Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
In the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” legendary radio personality Angie Martinez joins N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN to reminisce on the many historical moments in hip hop that’s she’s been a part of. While throwing back a few shots of watermelon Ciroc, the New York City native breaks down how she got her start in broadcasting, and helped build Hot 97 into the preeminent radio station in the culture at the time, while becoming a brand herself. Serving as a major component of the radio station’s core personalities, Martinez quickly gained a reputation for her engaging personality and riveting interviews with the biggest stars in the game. From holding court with 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. during the height of the east coast/west coast rivalry to helping officiate the epic showdown between Nas and JAY-Z, the voice of New York has seen it all and helped bring the listeners a little closer to the action for upwards of a quarter-century.
With a new TV show, a memoir, and a movie script in the works, Martinez is far from finished in her career and has her eyes set on much even bigger goals.
To help give fans a recap of the conversation, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Angie Martinez episode of “Drink Champs.” Take a look at them below.
1. Her Broadcasting Pedigree
Prior to her own career in radio, Martinez got a crash course in the biz from her own mother, who dived into the broadcasting world following a tumultuous period in their lives.”My family’s uptown, Inwood, Washington Heights,” she shares. “The stop is like 207th & Dyckman, Seaman Ave... She moved us to Brooklyn. But, not just Brooklyn, like the last stop on the F train like by Coney Island. So, me and my mother moved to Brooklyn and the rest of my family was there ‘cause my mother was trying to find a way, so she got a job. First at Polygram Records, she was a receptionist there and then she worked her way to radio. She was never on the air. She worked in the office, behind the scenes. But, I grew up hearing conversations about radio. I remember her talking about radio jocks, like people on the air and she was complaining about somebody, that he loves the sound of his own voice. And she was saying she hated people that love to hear the sound of their own voice. They just wanna talk to be talking. And I always remembered that, even later when I would be on the air, to make sure that I’m not just talking for myself.”
2. N.O.R.E.’s Mother’s Affinity For Big Pun
Rap moms tend to be the coolest mothers in the world, including N.O.R.E.’s, who had a request that was so hip hop that it even surprised her son. “My mother asked me,” he begins. “She said, ‘I’d never ask you for a favor,’ I said, ‘Okay mom, what you want?’ She said, ‘I wanna meet somebody.’ So, I’m figuring my mom [wants to] meet Michael Jackson. I’m like, ‘She wanna meet fucking Lionel Richie.’ So, I’m like, ‘Who you wanna meet?’ She said, ‘Big Pun.’ I said, ‘Ah, that’s my best friend, don’t worry about it. We’ll get to meet him.’ And I put it off for almost years and then he died ‘cause I thought he was gonna be around forever.”
3. The Origin of Battle of the Beats
One of Martinez’s more memorable contributions during her tenure at Hot 97 was “Battle of the Beats,” a competition pitting two songs from different acts against one another with the fans deciding which of the two is superior. She gives the scoop on how the concept was birthed and its importance to the culture. “I had went from doing overnights,” she explains. “I was on like 2 a.m. and they gave me this nighttime shift. It was like a big deal, like, ‘Oh shit, people are like awake and can hear me on the radio. And that’s when I was like, ‘I gotta make a show,’ and I came up with Battle of the Beats and I’m not understanding the power of it yet because we’re developing it. There’s no such thing as hip hop radio. We’re making it happen, this is a new thing. So, I just came up with it ‘cause it was fun to do, but then people started taking it [serious]. It became like a thing. I remember Lyor Cohen calling me ‘cause I had put Canibus against LL. I got a call from Lyor, I’m like, ‘Lyor Cohen, what he want with me for?’”
4. Her First Encounter With JAY-Z
No radio personalities relationship with JAY-Z is as storied as Martinez’s, as the two have conducted legendary interviews and even appeared on songs together. NYC radio’s first lady reminisces on her introduction to his music and the man behind it. “Ill & Al Skratch had a new song out and I put it in Battle of the Beats,” she recalls. “And I was like, ‘I need somebody to go against this and there was this kid from Brooklyn named JAY-Z. It was ‘In My Lifetime.’ I put it against Ill & Al Skratch, but we didn’t know who JAY was at the time, I just put it up. JAY bodied Ill & Al Skratch, but it was ridiculous, I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ I remember thinking, like ‘Who is JAY-Z? Why is the phones going so crazy?’ Years later, JAY told me they paid people to call all night (laughs). But, it really got my attention, and then he won and he won for, like, a few nights in a row. And then him and Dame showed up at the station and they brought me, like, champagne and they showed up in the Roc-A-Fella buggy-eyed Benz.”
5. Her Participation In The JAY-Z & Nas Battle
The war of words between JAY-Z and Nas is considered one of the more monumental moments in hip hop history and remains a topic of discussion nearly twenty years after the dust between the two icons settled. Martinez details her involvement in deciding who was the victor between the two and how the timing of the outcome put her in a precarious position. ”Battle of the Beats had this legacy, then it ended years [later],” she explains. “Flex was like, when the ‘Ether’ thing happened, he was like, ‘Ang, we gotta bring Battle of the Beats back for this thing. And we did it and it was ‘Ether’ versus” ‘Super Ugly’ and, of course, ‘Ether’ won. But, literally as I was announcing the winner is Nas, I can see from my peripheral in the window, I can see JAY walking in. I’m like, ‘And then the winner is Nas,’ this is terrible (laughs)! I had heard that he had wanted to come it, but just the timing of it. It was not a comfortable feeling.”
6. The Aftermath of JAY-Z’s Loss To Nas
JAY-Z’s reputation for being a beacon of confidence and composure precedes him. However, his defeat at the hands of Nas brought out a more vulnerable side of him, according to Martinez. ”He was not comfortable,” she recalls. “And I had interviewed [him] maybe four or five times already by that point in our careers and he was always confident — always ran the show. He said his mother heard it and was like, ‘Why would you say that?’ I guess she was disappointed in him for some of the things he said in ‘Super Ugly,’ So, he apologized. But, what I remember about that day and for me, what was a moment was after ‘cause I felt bad. I had never seen him somewhat defeated.’”
7. On Big Pun Feeding Her Edibles
One of the more humorous stories Martinez shares with the “Drink Champs” involves her introduction to edibles, courtesy of Big Pun, who tricked the legend to bite off a little more than she could chew. “Do you know Pun got me super high on the radio one time?” she reveals. “So, I had never had any weed cookies before and he came to the show, and he had a bag of weed cookies. He was like, ‘Have one.’ I had smoked. So, I thought, ‘Okay, I can handle a weed cookie.’ What I didn’t know was that it takes time to kick in. So, I ate one, I was like, ‘I feel nothing, I’m fine.’ I ate, like, half a bag and that little fucker, he fucking sat there and watched me do it ‘cause Pun was an asshole in the best way possible. He was like a jokester, like to him, it was probably hysterical, like, ‘She has no idea.’ So, I had way too many cookies. We finished the interview and I was fine. I was like, ‘I can eat all the cookies in the world. My tolerance is crazy. Nothing happened to me,’ and then all of a sudden, I was like [high]. Then, I’m still on [air]. I had to finish the rest of my show and I said to my producer, Patty Duke, I was like, ‘I think I need to go to the hospital, I think I need to go to the hospital (laughs)!”
8. Her Experience As A Latina In Hip Hop
Latinx have played a significant role in hip hop dating back to its origins. However, Martinez’s status as one of the most influential and powerful radio jocks in the culture was groundbreaking for a Latina. “What I noticed ‘cause if you’re from New York. You know that if you’re Puerto Rican and black, we grew up in the same way,” she says. “There was no separation. I didn’t even realize that outside of New York, things were different. So, in New York, it’s not a big deal ’cause I’m Puerto Rican. Puerto Rican and black, we go to the same corner store. We talk the same. Everybody smokes Newports. We live the same life. So, there wasn’t no real separation. I noticed in different cities it wasn’t like that. But, it wasn’t until I got on and then I would travel that people would be surprised, like, ‘Oh, who is this?’ I remember I was somewhere, it was early in my career I had just started traveling a little bit, hosting parties. And someone said to me, ‘Who are you, Lisa Lisa?’ and I was like, ‘Lisa Lisa?!?!’ ‘Cause that’s the only reference of a Latina, even in this space, that they ever had. I didn’t realize it until I went out of town. But, in New York, that was never a thing.’”
9. The Backstory Behind “Ladies Night”
Martinez’s career took a twist in 1997 when she stepped out of one booth and into another for her appearance on “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix).” Cast alongside Lil Kim, Missy Elliott, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Da Brat, the radio jock was thrust into the national spotlight and even earned a Grammy nomination, which was a moment in time she remembers quite fondly. “‘Ladies Night’ was classic and that was the first thing I ever wrote was my verse...” she reveals. “I never wrote anything my whole life until I wrote my verse for ‘Ladies Night.’ Before that, I had only been on one other song and KRS-One wrote it for me. So, it was like, I did that with KRS, he wrote it and was just like, ‘Spit this,’ and I was like, ‘Okay!’ And the next time, Lance ‘Un’ [Rivera] was like, ‘I wanna put you on ‘Ladies Night,’ and then I had to write a verse.” Martinez also mentions the backlash she received from competing record stations upon the release of the record. “What would happen was, ‘cause the other radio stations would hate ‘cause I was still on the air, the other radio stations would play the record without my eight bars,” she explains. “And I’d be like,’Yo, that’s some real sucker shit.’ Even Z100, the big pop station at the time. I’m like, I’m not even your competition. You’re pop. Why are you cutting my verse off? Mad stations did that across the country...”