Feuds are a big thing in rap music. Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. famously had one. So did Jay Z and Nas. Even Lil’ Kim and Nicki Minaj went at it for a while.
Despite that history, very few people could have foreseen the rap battle that emerged in the Twin Cities this summer: one corporate FM radio station going up against another for fans of 1990s-era hip-hop.
“Of all the formats, this is not the one where you’d expect to see a head-to-head competition in the Twin Cities,” admitted Gregg Swedberg, senior vice president of programming at iHeartMedia in Minneapolis (formerly Clear Channel).
The Twin Cities had not had a full-time hip-hop radio station in five years until Swedberg’s company finally filled that vacancy in early June when it debuted Hot 102.5. And then all of a sudden there were two.
Just two months after Hot 102.5 emerged — with a surprisingly strong social-media buzz but a not-so-surprisingly narrow playlist — iHeartMedia’s worldwide competitor Cumulus Media followed suit and launched a nearly identical Twin Cities retro-rap outlet, the Vibe 105, on Aug. 14.
Instead of any current hip-hop tracks, both stations play only old MTV-era, radio-clean songs by the likes of 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Jay Z, P. Diddy, Salt-N-Pepa, Eminem, Nelly, Fabolous, Ludacris and a few R&B acts such as Usher, TLC and Aaliyah.
As if to underscore the marketability of its format, the Vibe 105 arrived the same day that the ’80s rap group N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton” hit theaters on its way to an industry-shocking $60 million opening weekend.
“It was pure coincidence, but a good one,” said Scott Jameson, operations manager at Cumulus Media Minneapolis, which operates the Vibe alongside classic-rock mainstay KQRS (92.5 FM) and hard-rock outlet 93X (93.7 FM).
Jameson did not go so far as to claim it was entirely a coincidence that his company’s new outlet debuted so soon after Hot 102.5. Both stations are programmed via their parent corporations’ databases in lieu of on-air DJs.
“It’s pretty well known in the