On Sunday, New York City’s world-famous hip hop radio station, Hot 97, held their yearly Summer Jam concert. Earlier that day, one of the station’s DJs, Peter Rosenberg, decried the oeuvre of Summer Jam headliner Nicki Minaj while introducing another act, Kendrick Lamar. His charge was about Minaj’s recent single, which has a decidedly pop-oriented slant to it: “We’re all about that real hip-hop, not ‘Starships.’”
The quip caused Minaj, a headliner, to pull out of the concert just a few hours before her appearance, on the orders of her Young Money label-head, Lil’ Wayne. Funkmaster Flex—the most famous DJ on Hot 97′s roster—noted:
“We don’t fuck with commercial artists no more. We don’t give a shit if you commercial or pop and you afraid to touch down in Jersey.”
He then went on to antagonize (or: “go in on”) Ms. Minaj further, promising to ruin her career tonight on his show, which he often peppers with long rants on various matters of the day, punctuated by his trademark “bomb” sound effect. For tonight’s show, he has promised to “stop the city,” and it has since been revealed that Minaj will be a guest on his show this evening to confront the fracas.
Needless to say, this is an exciting moment in New York City radio, something probably rarer than it should be. At play, you have impossibly high expectations, and feuding across racial lines and gender lines, which is all beside the looming questions of what tastemakers argue belongs on radio versus what actually ends up on the radio, and what arguments about authenticity actually concern these days. Much of the public ennui surrounding all of this has found its way into Funkmaster Flex’s Twitter feed over the course of the day: People—even those at the New York Times—have feelings about this, and strong ones.
[In unusually subdued voice.] “New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, what’s going on? So, today, New York City, I’m going to talk to Nicki Minaj. And I’m going to ask her everything we need to know. And we’re going to talk about this to the end.”
“I was tight, yesterday. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, I was in a place. I was seeing a color, a shade of—it was like a combination of burgandy and orange, at the time, if you can visualize that.”
“So: I then calmed down a little bit. Put another plan in action. Which we’re going to get to today. So we’re going to speak to Nicki Minaj in a little while. We’re going to play this Chris Brown?”
[In trademark scream.] “ALRIGHT, IF YOU WERE AT SUMMER JAM HIT ME UP ON TWITTER AT FUNKMASTER FLEX. (You see how my whole voice thing changed?)”
FF: Time-Out. Summer Jam is not based on morales. This show is built on who’s bringing out celebrities, who’s coming out, and who’s getting dissed.
NM: But we’re not coming out.
FF: I’ve already said to you: Rosenberg might not have picked the best moment to do it. That’s the time for it. When you’re getting read to perform. It’s his opinion. He maybe shouldn’t have given that opinion.
NM: I’m going to answer your question but you gotta stop talking.
FF: That’s the first time you’ve ever told me that Wayne has ever overruled you. It happens. It’s a label. We couldn’t do anything to fix the situation.
FF: I’m here.
NM: Flex. I need you to breathe. You’re not even listening and I need you to simma. For three hours, we emailed [Hot 97 manager Ebro Darden], and actually, my manager was the first person to tell me: Yo, you’re not going on that stage. Wayne was the second person. For three hours, we could not get a resolution. [CEO of Hip Hop Since 1978] G. Roberson emailed me, and said: Hey, I need you on the phone. Ebro said ‘Let me get to the bottom of this.’ You know I love Ebro. After he sent that email, we never heard back.
FF: But you know something?
NM: Can I finish?
FF: Damn, okay.
NM: Flex. Flex. My label and program was reaching out to the manager.
FF: Now I understand the reason that you did it. And I’m listening to you. When you went to Twitter, and you did that, we felt that you were making an issue, and you were trying to put us on Front Street.
NM: Ohhhhh. Ohhh. Okay. He tried to embarrass me, but I can’t embarrass you.
NM: Flex, if you’re gonna just say wrong information blatantly like that, then ask me a question, because I’m not here to play games.
FF: That’s a nice way of calling me a liar.
NM: Well, I want you to know that we wanted to do the show.
FF: Well, now that you said that….[Cuts in on Interview] [BOMB] We’ll be back, we’ll be back. I’m gonna rewind that.
FF: Everyone was wondering if you were really gonna touch the stage. I’m just keeping it real with you. Nicki, look: There were people who were wondering if you were afraid to step on the stage. I’m not saying that’s how I feel, but people feel that way.
NM: Do you see the kind of places I’ve gone to? Did you see how many people we were with yesterday? We were two-hundred deep. Let’s not go there. There isn’t a bitch alive—and when I say bitch, I include men, because you’re a bitch when you act like that—that could scare me from performing a show. I get money. I get money. Flex…
NM: Flex…I’m not even going to say what could’ve happened yesterday, and please don’t interrupt. Relax. Relax. This is the real reason why I called you. You said something about my record sales.
FF: Yes, I did.
NM: And I want you to pull up your roster from everyone who was performing on your show. My first album sold 375,000 copies in its first week. My first album has gone on to sell 3.5 million records. My second album is at 900,000 worldwide, plus a three million selling single. If you don’t know, call Matt Voss at Universal, Flex, do the math, m-a-t-h, that’s one-point-two-million on my second album. Even without the single, I’ve sold. Three. Point. Five. Million. Albums. In Two Years. I want you before you ever open your mouth—it’s so misleading, when I saw Foxy Brown, she said, Nic, why are they saying things about your sales when you’ve gone number one in four countries? You know who the last one to do that was, Flex? The person previous to me was Eminem in 2010.
FF: But you know what? We’re not talking about LAST NIGHT, IN JERSEY, AT SUMMER JAM. I didn’t go at you because you’re a woman, I didn’t go at you because of that, I went at you because you’re an artist performing at Summer Jam. I’m not going at Wayne. What did you think? Did you think all that was gonna happen and nobody was gonna say nothing?
FF: We’re being attacked, by your team, so I’m expressing myself, I’m not going to go tit-for-tat with you.
NM: I appreciate that you owned that.
FF: I didn’t say your albums are trash.
NM: I appreciate that. But let me say this: In the history of the hip hop world…there has been one, single, solitary human being in the history of the world. One female rapper to sell more albums than me in the first week.
FF: Nicki, I’m gonna reel this in for you. We’re talking about album sales. A lot of the people that bought those albums last night were in Summer Jam.
NM: That’s right. So I’m gonna have a free show, for my fans, sometime this summer, in New York.
FF: BUT DID WAYNE DO THE RIGHT THING?
NM: I need you to simma. Listen, Flex. I need you to calm down.
FF: DID LIL’ WAYNE MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION? YES OR NO?
FF: UH-UH. YES OR NO. DID LIL’ WAYNE MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION TO PULL YOU FROM THE SHOW?
NM: Capital Y. Capital E. Capital S. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
FF: YES? YES? ARE YOU SAYING YES?
NM: I just spelled it out for you. People are gonna know the truth. And every woman is going to know. People are laughing, Flex. They’re gonna know the truth.
FF: Hot 97 does a concert.
NM: Yes, but Flex…[Flex talks over her.]
FF: We’re known around the world. And you’re known around the world.
NM: Flex, I’m getting off the phone. All you’re doing is talking over me. [Flex talks over her.]
FF: I am not talking over you. You are at fault and we are at fault too. We are both at fault. Egos were involved. Not just in the beginning part of it—and I will speak for myself as well—my ego, your ego, Wayne’s ego, Ebro’s ego, all of our egos were involved, and the people suffered and DID NOT SEE Nicki Minaj, Wayne, and DJ Khalid. And Foxy and Kim.
FF: Look, you gotta kinda rock with me on this. I already said Rosenberg didn’t pick the right time and place to say that. But Wayne should not have taken his artist.
NM: I love my team. And you gotta respect that.
FF: But now I take it to Wayne. And he should not have made that call. If people are on the phone when they already know that Nicki’s not performing, we feel like we’re up against the wall. But how’re we gonna fix this? Wayne’s wearing two hats. He’s artist and label. Wayne was a featured guest. The fans didn’t buy the tickets to see Wayne, they bought them to see Nicki Minaj. As the label guy, I was diappointed.
NM: I got it, I got your feelings. Are you gonna let me talk? You’ve already made your opinion clear, and nobody’s opinions seem to be changing. I just want to apologize to my fans for what happened last night, and like I said on Twitter, I’m going to make it up to them with a free concert. And they said you know what Hot 97? When you want our team to come to your show, treat us with respect. And that’s all we’re asking. We’re not asking for any special treatment. Just respect. And I’m very proud of my team, and the way they stood behind me—and I’m very happy to show my female fans in that audience, and even my gay fans in that audience, when I’m coming to your home, respect me. It’s no longer comedy. Wayne doesn’t take me as a joke.
FF: I’m asking you a question before you get off the phone. Last night’s issues between all of us has not been just about last night. Can we agree?
NM: Yes! Flex, I’m telling you the response to that was it got to an all-time level of disrespect.
FF: Does Hot 97 deserve an apology Nicki?
NM: I stand behind it! No, no radio station that allows someone to disrespect me before I go on stage deserves an apology. And I know you respect it. Say it.
FF: No! (Laughs) You’re trying to bully me. I know what you’re trying to do.
NM: Flex, we’re talking in circles.
FF: But can we agree that we’ll respect each other?
NM: Yes. We can do that. All I ask is next time we go forward, we get respected. We need to know that the person who disrespected me is going to apologize—I don’t need an apology, I just need….
FF: BUT CAN WE SAY YOU’RE GOING TO DO SUMMER JAM NEXT YEAR?
NM: I’m gonna have to talk to Wayne, and Baby, and….
FF: You know what, Nicki? I want to be honest with you. I think you’re putting me in a position at this particular moment. You’re putting me in a position [by asking Rosenberg to apologize]. I don’t think I should get off the phone with you right now, I don’t want to be in a position to say sorry.
NM: Were you wrong, or not?
FF: You know what, Nicki? I’m not wrong in defending my team.
NM: When you said something about the streets, and sales, I just want you to know that I’m never mad when you don’t like something, but when you give facts to the world, they take what you say as the truth.
FF: That criticism comes with the game. Once the crossover stations, even if they take one of your gutterist hip hop records and play it, we’ve seen this with Tupac, Biggie, everybody, if we’re going to have this conversation, Nicki, you are particularly sensitive to it.
NM: What, the whole pop thing?
FF: Yeah. They say it about every rapper.
NM: It’s not about pop, Flex. It’s about disrespecting an artist.
FF: Are we fleshed out? Are we cool?
NM: Just run the entire interview. Don’t chop nothing else. I will tell you this one last thing: When I sat in the restaurant last night with my team, Beanie said, Nicki: Do you know what would happen if someone in Jamaica went on stage last night before I performed to the crowd? He said niggas would be in the hos-pit-al. But let me tell you: Nothing is worse than going home and having not played a gig. I just wanna leave with saying this: I’m gonna make this up to my fans. And I want my fans to know, nothing, no radio station, no one can alter our relationship. I have a very personal relationship with my fans, and I’m truly sorry that people’s nights were ruined. You guys have no idea, I’ve gone through hell and back. I’m not a quitter. I show up and perform. I went with my team’s decision, and I made history, and the next time I come out, people won’t disrespect me. And for once, I feel like I’ve really really shown the world, I love and respect myself, and people aren’t gonna go there any more. And you know what, Flex? Hit me on the email, it’s all good.
FF: We rocked out, we’re gonna continue to rock out. Okay?
NM: Okay. Just put up this whole interview and we’re fine. Okay?
FF: (Laughs) Okay.