It was a risky move Kanye West pulled when he released his Yeezus album on June 18, without ever servicing a single to radio. By all early accounts, the new 'Ye looks to be a success, but such a deliberate lack of promotion for the LP could've backfired for an artist not named Kanye — especially when radio is underserved.
"Research shows most music discovery takes place on radio, so without having that leading into album release it may reduce awareness of the album," New York's Hot 97 program director Ebro Darden told MTV News.
Yeezus may be a different case, however. Not only were listeners seemingly aware, they were eagerly anticipating new music from the self-proclaimed god. Prior to June 14, Kanye had only played the music in parties, projected his video on a number of public buildings and performed a pair of tracks on "Saturday Night Live," but once the album leaked last Friday DJs sprang into action.
DJ E-Man, who wears a number of hats at Power 106 in Los Angeles including music director, assistant program director and morning show disc jock, had the leaked version of Yeezus edited for radio and they played eight tracks on the station's New at Two show. "At the end of the day it's about us delivering the news and being that noisemaker in a sense," he said.
It appears that radio is taking it upon itself to deliver the music to their listeners, even if Kanye isn't directly delivering the music to radio. Both E-Man and Ebro cite "Blood on the Leaves" as an early favorite, even if a majority of the EDM and dancehall-inspired Yeezus is a departure from what they normally play on their respective hip-hop stations.
"Right now the DJs all love 'Blood on the Leaves,' 'Black Skinhead' and 'Send it Up.' While we're not used to hearing these sounds from hip-hop acts, these sounds have been on Hot 97 and radio," Darden said, citing 1980s rap acts like Afrika Bambataa and Run-DMC as well as other dancehall acts, which his station has been known to play. "Sonically what he is doing is not new, just brave for what is going on in mainstream now."
"Is there challenges? Yeah, it's not DJ friendly, but at the end of the day if it's something these DJs want to play or feel like they have to play, they'll find ways to transition it in creatively," E-Man added.
After all, it is Kanye. "We will give it the spin because people want to hear it," Hot 97 afternoon host Angie Martinez told us. "He has that ability to be able to try new things and open people's ears up to something different. I commend him for not doing a typical album that sounds like everything else that's out there."