For the third weekend in a row, a local radio station throws its annual summer shindig, a pledge drive disguised as a present to the fans, a bash studded with stars and loaded with favors. As in, X will play your concert if you start spinning Y's record. That kind of thing. Legal payola, you could say. Which is fine: At least listeners get something out of the deal--K104 Summer Jam? Prolly P. Diddy--rather than merely being forced to bend over and take a song the PD wouldn't have added to the playlist unless some scratch was shoved inside the jewel case. (Think payola doesn't affect the average listener? That's how Limp Bizkit first made it to the airwaves, and look what happened. Fred Durst is a V.P. at Interscope, and every time we go to the mall, some pasty kid in a red baseball cap tries to step to us. Unless, of course, you happen to like the beer-belly belches Durst calls raps, in which case: Kick ass!)
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That said, none of that matters much to the listeners dropping their $28.50 (plus applicable service charges, natch) to see P. Diddy and Busta Rhymes "Pass the Courvoisier"; Fat Joe trying to figure out "What's Luv?" without Ashanti giving him a few helpful hints; Avant doing his best R. Kelly as he tries to bring the (over 18, mind you) female folk to Ecstasy; Big Tymers Mannie Fresh and Brian "Baby" Williams hoping their not-as-much Cash Money empire can "Still Fly"; the "Country Boyz" of Kentucky's Nappy Roots; and on and on. Doesn't matter that P. Diddy was better when he ran a label called Bad Boy instead of acting like one, and (sort of) stayed behind the scenes instead of playing Chris Tucker to Busta's, um, Chris Tucker in knock-off videos. Or that Fat Joe was much more interesting prior to his decision to suit up and sell out, back when he was working with Diamond D and dressing down. Or that Mannie Fresh will never come up with anything as addictive as "Back Dat Azz Up." Doesn't matter. You wanted the best, and you've got 'em. Sort of.