About the Hip-Hop Radio Archive

The goal of the Hip-Hop Radio Archive is to preserve recordings of hip-hop radio from the 1980s and 1990s from both college and commercial stations and to use the collection to document the spread of the culture via radio during that period.

In 1981, Mr. Magic (RIP) launched Rap Attack on WHBI in New York City which, when it moved to WBLS in May of 1982, became the first hip-hop show on commercial radio. Throughout the 1980s, countless other hip-hop shows sprung up in New York, from Red Alert and Chuck Chillout on KISS FM to Marley Marl on WBLS. Tapes of these early hip-hop radio shows became currency among hip-hop fans both inside and outside the reach of New York City's radio signals. Before national video shows and the Internet, radio was the way recorded hip-hop spread.

By the time the 1990s arrived, it became difficult to find any major market without a station (college, if not commercial) that had a hip-hop show. Smaller artists from regional hip-hop scenes now had ways of spreading their music when they couldn't afford to shoot a video for Yo! MTV Raps. Hip-hop's international spread was also being represented by shows on Capital Radio in the UK, Kolorszok in Poland, and throughout the rest of the world.

This project's primary purpose is to preserve the recordings that may only exist on cassettes recorded by fans in their bedrooms. There have been so many great music blogs over the last decade that relied on file sharing sites to spread classic hip-hop radio shows and while those sites are great for short-term sharing, they're not a place where files will survive long-term. These sites and the files on them are in danger of just disappearing, erasing petabytes of content all at once. The Internet Archive is the solution: hosting by a non-profit organization that's been around for over 20 years and is dedicated to digital preservation.

The secondary goal of this collection is to trace the spread of hip-hop via radio over the 1980s and 90s by providing regional and historical context for the episodes.

Please spread the word, donate or contribute to the project, and most of all: enjoy the music. Whether you're a young kid looking to dig into the classics or an old head looking for a specific episode of a favorite show, this is your spot. The archive is still in the very, very early stages so every new episode helps.

Future Plans

What you see here is just the start. Here's a rundown of what's planned:

  • More shows - Build up historical NYC recordings, get a wider representation of regional shows around the US, and start to tell the story of hip-hop radio outside of the US.
  • More detail - Expand the histories about each show in the database and the metadata on each episode.
  • Audio interviews/podcast - Interviews with the DJs and hosts behind the shows.

Special Thanks

Thanks to those that have helped out with contributions to the site, including: Flush, Dutch, Craig, Matt, G, and everyone who's digitized a tape that appears on the site. And of course, super fat dookey shout outs to the original radio DJs that brought hip-hop to the airwaves and the tapers, tape traders, and hip-hop heads that saved these recordings from obsolescence.

Notes

The Hip-Hop Radio Archive site does not actually host any audio files. All files are stored at the Internet Archive or at other music blogs or file sharing sites.

The Hip-Hop Radio Archive is not affiliated with the Internet Archive or Cornell's Hip-Hop Archive, although both are amazing.

More...

Some additional technical details are available and I wrote a post on Medium in honor of the archive's launch.