I was familiar with the biggest pieces of that underground. I try to be understanding of that. Wouldn’t the proof positive that this dude sucks have come out after my being pretty aggressive in my takes about a wide range of social issues? I originally got the show in the first place, years ago, for that exact reason. Would they even want this from me? One’s four hours, and one’s four and a half. Whenever you slip up, all your worst old takes are trotted out in perpetuity. The bar to entry in hip-hop media is not where it was. It was an interview show that aired late at night across the country on Sunday. They find us curmudgeonly to a certain degree. Either you think the longtime Hot 97 personality — co-host of the weekday a.m. But I will say it’s the difference between being someone who has a fan base and being someone who everyone knows. So I was like, Instead of chasing down commercial artists to try to do music, why don’t I just do music with the artists already in my lane? You would think that people have to know who I am. Because it feels impossible, growing up the way we grew up. When people go to hear us in the morning — let’s be honest — they’re not really tuning in for the music at this point. And then it just didn’t really make very much sense. To Hot’s 97 credit, as much as I wish other stuff got supported more and I wish my own singles got supported more, for those two hours on Sundays, I have freedom. But I’m there to be a funny, polished radio jock. Even if you’re previewing a pay-per-view, you’re still operating in the world of the show. There’s no longer a presumption of good intentions. I don’t do it with takedowns of people who are undeserving. If you look back at the history of radio and all the big names who were famous for being record-breakers, going back to the Dick Clarks and Casey Kasems, they did the job until they were 80. Have the people commenting on the culture now made it their life, or are they just into hip-hop and into video games and into MMA and on a YouTube channel and just good at talking? How do you mitigate saying the wrong things when you’re talking all day? And before it was work, my hobby and life was being committed to learning, to watching, listening, and learning. So you can’t just speak and say, “Oh, this story line stinks,” because you’re operating within the story line. That’s not what I think of as my legacy in hip-hop. When Real Late started, I would go on the blogs; I would go to NahRight and 2DopeBoyz, and I would download everything that I liked. I was familiar with Griselda. That doesn’t mean I avoid it, but there are times where you’re like, This one’s not worth it. I started playing everyone’s stuff on Sunday nights. It’s “Rosenberg, I don’t know, man … Culture vulture. But I found certain things that he did to be undeniable. But the irony of it is that that’s what some people think of me. I have a problem sometimes with how they use their platform. There has been some fuss over the years about drive-time New York radio, at least before the recent commercial resurgence of the city, about Hot 97 and stations like it not having much space for local artists. But there’s a real difference between the Twitter streets and the actual street. But in real life, when you walk around, it feels like you’re just a local radio host who makes people laugh in the morning. Take it from someone who makes their living talking on the radio. Oh, 100 percent!Twitter streets remember every negative and throw it at me. He ain’t leaving.I’ve moved on. But there’s two things I would say: No. In my case, it required coming to New York and recording the radio. But when I’m working for the WWE, people don’t appreciate how hard the job of being on-air is. To Hot’s 97 credit, as much as I wish other stuff got supported more and I wish my own singles got supported more, for those two hours on Sundays, I have freedom. I’m going to lay low and think this one through. I’d be like, “Who’s this guy?”
Mark started putting me onto this underground sound, a lot of which lives on my album. Ebro has an incredibly strong personality, so if Ebro’s going hard on an issue, even if it’s a controversial subject related to race, I want to play the other side sometimes, even though [if] I was in a room with other white people, I would absolutely be making the point Ebro’s making. But a few things can be true at once. And I know people would say that about me. Because of streaming services, people end up deriding the impact of radio, but radio numbers, while they’re down from what they used to be, more people are consuming radio on a daily basis than are consuming podcasts. Well, part of that comes from feeling like our morning-show guys aren’t locals.There’s definitely an aspect of that to it. To answer your question, I’m now just connecting with artists again, getting music through them and people they know. They see the little pieces they see on the internet, and people are going to make decisions based on that. To me, if I was a bad guy, living in the time that we live in as the sort of edgy white dude on the radio, wouldn’t I have come down in 13 years? I’m talking about early Flex, the mid-to-late ’90s. Rosenberg, 41, can be both a bridge between the underground and the radio and a self-avowed sometime contrarian whose wilder moments of playing devil’s advocate turn people off, a guy just trying to make sure the good he does offsets the times he puts his foot in his mouth. It’s not that it upsets me; it worries me. That’s not what I think of as my legacy in hip-hop.”
Photo: Natalie Amrossi
Either you like Peter Rosenberg or you don’t. You had to buy music. During the pandemic, I realized I have all these artists that I’ve been supporting that I’ve been excited about over the last couple of years. I remember what you said about Chuck D.” “Culture vulture” implies swooping in to eat off of this culture while not contributing. Radio is the difference. But the bar of entry is not the same in the music, and it’s not the same on the broadcast side, either. Bob Costas. You had to buy magazines. When I started working on the music, I was making stuff that was kind of commercial. The internet knew Doja Cat. I think I still feel that way, to be honest with you. I don’t do it with inauthentic takes. “Real Late” and mix shows in general are important rungs on the ladder to success for unknown, unsigned artists. I wasn’t super-passionate about it. I use SoundCloud in the perfunctory adult, old-person way, but I don’t, like, live on SoundCloud. That is a more respectful assessment than I expected. Simultaneously, radio’s impact is also somewhat understated, just in general terms of how it operates as a medium. That was my dream, to get nights. And I don’t think you can break it by not supporting one song. In that room, for me, naturally, as a broadcaster and a person, the interesting conversation is to sort of push. But there is also a level of hypersensitivity to the point that if I say something in conversation in a group with my friends on the air, it sounds like I’m representing a view that’s different than the room I’m speaking in. But listen, not everyone’s out there focusing on my whole life. And there’s a little bit of “Who do you think you are?” Especially for me. You’re on the air most days of the week, and that’s enough time to get yourself in trouble. I don’t want to be overly judgmental. Certain people don’t like you. But the average person doesn’t. You can come up with a wacky YouTube channel or a witty Twitter profile and seemingly have more influence than people who are knowledgeable and have been in the business for a long time. So by the time I got to my mid-20s and was having conversations with Hot 97, I think there was already a feeling that while people might not know me, and I might rub some people the wrong way, it’s like, This guy is really passionate. You had to find time to watch things when they were on. As time has gone on, this skill of doing radio has now become a mix of knowing how to be entertaining and knowing how to keep your job. To be interested in and to truly care to know about hip-hop literally required work and learning. That’s my Peterpalooza concert. You can no longer be as freewheeling as you were. What goes into keeping the door open for underground artists in a business that’s run on a commercial mandate?So first of all, yeah, there is a commercial mandate. They were all into the cow song. It’s such an important question in my life that isn’t really something people think about, and it’s not relatable to most people. When I started doing “Real Late,” [music discovery] was all about blogs. The first crop of artists that I helped get on the radio, like Action Bronson and A$AP Rocky, talk about me with this real reverence that I deeply appreciate for playing their songs on Hot 97. There were things that I always felt a little iffy about with regard to Howard; I always found him problematic in a variety of ways. “I’m there to be a funny, polished radio jock. You sit there and yuck it up.” I get it. I’m sure she could pinpoint a difference in her life between when she was really big on the internet with her fans and when radio started playing her. And I love that. Not only do you have to deal with the station, whose priority is really popular records and playing them as often as possible, but on top of that, you have artists who don’t even care much about getting on the radio. Who are the broadcast heroes that made you want to get into radio? He used to have a syndicated show called Coast to Coast on Sunday nights. There’s stitch work in some cases, like adding vocal samples and scratches and things like that to make it come together as a complete song. But at the same time, the sad truth is if you’re not making people feel something, you’re not really doing your job. Jump ahead to now, and the audiences already exist, and the artists already seem popular. I worked my ass off for a very long time. You wanted this job. But I’m not gonna lie: I’m just not quite able to do that the same way in 2021 as I would have in the past. To me, if I was a bad guy, living in the time that we live in as the sort of edgy white dude on the radio, wouldn’t I have come down in 13 years? So I would say Flex. It’s completely free-form. Mark has a clothing shop, and these artists were coming by, doing freestyles in his shop. I’ve come to appreciate that Flex held on to this spot. I don’t operate in the spaces where kids are finding music. Had I been born here, that would have made me worthy of where I’ve been in the last 13 years, but since I was born in Maryland and spent my weekends listening to the radio here, that is not enough. 1, radio is not critical for having a career in music anymore; however, if you want to be, like, a straight-up superstar, then it’s critical. The artists who I’ve been around and whose careers I’ve been a part of in some way don’t think that, and the ones who didn’t like me but maybe grew to like me over time understand that I’m about more than that. “Oh God, you have to hear this.” When he was having a moment on his show, you felt that everyone was listening. I certainly don’t live on TikTok in the spaces the music is coming from. YouTube’s Next. I’ve been critical of projects in a way that wasn’t tactful. That can be enough for me to get dragged to hell. It’s not a way that I would typically consume music. Back in the day, I would have just kind of let my no-filter honesty this-is-what-I-do go for it. We all go through ebbs and flows in our passion, but right now, he certainly seems dialed in. I understand that. There was a certain effort level you had to put in. And then I started paying attention to what Mark Rosado was doing. Listen, I’m sure there were a lot of people who, with good reasons, thought, What are this guy’s credentials? I’m grateful to Mark for putting me onto people because I don’t know that I ever would’ve stumbled onto them on my own. “Well, what if this isn’t racism? I try to do that the way that’s not cheap. Related
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Tuma Basa Changed Spotify With a Playlist. They’re tuning in to get your spin. For people who aren’t necessarily familiar with the process, talk about what your role is as someone who isn’t an artist but has created an album.The most common question is “What did you do?” I get it from everyone from trolls on Twitter to my mother. Even though I do an unpaid show on Sundays playing underground music that would never get played otherwise, I understand that people still like, “What do you do every morning? You can build a large audience just by being a funny person and suddenly have people coming to you for smart industry takes that you may not necessarily have, or seeing you as a visionary voice in a business you may not necessarily fully understand. I would listen to beats and think about what artists came to mind, what inspired me when I heard the music, and sent them to the artists to see if they liked anything. So it’s just, like, it’s really weird. Smaller promoters and artists would send Mark music, and I’d get stuff cleaned for radio right away. For many, you’re either advancing the culture or you’re standing in the way of its continuing evolution. I always apologize for [my missteps]; I wish that would make people give you the benefit of the doubt. I made some progress and got a record done that I really liked that was, like, a cool, commercial record. That’s the way I think of Hot in our greatest moments historically: the greatest Angie moments; the greatest Flex moments; hopefully, some moments that we’ve had on “In the Morning” over the years, whether it was the conversation with Mister Cee or those Hot 97 moments where it feels the world is listening. Mark started actively telling the artists, “Rosenberg wants your music and is going to play your music.” Around a year and a half ago, I started getting music directly from artists again. There’s a lot of progress that’s been made that has led to people being more self-aware. You can feel the impact that you have doing radio. That is my Sunday-night show. It wasn’t gonna be “Let’s give Rosenberg his flowers. I didn’t know where to go, bro. Doja Cat would be a great example. It doesn’t mean the same thing to them. But now, the audience often finds the artists first, and hip-hop media is scrambling to figure out what they’re listening to. It’s a very weird world to be in at times, hated by both sides of people that definitively hate each other but would both agree to hate you. Now that there are playlists on streaming services attempting to operate, I would say, in a capacity that terrestrial radio stations’ rotations always have, do they feel like a looming threat on the horizon for someone working in traditional broadcasting? I do live off of hip-hop to a certain extent, and I’m super-grateful for my morning show. I’m on the Drink Champs podcast this week, and I knew I would get hate for that. We both got beat packs from producers. I enjoy my job. I have a tendency in my life to argue against whoever I’m in a space with. Tags: There is a way to get the music you want, and you don’t really need a radio to tell you what that is anymore. I have given more than I’ve gotten back financially from hip-hop. I don’t know that this would be the case anymore with a commercially successful artist. I have made light of things that I wish I hadn’t, friends I made jokes about and artists I might’ve talked about cavalierly who I really am fond of. The reasons I got reinvigorated by my show at a point where I was overwhelmed by finding new music? He’s made this his life for a really long time. Look, I know people find Ebro and me annoying. He’s been putting on for underground hip-hop for so long.” No. No one is on the fence. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. And that’s okay. Is it frustrating to you that people who don’t always know what they’re talking about have massive platforms now?I don’t have a problem with them. I get it. They forget about the fact that you’re part of the show, right? An album is much easier to do when you’re working with artists who already want to be involved with what you’re doing. If the worst things you can find about me are these missteps—
And there are some missteps. [Funkmaster] Flex was a gigantic influence. No, the importance of breaking music on radio has already been diminished. When I was in high school, it was definitely Howard Stern. You can’t make someone’s career by giving them a couple of spins on radio. And then Doja Cat gave a radio star. I spoke to him on the phone last month about piecing his album together, how he sees himself in the general scheme of hip-hop media and radio at large, and navigating the business of talking for a living without getting himself canceled. Top Shelf Premium. As time has gone on, this skill of doing radio has now become a mix of knowing how to be entertaining and knowing how to keep your job. Then I started getting into these newer underground artists, and they were inspiring me more when I did the show. People certainly want to feel like their hometowns are being represented, but this is the hip-hop I grew up on. But yeah, I have two shows. I think Ebro [Darden], at the time he hired me, thought I could be a useful way to kind of keep Hot 97 in tune with the underground. It’s a pain to have people hold on to things you’ve said for a long time. I tend to be somewhat disagreeable with the people that I am in a room with. If anyone liked something, I’d say, “Okay, what could you do to this?” It’s sort of a puzzle. But things have changed even more since I came here in 2007. They knew all of her silly internet stuff. How does it feel to have a reputation tied to bad takes from a year ago or even five or ten years ago? So for a while, I was just sort of playing new singles by artists I already knew or unpopular cuts from artists who were popular. The group is great for that conversation. Flex was a huge influence on me. Artists would also send me new music and exclusives sometimes; labels would send stuff out. I don’t say that with any bitterness or regret. That’s this album. High-profile disagreements with Nicki Minaj and Chuck D have at times overshadowed the ways he has helped to push artists like Action Bronson, A$AP Rocky, Earl Sweatshirt, and Danny Brown. I was familiar with the people who were really making an impact, but what I didn’t realize was that there were all these other artists. Now, that’s dead, and you’re competing against streaming services. It’s hard. tentpole “Ebro in the Morning” and the weekly mix show “Real Late” — is a dedicated, knowledgeable hip-hop head making room at terrestrial hip-hop radio for a new class of underground artists who deserve the leg up, or you see a bridge-and-tunnel “culture vulture” creating problems for himself by speaking out of station. At times, you make a good case for yourself, and at times, you don’t. The station — and in many ways, mainstream hip-hop itself — has gotten even more commercial and more pop since then. It’s a moment, not unlike the Funkmaster Flex and DJ Clue releases of the late ’90s and early aughts, where the past, present, and future of hip-hop convene. They’re looking at you to just give opinions. I had a period of being kind of … I don’t want to say bored with my late-night show — I always enjoy doing the show — but I didn’t feel particularly inspired. Everyone knows my intentions are good, so we can present a good argument here. I was waiting to hear Howard’s name.Yeah, Howard definitely is one. Nineties innovators like Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man, Raekwon, and Ghostface Killah mingle with aughts and ’10s movers and shakers like Jim Jones and Roc Marciano; longtime New York indie-rap fixtures Homeboy Sandman and Smoke DZA show out, as do more recent figures like Westside Gunn, Flee Lord, and Stove God Cooks; beat-makers Buckwild, Disco Vietnam, and others provide brash and intriguing sample chops. He’s still passionate about it. At that time, you couldn’t just type “hip-hop” on Spotify, and have a playlist come up. That’s the fun part, really, putting songs together with my friend Kenny, who mixed the album. What if we’re jumping the gun here?” And Ebro is great. I was familiar with Roc Marciano. I’m not talking for all of those minutes, obviously, but it’s an obscene amount of time to speak extemporaneously. What kind of work goes into staying up on what’s next? The process worked for me like this: I received beats from a lot of producers, some that I knew and some that were recommended to me by my friend Mark Rosado, a.k.a. To me, radio’s not the difference between make it and break it anymore. And that’s funny too, because after many years, I was like, Wait a second, why did we always think that in hip-hop you just had to go out to pasture at 40? I really wanted that job. Real Late, Rosenberg’s debut studio album, out now, mirrors the late-night show it’s named after in its flair for raw, timeless boom bap. The way things are on the internet right now, the more you say, the more you put yourself at risk of getting someone legitimately upset or making someone angry who simply has it out for you. That skill set required to do WWE really helped me everywhere. It used to be that you mustered enough support to get records in the hands of DJs and records played on radio and then radio would put you on the audience’s radar. These days, I might be more apt to be like, This isn’t an argument I need to have on the radio right now. Certainly, in the Chuck D situation, I was self-righteous, and I cared way too much about defending my company and didn’t think enough about the reverence Chuck deserves. But listen, this is what the job is. Being on Hot in the morning, I’m the only white guy on the show, and there are times when I naturally want to play foil to the groupthink in the moment. On top of that, radio’s significance is different because streaming services and the internet are more of a thing now than they were then. Hip-hop is the only genre where we insist that when you’re past 40, you need to die. It’s just more about conversation and personality now than it is about music.