On Tuesday (January 11), Jay-Z and Kanye West released “H.A.M.” from their forthcoming Watch The Throne joint album. While it wasn’t difficult to learn what music critics thought of the track, radio — and who does and doesn’t earn spins — is a different beast. So RapFix checked in with station programmers across the country to see whether the Roc boys’ collaboration will gain heavy rotation or remain a gift to the streets.
“Jay-Z made the song. His verse was electric, but it seemed like Kanye didn’t take the verse as seriously,” Flexx, of Washington, D.C.’s WPGC, said. “He seemed like he was playing around.”
“I don’t know if it’s a hit radio record but it’s an event,” Reggie Hawkins, program director for Hip-Hop Nation and talent manager for Eminem’s Shade 45 satellite radio station, said.
Others enjoyed producer Lex Luger’s rambunctious rhythm but weren’t impressed by much else.
“I love Lex, from Ross’ ’B.M.F.’ to Waka’s ’Hard In Da Paint,’ ” Big Von, music director of San Francisco’s KMEL, said. “But I don’t think Kanye and Jay stretched themselves creatively by working with Lex, there wasn’t anything ground-breaking about that song.”
The track’s language, considering quite a bit of Kanye’s introductory verse is sprinkled with “n—a” and the chorus boasts “muthaf—a,” is also controversial. Few things are worse than a rap hit turned bland by radio edits, but what if omissions are the station’s only option?
“I don’t understand why these records keep coming out with curse words in the chorus if they’re going to be the single,” Von said. “Things used to be subliminal but not anymore. Then people want to talk about what’s wrong with the kids.”
“The key is the radio edit for popularizing the record, but in our environment it’ll do very well because we can play the curses,” Hawkins said. “But with so much music flooding the market, particularly with Kanye who’s also on Nicki’s ’Blazin’ ’ record, it’s a programmer’s nightmare to have so many records at the same time. You have to distinguish which records you’re going to play on a tight playlist.”
Each Monday, radio stations submit the songs on their playlists to music data companies like BDS, which compile their choices to create national radio charts for each genre. Then magazines like Billboard use the information to create charts like the Hot 100, which base part of its ranking on how many times a song is played on the radio. As for “H.A.M.” making that influential add list, the jury is still out.
“I want to see what it does this weekend in the clubs and I’m going to let the streets determine what it does in the club,” Flexx said. “Let the people decide if they want it or not.”
Others were a bit more reluctant.
“If I have to … ,” Big Von said.
Hawkins was more concerned with the cut’s staying power.
“I think it will have a great first week adds at radio but in two or three weeks we’ll diagnose if it will be a hit,” he said.
What do you think of Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “H.A.M.”? Tweet us at @MTVRapFix or tell us in a comment below!