Before there was internet radio, streaming services, hundreds of hip hop YouTube channels and SoundCloud, really and truly, the only way people were going to find out about you and your music (on a large scale) was if your music was on the airwaves and to achieve that you needed power.
If you could get your music played on the radio, it would open your sound up to a whole new audience. When hip hop was starting out, local acts in the South Bronx didn’t have much trouble getting their records played at block parties. However, the artists knew that a few spins of their track at a block party in their neighbourhood wouldn’t do anything for their record sales.
These musicians needed their records to be heard en masse so that one spin wouldn’t just reach 100 locals but instead thousands of eager people looking for hot new music. However, in the early days of hip hop, aside from block parties, DJs struggled to find work in clubs and mainstream radio. Grandmaster Flash, one of hip hop’s pioneers, once explained that he struggled to get bookings in clubs because he put his fingers on the vinyl during his sets. Purist funk and soul DJs and club owners saw this as desecration and took it as a sign of unprofessionalism.
However, while legends were getting doors slammed in their faces by clubs and mainstream radio stations, one DJ managed to slip through the net and secure a slot on the radio with his money. This DJ was John ‘Mr. Magic’ Rivas. Rivas, a member of Queensbridge crew Juice Crew along with Kool G Rap, in 1979 began presenting his show dubbed ‘Mr. Magic’s Disco Showcase,” on WHBI 105.9 FM.
Here he spun hip hop records and more. However, Rivas had to pay the station $75 an hour for the airtime and wasn’t paid by the station as his services were seen as useless to the station. IN 1982 Rivas moved to WBLS, a wider-reaching station, and re-named his show ‘Rap Attack’. Below you can hear a snippet of ‘Mr. Magic’s Disco Showcase,” on WHBI 105.9 fm.