In the early days, hip-hop did not have a separate underground scene; the whole genre was an outsider by default. But when a real rap underground finally coalesced in New York in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it was in an unexpected place: Columbia University. That’s where what hip-hop took off, thanks to what rapper Nas calls “the most important radio show of its time,” with hosts Bobbito Garcia and DJ Stretch Armstrong.
Total record sales for all artists who premiered on their radio show exceeded 300 million units. Stretch and Bobbito’s nightly program also had a cult following in the art/fashion world and the prison population. Every week they tuned in en-masse to the program with its unusual humor and exclusive music.
Stretch: “As a DJ, it’s just very hard to keep up with new music, because technology has allowed so many people to make so much music and disseminate it so very quickly. The pace with which records were released in the 90s, you had to go to the studio, record the record, get it mixed, approve the test pressing, wait and get the records—it was a process that’s like a lot more time and a lot more thought and consideration. I think, while there were plenty of horrible records being made, the end result on the most part was something that involved a lot more blood, sweat, and tears.”