|City of license||New York City|
|Broadcast area||New York City area|
|Slogan||"Where Hip-Hop Lives"|
97.1 MHz (also on HD Radio)
97.1 HD-2 HumDesi Radio
|First air date||
1948 (as WNNJ at 103.5)
1949 (97.1, as WNBC-FM)
|Callsign meaning||WQ (placeholder letters) HoT|
WNBC-FM (1948–1954 and 1960–1975)
(Emmis License Corporation of New York)
WQHT (97.1 FM) – also known as Hot 97 – is an American radio station in New York City under the corporate ownership of Emmis Communications. The station broadcasts on 97.1 MHz FM. Despite being billed as a Rhythmic CHR station on Mediabase and Nielsen BDS, WQHT primarily plays mainstream urban hits, with a few pop-leaning titles on occasion. It is one of two flagship radio properties of Emmis, in addition to co-owned KPWR ("Power 106") in Los Angeles.
WQHT broadcasts in the HD format.
- WNBC-FM and variants 1.1
- WYNY 1.2
- WQHT 1.3
- From dance to hip-hop and R&B 1.4
- From urban to rhythmic CHR 1.5
- HD radio operations 1.6
- 2004 Indian tsunami parody 2.1
- Fights and shootings 2.2
- Concerts 2.3
- Notable Current and Former staff 3
In popular culture 4
- Films and television 4.1
- Music 4.2
- Video games 4.3
- See also 5
- References 6
- Sources 7
- External links 8
WNBC-FM and variants
The history of the 97.1 frequency goes back to 1949, when experimental station W2XWG came on the air in 1940 on 42.6 MHz. That station became W51NY when it moved to 45.1 MHz. On September 22, 1944, W51NY began commercial operations as WEAF-FM. After several frequency and call letters changes, WNBC-FM was established at 97.1 by 1949. It usually simulcast WNBC's AM programming. In 1954, it changed its call letters to WRCA-FM (reflecting NBC's then-parent company, RCA), but reverted to WNBC-FM in 1960.
WNBC-FM played classical music in the 1950s; it later switched to pop music. It ran network programming for some time, such as the NBC Monitor weekend series. By the 1970s, it was playing a pop-rock format. Beginning on June 4, 1973, it experimented with a fully automated programming scheme with local inserts known as "The Rock Pile"—a forerunner of today's DJ-free adult hits format with a wide diversity of pop, rock and R&B that proved to be 30 years ahead of its time—but technical glitches were frequent and listenership dropped. For a brief period starting in late 1974, the station attempted a fully automated beautiful music format for a younger demographic, called "The Love of New York".
NBC Radio then launched the NBC News and Information Service, a network service providing up to 50 minutes an hour of news programming to local stations that wanted to adopt an all-news format without the high costs of producing large quantities of local news content. WNBC-FM's small audience was deemed expendable to allow the NIS to have a New York outlet. Thus, on June 18, 1975, the station became WNWS and branded itself "NewsCenter 97", an allusion to WNBC-TV's "NewsCenter 4" local newscasts. Ratings were low, and the service did not attract enough stations to allow NBC to project that it could ever become profitable (at the network's peak, only 57 stations across the country carried NIS, most of them already NBC Radio News affiliates).
On January 1, 1977, NBC unceremoniously shut down NIS. This was the final story on "NewsCenter 97", as reported by Wayne Howard:
|“||"In a minute and 25 seconds, it'll be 1977 on the east coast. All news, all day, everyday. This is your News and Information Service. I'm Wayne Howard. Happy New Year!"||”|
The station then went to a commercial break and at the stroke of midnight, 97.1 aired their legal ID and adopted an adult contemporary format with a rock lean (to compete against WKTU, ironically, the current call letters of WYNY on 103.5), under the moniker "Y-97". The first song on "Y-97" was "Tonight's the Night" by Rod Stewart. The call letters WNWS were still in use at the time, but shortly afterward, the station became known as WYNY.
Ratings were fair at best and by the end of 1978, after toying briefly with an all-Beatles format, WYNY evolved to an MOR format featuring Frank Sinatra, The Carpenters, Elvis Presley, Barry Manilow, Tony Bennett, Neil Diamond, Elton John, Carly Simon, and Billy Joel among others. They were an easy listening station without all the elevator music heard on WRFM or WPAT-AM-FM. Ratings went up gradually.
By 1980, WYNY moved away from Frank Sinatra and the Lettermen though they continued running "Saturday with Sinatra" hosted by Sid Mark. Musically, they added Motown songs, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, the Doobie Brothers, Donna Summer, and soft hits by hard rockers.
By 1981, the station format was that of pop hits from 1964 to what was then current music, with an occasional pre-64 rock & roll song. Ratings went up from 1981 through 1983. By 1982, WYNY trimmed the '60s music slightly. Some of the air personalities included Dan Daniel, Bill St. James, Bruce Bradley, Randy Davis, Carol Mason, Mike McCann, Floyd Wright, Steve O'Brien, Bill Rock, Margaret Jones, Paulie, and Ed Baer. On Sunday evenings, the station aired a pioneering advice show, Sexually Speaking, which made its host, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a national celebrity. The station was also a pioneer of Contemporary Christian Music in the city, airing the weekly show Masterpeace, hosted by Steven Joseph. Sid Mark continued hosting "Saturday with Sinatra". On weekend evenings call-in talk shows, such as "Mouth Versus Ear" with Dick Summers, was an alternative to other stations mundane public service shows.
In 1983, rival stations WHTZ and WPLJ adopted a "CHR" format, attracting younger listeners. WYNY continued with its AC format. Then in January 1984, WLTW signed on, taking away older listeners. WYNY's ratings plummeted, and in 1986, the station was revamped with the music staying "Hot AC" but marketed as a "Z-100 for Yuppies". The station had new jingles and imaging, and became known as "The NEW 97.1 WYNY". The format, however, was that of the same pop hits from 1964 to the then-present. The station continued to rate low. NBC had problems with sister station WNBC as well. Then, in April 1987, a country music station, WHN, announced plans to go sports full-time on July 1, to become all-sports WFAN. In response, WYNY announced it would change to country music on July 1.
This format change was announced to the press in advance, but not over the air except on Saturday With Sinatra. At 12:01 a.m. July 1, WYNY ended its AC format with "Hello, Goodbye" by The Beatles and went country, playing "Think About Love" by Dolly Parton. The airstaff all remained, though some gradually left later in the year.
Dan Daniel (who had left WYNY in the mid-1980s and returned), Randy Davis, Carol Mason, Lisa Taylor, Floyd Wright, and others survived the format change and remained with WYNY's country unit long after it would leave 97.1 FM and move to 103.5, where it remained until its 1996 demise. (The WYNY call letters resurfaced on the suburban 107.1 frequency in late 1998 at a country station that had started up later in 1996; the format lasted until 2002. As of 2006, the WYNY call letters reside on a station in Gainesville, Florida.)
In 1987, Emmis agreed to buy NBC's New York radio stations, which gave Emmis superior signals for use by WFAN and WQHT. Emmis sold its 103.5 license and the rights to WYNY's intellectual property to Westwood One, and the WYNY call sign and format moved to that frequency while WQHT shifted to 97.1.
In the fall of 1988, Emmis purchased WYNY from NBC, as well as the license of WNBC-AM, which would be shut down. On September 22, 1988, at 5:30 pm, the stations swapped frequencies. WYNY was moved to 103.5 FM, while WQHT's rhythmic contemporary format moved to 97.1 FM and became "Hot 97." After the transition to Hot 97, Stephanie Miller and Howard Hoffman were brought in to do the morning show, J. Paul Emerson stayed on as newsman, with Daniel Ivankovich ("Reverend Doctor D") and brought in as producer.
WQHT's ratings fell slightly in 1989. The station started to lean towards Top 40.
On July 22, 1990, Hot 97 teamed up with the now-defunct WRKS for a Unity Walk to promote racial harmony in New York City.
By 1990, the station started to play more house and R&B music, and they started a house-music late night show. WQHT broadcast live from area night clubs such as The Tunnel, Roseland and Metrohouse from 2 am until 4 am Saturday into Sunday morning.
From dance to hip-hop and R&B
Towards the end of 1992 and early 1993, WQHT's ratings hit an all-time low. In response, Emmis named Judy Ellis its General Manager (a position in which she served until 2003) and WQHT started to add more R&B and hip-hop product. The station started a gradual two-year change towards an Urban-oriented rhythmic top 40 format.
A new generation of hot jocks began appearing on Hot 97. Among the most famous was the addition of a new morning show hosted by Ed Lover and Doctor Dré of "Yo! MTV Raps". The ratings rose to number three in one rating period.
In 1993, Funkmaster Flex joined Hot 97 and was host of the Friday Night Street Jam and weekly two-hour show where he mixed hip-hop live from the studio.
Other noteworthy personalities included the addition of Wendy Williams to afternoon drive (Williams used to be the overnight jock back on Hot 103 in 1988). Angie Martinez, a researcher on "New York Hot Tracks" in the late 1980s and who previously worked in the promotions department, was promoted to nights. A few years later, the two had a public falling out, resulting in Williams being fired from WQHT and Martinez assuming afternoon drive, where she remained until she was hired by WWPR-FM on June 19, 2014.
In 1995, Hot 97 again became New York's top station in the Arbitron ratings.
In the fall of 2008, WQHT served as the home of the nationally syndicated Big Boy's Neighborhood, produced by ABC Radio and based at WQHT's sister station, KPWR Power 106 in Los Angeles. However, by July 2009, WQHT dropped the program and instead expanded their local morning show hosted by new morning jocks DJ Cipha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg.
From urban to rhythmic CHR
In April 2011, WQHT became New York City's only rhythmic contemporary station with the reverting of rival WKTU to rhythmic adult contemporary. Also, it is the only full standalone station in Emmis' New York cluster after WRKS ended its longtime urban format for ESPN sports under an agreement with Disney.
HD radio operations
On September 9, 2008, Emmis announced a programming partnership with WorldBand Media and to use WQHT's HD-3 signal to produce programming for the South Asian communities in three major cities including New York City. In June 2009, the service was removed from WQHT and placed on sister station WRKS's HD2.
As of 2014, WQHT-HD2 airs HumDesi Radio, a South Asian-focusing radio network.
2004 Indian tsunami parody
On January 17, 2005, Hot 97 Miss Jones provoked a controversy by airing a song entitled "USA for Indonesia" a month after approximately 187,000 people died in the Asian tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. The song, a parody sung to the 1985 tune "We Are the World", was criticized for overtly racist mocking of the Asian and East African victims; the song lyrics contain the racially derogatory word "Chinamen," and calls the drowning victims "bitches." Some of the lyrics included the words "Go find your mommy. I just saw her float by, a tree went through her head. And now your children will be sold. Child slavery". Miss Info, a fellow on-air colleague of Korean descent, was outraged and spoke against the song on the station. She excluded herself from producing the song and said it was wrong for it to be played. Miss Info was insulted by other DJs on the air. Another jock on the show named Todd Lynn muttered "I'm gonna start shooting Asians." Following angry protests from the public, Miss Jones, DJ Envy, and Tasha Hightower were suspended for two weeks while Todd Lynn and songwriter Rick Del Gado were fired. The station issued an apology on its website. Newsday, Sprint, McDonald's, and Toyota all pulled their advertising from the station. The suspended employees' pay was diverted to charities helping victims of the tsunami.
Fights and shootings
In February 2001, a shootout erupted between Lil' Kim and the entourages of Kim and rival rapper Foxy Brown in front of the offices of Hot 97 on Hudson Street, with an injury to one of Lil' Kim's bodyguards. It led to an investigation by the FBI and a trial which found Lil Kim guilty of perjury and sentenced to a year in prison for it in mid-2005. In February 2005, gunfire erupted in front of the same place between 50 Cent's entourage and the Game's entourage. The Game was quickly met by 50 Cent's crew after being notified he was at the front entrance of the building. A friend of 50 Cent pulled a gun out and shot at The Game and his entourage. A bullet hit a member of the Game's entourage in the leg. Both incidents also led to the nickname "Shot 97" by Wendy Williams.
Since its inception, WQHT has held "The Hot 97 Summer Jam" every June. The concert series ran into controversy in 2006, with Miss Jones dissing Mary J. Blige on air after the singer did not mention her name when she sent shout-outs to the Hot 97 DJs, and again in 2012, when moments before Nicki Minaj was about to take to the stage, morning host Peter Rosenberg made a negative comment about her song "Starships", saying to the fans, "I see the real hip-hop heads sprinkled in here. I see them. I know there are some chicks here waiting to sing 'Starships' later—I'm not talking to y'all right now." That comment would prompt Lil Wayne to pull Minaj and the rest of the acts signed to Cash Money Records out of the event. Minaj later spoke to Funkmaster Flex about the incident, and after that, appeared on Rosenberg's show, with the host apologizing to her on air. She performed two songs with 2 Chainz at the following year's Summer Jam.
The 2014 event that took place on June 2 would be blasted in a comment five days later (on June 6) by Chuck D of Public Enemy, who accused the station of allowing artists who were performing there to use racial slurs and offensive language, calling it a "Sloppy Fiasco," adding that "If there was a festival and it was filled with anti-Semitic slurs... or racial slurs at anyone but black people, what do you think would happen? Why does there have to be such a double standard?" He also cites the lack of WQHT not allowing more up-and-coming artists to perform on stage. This was later addressed by Ebro Darden and Rosenberg on their morning show, responding to remarks that include the charge that Hot 97 is a “CORPlantation,” but Darden, who admits that he agrees with Chuck D on addressing the issues, later pointed out by responding that “I think there’s validity to what he’s saying as to, ‘I guess Hot 97 could be more local,” and added “But people that listen to us when we research the songs don’t vote those songs high enough to stay around. I have this debate and I put the onus back on the public to participate.”
On June 7, 2015, more than 61 people were arrested and 10 New Jersey State Police troopers were injured after a fight over tickets and crowd capacity overshadows the 2015 Summer Jam event that was held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The sold out event also caused confusion among the ticket goers who were denied entry, which added to the rioted melee. The following day (June 8), WQHT addressed the issue on its morning show and plans to refund the customers who could not get into the event, while the American Civil Liberties Union's New Jersey chapter called for the state Attorney General's office to investigate if any violations were reported.
Notable Current and Former staff
- Ebro "The Old Man" Darden
- Peter Rosenberg
- Funkmaster Flex
- Miss Info
- Lisa Evers
- DJ Enuff
- DJ Kay Slay
- Angie Martinez (now at WWPR-FM 105.1 in New York, NY)
- DJ Mister Cee
- DJ Cocoa Chanelle
- Sunny Anderson (now hosts Cooking for Real on Food Network)
- Al "Nouveau" Bandiero (now at 103.5 WKTU in New York, NY)
- David Morales
- DJ Clue? (now at WWPR-FM 105.1 in New York, NY)
- DJ Envy (now at WWPR-FM 105.1 in New York, NY)
- DJ Skribble
- DJ Whoo Kid
- DJ Red Alert (now at 98.7 Kiss FM (WRKS) in New York, NY)
- Doctor Dré (not to be confused with the rap artist Dr. Dre)
- Frankie Knuckles
- Fatman Scoop
- Glenn Friscia (now at Pulse 87.7 (WNYZ-FM) in New York, NY)
- Howard Hoffman
- Jimmy Howes
- Johnny Vicious
- Vic Latino (now at WPTY-FM 105.3 in Long Island, NY)
- Lisa G.
- Ed Lover (now at Sirius/XM's BackSpin)
- Raqiyah Mays
- DJ Megatron
- Stephanie Miller
- Miss Jones
- La La Vasquez
- Wendy Williams (Host of the nationally Syndicated The Wendy Williams Show this program also airs on BET)
- Ralph McDaniels
- DJ Jazzy Joyce
- DJ Green Lantern
- Alex Cameron, Former general manager 2007-14
- Chuck Riley
- Bobby Ocean
In popular culture
Films and television
- In the 30 Rock episode called "The Source Awards", Tracy Jordan mentions Hot 97 as a traditional place to get shot.
- The Sklar Brothers riff on Hot 97 in their Comedy Central Presents special.
- In the Seinfeld episode called "The Pool Guy", Kramer mentions Hot 97 as one of the sponsors to his fraudulent Moviefone information line.
- In the movie World Trade Center, one of the officers says that his wife heard on Hot 97 that a second plane had hit the towers, to which another officer replies: "Who gets their news from Hot 97?"
- In Puff Daddy's song "All About The Benjamins", he says, "...Ain't nobody's hero, but I wanna be heard on your Hot 9-7 everyday, that's my word..."
- In Jay-Z's song "Death of Auto-tune (D.O.A)" he mentions the radio station, saying "This is for Hot 9-7" and mentions the station's former disc jockey, DJ Clue? as well as two long-time DJs in the line, "I made this just for Flex 'n Mr. Cee."
- In Black Star's song "What's Beef", Mos Def says: "Beef ain't the summer Jam on Hot Ninety-Seven".
- In Big Pun's song with Inspectah Deck and Prodigy "Tres Leches (Triboro Trilogy)", Big Pun says: "Take all you made, call you gay on Hot 97".
- In Grand Theft Auto IV there is a radio station called "Beat 102.7" which parodies Hot 97 and has its real life on-show DJ Mister Cee and Funkmaster Flex.
- "Emmis and WorldBand Media Partner to Launch First-of-Its-Kind Digital Radio Network" (Press release).
- Reid, Shaheem (January 26, 2005). "Hip-Hop Station Blasted For Song Mocking Tsunami Victims". MTV News. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
- Hinckley, David (January 26, 2005). "Hot 97 is weathering "Tsunami Song" storm". New York Daily News. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
- "Stop the Song". AsianWeek. February 4, 2005. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
- Virasami, Bryan (January 25, 2005). "Call for federal fines, more apologies after station airs 'We Are the World' parody offensive to Asians". Newsday. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
- Ogunnaike, Lola (February 3, 2005). "Tsunami Jokers Fired". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
- Hinckley, David (February 2, 2005). Tsunami Song" Fallout""". New York Daily News. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
- Guzman, Rafer (February 11, 2005). "Newsday pulls ads from Hot 97 show". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
- D'Angelo, Joe (February 27, 2001). "Lil' Kim Present At Hot 97 Shootout, Police Say". MTV News. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
- Reid, Shaheem (February 28, 2005). "50 Drops Game From G-Unit; Shots Fired At Radio Station". MTV News. Retrieved June 28, 2009.
- "Summer Jams & Hip-Hop Battles" by Dana Hall (From Radio-Info, June 6, 2012)
- Jen Carlson, “Hot97’s DJ Peter Rosenberg: Nicki Minaj ‘Is Inherently Hip Hop… It’s Just That Starships Is Not’,” Gothamist, June 7, 2012.
- Latifah Muhammad, “Nicki Minaj Makes Peace With Hot 97 DJ Peter Rosenberg,” BET, May 28, 2013.
- "Chuck D on Hot 97's 'Sloppy Fiasco' Summer Jam: 'Goal is to Change Urban Radio'" from Billboard (June 6, 2014)
- "Hot 97 Co-Hosts Respond to Chuck D’s Harsh Criticism of Summer Jam" from Billboard (June 7, 2014)
- "Summer Jam Chaos Prompts Several Arrests Outside N.J. Concert" from Billboard (June 8, 2015)
- "Hot 97 Summer Jam Fallout: 61 Arrested, 10 Troopers Injured" from Billboard (June 8, 2015)
- WNBC-FM Abandons Rock For Popular Music Format – The New York Times, December 18, 1974.
- Asian Media Watchdog - One of the high profile groups that organized Tsunami Song protest
- Freestyle Music Information
- Station info on New York Radio Guide
- Former Presidents and the Hot 97 Controversy
- British MPs deplore Hot 97's racist tsunami songWorld Music Central -
- Demonstrations planned outside Hot 97 New YorkWorld Music Central -
- Media Week Headlines
- Chinese Community ask George Bush and Tony Blair to take action against Hot 97UK Chinese -
- British MPs and the Hot 97 Tsunami SongUK Chinese -
- UK Sri Lankans denounce Hot 97's racist tsunami songClub LK.US -
- Two tsunami songs mentioned in the British parliament with kudos to Nimal Mendis by NanSunday Island Sri Lanka -
- Pelosi Condemns Broadcast of ‘Tsunami Song’House of Congress Press Release from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi:
- Hot 97 New Yorker article
- Hot 97 website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WQHT
- Radio-Locator information on WQHT
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WQHT
FM 97.1 in New York, New York
September 22, 1988 – present
FM 103.5 in New York, New York
August 13, 1986 – September 22, 1988