Q&A: HOT 97's Peter Rosenberg Talks "Minor League Rappers" and Ebro
As much as the general public gets the lion's share of their music off the Internet, in many ways terrestrial radio still rules the land. Which makes a dude like Peter Rosenberg's job at New York's Hot 97 (Emmis Communications) extra hard. Rosenberg has the distinct honor of being the glimmer of hope for those artists his boss, Program Director Ebro Darden, has deemed "minor league" rappers to get some airplay, albeit on a Sunday night from12am- 2am. Ten years ago the goons were posted outside Hot97's offices waiting for DJ Kay Slay for that opportunity. Now they're running up on Rosenberg. Lucky him.
Peter Rosenberg is doin' it in the park
His role as a gatekeeper can get messy though. On the one hand he's championed artists like Odd Future and even landed an interview with the ever-elusive Earl Sweatshirt. On the other, his strong opinions have alienated some of Hot 97's more pop oriented listeners and artists, like when he famously took a swipe at Nicki Minaj's "Starships" at Summer Jam last year. Throw in a few light squabbles with some bloggers and you start to get an idea of what a day at the office is like for Peter Rosenberg. But if you still have no idea what the man goes through then read on, rap fan, read on...
Join Peter Rosenberg today in Williamsburg Park for the 2nd Annual Peterpalooza featuring Odd Future, Meek Mill, and Schoolboy Q.
I thought you were from New York. Maybe that's just because you're Jewish though and love hip-hop.
I'm actually from Washington D.C., just outside D.C. in Maryland. I got into hip-hop by coming up here to visit my grandparents in Rockaway Beach and listening to Red Alert and Marley Marl. That's why I had a sort of New York sensibility hip-hop wise. But I'm a Washingtonian.
So what were you doing down in Washington? Listening to Go-go and shit?
No. Listen, when you're a hip-hop head in D.C. you develop more of a fondness for Go-go after you leave. Once you leave you kind of identify it with home.
So you were coming up to NYC, but how did you first get introduced to rap?
It was DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. It's kind of a song people don't mention for how huge it was in getting people like me into hip-hop.
You're talking about "Parents Just Don't Understand?"
Yeah. Then after that my brother just got really into it. I was just following along at first because I didn't even really think of myself as a music person. I always thought of myself as a sports guy. I used to love sports. It didn't dawn on me until I was like 13, "Oh, I'm a music person." I got turntables when I was 14.
How'd you get to New York professionally?
I had been doing radio in D.C. Then I was out of a job so I started making these parody videos. Ebro saw them and called me up expressing interest. Then Ebro became program director. He had me audition to be Miss Jones' producer, but he ended up giving me the Real Late Show on Sunday nights.
What's it like working with Ebro? Some people view him as old fashioned and a bit of a hater?
It's great. Obviously Ebro talks a lot and has a lot of strong opinions, but I really enjoy his energy and his passion for it and as much as he loves to make fun of me about loving to debate things, so does he. He really enjoys stirring the pot. Sometimes he stirs the pot just to stir the pot and get people to talk, but it's always rooted in real feelings that he has. I think Ebro's a real interesting dude. He's a real, real hip-hop head. Really knowledgeable. He's an important person in hip-hop. And at first I thought it was weird the adjustment of him being important behind the scenes to now being in front of the cameras and microphones. But I think he generally does a service to hip-hop.
Yeah, but how did you feel when he started sitting in on the morning show? Must've been at least a little unnerving, no?
Well our first reaction was like, "Are we losing our jobs?" When we realized we weren't and things were just changing a little bit I was excited about it because I thought it added energy to the show and, frankly, it revitalized us and gave us a necessary spark. I think people are checking for the show more now that he's there.
It didn't bruise your ego at all?
You know what? You put your ego aside. I'm getting less mic time, but more people are listening. I mean, he's the person who discovered me, who thought that I was good. So now that I have that guy here with me he just props me up more. It was a learning experience, but fortunately I adjusted pretty quickly.