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NEAR TRUTHS: TWO TURNTABLES AND THE TRUTH

THE MESSAGE: With MLK day upon us once again, we note that Dr. King always extolled the importance of music in the struggle for change. Black music, in all its myriad manifestations, has always exerted a profound influence on pop culture. Perhaps the most disruptive Black genre of all, hip-hop, now marks its 50th anniversary, and the biz is ramping up for a series of celebratory gestures.

The 1973 origin date, of course, refers to a legendary Bronx house party during which ostensible founding father DJ Kool Herc first used breakbeats to rock the crowd. (The real story may be a bit more nuanced, but to quote an old western, “When legend becomes fact, print the legend.”)

Hip-hop didn’t even exist on vinyl until the end of the decade, when The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” became a hit for the pioneering Sugarhill Records label. And we hasten to remind you that countless industry solons dismissed rap as a flash in the pan.

50 years on, it is one of the most dominant musical expressions on the planet, as influential as rock 'n' roll ever was. Like rock, it began as a rebellious youth­quake—prompting sermons from self-appointed cultural watchdogs—and evolved into both a mature art form and a com­modity. There are many stories to tell of the genre’s first half-century, including the saga of Def Jam, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. We’ll be recounting a few.

CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Mike Dungan’s planned retirement as UMG Nashville boss, on the heels of ex-WMN chief Espo’s similar move—officially, both will settle into advisory/emeritus posts—fur­ther underscores how Nashville is entering a new phase. UMGN President Cindy Mabe, who for some time has been a co-leader with Dungan on an operational level, will ensure a seamless transition as she steps into the top spot. Mabe has the respect and affection of the label’s staff as well as its artists and their reps. This changing of the guard comes as country music is also changing; artists like Luke Combs, Morgan Wallen, Zach Bryan, Bailey Zimmerman and HARDY have in large measure moved away from the classic produc­er/writer-driven formula that kept Nashville thriving for so long but hasn’t fared as well in the streaming era. The older pop-country acts, whose audiences also skew older, can’t approach the DSP impact of the artists mentioned above.

ENTER IRVING: With the announcement that U2 will on 3/17 roll out Songs of Surrender, a 40-song reimagining of their corpus to accompany the stories in Bono’s recent memoir, expectations are high for another massive stadium tour. Between new manager Irving Azoff, Michael Rapino’s Live Nation and the Irish rock wonders themselves, we anticipate maximum showmanship, peerless marketing and exciting new blintz-Guinness pairings.

Preview photo: DJ Aladdin in Los Angeles, 1990; photo by Ithaka Darin Pappas

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