An integral part of the growth of hip-hop culture was radio. However, it took a while for DJs to get on the air with their new sound. Before internet radio, streaming services, hundreds of hip-hop YouTube channels and SoundCloud, people learned about new and quality music via the radio and TV. However, rap was absent from both these outlets for a long time due to its scary unfamiliarity.
Although hip-hop was a counter-culture, it still sought acceptance from the establishment, whether radio, TV or other. Rappers getting their music on the airwaves would put their product in front of a whole new audience, and in the late-’70s, MCs wanted this. Local acts in the South Bronx didn’t have trouble getting their records played at block parties. However, a few spins of their song at a block party in their neighbourhoods only got them so far.
The next logical step from illegal block parties was to make appearances at legitimate clubs. However, seen as a tasteless subversion of funk and disco, DJs struggled to find work in clubs. Grandmaster Flash, one of hip-hop’s pioneers, once admitted that in the late-’70s, he struggled to get club bookings because he put his fingers on the vinyl during his sets. In the eyes of purist funk and soul DJs, this was a desecration and club owners alike saw the act as a sign of unprofessionalism.
Although most hip-hop DJs were getting continuously rejected, one DJ managed to slip through the net. Juice Crew member John’ Mr Magic’ Rivas, alongside Kool G Rap, secured a radio slot for himself and, in 1979, began presenting his show dubbed ‘Mr Magic’s Disco Showcase,’ on WHBI 105.9 FM.
Despite the fact it was meant to be a Disco show, Rivas sneakily spun hip-hop records more and more. However, Rivas had to pay the station $75 an hour for the airtime and wasn’t paid because his services were considered useless to the station. As a local radio DJ with a large following, in 1982, Rivas moved to WBLS, a wider-reaching station, and re-named his show ‘Rap Attack’.
‘Rap Attack’ is widely considered the first hip-hop radio show ever. You can hear a snippet of ‘Mr Magic’s Disco Showcase’ on WHBI 105.9 fm.