Jay Stephens, the VP of Programming for Radio One, and a morning show coach named Steve Reynolds said…and I quote, “The 18-34 demographic in urban radio doesn’t want to be enlightened, they want to have fun!… 20-year-old Black kids are still watching Nickelodeon.”
For a while now musicians, especially in Hip Hop, have made a practice of “dumbing down”, or making music less about serious issues and more about partying. I’ve heard from countless rappers, producers, and more: “You gotta dumb down. Most people aren’t smart, and don’t want to be.”
“20-year old black kids are still watching Nickelodeon.”
Why does the Black demographic matter? Supposedly the biggest consumers of urban music are White suburban teens, many of whom have at least a high school education. The statistic on White kids being the main consumers of Hip Hop may be questionable; but, of the many live “urban” shows I’ve been to, I’ve seen more people of other races than Black in the audience.
So, it seems that for a while now, Black artists and urban radio stations have been dumbing down their material with a Black audience in mind…but Blacks may not even be the main consumers buying the product. Who’s the real fool then?
(Note: I’m in my mid 20s, have a Masters degree, and still watch cartoons. They’re more creative than “reality” shows.)
A lot of these execs think they’re smarter than they are, when many of them are making assumptions off “reports”. News flash- Numbers CAN lie.
I dumbed down for my audience and double my dollars./
They criticize me for it. Yet they all yell “Holla!”/
If skills sold, truth be told/
I’d probably be lyrically Talib Kweli./
Truthfully, I wanna rhyme like Common Sense/
(But I did five Mil) I ain’t been rhyming like Common since.
-Moment of Clarity, Jay-Z
But this isn’t just about Hip Hop.
Dumbing down has always made it’s way through entertainment, especially film and TV. Studios ask for more “action” because the audience is “too stupid” to catch metaphors and symbolism, or meaningful dialogue. How many “reality” shows have the same basic set up, and many times we can tell when something was scripted?
Diesel now has a campaign around the slogan “Be Stupid.”
Radio, television, film, advertisements, even public schools, work off the assumption that humans are dumb and like being that way.
This base-level thinking is imprisoning.
And last I remember, calling someone stupid was fightin’ words!
It’s one thing to simplify, and it’s another to dumb down.
As artists, we have to take minds to another level.