CD Release - Turn off the radio

Local campaign seeks balance in hip-hop

In 2002, underground rap heroes Dead Prez called on listeners to "turn off the radio" as a way of protesting urban stations' lack of diversity and propensity to favor music laced with sex, dope and materialism. But five years later, a few hip-hop activists have another idea. They want to level the playing field through some good old-fashioned petitioning and town hall meetings.

The Bring Back the Balance campaign was born in November 2006 during Hip Hop History Month after a few activists from various national organizations, including the Zulu Nation, came together with an agenda to diversify urban radio's playlists through community involvement and political and corporate pressure. The first Atlanta meeting was held in February; however, hip-hop aficionado Angelina Griffin, who heads up the city's campaign, admits that it didn't get a good kick-start until the Don Imus firing and Oprah's emotional (if not watered-down) hip-hop debates in May.

"The media has a lot to say about hip-hop right now, and most of it is negative," Griffin says. "It's a good time for us to put pressure on corporations and say, 'Look at what's going on.'"

But that pressure is hard to come by, especially in a star-studded city like Atlanta where industry politics abound. Though people may complain that they want more Little Brother and less Young Jeezy, Griffin says less than 300 people have signed the campaign's petition (www.ipetitions.com/petition/BBBATL) demanding an increased variety of music on Atlanta's top urban stations, including WVEE-FM (V-103) and WHTA-FM (Hot 107.9).

"My thing is if I forward it to 5,000 people and only 269 people have signed it, then it's like who's really down?" she says.

Griffin's goal is to have 2,000 signatures by August so that she can begin hosting town hall meetings. She says the purpose of Bring Back the Balance isn't to attack radio personalities or even program directors, but to pressure the corporations who own and support urban stations.

"I don't fault people at the radio, because they're doing their job," Griffin says. "It's the corporations who own these stations. Money definitely talks."