Hip-hop radio station B-96 is no longer all hip-hop, much to the disappointment of St. Thomas music fans and others across the state.
“We are shifting to a more mainstream pop/hip-hop mix of music, which reflects both what listeners across the U.S. are responding to, as well as the music that’s being produced today,” said Steve Woodbury, president and CEO for Northern Lights Broadcasting in a Jan. 6 statement as Northern Lights Broadcasting owns the newly dubbed 96.3 NOW.
The station will now feature Top 40 hits instead of a hip-hop and R&B-dominated lineup. Now the station will feature not only artists like Jay-Z and Rhianna, but also pop music stars like Justin Bieber and Britney Spears.
“If you look back at the last year at the music trends that have been out there, you’ll notice … the popularity of hip-hop has splintered,” said Sam Elliot, Northern Lights vice president of operations. “Which is why we wanted the switch.”
Elliot also said that 96.3 NOW is not the only station to gradually sift the hip-hop out of its rotation. He said when taking a look at hip-hop stations in the major markets, it was clear that their airwaves were being infiltrated by pop music.
“Everyone’s playing Lady Gaga and Black Eyed Peas,” Elliot said. “You would have never heard that on hip-hop stations four or five years ago.”
Some St. Thomas students are having a hard time adjusting
“It’s crazy to think that I lived through the life span of a radio station,” senior Al McCoy said. “I was in junior high when B-96 first started out.”
Senior Jeffery Hilliard considers B-96’s “Back in the Day Buffet” as one of the cornerstones of his teenage years.
“During the ‘Back in the Day Buffet,’ B-96 was paying tribute to the artists who have inspired the new hip-hop/rap and R&B artists today,” Hillard said. ”I am disappointed that B-96 was not able to stay on the radio.”
While the switch seems to have alienated much of the station’s audience, Elliot said the change could be positive for the station and its audience.
“Our job is to appeal to the most possible people that we can,” Elliot said. “We’re going to continue to play what’s hot in the hip-hop world but were also going to play what’s hot in [other genres] and that’s just us following those trends.”
With increased signal strength throughout the metro area and technological upgrades that allow people to listen with iPhones or online, reaching out to a larger audience should not be hard. But Elliot said he thinks it is important to retain slighted listeners.
“Were going to play what’s hot now, that’s why 96.3 NOW makes sense for us,” Elliot said. “But we’re playing Drake, we’re playing Kanye West, we’re playing Lil’ Wayne. We’re still going to be playing those songs.”
Ben Katzner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org