Rolling Out

Ebro talks Hot 97 Summer Jam, Jay Z’s Tidal, and the future of hip-hop radio

Photo credit: Instagram @ebroski

The Hot 97 Summer Jam continues to stand out as the ultimate hip-hop summer hip-hop festival. Memorable moments include Jay Z bringing Michael Jackson on stage in 2001; Nas bringing out Lauryn Hill in 2012; The Game denouncing G-Unit by throwing his chain into the crowd in 2005; and Aaliyah giving one of her final performances in 2000.

This year’s show will take place on June 7.

We recently spoke with Hot 97’s Ebro to get his take on this year’s Summer Jam, Kendrick Lamar and the future of hip-hop radio.

With the 2015 Summer Jam around the corner, what are you most excited about for this year’s show?

Honestly, what excites me most is the fact that we get some of the biggest artists in hip-hop and R&B out in front of fans. It’s one big party so my joy is just seeing people have a good time. That’s what I get excited about, just seeing the people celebrate out there. Meek Mill probably has some stuff up his sleeve, and I know Chris Brown will bring a great show. Let’s see what Kendrick Lamar wants to do. I think people come to see their favorite artists do their favorite songs and come to the party.

What are your thoughts on hip-hop in 2015. Besides Kendrick’s TPAB, have there been major rap releases in 2015?

I don’t know the difference between the mixtape and the album at this point. You can’t give me 18 songs and tell me it’s not an album. It’s been a lot of hit records. J Cole had a platinum album. I think Drake has a platinum. I think Kendrick’s album is platinum. So I mean that’s significant. Things are usually slow the first three to four months anyway. We’re going to see a Kanye West album. We’re probably going to see Jay-Z and Beyoncé do something. We’re going to see a Meek Mill album. We still have a lot of year left.

One big newsmaker in hip-hop has been Jay Z’s new streaming service Tidal. Why has there been so much backlash?

I think that anytime you’re at the magnitude of someone like Jay Z, you’re going to be hyper-scrutinized. I think that the price point is probably a little high for some people who already had streaming services. So that’s where the backlash came. You had a bunch of rich people talking about how they weren’t getting their fair share and I don’t think people quite understand that. I think over time people will end up using Tidal in some way because of all of the great content that it’ll provide people. It’s only been a couple months. You don’t evaluate these things until five or six years in. I’m sure you’re going to see a Rihanna album, Kanye album, and a couple other things get released on Tidal. I like it. It should be pointed out that as far as rap music and hip hop is concerned, one of the gripes for decades have been that the culture of hip hop and the individuals inside of it don’t control our distribution of our content. The distribution outlets have been owned by people who don’t really care about hip-hop. Now we have someone who has ownership of a distribution of content and we’re acting like it’s not a good thing.

What are your thoughts on the untimely passing of Chinx Drugz?

People are very sad because anybody that knows Chinx knows that he was a super nice and super humble guy. I knew him from being an artist and he was just always willing to work and learn and wanted to follow his dream. He did time in jail, four years, and I think he got out in 2008. He was ready to work. He had kids and a wife so I think everybody wanted to see him succeed. He was right on the verge and was about to pop. I think that’s disappointing for people especially here in NYC where we really try to embrace our artists as much as possible.

With so many ways to get music these days, some say radio isn’t necessary anymore. What will be the future of hip-hop radio?

Radio is kind of that entity that brings music to the mainstream. The internet is for the more active people, the taste makers that have the time go search for what they’re looking for. I think that’ll continue. I think with the bandwidth that you have to pay for on your cellphone, it cost you money and bandwidth to search and play music on your phone. As long as that continues, I think radio will be in a good place because it’s free. A lot of people don’t know that most cell phones have AM and FM receivers in it. So you could technically get radio in your phone. And radio stations like Hot 97, who have apps that deliver content through YouTube and other channels, will continue to put content there. We just have to figure out ways to get our content to people.

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