For its 14 Year Anniversary, New York Hip-Hop Radio Institution WNYU's The Halftime Show Will Not Feature Live Guests. Instead, They Take it Back to the Pay-Your-Dues School

Posted by Billyjam, March 7, 2012 05:33am | Post a Comment
For its fourteen year anniversary show tonight at 10:30PM (7:30PM Cali time) on NYU college radio station WNYU (heard in NYC at 89.1FM on the radio dial and all over streaming online at the much loved & respected New York hip-hop radio institution The Halftime Show will break tradition and not have any live guests come through the studios to freestyle. Why? Because the quality is not that good anymore. So instead it will present previously recorded material from its deep archives of 14 years of weekly shows. 14 Years of Rap is how tonight's special is being billed by the show's main producer DJ Eclipse; but the show will draw mainly from its earliest years - circa the late 90's - a time when hip-hop was in a whole other state of mind & creativity. Artists' live on-air sets to be played back tonight will include Redman, Cage, Hieroglyphics, Method Man, A.G., Dilated Peoples, Talib Kweli, and many many more (see flyer down end for full listing). It should be top notch quality stuff too since the respected radio show, when it began in 1998, essentially carried on the baton - in New York City underground hip-hop radio terms - from Stretch & Bobbito who did their legendary NYC radio show from 1990 to 1998 on uptown Columbia University college station WKCR.
"Usually for the anniversary shows on Halftime Show we have two or three producers come up with beat machines. We have about thirty MCs come through and we have a couple of DJs come through and they all do like live stuff because to me that's when radio's at its best - when you don't know what you are going to get. But this year I decided to reflect on the earlier years of the show and I'm going back to the first two or three years of the show and pulling old freestyles from some of  the acts that came through in those first years," DJ Eclipse told me recently when I stopped by his Queens NY record filled home. The veteran hip-hop DJ, who is a member of Non Phixion, and a longtime hip-hop industry insider, who has worked for Fat Beats NYC and before that Wild Pitch Records, has been with the radio show from day one with an evolving crew of fellow radio show producers/DJs including DJ Riz, Lynn Gonzalez, and DJ Skizz to name but a few.

And the main reason why Eclipse decided to not have any live guest MCs or beatmakers on this time, he said, is "specifically because of the difference between the music then and the music now. Like if you listen to every single artist that came through then - they murdered the mic. They all came up with something to prove. They all just like destroyed it and I want to show people that this is how it was done then. Sure we still have the same format but not everyone that comes through now has the same kind of vibe as it was then."

And while 1998 may not seem like such a long time ago it is in terms of hip-hop music. Things have changed radically (especially with the advancements of the digital age) in how hip-hop music is recorded, how it is heard, and, most importantly according to Eclipse, hip-hop artists' attitude towards their craft. One of the key differences between the 90's and now, contends the highly respected radio programmer, is what he calls "the swag factor" which, while he admits has been around always in rap, now prevails especially when it comes to attitude. "There's a whole generation of MCs now that try to rhyme like they're too good for rhyming," he said sounding clearly frustrated with something he obviously loves dearly. "And so to me it's boring coz I want to hear someone who says something that gets me open but also makes me feel it in the delivery. And a lot of this new generation of MCs - not all of them - are just like too lazy and that's not how we came up. So I wanted this year to be a reflection on those earlier years and those cats that came through." he said.

That might be bad news (or at least a wake up call) to those MCs who were itching to get on the mic on the anniversary show tonight but for the rest of us who'll tune in it should make for a most entertaining show.  Eclipse thinks so too. "It's dope too coz as I am going through the footage [tapes, DATs & Mini Discs] I'm finding [the late great] Big L freestyles and Eminem when he first came out, and 50 Cent, Kanye West, and all these guys like before they became popular.

Like Kanye West came up as a guest of Rhymefest [Chicago hip-hop artist who co-wrote Kanye West's 2010 Grammy award winning "Jesus Walks"] and they started battling each other, you know jokingly, off the top of the head and going back and forth. Now you would never hear him do that now. So it's like that whole energy and that whole vibe of people wanting to get on and wanting to prove themselves."

Perhaps it's the instantaneous gratification of today's Internet age when someone can literally become a star overnight, courtesy of their video going viral, that has had a detrimental effect on the art. But whatever the reason: something has most definitely caused things to change in the attitude of (most) MCs on The Halftime Show, contends Eclipse.  "It's not the same now. It's like  MCs now expect people to be into them automatically. I'm totally from the pay-your-dues school so I want to see people come up who are hungry. So that's why this year we are going to reflect on the early years and for the 15th (next year) we will do something really big."

The Halftime Show 14 year anniversary special 14 Years of Rap airs tonight at 10:30pm until 1am (7:30pm - 10pm Cali time) on NYU college radio station WNYU heard on the radio in NYC at 89.1FM on the radio and online streaming at as well as a live video feed on UStream Check flyer below for full list of past show live guest performances to be played back tonight on the air.

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