If an Mt. Rushmore of Hip-Hop journalists was to be created, Angie Martinez for sure would have a spot. The New York Radio icon has transitioned to various mediums, including television as she currently stars and hosts the WE TV series, Untold Stories of Hip Hop.
As with other television series, the COVID-19 pandemic transitioned Untold Stories to Zoom, which only enhanced the storytelling of Martinez and her guests by allowing for group conversations and more.
With the Quarantine Edition of the series wrapping up, Angie Martinez spoke about the joy of uncovering these stories, hopes for the show in the future, and details a special moment with the late Pop Smoke.
The Source: So first, I feel like it would be irresponsible for me not to do so. We’re dealing with a lot right now with quarantines, police brutality, and still going about work. How are you both mentally and physically?
Angie Martinez: Well, thank you. That’s nice of you to ask. I’m doing okay. I’m like everybody else, there’s good days and bad days. I have a lot of concerns. I’m angry about a lot of things. I’m hopeful about things, you know, it’s really a roller coaster. Hopefully, this is a time of change and change doesn’t happen easily. I’m trying to make sure I take care of myself and do what I need to do to be healthy.
We really can’t step outside and do too much that we can enjoy. How are you finding enjoyment for yourself?
Honestly, I don’t mind being home. I like being with my family and being low, that’s kind of like good for me. I had an accident back in November. So for me, it was like enough time for me to kind of like heal and really start feeling back like myself. I’ve been writing a lot, which is also helpful to me. I’ve been having time to do that, which I never have time to do. I think this whole thing, is really one of the reasons it probably happened so that everybody can kind of take a little time to reflect.
In your career, you have interviewed some of the biggest names that ever lived. What have you enjoyed about doing Untold Stories of Hip Hop as opposed to other experiences?
We do these like long-form interviews, which are fun and they’re great and you get to know people in different ways. But this is really about the stories, the moment, really like its storytelling. I think people when they show up and they know the name of the show and now on season two, I expect the stories are gonna even get greater. I mean a lot of these people, I know for a long time, I’ve been in the business for a long time, but it’s still exciting. I still enjoy the moment of finding out something new about somebody. I had Busta Rhymes the other day and I know Busta very well for many, many years. There were things about him I never knew. And those moments are always super enjoyable for me.
You have done radio, on-screen and now quarantine production. What was the hardest part of connecting or interviewing in these conditions? You’re not in the same room with someone and that energy to feed off of his gone.
Yeah, for sure. I’m sure you have those same challenges trying to do interviews over the phone and stuff. It’s different. It’s like you can’t catch a full vibe. Sometimes it’s really hard, which is why I really haven’t been doing that many radio interviews. Also, people [Wi-Fi] signals are bad. But I will say the way we did the Untold Stories show, a lot of them happened in the evening. We would drink wine. It felt more like zooms that I would do with friends and not an interview. The tone of it felt very natural and fun and it gave me a chance to catch up with everybody.
You mention connections, thankfully Nelly’s worked out pretty good for when he talked to you. He gave an amazing story about Janet Jackson and a parrot. Is there any story that really caught you by surprise.
In the last episode we kind of paid tribute to Nipsey Hussle. So we wind up turning the interview into paying respects to him and talking to some people that knew him in this episode. But in the quarantine edition, I had Fab and Swizz on both who knew him well, and both who’ve kind of shared a little bit of a different story side of him. Fab was telling me, he [Nipsey] would call him up and tell the sneakers he’d like by watching his fashion, which he didn’t even know Nip had the thing for. And Swizz was telling me how Nipsey was really getting into art in the art world. Nip would call for advice and someone was trying to take advantage and Swizz called to check them.
I loved having Lil Cease telling me about how he and Kim reconnected. Of course, they’ve been close cause of Junior Mafia, but then he was telling me how close they were as little kids. That’s why it was so hurtful that they fell out. It was like an emotional episode that I didn’t expect. Busta was on that one too and he was like I feel like I’m a cry because I don’t know the reunion of those two is so special, especially cause, but what they both meant to hip hop and what they both meant to Big. So I loved him telling me that story.
With all the schedules and balancing that, it’s pretty hard for you to get two people in one place at one time. But right now you can get two people together like Swizz and Fab. Would you keep this method going for that reason alone?
For sure. I would say that about the next season. I was like, yo, I liked group conversation. Other people have other things to add. That honestly was one of my favorite ones because they have so much history together, but we stayed on that zoom way past the show. I did try to pair people that I thought would vibe with each other had Lala and Kelly Rowland who are genuinely friends. I think that’s definitely one of the things about this version of the show that was special is capturing that energy.
You’re a legend. So I’m positive you have Untold Stories tucked away. It’s also a story from your own experiences that you could share?
You’d have to give me a topic because my whole life has been surrounded by hip hop culture. So you would have to give me something more specific.
You post on Instagram about contributing to a story on Pop Smoke. Do you have a special memory or a story from meeting him?
I met Pop at my annual barbecue. This big, which, by the way, you should come to one year, it’s so much fun. I do this yearly barbecue. I’ve had like Nas perform, French Montana, Fat Joe, and Pop was one of the performers last time. That was the first time we really met, but when he showed up it was like we were all friends. He gave me a big hug and when you just meet certain people for the first time, it’s like you feel like you knew them, you feel like you go way back. He had that energy about him and he made everybody feel like that. We were laughing, chilling, he performed, he killed it. He just looked so happy to be there.
Then I interviewed him and we hung out a little bit after and were just chatting about his career and how he wanted his music to evolve. It’s funny, cause you know, the age difference, sometimes I like to check new artists and see what they know, what they don’t know. I like to try to sometimes put artists on who I think that they can connect to. He played me some music that reminded me of that song “Renee” by the Lost Boyz. I had asked him if he had ever heard that and maybe he did. He didn’t know at that moment and I was like, come on Pop. That’s a dope song. The type of music that you’re making, I think you should listen to it. It might inspire something from you. He was like, bet I’m gonna go listen to that. I told him don’t just say, you’re gonna do it like I was giving him homework. You got to do it. So we had a little banter about Hip-Hop, he wanted to travel and he just really had a big vision for himself, a really grand vision. It’s infuriating that he’s not here and that somebody didn’t value his life the way they there was supposed to.
If you had to get anybody on the next season and they couldn’t tell you no, who are you calling?
Oh, you mean like they’re not allowed to say no to me. I’m calling JAY-Z. Also, Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill. Then somebody younger, somebody new, like Drake.
Information and episodes on Untold Stories of Hip-Hop is available here.