Karlie Hustle is the smart and sassy music director at Hot 97, and she takes her position very seriously. With Hot 97 recognized throughout the world as the most visible bastion of hip-hop radio, Hustle makes sure she does everything in her power to retain the brand’s integrity. But many New York hip-hop fans and artists complain that Hot 97 doesn’t show enough love to the Big Apple; with Southern and West Coast rap acts dominating the rotation. But Hustle says don’t believe the hype.
“As somebody who’s on the front line constantly fighting for that —I say that’s B.S.,” she says. “I champion myself, along with [morning personality] Rosenberg and [programming director] Ebro — getting a lot of local cats spun, even in the last calender year. If you look at Action Bronson’s spins, if you look at Troy Ave., he’s getting 50-60 spins on his record this week. Bodega Bamz is another artist that we were able to break through. It’s all about timing and all about cycles.”
“For a while, I do think it was a bit quiet in New York for a minute, as the southern rap phase has been dominating for a minute,” she continues. “But I think that people went kind of back underground and now they’re starting to re-emerge as a … New York renaissance. A lot of artists said, ‘F it —we don’t need your permission to do what we want to do.'”
“Before, Action Bronson and Troy Ave., and Bodega Bamz were getting spins like they are now, we’ve been there behind the scenes,” Hustle shares. “I put Bodega Bamz on a ‘Who’s Next’ platform at SOBs and he did the festival stage last year at Summer Jam. We’re there, it’s just people don’t realize we’re there so they think we’re not supporting. But we’re absolutely there —many steps of the way.”
Many hip-hop fans wonder if there should be more platforms for hip-hop, particularly on FM radio. Hot 97 and other major hip-hop radio stations, are often asked to please an ever-broadening and diversified hip-hop audience.
“I don’t think it’s realistic but I think it’s what we have to work with,” Hustle explains. “I don’t think the market exists to financially support [a lot of] different kinds of radio stations on a terrestrial signal.”
“If you touch 500 people, it doesn’t mean your message is less important,” she adds. “There are tons of places for people to express themselves and to play the kind of music that they want to play or make the music they want to make. This is a do-it-yourself universe and if you’re not doing it, but you’re sitting around complaining about what somebody else is doing, you’re wasting that time that you could be building your empire, that would eventually get the recognition that a Hot 97 could give you.”