Here in Charlottesville (and surrounding counties) the music scene tends to be dominated by bluegrass, cover bands, and mainstream rock. That makes the alternative genres that manage to exist—from hip-hop to metal to punk to jazz—especially valuable. This week, photographer Zack Wajsgras presents a project he’s been working on for several years, documenting the local hip-hop scene.
Like the others, it’s fairly DIY: artists who’ve known each other for years collaborating on projects, putting together their own tours, and recording in local studios. But as our arts writer Erin O’Hare wrote in her piece on hardcore punk, quoting a local musician, “The health of any music scene depends not just on the people playing it, but the people willing to make space for it.”
One of those spaces is 101.3 JAMZ, the area’s only hip-hop radio station. “This is my safe haven,” says Jaquan “DJ Almighty” Middleton. But the station is now under threat.
As we reported a few weeks ago, corporate radio giant Saga Communications, which owns 106.1 The Corner, WINA, and 3WV, among more than a hundred others, has filed a petition with the FCC seeking to deny license renewal to JAMZ and four other local, nonprofit stations. The other stations targeted include WPVC 94.7, a progressive talk station that also offers the area’s only Spanish language programming.
The Corner’s slogan, ironically, is “Different is good,” but I rarely hear a song on that station that I haven’t heard a hundred times before. Meanwhile, the nonprofits offering
true alternatives could go bankrupt through the cost of fighting Saga’s petition. It’s an apt metaphor for the music scene at large, where maintaining smaller venues to host up-and-coming and less-mainstream acts (like The Ante Room, which closed last year to make way for The Center of Developing Entrepreneurs) is a constant struggle.
The stations have been raising money on air to help fight the petition. Here’s hoping they prevail.