The New York rap community was rocked yesterday when radio personality Angie Martinez announced her sudden and immediate resignation from Hot 97. The radio host had spent the previous two decades sitting across from rap’s biggest stars and counting down the hottest records in the country every weekday, and her swift departure put Martinez’s tenure in jarring context for me: I’ve been alive for about as long as Angie’s been on air. As a kid, I spent hours in the back of the family car driving up and down the Interboro Parkway between Flatbush, Brooklyn and Elmhurst, Queens with Hot 97 on blast the entire way. “All About The Benjamins” was the first rap song I learned by heart strictly off it’s heavy rotation. Clearly Puffy’s plea to be heard, on your Hot 97 every day, that’s my word was well fulfilled.
This weird nostalgic affection for NY radio has made me a light collector of vintage mixshow rips, from my parents’ and brother’s old cassettes to uploads on random blogspots. A few years ago I came across this Funk Flex set from April 1993, the year he joined Hot 97. It was a wild time in NY rap’s history, that mirrors the current moment in many ways: Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg were spearheading the Chronic-era West Coast takeover, and NY, in response, shrunk even deeper into local function and form: new jacks like Black Moon, Onyx, Double XX Posse, Naughty by Nature all pushed the city’s sound to faster, louder, more experimental edges, while oldheads like LL Cool J and Run DMC bowed to emerging styles to maintain relevancy. Angie had just started her tutelage under Flex at the time of this show, and her brief interjections and supportive laughs, heard throughout this mix, are some of the first moments that New York ever heard voice her on air.
A mere three years later, the Notorious B.I.G and Mary J. Blige emerged as the biggest voices in the city, and Angie sat across from them on her own afternoon slot, gracefully grilling Biggie about the East v. West beef that had gripped the nation. The intensity of the moment is evident, as Big comments “If there’s ever a confrontation between the two of us, we gon’ handle that when we see each other,” Angie’s soft-spoken approach and level-headed stance guides him back down to Earth. It’s the kind of interviewing skill that can’t be taught – clearly, it’s what Angie was born to do and will continue to do no matter which number on the dial her voice broadcasts from.