Urban contemporary

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Urban contemporary, also known as hip hop , [1] urban pop, or just simply urban, is a music radio format. The term was coined by New York radio DJ Frankie Crocker in the early to mid-1970s as a synonym for Black music. Urban contemporary radio stations feature a playlist made up entirely of Black genres such as R&B, pop-rap, quiet storm, urban adult contemporary, hip hop, Latin music such as Latin pop, Chicano R&B and Chicano rap, and Caribbean music such as reggae and soca. Urban contemporary was developed through the characteristics of genres such as R&B and soul. [2]

Contents

Largely a US phenomenon, virtually all urban contemporary formatted radio stations in the United States are located in cities that have sizeable African-American populations, such as New York City, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Montgomery, [3] Memphis, St. Louis, Newark, Charleston, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Oakland, Los Angeles, Trenton, Columbia, Jacksonville, Flint, Baltimore, Boston, Birmingham, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Savannah, and Jackson.

Urban contemporary includes the more contemporary elements of R&B and may incorporate production elements found in urban Euro-pop, urban rock, and urban alternative. [4]

Summary

The term urban contemporary is heavily associated with African-American music, particularly with R&B in African-American contexts. For Latin Americans, reggaeton, and Latin hip hop are considered "Latin urban" due to influence of above mentioned genres.

Urban contemporary playlists are dominated by singles by top-selling hip hop and R&B performers. On occasion, an urban contemporary station will play classic soul songs from the 1970s and early 1980s to satisfy the earlier end of the genre.

Most urban formatted urban radio stations such as KJLH, KPRS, KMEL, KDAY and WVEE will play gospel music or urban contemporary gospel music on Sundays.

Mainstream urban is a branch of urban contemporary, and rhythmic contemporary is also a branch.

History

The 1970s

In 1971, Frankie Crocker would combine together all the elements of his background, with jazz and R&B. [5] When Frankie Crocker was appointed as program director of the newly created WBLS in 1974, he created an eclectic music mix of R&B and disco redefining the R&B format as urban contemporary. The station was an instant success, the most listened-to radio station in the country.[ citation needed ] In 1975, WDMT in Cleveland began programming a mix of rhythm, blues, R&B, disco, and rap. The station featured live street jocks mixing vinyl records each night. The station's popularity grew and in 1980, it was Arbitron rated No. 2 12+, just behind the No. 1 rated WMMS with the original "Morning Zoo".

The 1980s

In 1983 WBLS in New York City was the first station to air a rap radio show, "Rap Attack" with Mr. Magic and Marley Marl. [6] Freddie Jackson and Luther Vandross were popular in urban contemporary music scene. [7]

During the early 1980s as newly formed WRKS-FM (98.7 Kiss FM) became the first rap station in the United States, [8] WBLS quickly began adding more rap songs to its playlists. The urban format by this time was redefined by an eclectic mix of R&B, rap, reggae, dance, house, and freestyle. WBLS continued as the flagship station of the urban format; however, Kiss FM surpassed them in the ratings.

Another successful early urban outlet was WDRQ in Detroit, which switched from a top 40 format in the spring of 1982 and made a #2 showing 12+ in its first Arbitron ratings book. In addition to rap, R&B and dance music, WDRQ featured mainstream pop music with a danceable beat from artists.

Many radio stations imitated the urban sound since it was proven to be more profitable than other formats and had proven itself more adept than straightforward black-targeted R&B formats at attracting white and Latino listeners. Another subformat of urban contemporary is rhythmic contemporary hits which plays a great deal of dance music. WQHT-FM (Hot 97) and KPWR (Power 106) were the first stations to utilize this format.

1990s–present

Since the 1990s, as urban contemporary hits have dominated the US pop charts, many top 40 stations have turned to playing tracks popular on urban contemporary radio stations.

Following periods of fluctuating success, urban music attained commercial dominance during the early 2000s, which featured massive crossover success on the Billboard charts by R&B and hip hop artists. [9] In 2004, all 12 songs that topped the Billboard Hot 100 were African-American recording artists and accounted for 80% of the number-one R&B hits that year. [9] Along with Usher's streak of singles, top 40 radio and both pop and R&B charts were topped by OutKast's "Hey Ya!", Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot", Terror Squad's "Lean Back" and Ciara's "Goodies". [9] Chris Molanphy of The Village Voice later remarked that by the early 2000s, urban music was pop music. [9]

By the late 2000s, urban music had taken a backseat on top 40 radio to mainstream EDM sounds, and several successful urban artists, including Rihanna, Chris Brown, Ciara, Usher, Nicole Scherzinger, Akon, Trey Songz, Pitbull, Flo Rida, and Ne-Yo, were making EDM records for top 40 airplay while continuing to make hip hop or pure R&B records for urban airplay. Pure urban formats continue to be successful in markets with large African-American populations, while medium or smaller markets are more likely to feature urban music through the subset of rhythmic contemporary stations with danceable mainstream hits mixed in.

The Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration has been awarded since 2002.

Name controversy

In 2020, members of the music industry voiced disagreement over the use of the term urban in describing music genres and formats, especially among African-American artists who see the term as a "catchall for music created by Black artists, regardless of genre". [10] Contributing to the debate, Lance Venta of radio industry publication RadioInsight claimed that the term urban was outdated in that hip hop and R&B music had gained massive popularity outside the inner cities and the descriptor should not serve as a euphemism for "black music". He recommended substituting the terms hip hop for the urban contemporary format and adult R&B for urban adult contemporary. [1] Tyler, the Creator also spoke out, stating "[i]t sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me — do anything that's genre-bending or that's anything, they always put it in a rap or urban category", adding that "I don't like that 'urban' word — it's just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me". [11]

Myron Fears, operations manager and program director of the black owned Carter Broadcast Group in Kansas City, defended the use of the urban tag. Responding to Republic's elimination of the term, he expressed concern that the action diminishes the status of black music executives within record companies and the industry as a whole:

I do not think it’s a great idea because it nullifies all the hard work that past African American music executives built. This potentially leads to the dissolving of people and positions within the Urban music division. Hip Hop and R&B is leading the way for the surge in music sales and usage of streaming. Are the other positions, titles and departments within a record company going to change or dissolve? ... Do they realize the cultural power of Urban Music?

Myron Fears, Carter Broadcast Group operations manager/program director [12]

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests, a number of institutions dropped the term urban in favor of other terms. In June 2020, Republic Records and artist management company Milk & Honey stated that they would drop the use of the word in relation to music of a black origin. [1] [13] That same month, the National Academy for Recording Arts and Sciences renamed and redefined the Grammy Award for Best Urban Contemporary Album with Best Progressive R&B Album, "to appropriately categorize and describe this subgenre. This change includes a more accurate definition to describe the merit or characteristics of music compositions or performances themselves within the genre of R&B". [14] They also renamed the Latin Pop Album to Best Latin Pop Or Urban Album, while changing the name of the Latin Rock, Urban Or Alternative Album to Best Latin Rock Or Alternative Album. [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Quiet storm is a radio format and genre of contemporary R&B, performed in a smooth, romantic, jazz-influenced style. It was named after the title song on Smokey Robinson's 1975 album A Quiet Storm.

WPGC-FM Urban contemporary radio station in Morningside, Maryland, serving Washington, DC

WPGC-FM is a commercial radio station licensed to Morningside, Maryland and serving the Washington metropolitan area. It is owned by Audacy, Inc., and airs an urban contemporary format.

WBLS Radio station in New York City

WBLS is an urban adult contemporary formatted FM radio station, licensed to New York City. It is currently owned by Mediaco Holding and operated by Emmis Communications under a shared services agreement, along with sister stations WLIB and WQHT. The three stations share studios in the Hudson Square neighborhood of lower Manhattan, and WBLS' transmitter is located at the Empire State Building. It was previously owned by YMF Media LLC, owned jointly by investor Ronald Burkle and Magic Johnson, which had assumed control of WBLS and WLIB's former parent company, Inner City Broadcasting Corporation, on October 19, 2012 at a purchase price of $180 million.

WEPN-FM ESPN Radio station in New York City

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Canadian hip hop

The Canadian hip hop scene was established in the 1980s. Through a variety of factors, it developed much more slowly than Canada's popular rock music scene, and apart from a short-lived burst of mainstream popularity from 1989 to 1991, it remained largely an underground phenomenon until the early 2000s.

A radio format or programming format describes the overall content broadcast on a radio station. The radio format emerged mainly in the United States in the 1950s, at a time when radio was compelled to develop new and exclusive ways to programming by competition with television. Since then, the formula has spread as a reference for commercial radio programming worldwide.

Hip hop soul is a subgenre of contemporary R&B music, most popular during the early and mid 1990s, which fuses R&B, gospel or soul singing with hip hop musical production. The subgenre had evolved from a previous R&B subgenre, new jack swing, which had incorporated hip-hop influences into R&B music. By contrast, hip hop soul is, as described in The Encyclopedia of African American Music, "quite literally soul singing over hip hop grooves".

Urban adult contemporary, also known as adult R&B, is the name for a format of radio music, similar to an urban contemporary format. Radio stations using this format usually would not have hip hop music on their playlists, and generally include some mix of contemporary R&B and traditional R&B.

Rhythmic contemporary, also known as Rhythmic Top 40, Rhythmic CHR or rhythmic crossover, is a primarily American music-radio format that includes a mix of EDM, upbeat rhythmic pop, hip hop and upbeat R&B hits. Rhythmic contemporary never uses rock or country in its airplay, but it may occasionally use a reggae, Latin, reggaeton, or a Christian/gospel hit. Essentially, the format is a cross between mainstream radio and urban contemporary radio formats.

Contemporary R&B is a music genre that combines rhythm and blues with elements of pop, soul, funk, hip hop and electronic music.

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Adult contemporary music Radio format and music genre

In North American music, adult contemporary music (AC) is a form of radio-played popular music, ranging from 1960s vocal and 1970s soft rock music to predominantly ballad-heavy music of the present day, with varying degrees of easy listening, pop, soul, R&B, quiet storm, and rock influence. Adult contemporary is generally a continuation of the easy listening and soft rock style that became popular in the 1960s and 1970s with some adjustments that reflect the evolution of pop/rock music.

Alternative hip hop is a subgenre of hip hop music that encompasses the wide range of styles that are not typically identified as mainstream. AllMusic defines it as follows: "Alternative rap refers to hip hop groups that refuse to conform to any of the traditional stereotypes of rap, such as gangsta, bass, hardcore, and party rap. Instead, they blur genres drawing equally from funk and pop/rock, as well as jazz, soul, reggae, and even folk."

This article describes trends in popular music in the 2010s. See also 2010s in the music industry.

Urban/contemporary gospel is a modern subgenre of gospel music. Although the style developed gradually, early forms are generally dated to the 1970s, and the genre was well established by the end of the 1980s. The radio format is pitched primarily to African-Americans. Christian hip hop can be considered a subtype of this genre.

The Grammy Award for Best Progressive R&B Album is an honor presented at the Grammy Awards to recording artists for quality works on albums in the urban contemporary subgenre within the R&B field. Honors in several categories are presented at the ceremony annually by the Recording Academy of the United States to "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position".

Trap is a subgenre of hip hop music that originated in the Southern United States during the early 1990s. The genre gets its name from the Atlanta slang word "trap", which refers to a place in which drugs are sold illegally. Trap music uses synthesized drums and is characterized by complex hi-hat patterns, tuned kick drums with a long decay, and lyrical content that often focuses on drug use and urban violence. It utilizes very few instruments and focuses almost exclusively on snare drums and double- or triple-timed hi-hats. This is the signature sound of trap music.

References

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  2. "Urban contemporary music - music". britannica.com. Archived from the original on January 17, 2008. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  3. "Montgomery, AL Population & Demographics". www.areavibes.com.
  4. McPhate, Tim (June 8, 2012). "The Recording Academy Announces Board Of Trustees Meeting Results". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences . Retrieved June 11, 2012.
  5. "Urban Contemporary/Black". University of Delaware . December 27, 2004. Archived from the original on December 27, 2004.
  6. Kurutz, Steve. "Mr. Magic". AllMusic . Retrieved October 22, 2009.
  7. "Music Sermon: The Divinity Of Luther Vandross". Vibe. April 21, 2019.
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 12, 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. 1 2 3 4 Molanphy, Chris (July 16, 2012). "100 & Single: The R&B rhythm blues /Hip-Hop Factor In The Music Business's Endless Slump". The Village Voice Blogs. Village Voice Media. Archived from the original on July 20, 2012. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
  10. Lewis, Sophie (June 11, 2020). "Grammy Awards renames controversial "urban" category". CBS News . Retrieved June 14, 2020.
  11. Owoseje, Toyin (January 27, 2020). "Tyler, The Creator slams Grammys' 'urban' category as a politically correct version of the n-word". CNN . Retrieved June 14, 2020.
  12. "Republic Records Stops Using The Term 'Urban' For Music, Execs & Department -- Other Labels And Radio Programmers Weigh In". All Access. All Access Music Group. June 8, 2020. Retrieved June 11, 2020.
  13. Savage, Mark (June 8, 2020). "Drake and Ariana Grande's record label drops the term 'urban'". BBC News . Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  14. 1 2 "The Recording Academy Announces Changes For 63rd Annual GRAMMYs, Releases Rules And Guidelines". Grammy.com. The Recording Academy. June 10, 2020. Retrieved June 14, 2020.