The Art of the Radio Edit [Article]

July 16th, 2012 | By Wesey

The Art of the Radio Edit [Article]

As I scanned YouTube for the latest video from Hip-Hop artist, DMX, I came across the new video for ‘I Dont Dance’ featuring Machine Gun Kelly. I enjoyed the video itself, yet the video was the radio edit or clean version and the track did not sound the same! DMX used his famous adlibs to cover all curses and profanities (the usual barks, growls and “WHATS!”). This led me to a thought! Is there an art to creating a radio edit? Can the clean version determine the tracks success? After listening to Rap music as a whole since 15, I’ve heard a lot of radio and dirty versions of the same song. Matter of fact, the first album I brought was ‘The Slim Shady LP’ from Eminem; the clean version (due to being the age of 9).

In recent history, Hip-Hop/Urban music has become more socialbly accepted by the masses and you can’t switch over the radio stations without hearing the latest track from Lil Wayne, Drake, Jay-Z or many of the other gifted MC’s on airwaves worldwide. In most cases, these are clean version and depending on the tracks content, commercial appeal, beat or catchy hook will equal its success in the charts… Or is it the amount of beeps, scratches, adlibs or cuts in the vocals?

In November of 2003, the world was introduced to Ho-Wop, a sub-genre of Hip-Hop created by ‘one hit wonder’, Eamon. The song was titled ‘F*ck It (I Dont Want You Back)’ and was shortlisted for ‘Song of the Year’. The track contained countless amount of curses, removed within it’s radio/clean edit dissing an ex-partner for her unlawful ways. Apart from the fact that the song was not incredible, the song interested listeners as they wanted to hear the words covered by the dreaded radio and brought the song (downloading was no where near as popular as today) in HMV and retaliers worldwide. The song reached number 1 in 13 different countries and went gold within the UK. Incredible song that listeners enjoyed? Or a clever marketing plan? We all heard about it whether it be on the news, radio, tv or even Chris Moyles’ Breakfast Show on Radio 1 where they created a parody of the track. Either way, this proves that the radio edit or clean version in this case is an art in its own rights; the track has commercial elements but also obvious radio edits of the word ‘fuck’ that enraged and intrigued the general public into buying the song.

Yet not ‘art’ of the radio edit is a cleverly devised plan by the major record labels. The way you execute the radio edits is just as important as the track itself. As I previously mentioned, DMX’s ‘I Dont Dance’ was covered with repetitive noises every 5 seconds when a profanity came into the frame. I feel this ruined the track! DMX has adlibs known worldwide to Hip-Hop fans yet to have them used in this manner completely destroyed the tracks meaning and bouncy vibe and turned it into a fairly random, confusing song about rappers who dance move but they just move to the beat! I’ve always been a DMX fan and I love the original version of the track but the clean version would stop me from buying the track. This is a shame and goes against the ‘art’ as it could reflect sales, credibility of DMX’s usually well placed adlibs and maybe the artist themselves?

The correct way to execute the use of your adlibs within Hip-Hop is to either simply, remove or replace the word or use a mixture of humourise sounds and suttle noises to have the listener self-consciously say to themselves “i understand” or “i can relate to this”. You have now captured the listeners’ ears but most importantly their imaginations! They now wonder what the word is or instantly know by its sound or audio gesture. Either way, the topic may fall into conversation and add 1 more ‘people are talking about this’ statistic on Facebook (I kid!). A rapper who executes this art to perfection is, Eminem; with the use of his and Dr. Dre’s creative minds they have managed to make tracks about murder, drug abuse and other Hip-Hop related topics into top 10 singles and collectively have gone platinum 36 times worldwide, this is not to say that making a radio edit made this happen as they are 2 of my faovurite artists within Hip-Hop and each respectable Rap Music Craftsmen and wordsmiths in their own right; yet they never made a mistake of releasing something to radio without it sounding just the way it was intended to. Their music never sounded sloppy or rushed. It was engineered, mixed, recorded and mastered to perfection and sounded timeless!

Replacing track names like ‘Purple Pills’ to ‘Purple Hills’ changed people’s ideas of the song just as my own Mother came to a nasty surprise when I brought the CD home and she realised it was a song about drugs or in the use of ‘Role Models’ a long edit of the lyric “Mother, are you there? I love you, I never meant to hit you over the head with that shovel” was replaced with sound effects that spoke them words through alternative sounds. There are hundreds of examples of this and we could be here ALL day picking the best ones. Creating your radio edit in this way can engage the listener and if you alter words within your track them you have 2 singles that can be released to the charts which cover different/alternative topics; and what if that song gets popular? Your sales may potentially encourage the consumer into buying your song in a bulk (EP’s sold on iTunes) or seperately. This gives the listener an option and opens up to a wider fan base consisting of age, gender and social background.

Wikipedia defines a radio edit as “modification to make a song more suitable for airplay, whether it be adjusted for length, profanity, subject matter, instrumentation, or form.” and history has shown examples of ‘success stories’ for these type of tracks including artists like Queen, Sean Kingston, The Black Eyed Peas, Kid Rock and Billy Joel each of which have gone on to other successes within the entertainment industry and had their track/s altered for radio.

The ‘Art of the Radio Edit’ can be cruical to the success of a track and unfortunately it can back fire if not used correctly. Its something that can be overlooked as something minor but is an essential tool within an artists catalogue and marketing stratergy. The ‘radio edit’ can potentially make or break a track a lead single!

**These thoughts are my own and not those of**


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