It was there, nestled in the most unlikely of places — a corner in the halls of academia — that one of the most important platforms in hip-hop was born. Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia’s 90s radio show, 89 Tec 9, became a steppingstone to mass appeal, a rite of passage to MC status.
Throughout the decade, Stretch and Bobbito would serve as cultural ambassadors, introducing local audiences and, soon, the world to unsigned artists and undiscovered talent like Biggie Smalls, DMX, Wu-Tang Clan, and Eminem. One year from Jay Z’s first appearance on the show, he released his critically acclaimed debut album, Reasonable Doubt. Three years from Nasty Nas’ inaugural appearance, Illmatic — arguable the greatest hip-hop album of all time — was released. Shortly after Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s freestyle was heard on 89 Tec 9, the late rapper was signed by A&R notable Dante Ross, before Wu-Tang Clan ever released an album. Even Big Pun’s short-lived career takes root in that seedy box of rapdom. The Puerto Rican wordsmith went on to be the first Latino rapper to attain Platinum status as a solo act.
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Seminal mixtapes featuring b-side tracks with a history of their own made its way around the globe, giving voice to a historically marginalized people of black and brown America. But really, Stretch and Bobbito were just two kids from New York with an allegiance and love for the culture, providing a lyrical oasis for music nerds and an escape route for even the most incarcerated of men.
To celebrate 25 years since the dynamic duo’s inaugural year on the air, Stretch and Bobbito released Radio that Changed Lives. Most appropriately titled, the documentary provides equal parts joy, laughter and nostalgia while simultaneously granting access into the hip-hop days of yesteryear. In the end, the dynamic duo helped establish a blueprint for the kind of hip-hop that is still valid and used as a point of reference today.