Listeners tuning into New York radio station Hot 97 between the hours of 3 and 7 p.m. this afternoon will be met by the sound of a new voice. Today, Nessa takes the wheel of Afternoon Drive, the revered hip-hop station's commute-hour show that was steered by Angie Martinez for nearly 20 years before she made the jump to Power 105.1 last summer. "It's an honor [to be taking over Angie's seat]," Nessa told FADER over the phone last week. "She paved the way for so many of us girls—she's coming out with cookbooks, and I can't even boil water right. She's living life in a such a great way, and we all can appreciate that, especially as women."
Unlike Angie, who is known as "The Voice of New York," Nessa is not a native New Yorker—she was raised in Los Angeles and honed her radio skills on San Francisco's KYLD 94.9, where she hosted the evening show from 2010 on. But despite having grown up in Power 106 territory, she considers herself a lifelong Hot 97 devotee. "The culture of hip hop in radio-land comes from Hot 97," she says, adding that she would listen to bootlegged recordings of the station's programming. "Hot 97 has the best energy and continues to preserve the culture, which was something that I always wanted [in the West Coast] but didn't have," she says. "For me to be part of their legacy is incredible."
But Hot 97's legacy is changing. The station's airwaves are no longer dominated by Biggie and boom bap; their playlist spans from the unending wealth of DJ Mustard productions to the occasional crossover from Top 40 radio (see: Nico & Vinz's "Am I Wrong"). Nessa's addition to the roster is further indication that the station, which has long promised to "bring New York back," is increasingly open to outside influence—and she's cool with that. "It's all evolving, and the fact that I can be part of it is great because we have to preserve the culture and do our best to keep it going," she says. And anyways, she's not too worried about geographic differences: "There's a little difference between East Coast and West Coast radio, but fundamentally it's all the same. The basics—knowing when to talk, how long to talk—are universal."
Likewise, she's not worried about disturbing the station's reputation for being "male-friendly," as Martinez alluded to in an interview with New York earlier this year. "I honestly think times are changing and everyone's realizing how important it is to have women as a part of your team," she says, promising to bring a little of what she's learned during her stint on MTV's Girl Code. "I think we're the best bosses in the world—we're caring, we're understanding, we're loving. We're basically unicorns, and it takes confident guys to understand that— so, if you're a guy out there and you don't understand that, get with it, buddy!"
So far, Nessa's received a warm reception from the artists that typically flood Hot 97's airwaves; Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Chris Brown have reached out to offer a hearty congrats, and so has Snoop Dogg: "The fact that they remember me makes me excited." Like, really excited: "Everyone probably thinks I'm on drugs—I'm so excited all the damn time," she laughed. "I can't help it, it's a dream. I love everyone—even the security downstairs. Dreams come true."
Photo credit: Karl Ferguson