As a friend and I were recently lamenting, the age where one of the most exciting social activities was to invite people over to listen to the wireless is long gone. Spotify or other music streaming websites have overtaken the radio in popularity. As a result, the radio show is slept on by the vast majority of young people as a way not only to discover new music but also to engage with a playlist someone else has curated. Although not individually tailored, a show is based on the wish of the DJ to share music that inspires them. Some of the best shows also include interviews with artists, which I find helps to humanise their work and connect the listener more closely with their intentions when creating. Not only is there the seductively personal aspect of the radio, but there’s also the opportunity to discover new music. I find that every month or so I get bored of the same songs I tend to listen to on repeat. Listening to the radio offers the opportunity to put fresh air into the sails of my playlists. Although it’s possible to get new music with things like Spotify ‘Discover Weekly’, there’s a danger of never emerging from the circles of the genres you already listen to because it’s based around an algorithm. I have discovered music I never would have thought to listen to through radio, experimental Chinese artist Mamer for example.
Bearing all of this in mind, here are some recommendations for radio shows I think perfectly strike the role of radio in musical discovery and personal connection. BBC Radio seems an obvious and accessible place to start. Personally, my music tastes gear towards BBC Radio 6 (tending towards the alternative hits, as well as lesser-known works.) In particular Lauren Laverne’s show ‘Desert Island Disco’, which calls on listeners to dictate what’s played and as a result has a wide range of genres. For example, electronic Seoulian artist Hye-jin Park mixed with tracks from The Verve and Gorillaz. Laverne also runs a segment called ‘While You Were Sleeping’ where she plays an exclusive song released the night before.
Also on 6 Music is Loyle Carner’s artist in residence show. He curates mixtapes following various themes such as funk, or one collated as a tribute to MF Doom. Coming from the perspective of an artist himself, one of my favourite aspects of this show is the personal anecdotes Carner drops in relating to many of the people he plays. He often dedicates his shows to particular producers, reminding of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into music and highlighting this talent.
One music streaming option which is perhaps slightly off the beaten track is Bandcamp. On the app, one can find the option to listen to episodes of the Bandcamp weekly radio, with various hosts and often artist guests. Particularly enjoyable is the show hosted by female DJ Stoney Creation. Her show plays smooth hip hop tending to be less mainstream, which is good for making discoveries. For example, Aaron Fairchild’s album ‘The Sun Comes Through’; a three-track album made this year consisting of dense lyrics and vocals over tuneful and diverse beats. She also hosts up-and-coming artists, including Ovrcast and MC Jada Imani, which keeps the show interesting through conversational variety.
My final recommendation is not necessarily a radio show: the various recordings available on Youtube of the Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito show are something I listen to on the daily. A constant stream of mixes with a little bit of talking interruption from the hosts, this show is interesting because it mainly comprises of freestyle samples. Artists such as Ol’Dirty Bastard, Biggie, Nas and Jay-Z appear rapping over samples from hit songs of various genres and decades. A staple in the history of hip-hop radio because of its eye for emerging talent, this show was recorded in the 90s from Columbia University New York. The episodes, however, are limited to what has been put on the internet.
Regardless of whether you end up sampling any of these shows, I recommend sticking on the radio for a musical experience slightly different, more personal, and more explorative than pressing shuffle.