Friday, January 1, 2010


Percy Sutton, the legendary civil rights activist and lawyer (who served as the lawyer and friend to Malcolm X) passed away this past December (26th, 2009). He was 89. Sutton's list of accomplishments is lengthy. You've likely seen reports of some of his political and business achievements offered by the news media. But we suspected that the CNN's and the ABC's of the world might not exalt the impact of Percy Sutton's successful efforts developing and owning media and entertainment properties that served the Black community. What might (or might not) be lost on you is how Sutton's media buying moves in the 70's would give an outlet to the burgeoning rap and hip-hop music scene taking shape in NYC at that time (a beloved subject of the StereoTyped blog).

So we're here to show love as to how Mr. Percy Sutton succeeded in his attempt to "Move The Crowd" (and the community) with his (Black) music and entertainment centered business moves/activism.

Up first: Percy Sutton steps to Black radio and helps usher in the 1980s rap music era.


Inner City Broadcasting Corporation ("Inner City") was founded in 1971 in New York, NY by Percy Sutton. The onetime Manhattan borough President, along with a collection of some fifty plus Black shareholders sought to influence the media in Black communities. Inner City Broadcasting Corporation's co-founders included the legendary DJ Hal Jackson and former NY, NY Mayor David Dinkins, who, after Sutton moved on from the position, succeeded him as Manhattan borough president.

The group purchased and cultivated both WBLS-FM and WLIB-AM radio stations. Inner City Broadcasting Corporation's buying of these stations made them the first black-owned radio broadcasting outlets in New York City. WBLS, under Sutton and company's new ownership, first broadcast in summer 1972. And when it did launch, the legendary deejay Frankie Crocker was on board as the stations Program Director. Targeting listeners in the 18-34 years old range, Crocker, aka Frankie "Hollywood" Crocker, aka the "Chief Rocker" Frankie Crocker, changed R&B radio-- redefining it by introducing the term (he coined it) "Urban Contemporary" and took WBLS to the top ratings wise amidst the late 1970s. An amalgamated format, Crocker's Urban Contemporary (a name for the eclectic mix of songs that he'd spin) included R&B, jazz, pop, reggae, gospel, dance music, and later, rap.

In addition to his duties at Sutton's WBLS, Crocker would also serve as a master of ceremonies of shows at Harlem's Apollo Theater, become one of the first V.J.'s on the cable music channel VH-1, host the TV show Solid Gold, and also NBC's Friday Night Video's.


Just as influential as Frankie crocker was to R&B (or Urban Contemporary), Mr. Magic (one John Rivas), was the same to rap music in the 1980s. Super Rockin' DJ Mr. magic along with his partner DJ Marley Marl's influence on the then small rap scene in New York City can not be overstated. We're sure Percy Sutton, when purchasing WBLS-FM in the 70s, had no clue that their station would be a ground zero of sorts for the revolution of rap music germinating through that decade and which bubbled up on vinyl records that would demand some amount of on-air time via the radio airwaves all throughout the 1980s.

Magic first took to the airwaves debuting in 1981 on WHBI-FM in (NY, NY) (and later landing on WBLS). It marked the first time that a rap radio program would air on a major station. Dubbing his show the Rap Attack, Magic featured the mixology of DJ Marley Marl on the studio's 1's and 2's as well as Tyrone "Fly Ty" Williams as a co-producer of the program. Williams and Marley Marl would later go on to found the Juice Crew and Cold Chillin' records. Cold Chillin' records, with its Marley marl produced roster of rap artists (the now legendary Juice Crew All-Stars), would take up space in the ears, hearts, and R and B charts of rap music fans as it released a string of street rap hits. The "Crew" spawned several rap legends whose music would Roxanne Shante, MC Shan, Biz Markie, Kool G. Rap, Big Daddy Kane, and DJ/Producer Marley Marl (included).

Without Percy Sutton's purchase of WBLS-FM in 1971, an argument can be made that rap music as we know it would have developed into the force it became with the assistance and talents of Magic, Marl and their All-stars. So, for this alone Percy Sutton should be thanked by the so-called hip hop generation until our collective voice goes horse.

Thank you Mr. Sutton.