Complex checked the stats, talked to the bosses, and found out who's running the city.
Written by Brad Wete (@BradWete)
“Times like this are when I deliver the death blow,” Funkmaster Flex said two weeks ago amidst a bevy of bomb drops during his nightly radio show on Hot 97 (WQHT 97.1 FM). The veteran New York DJ was premiering Rick Ross’ latest single “3 Kings,” a major collaboration featuring Dr. Dre and Jay-Z. When Flex boasts about debuting another track recorded by rap royalty, he's not just talking to his audience of hip-hop heads, he's also addressing the competition—specifically his arch-rival DJ Clue. “I’m heard in the Tri-State. And I’m heard on that Internet. I’m the DJ that matters when it comes to things like this.”
I’m heard in the Tri-State. And I’m heard on that Internet. I’m the DJ that matters when it comes to things like this.
Flex is mostly correct. For nearly 20 years he has been a fixture on Hot 97, rising to become the station’s ace DJ and biggest personality. He’s the artist that mega-star rappers turn to when it’s time to release their new heat. Nas gave Flex “Ether” first. Jay-Z gave Flex “D.O.A.” (with a shout-out in the song), then when he partnered with Kanye West for Watch the Throne, the pair let Flex debut their single “Otis.”
Although Flex's notoriety appears as strong as it’s ever been, the latest statistics show that he and Hot 97 are no longer the top dogs when it comes to New York rap radio. Earlier this year, DJ Clue of Power 105 (WWPR 105.1 FM) took to Twitter, showing off the stat sheet that proved he had beaten Funkmaster Flex in ratings during the month of February in their 6-10 p.m. time slot.
What followed was an exhibition of Flex’s legendary attitude—a potent mix of brand pride and stubborn, unrelenting bravado. In rare form and heated by Clue’s social media posturing, Flex hopped on the air, and claimed to have hacked Clue’s email account that day and stolen Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in the Trap,” which was allegedly supposed to debut on Clue's show. But after one of his lengthier on-air rants, Flex played the song on his show instead.
“I ain’t hold this crown for so many years for some boxhead cornball to get a record tonight that you thought you was gonna get. Now you just shut up, OK?” he told Clue over the airwaves. “How many times does this have to happen to you, Charlie Brown? You'll never kick the football! Never! Hot 97—I reign supreme nationally in this radio thing! Let me know if you want a lesson."
In a recent interview with Complex, Hot 97 programming director Ebro Darden said he’s enjoying the radio tussle. “Radio personalities have always taken shots—Howard Stern with Opie and Anthony, Rush Limbaugh with Sean Hannity, Red Alert with Marley Marl and Frankie Crocker with KISS-FM," Darden explained. "This is fun, like a basketball game or football game.”
Deciding not to respond on the air, Clue took to Twitter to say, “And for the record, I don't have ‘beef’ with anyone or anybody. Beef over TV, radio, and social formats is corny. Bitch niggas do that. I'm good." He may have passed on the offer of a tutorial because he and his crew are doing a lot of winning lately.
As the saying goes, "Men lie. Women lie. But numbers don’t." Statistics from Arbitron, the ratings service that gathers data on all major radio markets, reveals than Power 105 has beaten Hot 97 in ratings for the last three months (April, May, and June), from 6 a.m. to midnight.
Darden, who often refers to Power as “Poser,” is quick to mention that the stat was a reflection on Arbitron's 6+ rating system and the general marketplace. “They beat us with people age 6 to 65!” he says. “Hot 97 is not for old people and children.” But a closer look at the stats reveals that Hot 97 isn’t exactly dominating their target audience either.
It’s a dogfight... Quite simply, more people are listening to Power.
—WWPR's 'Cadillac' Jack McCartney.
Competing for the ears of roughly 4.4 million 18 to 34-year-olds in the New York metropolitan area, Hot 97 has been averaging 7.5% of the market share to Power’s 7.3% for the last five months.
“It’s a dogfight,” says Power 105’s programming director “Cadillac” Jack McCartney. “If you want to slice and dice it some more,” Jack continues, “we’ve also won every month with teens (12-17), three of the last five with 18-34 year-olds, and four of the last five with 25-54-year-olds. Seeing a pattern here? Quite simply, that means that more people are listening to Power.”