Breaks in the Air: The Birth of Rap Radio in New York City

Duke Univ. Sept. 2022. 240p. ISBN 9781478018872. pap. $25.95. MUSIC
Not to be missed, musicologist Klaess has written a fascinating chronicle of hip-hop radio stations and their assurgency as a medium for kickstarting a social and racial debate over the frequencies of incipient rap radio stations. Following the trail of the ambivalent commentary often associated with rap music, Klaess walks readers through the different eras of Black music and its role in bridging the gap of divisiveness, as well as the musical and geographical antagonism within different neighborhoods. The iconic tapes of rap shows often mentioned by Klaess are therefore idealized and immortalized as nostalgic evidence of a time when love for music helped bring communities together, using hip-hop and shout-outs as a way to unite and make way for the “Golden Era” of rap stations. The trajectory of rap music and radio broadcasting was never as fascinating and thoroughly dissected as it is here.
VERDICT Klaess’s book is a must-read for all those interested in tracing hip-hop’s sociopolitical/racial chord back to its airwaves origins.
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