Adult Swim Is the MTV for a New Generation

Ever since Karl Ferdinand Braun graced the world with his cathode ray tube, the masses have looked to their screens for generational guidance. In 1981, MTV appeared like an oracle and descended on the population, sinking its vampiric teeth into the neck of every suburbanite family with a cable subscription. Of course, now, MTV rarely, if ever, shows music videos and instead hosts brain filth like 16 and Pregnant.

But there is still some hope for the lingering disciples of cable, especially where music is concerned. That beacon of light is Adult Swim. Yes, amongst the same foul caverns where Space Ghost Coast To Coast and Aqua Teen Hunger Force were born dwells a league of A&R scouts who, evidently, have some excellent taste.

Better known as Williams Street Records, this small label is arguably the MTV of a new generation. According to TV By The Numbers, Adult Swim is available to approximately 98,671,000 pay television households (86.4% of households with television) in the United States and, as of June 2014, have a viewership of 1.18 million. So I guess you could say they have a bit of influence.

Of course, Williams Street releases music from their offbeat shows such as Dethklok, Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job and The Venture Brothers, but they've taken it one step forward with various compilations (most of which are free for download on Adult Swim's website). Highlights include Definitive Swim, a collab with Definitive Jux featuring hip-hop artists like Aesop Rock and El-P; ATL RMX, featuring remixes of Atlanta-based rappers; and Ghostly Swim, a co-release with Ghostly International, one of the most progressive modern-day electronic labels, who boast artists such as Matthew Dear, Tycho, and Mux Mool.

But Adult Swim doesn't just focus on hip hop and EDM -- they've released Metal Swim, African Swim (music from "The Birthplace of Humanity"), and {UNCLASSIFIED}, experimental music that doesn't really fit into a genre. Adult Swim's yearly Singles Program does see corporate sponsorship from Kia, but it's totally worth being advertised to while being introduced to somewhat obscure artists like Liars, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, and Lightning Bolt.

Who knew the same place you can catch a cartoon about hillbilly squids collaborating with al-Qaeda and an ultraviolent Willy Wonka-style prison would be such a hotbed of musical discovery? It's not a stretch to say that younger audiences are chancing upon their favorite new bands and MC's via Adult Swim, much in the same fashion MTV eyeballs once did.

There is the issue of censorship, especially with the hip-hop in question. But Williams Street Records, which is owned by Warner Music Group, is still a major label. That's not a huge problem, especially when the quality is so superb, but it's kind of pointless at the same time. It doesn't come across the same when El-P says "You fBLEEPin' aBLEEPs, keep your eye on me."

But we should keep our eyes on Adult Swim. They continue to push the envelope, not only with their programming, but with the obscure tunes they help expose.

Troy Farah likes to watch on Twitter.

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Troy Farah is an independent journalist and documentary field producer. He has worked with VICE, Fusion, LA Weekly, Golf Digest, BNN, Tucson Weekly, and Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Troy Farah