Ruben Hunter, Jr.  of Surround Sound Podcast

A Hip Hop Podcast that Women Love

Ruben Hunter, Jr., host of Surround Sound Podcast,  joined us in the studio (pre-COVID) to chat about the hip hop community and how he uses Surround Sound Podcast’s main draw of sports and entertainment to talk about important topics like mental health and voting in local elections.  Surround Sound is a Nashville-based podcast tailored to the hip hop community.

What should we know about Ruben?

Ruben Hunter, Jr. attended Middle Tennessee State University to study broadcast journalism. He subsequently pursued a career in radio and now serves as lead Sports Producer and Journalist for iHeart Media. In 2014 (before podcasting was cool), Ruben combined his passion for the hip hop community with his love of radio and launched Surround Sound Podcast.

How did the concept for Surround Sound Podcast come about?

Ruben saw a need for an outlet for the hip hop community that went beyond music, sports, and entertainment. He decided to be the source of news and current events, among other topics, through a lens of hip hop culture to share information, stories, and thought leadership with his audience.

Why does a hip hop centered podcast appeal to women?

Ruben says he was surprised that women liked his podcast but soon realized that women are big sports and entertainment fans and his approach to discussing serious issues appeals to them.

How do you combine sports and entertainment with other really serious topics on your show?

Ruben realized one of his strong suits is to correlate things that don’t necessarily go together. On the show, you can get the latest entertainment and sports He talks about those things so he can talk about other issues. So, if a particular athlete is going through a mental health issue, he can talk about mental health.  Ruben can tell you how many points a athlete scored in the game when he was mentally healthy, and how many points he scored in the game when he was not. And then, he and his guests can actually have a conversation on a real issue.

How did you decide to expand beyond sports?

At first, Surround Sound was really just a sports show, and then as Ruben wanted to get more listeners, he added entertainment. And by being a show that’s for the hip hop community, you’ve got to talk about rap, hip hop, music a little bit. I decided to talk about sports, then my break would be entertainment. Ruben also believes voting locally is more important than voting in a national, presidential election. He tries to tie current events in to the importance of voting locally.

How do you source your guests for your show?

Everybody has a favorite something. Ruben had a young lady who is a life coach on the show. How does a life coach fit into sports? Well she has a favorite basketball player. She likes Michael Jordan. She told me a story about when she hung out with Dominique Wilkins in Atlanta. And then, of course, a life coach fits into mental health, so that makes it all fit.

How do you build your podcast audience?

Ruben says getting on these sites – social media, word of mouth, iHeartRadio app, Apple Music, etc. – putting content out there, trying to promote yourself as much as possible, and at the same time, putting quality product out is his secret to growing his audience.

What is going on in hip hop?

Hip hop is going through a women’s renaissance, so to speak. There are more female rappers right now in the game than there have been in quite a long time.

Ruben says, “One thing I can say about hip hop is that it’s less subjective than actual singing forms of music. You have to be more objective and say, “First, does it rhyme, and second, does it sound good?” In singing, it’s reversed. “Does it sound good, and then does it make any sense?” Honestly, that’s one thing I love about hip hop. You have to write your own lyrics. That’s an authenticity that you don’t see so much in other genres.”

Who are some of the women artists you respect?

There are a lot of them right now: Rhapsody, Lizzo, Megan Thee Stallion, Young M.A. These women can actually rap. Once upon a time, music execs would throw a pretty face in there, and she would sell sex in a rap form. The women Ruben named, they can rap. Now it’s getting back to more of a balance and the way it should be. There are ebbs and flows in it all, but there are certain constants I’d like to see set: going through these things you write about, writing your own lyrics, stuff like that.

In this strange quarantine place that we are right now, when artists make so much money from performances, what’s going to happen post-COVID?

When it comes to hip hop music, the rules are a little bit different. And it’s consumed at such a heavy rate by the world that the artists aren’t making that much. Megan Thee Stallion has this ongoing situation with 1501 Records; they’re taking about 60-80 percent of money that she’s generating (concerts and music). You have to, in some way, take ownership and take control of your music.

Merch is very, very important in the hip hop community. But what’s also awesome about hip hop is that if you really want to get to that level, you have to give free music in the Mixtape Society and the Mixtape Community.

Resources and Links

Surround Sound on iHeart Radio

Surround Sound on Podomatic

R. Hunter, Jr. on Twitter

Surround Sound on Instagram