in rap, we often stand up, pump our chest and boast. That’s why I love 2Pac, he is able to speak some truth and illustrate some great points.

Here is a clip from an interview he did where he is talking about this song.

“My mother taught me three things – respect, knowledge – the search for knowledge is an eternal journey, and she taught me to not be quiet. If there is something on my mind, speak it. But also to listen.

She told me that God gave you two ears to listen and one mouth to speak. Two ears and one mouth. Common sense. You should speak but you should also listen. That’s where the knowledge comes from. It comes from listening. And once you get the knowledge, then you can speak. It helps you.

So, she taught me respect, knowledge, and understanding mostly.”

Rap isn’t always demeaning. There are a lot of good things happening in this music and a celebration of motherhood today in this special edition of Know Your History. I’m your host, Chase March, and we are going to keep it moving with more tracks that pay tribute to mom. When you think of hip-hop and when you think of Mother’s Day, two tracks probably come to mind. “Dear Mama” that we just played and this next one I’m going to play “Hey Mama”

This is Kanye West from his Late Registration Album “Hey Mama”

Kanye West wrote that song years before releasing it on an album. He even premiered the song in front of his mom on the Oprah Winfrey Show. As I did my research for this show, I came across a lot of footage of him performing the song for his mom and even with her performing it with him on stage. She’s since passed away but it’s really nice to see that he was able to share this with her while she was still here.

She was one of his biggest supporters and she even memorized some of his rhymes and would rap along with him. Very cool to see that kind of support. Kanye’s track “Hey Mama” is one of the best salutes to motherhood that we have in hip-hop along with 2Pac’s “Dear Mama.” Very nice tracks!

Another artist that did a nice job of celebrating motherhood is Masta Ace. In fact, he even took it a step further by dedicating an entire album to his mother. It’s called “Son of Yvonne.” Here is what he had to say about it . . .

“I decided to use the memory of my mother as the backdrop and as the catalyst to carry the album. I dedicated the album to my mother, I put her name in it, ‘Son of Yvonne,’ and just decided that the album was going to be more than a free mixtape of raps. It was going to be an album that had some meaning to me personally as an MC, as a person, as a man. I feel that I’d delivered to the fans more than what they originally expected.”

“Son of Yvonne” is a concept album based around the memory of his mother. I really like this album. There is a narrative in there about how, when he was young, he wanted to be a rapper and how his mom had quite an extensive record collection that she was quite protective of. So, he had to sneak out records if he wanted to rap over them. It’s a nice story, a nice concept album, and a nice tribute to his mom. Something we definitely had to highlight today for this special Mother’s Day edition of the show.

If you are mother, keep doing your thing because it’s a tough job. I have so much respect for you.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

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The History of Women in Hip-Hop

Women have been involved in rap music before hip-hop even had a name, before it was a recorded music phenomenon, and before we had superstars such as Queen Latifah crossover from musician to actor to author to model. She is one of hip-hop’s biggest success stories and she’s a woman.

Welcome back to DOPEfm’s 3rd Annual Women in Hip-Hop Spectacular. We are taking a close look at the history of women in hip-hop today. Yesterday, we covered the years from 1912 all the way up to 1985. Today, we will continue right where we left off.

You can download this hip-hop history podcast for free, stream it with the player at the bottom of the post, continue reading, or do all three. However you take in the program, we are happy to have you here.

So far, the artists that we have looked at are not quite household names. Those outside of hip-hop culture might not be able to call up these names when talking about the important milestones of the music. But nonetheless, they are important names. We looked at The Mercedes Ladies, Lady B, Sha Rock, and Roxanne Shante,

This brings us up to 1985. The year we first heard of the trio Salt N Pepa. Their debut album dropped in 1986 and was called Hot, Cool, and Vicious. They were the female rap group of their time and they had quite the string of success. They received four Grammy nominations and finally won one in 1995.

This was one of their most popular songs that year and it’s notable because they flip the script on what’s become a popular trope in commercial rap music.

successful female rap group

That was Salt N Pepa “Whatta Man” and those three ladies took the hip-hop world by storm when they hit the scene in 1985. Rap music was just starting to get popular and their single “Push It” literally helped push it to new heights. They released five albums, went on very successful tours, and received quite a few awards.

Two years ago, Salt N Pepa received the I Am Hip-Hop Award from BET. They were also part of the Legends of Hip-Hop tour with such artists as Whodini, Kurtis Blow, Doug E Fresh, Biz Markie, Naughty By Nature, Big Daddy Kane, Kool Moe Dee, Slick Rick and Chubb Rock.

There was another famous lady on that bill, MC Lyte. It’s hard to believe that her album “Lyte as a Rock” was the first full length album released by a female MC. Why did it take nearly ten years for a female rapper to head up her own album? I don’t know.

All I know is that it is a classic. The album is called “Lyte as a Rock” by MC Lyte. And just in case you didn’t know, light is spelled “Lyte.” This is her song “Paper Thin” that came out in 1988. And this is Chase March celebrated the Women in Hip-Hop as we observe International Women’s Day here on DOPEfm. Stay tuned as we explore the pivotal moments in the history of female hip-hop this hour and all night long as we shine a spotlight on the women in hip-hop with mixsets, artist interviews, and a special roundtable discussion.

female rapper

That was “Paper Thin” by MC Lyte from her classic album “Lyte as a Rock.” It came out in 1988 to a wide range of critical appeal and underground success. She continued to make great music and her fourth album was certified gold. That record also gave us “Ruffneck,” a Top 40 hit.

All in all, she has released seven studio albums and shows no signs of slowing down. She just released new material with her group Almost September. And like many other rappers, she ventured out into acting. I really liked seeing her on Ice T’s Rap School, a television show that had her mentoring young girls in the art of emceeing.

MC Lyte is even featured in Smithsonian Institute. Her turntables, diary, and records are part of a collection entitled “Hip-Hop Won’t Stop: The Beat, the Rhymes, the Life.” That exhibit highlights how important hip-hop is and shows that it is a valid part of our history.

It’s really cool to see that women in hip-hop are represented at the Smithsonian. I am a hip-hop historian and love to see our history being recognized by those outside of the culture. Of course MC Lyte deserves to be there. She was the first successful female rapper to go solo and her lengthy career is a testament to her skills on the mic.

She also inspired a whole new generation of women to get started in hip-hop. Up until this point, men had been ruling the show. Women didn’t take over by any means but we finally heard a voice that had been lacking for many years.

The next important female voice in hip-hop we need to look at emerged from Canada in the mid 1980s. Her debut album came out in 1991 and was entitled “Jamaican Funk – Canadian Style.” This was the first Canadian hip-hop release. She was the first rapper from the country to get signed by a major label. Her name is Michie Mee and here is the title track from her debut album.

Canada's First Rapper

That record proved that Canada had talent and it paved the way for artists such as Maestro Fresh Wes, Drake, Classified, and everyone else who came after her. That was Michie Mee and LA Luv ‘Jamaican Funk – Canadian Style.”

Welcome back to Hip-Hop’s Better Half. This is Chase March and we’re focusing on the important moments in the history of female hip-hop in this special edition of Know Your History.

Ya know, Michie Mee really had to hustle to be heard in an industry that was pretty much dominated by men. She got started well before MC Lyte showed that a solo female rap artist could be marketable. Starting in 1984, she regularly visited the hottest hip-hop spots in New York to make herself seen and heard. And it worked.

She caught the ear of DJ Scott La Rock of BDP. Her reggae style was something that impressed Krs-One and you can hear her influence in his records. Of course, BDP did more that just borrow her style. They supported her, put out her music on a compilation album in 1987, and even came up on Canada to share the bill with her. This was a cosign that helped spark her career and get her signed to a major American label.

Many people falsely think Maestro was Canada’s first rapper but it in fact was a woman. Michie Mee wasn’t merely the first lady of Canadian rap. She was the first Canadian rapper. Period.

Very cool history here as we celebrate International Women’s Day on DOPEfm. All seven hours of our programming tonight are dedicated to the women in hip-hop. This is our third annual radio special and we’re so glad that you’ve tuned in. That’s right, we’re putting ladies first.

Ladies First rap

That was “Ladies First” by Queen Latifah from her album “All Hail the Queen” It came out in 1989 and that song features fellow emcee Monie Love.

That is an important record to talk about when looking at the history of women in hip-hop. Queen Latifah showed us a strong, intelligent woman with a no nonsense attitude.

Here are some of her lyrics from that song . . .

“I break into a lyrical freestyle
Grab the mic, look into the crowd and see smiles
Cause they see a woman standing up on her own two
Sloppy slouching is something I won’t do
Some think that we can’t flow
Stereotypes, they got to go
I’m a mess around and flip the scene into reverse
(With what?) With a little touch of ‘Ladies First’”

Great lyrics from a great emcee.

Queen Latifah has achieved more than any other female artist in the history of this hip-hop. She has starred in movies, a few television series, has written books, earned a Golden Globe, two SAG awards, a Grammy award, and several other nominations for a variety of award shows. She continues to act, sing, and rap as well. Very few rappers ever achieve the level of fame and list of accomplishments that Queen Latifah has.

As popular as Queen Latifah was, she wasn’t the first female rapper to earn a platinum record. Can you guess who that was?

I’ll give you a hint. The record came out in 1994. It was entitled Funkdafied and this is the title track.

This is Chase March and we’ll be back to celebrate more of the achievements of women in hip-hop right after we hear from Da Brat. Stay tuned!


That was the title track from Da Brat’s debut album, “Funkdafied.” She was the first solo female rap artist to earn a platinum record. It’s hard to believe that that hadn’t happened sooner. I can’t understand why hip-hop became a male dominated art form. Some of my favourite emcees are woman and I must admit that I had this album on cassette and I bumped it like crazy back in the day. Her next album was good too but it didn’t manage to pull in such impressive numbers.

Although another female rapper who would smash even more records made her debut that very same year. I was immediately drawn to her vocals and really liked “Blunted on Reality,” the debut album from a group called The Fugees.

That was one of my favourite records from 1994 but it didn’t bring them immediate success. It was their sophomore album that made people sit up and take notice. The female emcee of the group started to receive a lot of attention. She could sing, she could rap circles around the best rappers at the time, and she was quite the looker as well.

There was no doubt that Lauryn Hill would become a huge star. She released her solo record in 1998 and it is one of the most popular rap albums ever released. It has sold close to 20 million copies and won five Grammy Awards. Lauryn Hill took home Album of the Year and Best New Artist, the latter I didn’t quite understand because I’d already been jamming to her music for close to five years.

She is still celebrated as one of the best voices hip-hop has ever been graced with. Many people name her as top female rap artist of all time. And with good reason. There is just something magical about her music. There is no denying it.

So, let’s listen to one of her songs right now from that record breaking album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” Stay tuned as we continue to look at the history of women in hip-hop as we celebrate International Women’s Day all night long here on DOPEfm

Hip-Hop royalty

That was “Lost Ones” by Lauryn Hill from her debut solo record “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” That album smashed so many records. She was the first female act in the history of the Grammy Awards to be nominated for 10 awards. She took home five trophies in the 1999 Grammies. A pretty impressive feat for a rapper.

Her debut album stands as a classic. It blended genres and forms. She rapped and she sang and her talent just couldn’t be ignored or denied.

But then she disappeared from the music scene. We were left with this incredible debut record and two albums from her rap group The Fugees. And that was it.

There was a void in mainstream hip-hop when Lauryn Hill decided to focus on family instead of her music career.

But we didn’t have to wait long for another innovative artist to come to the forefront and represent the ladies on the mic.

This is Chase March and if you are just joining us, make sure you keep that dial on lock. This is our third annual spotlight on the Women in Hip-Hop as we celebrate International Women’s Day. This is a day where we recognize and celebrate the achievements of women across the globe.

We’re gonna be doing that all night long here on the program. This hour we’ve been looking at the important moments for women in the history of hip-hop. Later, we’ll have mixsets where every single track we play will be from female rap artists. We will also have special interviews and a roundtable discussion. Stay tuned for all of that. We have seven hours of programming to celebrate this important day.

It’s International Women’s Day on DOPEfm.

We’ve been working our way through the entire history of hip-hop and the important role women have played throughout. We’ve looked at some of the biggest artists to ever work in this genre and we’ve made out way up to the late 1990s.

The next artist we are going to look at is the only female rap artist to stack up six platinum records. I’m talking about Missy Elliot. Her debut album “Supa Dupa Fly” came out in 1997 and she continued to drop highly successful records every couple of years. In fact, she is even slated to release a new one later this year.

successful female rapper

That was Missy Elliot, one of the most successful female rap artists of all time.

In the late 1990s, female fronted hip-hop was all the rage. Missy Elliot was just one of a handful of popular artists. I’m slowly running out of time though. I couldn’t expect to bring us completely up to date with the accomplishments of the women in hip-hop in a one hour special.

An hour ago, we started with the first women deejay, who began broadcasting a hundred years ago. We then looked at the first rap record most people ever heard and saw how that project and label was masterminded by a woman. We looked at the first rap group to ever appear on national television and how a female rapper was at the forefront of that. We then looked at the success female rappers have had since hip-hop’s very inception all the way up to the 1990s.

Stay tuned later tonight for another spotlight on the history of women in hip-hop. We’ll pick up where we left off here and look at the female artists of the late 1990s all the way up to the present day.

I’ve been focusing on the commercial appeal of hip-hop in this special but it’s important to note that women have been quite active in the hip-hop game. There are countless female rappers who have released albums on independent labels. We’ve played many of them on the show here over the past eight years and will continue to champion great music.

It’s been a lot of fun celebrating the women in hip-hop in this special hour-long edition of Know Your History.

Remember International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8th. Here on DOPEfm, we dedicate the entire overnight programming to the Women in Hip-Hop every year. This is our third annual special and we have lots more great content to share with you.

We still have some dope mixsets, artist interviews, and a roundtable discussion. Stay tuned for all of that and remember to go to to find out more about me, for some great hip-hop articles and home of my podcast, and to get more content from the radio show right here on 93.3 CFMU.

Download Hip-Hop’s Better Half for free, or stream it with the player below.


If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

Hip-Hop’s Better Half

Welcome to our third annual Women in Hip-Hop Spectacular on DOPEfm. We’re an overnight hip-hop radio show and every year at this time, we dedicate all seven hours of our programming to the Women in Hip-Hop.

We do this to celebrate International Women’s Day and to shine a spotlight on the achievements of women in this culture that we hold so dear.

Download this hip-hop history show for free, stream it with the player below, continue reading, or do all three.

We have a lot of great content for you tonight including some dope mixsets, a roundtable discussion with some very special guests, artist interviews, an episode of Know Your History, and some special surprises.

But to get it all started, we are going to look at some notable women in hip-hop. Hi, my name is Chase March and welcome to Hip-Hop’s Better Half. For the next hour, we are going to explore the history of women in hip-hop culture.

And what better place to start than with what is genuinely acknowledged as the first event in hip-hop history. The historic concert at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in The Bronx. This was the groundbreaking event that introduced the world to Kool Herc, that brought forth the era of the deejay and the block party. This changed everything and sparked the culture of hip-hop.

But did you know, this was all started by a woman. It was Kool Herc’s sister, Cindy Campbell, that threw this party. She organized everything, including the music. Hip-hop historian and journalist Davey D interviewed her and you can hear what she had to say by pressing play. Just scroll down and find the media player at the bottom of this post.

Women in Hip-Hop

Kool Herc is heralded as the godfather of hip-hop culture. This is undisputed, but it’s really interesting to see that it was indeed his sister, Cindy Campbell who got the whole ball rolling back in 1973. In fact, she even continued to support his career after this historic concert.

They do say that behind every great man is a great woman. It’s a phrase that I’m not particularly fond of, as much as it speaks truth. Women are important and need to be celebrated for their achievements alone. That’s one of the reasons we do this show each and every International Women’s Day.

I like to celebrate the women’s voices that often get over-shadowed in this culture that we call hip-hop. Some of my favourite emcees are women and we’ll be hearing from them very shortly.

Ya know, hip-hop started with the deejay. It didn’t start with rappers. It started with deejays playing records. And we can trace that all the way back to 1912. That was the year that “The Little Hams Radio Program” got its start. It was the first regularly scheduled radio program and it became popular because of the world’s first female deejay, Sybil Herrold.

Radio's first female deejay

That is so cool to see that one of radio’s first on-air personalities was a woman. And this was just over one hundred years ago. Hip-hop, as a culture, is not that old, but like those first radio programs it was not recorded and distributed. Back when this culture got its start in 1973, it wasn’t part of the music business. You had to experience the music live.

A few recordings are available of those early days of hip-hop culture. They were done with portable cassette recorders so the quality isn’t that great, but it does give you an idea of what those live shows were like back in the day. I want to play a portion of one of those recordings for you in a moment by the first all female rap group, The Mercedes Ladies. They formed in 1976 and they were more than a just music group. They were a crew with deejays, breakdancers. emcees, and graffiti artists. They put on shows and played with some of the biggest acts of the day such as Afrika Bambaataa, Red Alert, Kool Herc, Busy B, Kevy Kev, The Cold Crush Brothers, The Furious Five, and more.

Here’s an old school tape from a performance they did in 1979. This is the Mercedes Ladies and we’ll be right back to continue celebrating International Women’s Day right here on DOPEfm.

all female hip-hop crew

That was an all female group called The Mercedes Ladies and pretty typical of what you’d hear at the live venues in the mid to late 1970s.

That was what hip-hop sounded like prior to the first commercial rap recordings. Back then, you had to experience the music live. Although, that would soon be changing. Several people saw that rap could in fact be recorded and distributed on record, just like any genre of music.

One of the most successful records of all time is also what many people consider to be the first rap record ever released. There’s a little bit of debate about that but there is no debating the popularity of this record. I’m talking about “Rapper’s Delight”

first commercially successful rap record

That record wouldn’t have seen the light of day without a woman. It’s true. Sylvia Robinson saw the power that hip-hop could have and took a bit of a gamble in assembling a rap group, recording, and distributing a single.

Here is a rare clip of her talking about it.

female hip-hop mogul

There is a lot of controversy about Sugar Hill Records and what Sylvia Robinson did with that label. Some people criticize her for manufacturing a rap group instead of signing one of the established groups of the time. It would have been nice to see the Mercedes Ladies get a deal. It would have been awesome for The Cold Crush Brothers to have recorded “Rapper’s Delight” instead of the Sugar Hill Gang. After all, some of the rhymes on that record were stolen from one of the pioneers of this culture, Grandmaster Caz. You can find out more about that in an episode of Know Your History. Go to, click on Hip-Hop History and you can download the podcast and read the transcript of that show.

I don’t want to get into that controversial stuff today. I cover that often enough on the program, because it is important, but so is today.

We’re celebrating International Women’s Day all night long here on DOPEfm, focusing on the achievements of Women in Hip-Hop.

And if we think about it. Sylvia Robinson was the person who brought rap music to the masses. Rapper’s Delight was a huge success. At the peak of its popularity, it was selling 50,000 copies a day. That is an impressive number even in today’s market, thirty years later.

Sylvia Robinson even signed one of the founding fathers of the culture, Grand Master Flash. However, she wasn’t the only woman working behind the scenes in the earliest commercial rap recordings.

Monica Lynch was the president of Tommy Boy Records and she signed Afrika Bambaataa to the label in 1982. It’s great to see that two of the founding fathers of hip-hop were able to land spots on major labels and achieve some success there. And it truly is a crime that Kool Herc did not get a recording contract or reap the benefits of starting this culture of hip-hop.

Def Jam, one of the most successful hip-hop labels ever also had a woman at the helm, Carmen Ashurst-Watson was the president of the company.

So far, we’ve seen that women have been actively involved in hip-hop since its very inception. We might not know all of their names since many of them were working behind the scenes. And some of those early female rappers, breakdancers, deejays, and crews were doing their thing before rap music became part of the record business.

Some of the earliest hip-hop records were by female artists. The first rap releases came out in 1979 and this is one of them. This is Lady B “To the Beat Y’all”

First female solo rapper

Welcome back to Hip-Hop’s Better Half. My name is Chase March and we are exploring the history of women in hip-hop to celebrate International Women’s Day. We just heard the very first solo female rap artist to release a record. That was Lady B ‘To The Beat Y’all”

She is still actively involved in hip-hop. She did a radio show on Power 99 called “The Street Beat” for many years and she can now be heard on Sirrius Satellite Radio and WRNB in Philadelphia.

Do you know who the first rap group to perform on a national television show was? It’s probably not who you’d expect it to be. But it is notable for several reasons. First, it happened back in 1981 on season six of Saturday Night Live. Secondly the group had a female member as its undisputed star. The group was called The Funky Four Plus One More and the one more was Sha Rock.

This is one of their best songs, “That’s the Joint.” Village Voice even rated it as the best song of the 1980s.

That was The Funky Four Plus One. It’s interesting that this group decided to highlight the female member of their group with their name. It was calling attention to something that really didn’t need attention called to it. Women had been rocking mics since hip-hop’s very humble beginnings and they would continue to put out great music for many years.

But for some reason, hip-hop became a male-dominated genre of music over the years. Women have had to fight to be heard in a genre of music that often demeans them through obscene lyrics, and objectification through imagery on album covers and music videos.

That’s never stopped women from being involved in this culture, whether it is behind the scenes at record labels, behind the turntables as deejays, or on the mic as emcees.

We just heard Sha Rock on that last record and she was one of the most talented and respected emcees in the early days of hip-hop culture. She started as a breakdancer in 1976 and one year later she was part of the legendary group The Funky 4 + 1. They got signed in 1979 and were one of the first groups to have a record deal. They were the first group to appear on national television. And Sha Rock was in the classic cult hip-hop film “Beat Street” in 1984.

She’s widely celebrated as the pioneer of female hip-hop, just with the level of attention she was able to command. Her appeal was something else, on camera and on stage. And we have quite a few records in which to play and celebrate this important voice in hip-hop music and culture.

This is Hip-Hop’s Better Half, part of our annual celebration of Women in Hip-Hop here on DOPEfm. We’re celebrating International Women’s Day, which happens every March 8th. We do so by focusing all seven hours of our programming to the women in hip-hop.

In this hour of the show, we are looking at hip-hop brightest moments with women at the helm. We’ve already discussed how women have been actively involved in hip-hop since it’s very humble beginnings, how they’ve helped propel it to the mainstream audience, and how they continue to champion for the culture to this day.

So far, we’ve worked our way from the first female radio deejay ever back in 1912 all the way up to the first rap records being released in 1979.

The next biggest moment in the history of female hip-hop happened almost by accident. It was 1984 and a hip-hop group cancelled a show. This might not seem like an impetus for a huge record that pretty much redefined what hip-hop was all about. A record that birthed the culture of response records. A record that propelled another fierce emcee to stardom. But it was.

Here’s a quick run down of the story. UTFO was a huge group in early 1980s and Marley Marl was one of the promoters bringing them to town. He was talking about how disappointed he was about them canceling the show. A young lady overheard his conversation and being the quick thinker and battle rhymer that she was, she offered to help the promoter get a little revenge.

You see, U.T.F.O’s biggest hit was a song called “Roxanne, Roxanne” and it was about a lady refusing their advances. It really had nothing to do with Roxanne Shante but she adopted the persona and spit fire on the mic. This is a powerful record and it sparked what is known as the Roxanne Wars.

This is Roxanne Shante “Roxanne’s Revenge”

That record made Roxanne Shanté a bonafide hip-hop star and also established the tradition of the answer record. Tons of people tried to follow in her footsteps by releasing their own response songs to the original U.T.F.O record. It got so convoluted that there were over one hundred such songs. I haven’t heard them all, and quite frankly, I don’t have any desire to. Roxanne Shanté did it first and she made a memorable record, and made her mark on the industry.

We started out hip-hop history lesson today in 1912 and have made our way up to 1984.

Please come back on Saturday as we will cover the important moments in the history of hip-hop where women were at the forefront.

Download Hip-Hop’s Better Half for free or stream it with the player below. Celebrating the female voices within hip-hop for our 3rd Annual Women in Hip-Hop radio special.

Thanks for listening.

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

3rd Annual Women in Hip-Hop Spectacular

women in hip-hop 2013

DOPEfm’s 3rd Annual Women in Hip-Hop Spectacular runs tonight on 93.3 CFMU on your radio dial with live streaming from the radio station’s website.

You can also listen to us on Cogeco Cable Channel 288, on Shaw Cable 93.9 fm, through your phone by dialing 704-702-7627 and inputting station ID 10042, and with the Tune In App by searching “DOPEfm.”

Tune in tonight starting at 12:00 midnight and keep the dial locked straight through to 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning.

We have some really exciting programming planned for the evening as we celebrate International Women’s Day by dedicated all seven hours of our overnight radio show to the Women in Hip-Hop.

HOUR 1 – A mixset featuring nothing but female emcees.
HOUR 2 – Part 1 of an extensive Know Your History episode focusing on the important moments in hip-hop history that had women in the forefront (1912 – 2000)
HOUR 3 – A roundtable discussion with Dominque Larue, Miss.She.Ill, K from Class of 93, and Ash Knuckles.
HOUR 4 – Part 2 of Know Your History covering the important moments in female hip-hop from 2000 – 2013.
HOUR 5 – A mixset and interview with female deejay L’oqenz.
HOUR 6 – An interview with Steph Clark of Beatbinjaz and a music mix by Chase March.
HOUR 7 – An interview with graduate student Marquitta Smith and a music mix by Daddy J.

Enjoy the show!

Celebrating International Women’s Day – Women in Hip-Hop 3

Beautiful poster done by one of my students

DOPEfm celebrates International Women’s Day every year by dedicating the entire overnight program to the Women in Hip-Hop. This year marks the third annual special presentation.

For this year’s show I have produced two hours of Know Your History detailing the important moments in female-fronted hip-hop from 1912 all the way up to 2013.

We have a female deejay, L’oqenz, providing us with a dope hour of music and we talk to her about her craft.

I spin an hours worth of music where every single track is by a female emcee.

We also have a roundtable discussion with some very talented artists including Miss.She.Ill, K from Class of 93, Dominique Larue, and Ash Knuckles.

I also talk to a graduate student about the issues surrounding women in hip-hop culture.

We get everything started at 12:00 midnight and run straight through to 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning.

There are some great voices in hip-hop music and culture. We need to recognize and celebrate them every day, but especially once a year on International Women’s Day.

If you missed the last two years of our special programming, don’t worry. You can download them for free anytime you like.

Women in Hip-Hop I (2011)
Women in Hip-Hop II (2012)

Please tune in live this Saturday night to hear our third annual Women in Hip-Hop Spectacular.

Celebrating International Women’s Day on DOPEfm and Silent Cacophony.