It’s 2015 and we’re in the era of Soundcloud, Spotify and Beats 1. But back in the early 90s, it wasn’t these corporate juggernauts that broke the hottest new rappers. In 1989, young Def Jam talent scout Bobbito Garcia and undergrad DJ Stretch Armstrong teamed up to do a hip-hop show on Columbia University’s college radio, and it quickly became one of the most influential shows in rap history. How influential? Here’s just some of the artists that kicked verses on the show prior to being signed: Nas, Jay Z, Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, DMX, Fat Joe, Redman, Big L, Cam’ron, MF Doom, Eminem, Mos Def, Big Pun… If you were a successful East Coast rapper in the 90s, Stretch and Bobbito almost definitely had something to do with your success.
Now, on the 25th anniversary of their first show, they’ve put together a documentary about how this tiny New York college station show changed hip-hop. Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives is full of incredible archive footage of your favourite rappers on the cusp of greatness, from a Notorious BIG freestyle that hasn’t been heard for 20 years, to a star making turn from an unsigned Jay Z. It has its European premiere this week at the London Film Festival, and we spoke to Stretch and Bob themselves about those classic shows, hanging out in London, and how radio has changed since the 90s.