Before the time of "passing the aux" and Spotify playlists, I would fiddle with the car radio dial from the passenger seat of my parents' car to find the perfect song on the perfect station. I had the preset buttons to switch stations memorized by heart, and pressing one would get 89.9, which is Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Pressing three for 92.1, WMSU, which is the hip-hop station, would bring my parents dread, especially in the morning on the way to school.
All six of the buttons were set to different stations to suit the mood of the drive. However, pressing two for 91.1, WMSV radio, was mostly what I would end up doing.
WMSV is the college radio station of Mississippi State University. As an angsty teenager driving to school at the ungodly time of 7:30 AM, the music on WMSV used to appeal to me.
A lot has changed in the world of music in the past 20 years, but one thing has remained constant—WMSV's Triple A music format. In the age of streaming music and viral hits, however, I have stopped listening to WMSV. WMSV has fallen behind on the times regarding what makes college radio appealing, and I have one simple suggestion for the station to bring me back: Play hip-hop music.
The three A's of Triple A stand for "adult album alternative." According to Katz Marketing Solutions, a division of Katz Media group, which markets for radio stations, Triple A music can be traced back to progressive rock of the 60s and 70s, and appeals strongly to listeners in the 25-44 age range. Having grown up in the era of progressive rock, my dad still thoroughly enjoys the Triple A format of WMSV radio. However, at 57, my dad falls slightly above the age range.
The Triple A music format is an outdated format for a college radio station, and a quick look at the artists on WMSV makes me shiver. According to the WMSV website, Dave Matthews, Counting Crows, Eric Clapton and Muse are among the artists who find airtime.
While I have a soft spot in my heart for the melodic strums of Eric Clapton songs, or the predictably, yet somehow always invigorating, slow increase in the intensity of a Muse song, I am not sure many of my peers share this sentiment. WMSV should be presenting artists who are currently pushing the boundaries in music, rather than artists who did 10-20 years ago.
Writing about New York University's college radio station WNYU, Pitchfork writer Kevin Lozano said although many college stations are starting to close, as many are selling their broadcast towers to corporations, college radio still remains a unique experience for listeners.
"WNYU reflects an essential experience, something that replicates itself decade after decade: the autonomy, the freedom of speech, the experimental drive," said Lozano.
WMSV, unfortunately, lacks that experimental drive. Eventually, WMSV should ditch the Triple A format if it wishes to survive. However, in the meantime, it needs to introduce some hip-hop into its line-up.
Hip-hop is easily the most influential genre of music, in part because it shares the values of good college radio—a fearlessness to create new sounds and speak about hard truths. One hard truth about the Triple A format is while it was once experimental and progressive, it has since regressed into simply nostalgia.
Another hard truth about the Triple A format is how overwhelmingly white it is. Of the top ten tracks on WMSV, only one was by a person of color. Of the top twenty tracks on WMSV, only three were by people of color. According to College Simply, approximately 25% of the MSU student population consists of people of color. Music played on a station by students for students should be representative of the student body.
In addition to the Triple A format, WMSV occasionally programs jazz and blues during the week and on Sundays. I love this programming—now do it with other music genres. It does not even need to be hip-hop specifically.
My feelings aside, it could even be a country music break. However, if WMSV would like a lesson on how to program music, which could truly be called college radio, they can turn their dial to the station which stole their namesake—WMSU. It still annoys my parents to this day.