Urban Contemporary - Other Formats - Rhythmic Contemporary

See also: Rhythmic contemporary

Rhythmic Contemporary, also known as Rhythmic Top 40, Rhythmic Contemporary Hit Radio and "Rhythmic Crossover" is a music radio format that includes of a mix of dance, and upbeat rhythmic pop, hip-hop, and R&B hits. While most rhythmic stations' playlists are composed of that mentioned above, some tend to lean very urban with current hip-hop, urban pop, and R&B hits that gain mainstream appeal.

Most of its core listeners makeup a multicultural mix of African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans, that include a core group of teens, young adults (mostly 18–34) and young females

The origins of Rhythmic Top 40 can be traced back to 1978 when WKTU 92.3 FM New York City (now WXRK) became a disco based station. That station was classified as urban but played a blend of disco, dance music, and pop crossovers. Back then stations playing strictly R&B materials were known as Black stations. Stations like WKTU were known as Urban. In the 1980s, many Urban contemporary stations began to spring up. Most of these leaned towards R&B and away from plenty of dance music. These urban stations began sounding identical to so called "Black stations" and by 1985 stations that played strictly R&B product were all known as Urban stations. Still some urban outlets continued to add artists from outside the format onto their playlist. In most cases it was dance and rhythmic pop but occasionally they added a few rock songs. Also Urban Contemporary radio stations were the first to play New Wave artists such as B-52's, Duran Duran, ABC and Culture Club. However it wasn't until January 11, 1986 that KPWR Los Angeles, a former struggling adult contemporary outlet and WQHT New York began to make its mark with this genre by adopting this approach.

It would be known as Crossover because of the musical mix. As these stations pilfered listeners away from numerous mainstream stations, many urban stations reintroduced Dance music onto their playlists again. Billboard magazine took notice of this new format and on February 15, 1987, it launched the first Crossover chart. But by December 1990 Billboard eliminated the chart because more Top 40 and R&B stations were becoming identical with the rhythmic-heavy playlist that were also being played at the crossover stations at the time. Billboard would later revive the chart again in October 1992 as the Top 40 Rhythm/Crossover chart. On June 25, 1997, it was renamed the Rhythmic Top 40 chart as a way to distinguish stations that continue to play a broad based rhythmic mix from those whose mix leaned heavily toward R&B and Hip-Hop.

For years since its inception, the Rhythmic name has been a source of confusion among music trades, especially in both Billboard (which used the Rhythmic Top 40 title) and Radio & Records (which use the CHR/Rhythmic title for their official charts). In August 2006 Billboard dropped both the "Top 40" and "CHR" name from the Rhythmic title after its sister publication Billboard Radio Monitor merged with Radio & Records to become the "New" R&R as part of their realignment of format categories. The move also ended confusion among the radio stations who report to their panels, which was modified by the end of 2006 with the inclusion of non-monitored reporters that were holdovers from the "(Old) R&R" days.

Still, over the years since its inception, the genre has grown and evolved but not without criticism. Traditional R&B outlets claim that the Rhythmic format does not target or serve the African-American community properly, while traditional Top 40 stations claim that the format is too urban to be Top 40. However, those claims have been all but silenced, with both R&B and mainstream Top 40 stations taking cues from the format they criticized.

Still there continues to be confusion of the distinction between Rhythmic CHR stations and Urban Top 40 stations. In New York City, WQHT Hot 97 strictly plays R&B and Hip Hop. Also in that city, WWPR Power 105.1 plays a similar format. WQHT is classified as Top 40/Rhythm while WWPR is classified as Urban. Los Angeles is similar where KPWR and KDAY have similar formats but KPWR is considered Top 40/Rhythm while KDAY is considered Urban. Also very similar situations have occurred in Washington, D.C. with WPGC-FM and the San Francisco Bay Area with KMEL. One possible reason for this is precedent. When these stations began they played a great deal of dance music and were classified as CHR outlets. However, many critics say the ability to attract more mainstream advertisers as Rhythmic, rather than Urban, is the real reason, thus fueling the criticism from the African-American community in general.

However by 2005, KPWR began to re-add more Rhythmic Pop product after a seven-year gap (it had phased most of the Rhythmic and Dance product by 1997 when it had competition from KIBB and KACD/KBCD, both defunct), mostly in response to rival KIIS leaning towards a rhythmic direction. The move has resulted in KPWR and KIIS reigniting their Los Angeles Top 40 war. KPWR has also gone on the offensive to protect their Hispanic demos in the wake of new Hurban rival KXOL making a dent in the ratings.

WQHT on the other hand, had moved more towards R&B and Hip-Hop as they step up their competition in the Big Apple with WWPR-FM, which had gotten nasty with both stations blasting each other on the air and at high-profile concerts/events, as well as who claims ownership of who plays the most Hip-Hop in New York.

WPGC-FM began operating in 1987 as a Rhythmic that played R&B, hip-hop, dance, and pop music. Its playlist began to migrate to mostly Hip-Hop/R&B songs with R&B and soul slow songs on Sunday through Thursday nights since 1993, a format very similar to WKYS. This began a head-to-head battle with WKYS, but also Urban ACs, WHUR and WMMJ, due to WPGC playing old school R&B and soul songs during the overnight hours and on weekends. In 2008, WPGC began to air gospel music on Sunday mornings.

KMEL also began in 1984 as a Mainstream Top 40, but migrated to a Rhythmic that played began hip-hop, dance, freestyle, house, and reggae music by 1987. However, in 1992, its playlist began to lean more urban to battle with competitor KYLD, which ended in 1997 when both stations became sister stations. KMEL currently has a playlist that is Hip Hop/R&B music, and plays mostly R&B slow jams at night from Sundays through to Thursdays and gospel music on Sunday Mornings, while KYLD plays a balanced mix of Rhythmic Pop, Hip-Hop/R&B and some Dance products.

On August 11, 2006, R&R had moved WQHT, WPGC-FM, KMEL, to the Urban Contemporary Airplay Panel since they seldom play any type of Rhythmic pop product and is therefore not considered part of the 'Pure' Rhythmic community. However, despite the changes, there are a few "Churbans" who remain on the Rhythmic panel that are exceptions, mostly due to the lack of minorities in several major metropolitan markets that do not have a mainstream Urban station, like KTWN-FM/Minneapolis-St. Paul and WJMN/Boston. However, on May 25, 2007, WQHT, KXHT/Memphis, WZMX/Hartford and WMBX/West Palm Beach, along with KZZA/Dallas-Ft.Worth (from the Latin Rhythm Airplay panel), were re-added to the panel, as their playlists now favors a broader Rhythmic direction, thus making them outright Rhythmics.

Read more about this topic:  Urban Contemporary, Other Formats

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