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Peter Rosenberg on the N-word, Nicki Minaj controversy at Summer Jam and more

On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN welcome influential radio DJ and personality Peter Rosenberg.

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.

On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN welcome influential radio DJ and personality Peter Rosenberg, who makes his first appearance on the show to shed light on how he went from a relative unknown to one of the voices of New York City radio. Born and raised in Chevy Chase, Maryland; Rosenberg cut his teeth in radio as a college student, eventually adding viral parody videos to his mix of endeavors. Catching the attention of Hot 97, which he joined in 2007, he has become a staple on the station with his weekly radio show, “Real Late with Peter Rosenberg,” which is dedicated to underground hip hop and has helped further the careers of some of the most respected artists of his time. Continuously expanding his brand, which includes his Juan Epstein podcast with Cipha Sounds, as well as gigs with WWE and ESPN, Rosenberg is a mainstream star while remaining the antithesis of it at his core.

To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Peter Rosenberg “Drink Champs” episode. Take a look at them below.

1. On His Lack of Chemistry With Miss Jones

While getting himself acclimated to the culture of Hot 97, Rosenberg’s arrival to the station was not welcomed by some of its other hosts, particularly Miss Jones, who he admits to butting heads with early on during his tenure. “She did not fuck with me at all,” he reveals of their initial interactions. “I got up there and [DJ] Envy was with her, and thank God for Envy, who was accommodating, welcoming... he was like, ‘You probably shouldn’t even be in the studio when she gets here.’ I spent two days sitting in a studio next to the studio. She came up to me afterwards and she was like, ‘What are you, some fucking spy for Ebro?’ By the way, in retrospect, she was probably right. I mean, he was bringing me in to be maybe a producer or whatever, but I didn’t know how to produce anyway.”

2. On The Origin of “Real Late With Peter Rosenberg”

Hitting his stride on Hot 97 with his weekly late night show, “Real Late with Peter Rosenberg,” the spinster and radio jock recalls the moment he learned that he’d be able to make his own playlists and become a curator for the most storied hip hop radio station in the country. “I’m home and Ebro calls me. I remember where I was standing,” Rosenberg says. “He was like, ‘I have good news and bad news: Bad news is the Miss Jones thing isn’t gonna happen. The good news is I want you to do a Sunday show where you play your underground hip hop’ and that was the greatest phone call of my life. If it had only been the Sunday night show, I was good. I grew up just wanting to be Flex, so when he was like, ‘I’m gonna give you a Sunday night show,’ I was like, ‘I pick the music?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, you pick the music. We’ll do some video stuff...’ and that was it.”

3. On Dissing Nicki Minaj At Summer Jam

A notorious moment that landed Rosenberg in controversy was when he made comments bashing Nicki Minaj’s 2012 single “Starships” at Summer Jam, prompting the headliner and her Young Money label-mates to cancel their headlining performance. Rosenberg speaks on what sparked his remarks and admits that the optics of it were unfavorable in hindsight. “I didn’t like ‘Starships’ and I stand by that,” he says. “And I think history kind’ve proved me right. Even though she made a boatload of money on it and it did really well, it wasn’t a record that I liked. Now, I admit, I did not, at the time, think of the implications [of me] being a man, being a white man that she doesn’t know and wasn’t even all that established yet shitting on her record. I now realize the privilege that was built into that. But, at the time, I’m repping for [hip hop]. To me, it’s hip hop, all day. And while I’m regretful for some of those situations, let’s be honest, if I wasn’t the kind of person who said shit like that, I wouldn’t ever be here right now.”

4. N.O.R.E. On The Impact of Analytical Data in Hip Hop

Prior to social media and other platforms helping close the gap between the artist and the consumer, rappers like N.O.R.E. were more reliant on their own first-hand experiences and word of mouth in determining what markets their music was hot in. While discussing the politics of radio with Rosenberg, the “Drink Champs” co-host explains how touring was the main barometer for an artist to gauge their reach. “You gotta realize, if I didn’t go to that place, I didn’t see it. Literally, I did not know people played my record in Virginia. I didn’t even know people were playing my record in D.C. ‘cause if I didn’t actually get there, there was no way for me to do that. And if the record labels knew it, they weren’t telling me, so I thought I was hot in New York City the whole War Report. I never knew people in Jamaica — not Jamaica, Queens — are listening to this shit, I didn’t know that. So, the algorithms and all that shit didn’t exist.”

5. On The Lack of Rappers With Captivating Backstories

When speaking on the difference between the rap stars of yesteryear and the current crop of rap artists in the game, Rosenberg points to the lack of an intriguing background or persona as why many of today’s artists fail to sustain a connection with their audience. “I think they may have stories, but social media makes it look like all of their stories are the same,” he offers. “It’s not that I think none of them are interesting or have a life to speak of, it’s just because of social media and everyone basically doing the same thing. Like, there’s never gonna be a time in my life where I don’t find holding up money in an Instagram stupid. Never, no matter how young or old I was. The idea that people are showing money to the world, to me, is the craziest thing on earth. And not only is it stupid and it’s dangerous. It’s boring.”

6. On His Creative Control With “Real Late with Peter Rosenberg”

Program directors have notoriously been maligned for enforcing playlists upon their DJs and on-air talent, creating a contrived formula that doesn’t account for skill or individual taste. According to Rosenberg, he’s been fortunate to be able to stick to his guns and has had minimal interference from the higher-ups at Hot 97 over the years. “I’ve been on my own fucking island playing the music I wanna play,” he boasts while conversing with DJ EFN and N.O.R.E. “I can’t believe they’ve let me do it for 13 years. I’ve never been paid for my Sunday night show, I make my own playlist, no one says a fucking word. I had one little period where they told me I had to play hits on my show, I forgot that happened and for about a year, they were like, ‘Send us the playlist.’ It was ‘cause of a wack boss we had, not Ebro, a wack dude that was there. There was a period where they were like, ‘On Sundays, we wanna make sure that we’re spinning other records, too.’ So I played along with them for like six months and then slowly, but surely, they forgot a new person came in... When X passed, God rest the dead, I was able to be like, ‘I’ma do a whole hour of X and I’ma play the most random shit that people don’t remember.’”

7. On Helping Break Rap’s Biggest Stars

During his tenure on Hot 97, Rosenberg has become the preeminent flag-bearer for lyrical-driven hip hop on the New York City airwaves, as well as nationally, a role he feels he does not get enough credit for in comparison to the likes of predecessors like Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia. He attributes that to the current lack of appreciation for traditional, boom-bap inspired hip hop that he champions on Top 40 driven radio airwaves. “That’s not the time I’ve been in, unfortunately,” he says. “I’ve been on at the time, actually, where everybody’s kind’ve moved on from the golden era and I’ve been the dude who continues to try to put the flag down for the shit I love while growing with the times. I’ve supported a lot of the biggest artists over the last decade from Cole to Kendrick to Mac Miller, God bless the dead. Earl Sweatshirt, Logic, there’s been a ton. I played Odd Future for the first time, I played Frank Ocean for the first time.”

8. On His First Time Ever Saying The N-Word

A white man in a predominantly Black culture, Rosenberg is not one to downplay his position and knowledge of hip hop, however, he is vocally steadfast in his refusal to use racially derogatory slurs. However, the opportunity to be cast as a DJ in an episode of the Donald Glover’s FX series “Atlanta,” in which he’d have to use the N-word for acting purposes, left him feeling conflicted, a dilemma he shares candidly. “They hit me up and they’re like, ‘Hey, we’re putting on a TV show, we want you to audition for a part,’” he says. “I’m like, ‘Okay, cool.’ I read the script, it’s episode one of “Atlanta,” playing a radio DJ. I look at the script, I read it, I look at my ex-wife at the time, I’m like, ‘They have the N-word in here. I call Gambino’s manager, I’m like, ‘Yo guys, you put the N-word in the fucking script I don’t say the N-word.’ He goes, ‘It’s called acting.’ I was like, ‘Fuck you, alright, let me think about it. So, I spent days thinking about what I was gonna do. Should I do it? Should I not do it? How would it play? What is ‘The Breakfast Club’ gonna do with the audio when the episode airs. By the way, I would’ve been playing a radio personality, how many people are gonna believe it’s just real?” In the end, Rosenberg chose to go forward with the audition, but wound up not getting chosen for the role. “I did the audition, I didn’t get the part,” he admits. “I ran into Gambino’s manager, I’m like, ‘So what happened?’ He was like, ‘Just couldn’t believe you saying the N-word.’ I was like, ‘Bro, I told you!’ He was like, ‘[It’s just that] you’re too nice [of] a guy.’”

9. On Ageism in Hip Hop

As numerous rap artists who debuted during the ‘90s continue to see success and maintain relevance into their 40s and 50s, the negative stigma that once plagued them has begun to fall to the wayside, an evolution Rosenberg gives his personal take on during his visit. “At the time, in the ‘90s and early 2000s when I was grading albums, I had never seen a rap artist who lasted 30 years,” he explains. “So if they dropped one [bad] album, we go, ‘They fell off.’ They didn’t fall off, they made one wack joint as part of an entire career in which they’ll make more classics down the line. So, we always think it’s the end. Guys, we could have 10 more Kanye albums. We could have seven more Nas albums left, eight more JAY albums left. These are young men, relatively. This whole “It’s A Young Man’s Game” [mentality], that was only because rap artists hadn’t lived long enough for it to become a generational game. And we stupidly cut off our own old school artists and made them feel like they weren’t cool anymore when they’d show up at the club and they were 45 [years old] and say, ‘Oh, these guys are old.’ We should’ve always been treating them like, ‘We never know what they’re about to drop next.’

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