The Beat, and stations like it, target listeners in their mid-20s to mid-40s: people who grew up during rap’s golden era. This is a subset of the population that is outgrowing contemporary hip-hop radio (which targets the 18-34 demographic) but is mostly too young to be nostalgic for ’70s and ’80s stations and too hip for adult contemporary. They are also entering the prime spending years of their lives — marriage, children, car buying and homeownership — and radio, like all forms of media, is figuring out how to catch them.
In a sense, classic hip-hop is following a radio trend that began in the early 1970s, when the first dedicated FM oldies stations started up in Phoenix, playing records by old crooners and doo-wop quartets. The format was a hit, and it quickly spread to Los Angeles and New York, and everywhere else. Oldies reached its zenith in the 1980s, just as classic rock — a new iteration of the same concept — was born. Same story: The format grew as programmers looked for new ways to keep grown-up baby boomers tuned in.
Alex French, “Back in the Day”, The New York Times Magazine (19 July 2015), 28-29.