Once upon a time in a universe far, far away, HipHopDX used to host blogs. Through Meka, Brillyance, Aliya Ewing and others, readers got unfiltered opinions on the most current topics in and beyond Hip Hop. After a few years, a couple redesigns and the collective vision of three different Editors-In-Chief, blogs are back. Sort of. Since our blog section went the way of two-way pagers and physical mixtapes, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream have further accelerated the pace of current events in Hip Hop. Rappers beef with each other 140 characters at a time, entire mixtapes (and their associated artwork) can be released via Instagram, and sometimes these events require a rapid reaction.
As such, we’re reserving this space for a weekly reaction to Hip Hop’s current events. Or whatever else we deem worthy. And the “we” in question is myself, Omar Burgess and Andre Grant. Collectively we serve as HipHopDX’s Features Staff. Aside from tackling stray topics, we may invite artists and other personalities in Hip Hop to join the conversation. Without further delay, here are this week’s “Stray Shots.”
Can Hot 97 Effectively Replace Angie Martinez?
Andre: Angie Martinez leaving the place where she morphed into a New York institution to anchor the reputation of the competition is a Hip Hop power move, but it also sends real messages about the longevity of folks within and around the genre. Not only was she Hot 97’s (WQHT, 97.1) most consistently likable figure, -- who over the years softened the abrasiveness of the males at the station like DJ Funkmaster Flex, Ed Lover and most recently Ebro Darden and Peter Rosenberg but was also its most consistent. While the station has been privy to its share of scandal during Angie’s run of 20 plus years, (15 spent interviewing Hip Hop legends) she showed up day-after-day to captain her 3-7pm timeslot through likability, connections, and skill. So why leave? The equation seems fairly simple. Not only is WQHT in an experimentation phase with their new reality show This Is Hot 97 and the fluctuations revolving around their morning show lineup, but “The Voice of New York” has stated she has television and other such ambitions. It’s not like she didn’t manage to parlay her already huge influence from the chair at Emmis to Lil Kim’s “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)” in ‘97, and in to two albums with the latter, Up Close and Personal peaking at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 200. That being said, she also has the notion that Hip Hop is a young person’s game to deal with, and while she is at the top of her profession, it’s inevitable that Hot 97’s longevity would eventually become a point of contention.
So with Clear Channel offering her the ability to be simulcast on 103.5 The Beat in Miami as well as spreading her influence on other Hip Hop stations nationwide, it seems like Angie is ready to spread her wings again and is beefing up her profile in order to jump into other lanes. She’s already done some work with “Extra.” The real question is just how long Angie Mar’ will be at Power 105.1. We don’t know the details of when she starts, and she’ll be holding down the afternoon slot from 2-6pm (which will probably eat alive her replacement at Hot 97 for a while), but I don’t necessarily see her continuing in radio as an on air personality exclusively for much longer. As Jay Z eventually elongated his Hip Hop career by becoming a CEO and mogul, it seems you may have to give off the impression that you’ve got greater ambitions to remain relevant within the warring tumult of Hip Hop. Simply being great at what you do for a very long time just may not be enough. 50 Cent is facing it right now after Animal Ambition, and DJ Funkmaster Flex will eventually have to make a similar decision as he, Miss Info, and Rosenberg remain the face of the brand. I can say, however, I can’t wait to see who they’ve got waiting in the wings. Though I’d like to throw in my vote for @nessnitty right this minute.
P.S: Thanks, Angie, for holding down my childhood.
Omar: To your point, there’s an entire generation of Hip Hop that grew up on Angie Martinez. Being raised on the West Coast, my allegiance was to Sway & Tech from the Wake Up Show. But for decades, Hot 97 has more or less been omnipresent. Aside from locking down the top interviews and dabbling on the artist side she has an emotional connection that resonates with listeners in and far beyond New York. Whether you’re talking about the days of The Tunnel or remembering who was on air to help you make sense of the losses of Tupac and B.I.G., she was most likely there.
In terms of New York, Hot 97 and Power 105 are very much engaged in a Red Sox versus Yankees (un)Civil War. The loss of Martinez adds another layer to the defection of DJ Envy, Funkmaster Flex versus DJ Clue and pretty much every other Power/Hot beef you want to name. Most of the Hot/Power crews are also bona fide personalities, as evidenced by their current television roles on VH1 and REVOLT. I think more and more of Hip Hop’s contributors—writers, deejays, etc.—are angling for similar roles. The fact that Envy, Martinez, Clue and Flex have all had retail albums highlights the thin line that separates artists from the people that interview them. The fact that Diddy, Jay Z and 50 Cent all have their own media arms with REVOLT, Life+Times and ThisIs50 means they can also control the coverage around them if they choose to do so. Angie’s gonna be good money wherever she goes; and I think the same holds true for most of the Hot 97 and Power 105 personalities. But as I scan Twitter and see dozens of self-aggrandizing “writers” and aspiring personalities shucking and jiving 140 characters at a time, it will be interesting to see who from the next generation wants to challenge commonly held assumptions about popular artists and attempt to raise the level of dialogue without damaging their brand. It’s hard to look at a rapper face-to-face and call their material subpar or question their off-mic antics when you’re angling for a check.
Is Your Old Droog the new Nasty Nas?
Andre: A rapper sounding eerily similar to one Nasir Jones made the headlines this week as Your Old Droog which eerily translates to Your Old “Friend,” dropped a mixtape that sounded like the hood magician we’ve all come to know and love. Because it’s the Internet, wild speculation followed. Was it Nas in disguise? Which would have been the most anime way for a person to reinvent a career where they’ve already done just about everything. But it was confirmed by Dharmic X in an article on Complex that made it clear that whoever this kids was, he was not the Illmatic emcee. The same fact was also confirmed by Nah Right’s Twitter. But you can’t help but listen and hear the similarities in style, cadence, delivery and flow. I mean, someone even sped up the pitch some 80% on “Gunsmoke Cologne” and it sounded like Mr. “Hate Me Now” himself. And why couldn’t it be? The entire industry could be in on it. There’s drones in the sky outside your house. Chemtrails glow amber and smoky over midwestern skies. Texas still categorically denies global warming. The NSA is definitely reading Stray Shots as well as collecting your sexts, tweets, and nudes. With all the misinformation out there, who’s to say some clever social media upstart hasn’t created Rap’s latest Hardy Boys mystery?
Then there’s the music itself. In much the same way Action Bronson sounded very similar to Ghostface Killah when he first jumped on everyone’s radar, Your Old Droog’s supposedly careful examination and copying of Nasty Nas’s style is probably a clever bid to be recognized. Even if he is some separate New York soul, the quality of the mixtape is real. It ain’t the lost Lost Tapes or anything, but it’s intriguing. The guy can definitely rap. And even though he spits poetic about a lifestyle that is becoming increasingly less dominant in mid 2010’s Brooklyn, the supposed Coney Islander might be on to something if the supposed non-Nas can carve his own style out of the image of the God emcee. What it might be, however, is anyone’s guess. The 90s were 20 years ago. That music, tied to that time period is at least a decade ago past in Hip Hop favor. For all its nostalgia, you often feel like you’re playing some video game set in the not too distant past. I get it, though. The ‘90s were the last decade with a definable “style.” That aughts were a mishmash of thoughts heaped on to each other. The current decade is turning out to be the same. Maybe the real rub of hearing a style revisited is finally coming to grips with the “share” age. There is no “style,” anymore. Too specific. Too regional. Too ‘90s.
Omar: G-Unit is back together…sort of. We’re patiently awaiting when Cam’ron and Jim Jones will go ahead and form Harlem’s version of Voltron by reuniting the Diplomats. To me, it all highlights the thirst for someone to (wait for it…) bring back New York. And Your Old Droog fits nicely into that desire to see the style of ‘90s Hip Hop popularized by Empire State. We’re a few months removed from the 20-year anniversary of Illmatic, and Droog damn sure sounds like he graduated from the University of Nasir Jones. You’ve got the internal rhyme patterns and the mix of hardcore, street subject matter with some Five-Percenter lessons sprinkled in too. After hearing “Gunsmoke Cologne,” I too wanted to drink the Kool-Aid and believe we stumbled upon another batch of Nas’ lost tapes. But the myth has been debunked and Nas is not Droog. The South is still Hip Hop’s dominant region, and it’s unclear if the constantly evolving economics of the music industry, fans and gatekeeper’s collective greed or New Yorkers themselves really want the return of intricately wordy, metaphor-filled rhymes over sample-based production. In the meantime, I’m interested to see if Droog has material that doesn’t sound like Nas, because I think he has all the raw ingredients of a dope emcee.
Omar Burgess is a Long Beach, California native who has contributed to various magazines, newspapers and has been an editor at HipHopDX since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @omarburgess.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant who’s contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Senior Features Writer for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.