Fairleigh Dickinson University’s celebration of Black History Month started with an event titled “Music, Media & Modernity.”
The event, which took place on Feb. 4, was headlined with an interview with former Def Jam Records CEO Bill Stephney. The night was emceed by Rich Nwaoko, an FDU graduate who also deejayed throughout the night, and Monifa Brinson-Mulraine, a senior lecturer in sociology at FDU.
Stephney discussed his work while at Def Jam and his work with Chuck D and Public Enemy. Stephney, an Adelphi graduate, had met the group during his college years. Mr. Bill, which was Stephney’s radio name, featured the group’s early records on his show.
When Stephney started working for Def Jam, he brought Public Enemy with him. Def Jam and Public Enemy became hip-hop royalty in the 1980s and 1990s, and Stephney played a huge part.
The other major topic of conversation was the change brought about by social media on the music industry.
Nwaoko, who uses social media a lot to promote his own work, asked Stephney about the opportunities and challenges brought about by social media in the music industry and beyond.
Nwaoko argued that social media gives people a larger opportunity for notoriety because there are so many people seeing things on social media. He likened this to the effect that boomboxes had in the early stages of hip-hop.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, hip-hop was seldom played on the radio. The only way people would hear new music was from the boomboxes that people would carry around their neighborhoods. The strategy that Def Jam implemented was to give out free copies of albums to people with boomboxes so the whole city would hear their music.
Stephney disagreed with Nwaoko. “[Social media] gets the message out immediately but people move on very quickly and there is a lot of noise, which makes it hard to truly accomplish social goals,” Stephney said.
Following the interview, a celebration of young creative individuals took place.
Ronald Williamson, a junior communication studies major, performed an a cappella version of Stevie Wonder’s “Heaven Help Us All.”
The night also featured performances by ODAWG and KazStarbrand. Nwaoko, who is also known as DJ Rich Chill, spun tracks following the performances.
“It is a big improvement [on years past] to have this many events or events this big [for Black History Month],” Williamson said.