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Tastemakers & Gatekeepers

Hello Hip Hop heads! As this week continues I want to share with you all a word I hadn’t heard in a long time until recently. There was a time in Rap music and the music industry as a whole was literally controlled by certain record label executives, A&Rs, or dee jay and producers. This was back before radio stations had playlists and the dee jay was able to play whatever he wanted. These people were known as what we called tastemakers or gatekeepers because they had the power to make or break an artist. If these people didn’t think you were hot or dee jays like Red Alert didn’t play your song you were wack! You had to have the blessing or the support of one of these people. Part of the problems was that some of these people were cool with each other so some artists were able to get a little extra push without any real respect for the artist or what they were doing.

However in 2018 everyone has the internet and we don’t necessarily need anyone to tell us what type of Hip Hop/Rap music we should like. Hip Hop music has a global impact on people everywhere and the result is Rap music reflecting cultures all over. The wild part is that because of the internet everybody is a tastemaker or a gatekeeper! At least they believe they are and there are so many people across the globe anybody can get an audience or a following. Much like how today’s young rappers get their “careers” started. Once these self-made tastemakers and gatekeepers start getting the attention of credible media companies and label executives then they become people like DJ Akademiks, Anthony Fantano, and the folks over at Dead End Hip Hop.

One thing that will never change is dee jays, record labels, the execs, and even the online people doing favors for each other to put their people on and that includes payola. So we do still have certain people in the industry that dictate what we hear on the radio, streaming platforms, and on social media. Tastemakers and gatekeepers aren’t going anywhere because the people above them that we don’t know or see need them to maintain the status quo. This is why you hear watered to rap music on the radio. This is why we have mumble rap. This is why you don’t hear more thought provoking artists on the radio. This is why we lost Rhythm and Blues. They are guarding the gates to what most young people perceive to be success as if they’re St. Peter.

“And radio ya need to be ashamed
For pumping murder, murder, murder all up in
Our brain.” -Craig Mack (When God Comes)