Angie Martinez: How the Voice of New York Found Her Voice


New York City DJ and on-air personality Angie Martinez can now add author to her long list of accomplishments. With a radio career that spans over 20 years the woman affectionately known as “The Voice of New York” chronicles her rise from radio intern to becoming one of the most successful and influential voices in the game, in her new book, My Voice: A Memoir. As a long time Angie Martinez fan that has listened to her on the radio and followed her career for years, I could not wait to delve into her book.

The book begins with a foreward by rapper J. Cole and while some criticized Angie’s decision to have a relatively new artist open up the book I can understand why she chose to go with J. Cole rather than with someone more seasoned.  Through his perspective, Cole looks to Martinez as the hip-hop icon she is. He recognizes her contribution to the culture describing her as being “cut from the original cloth”, a cloth that was “more honest, more curious, more genuine.” He refers to a time when hip-hop was brave and fearless and not at all consumed by first week album sales. A stark contrast to the big business money machine it has become. It is a description of an era that made Angie, myself, and many other inner city kids fall in love with hip-hop.

In the book Angie recounts hearing the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers Delight” for the first time at eight years old and being completely mesmerized. I believe it was that way for many early lovers of hip-hop. For the first time, there was someone talking about our experiences growing up in the ‘hood. Hip-hop became a reflection of real life. It was honest.

Angie shares so many gems in this book. She talks about the importance of staying true to yourself and working hard.

Whatever anyone asked, I was on it. Pretty soon everyone knew if they needed something, they could ask me. “We’ll get Angie to get it. She’ll do it.” I was that kid at the station.

Her “started from the bottom, now we here” work ethic is what catapulted Angie Martinez into becoming one of the most successful and prominent DJs in radio and hip-hop history.

She also opens up about her personal life like never before. She talks about how she fell into radio. She discusses her relationship with A Tribe Called Quest member, Q-Tip, and how that relationship led her to have a physical altercation with fellow co-worker Wendy Williams. She talks about being a woman in hip-hop and how her ambition and drive was often too much for some of the men she dated. She also shares for the first time some never before aired transcripts of the infamous Tupac interview she conducted during a time when hip-hop beef was real and not just something on wax. She talks about how scary hip-hop had become at that time.

As I read the book I felt like I was taken back in time. Angie captures perfectly the essence of hip-hop in a genuine way. In a way that only a person who has lived it can. In reading her book I saw myself; so many of her experiences reflected my own experiences growing up Latina in New York City; the family house parties, playing hooky from school, the bamboo earrings (at least 2 pair), going to Coney Island and hanging out by the Music Express ride just to listen to the music. Reading this book was like taking a trip down memory lane.

It is such an authentic and honest look into her life and career in radio. It’s that authenticity that kept me turning the page and not wanting to put the book down. I also think it’s what has made her so successful and has cemented her legacy in hip-hop. Many of the memories she shares about certain events in hip-hop I lived through. I remember listening to them on the radio. It was an era in hip-hop that we’ll never see again. And just like they’ll never be another Biggie or Pac they’ll never be another Angie.

The thing I appreciate most about the book is that you can indeed hear Angie’s voice on every page. One of the benefits of being a longtime fan is that I feel like I’m listening to her talk on the radio. The book which chronicles her life’s journey is so much more than just the documenting of events.

For me, the book represents remaining true to yourself, to your voice and not compromising who you are to fit into a certain mold or trend. It’s about working hard and giving it your all.

You may know what you want to do, but so many opportunities are in front of you that you can’t waste a moment. You will not be young forever. So when you are, when you don’t have big responsibilities yet, and you have an opportunity, you should do it till your knuckles bleed. You should keep going hard until somebody peels you up off the floor and is like, ‘Go take a nap.’ Why wouldn’t you?- Angie Martinez

With Angie Martinez at the 2014 Orgullosa event in New York City.
With Angie Martinez at the 2014 Orgullosa event in NYC.

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