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Meet The Makers: Hot 97’s Ebro Darden

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That Grape Juice‘s latest feature ‘Meet The Makers’ spotlights the gifted names who engineer the spectacle in all facets of entertainment. Music, TV, and beyond.

Today, following our insightful conversations with Mathew Knowles, Carlos King & Jose Hollywood, TGJ meets the force that is Ebro Darden.

A Herculean figure on Urban radio, Ebro’s journey recently saw him steer Apple Music’s radio platform to glory following its launch as his tenure at 97. 1FM (or Hot 97) continues to push it to higher ground on a number of fronts.

Meet the Maker below…

TGJ:For those who don’t know, when, where and why did your journey into entertainment begin?

Ebro: I was working in the backend of a store, dealing with deliveries and boxes and shit, in Sacramento.  The radio guys out there used to come in, and I’d give them the early hook-up.  Eventually, they brought me into the studios – I guess I was about 15 at the time.  I started working boards and answering phones, and worked up the ropes from there.

TGJ: The world of radio remains a mystery for many despite being incredibly popular. From a programmer’s stand point, exactly how do songs make it onto Hot 97 and how often is the playlist selection process revised?

Ebro: Every week, we make a playlist, based off research that we check out from various sources.  If a song is testing great, we play it more.  If it’s testing badly, ehh we may give it another shot, or it’s out from rotation.

TGJ: In 2015 you joined the Apple family. Where did your relationship with the thriving company begin, what does it entail and why do you think its rival, Tidal, is struggling to compete?

Ebro: My relationship actually started with Beats headphones.  Then Beats started the music service, and Apple bought them up, so I now do a daily show for Beats 1.  Is Tidal struggling?  I thought they were doing well!

TGJ: You’ve played a major part in Hot 97’s reinvention as it was tasked with reaching new audiences while retaining older listeners (and now viewers.) What mistakes do you think the platform has made in recent years and how much, in your opinion, has Power 105.1’s programming affected changes made at the station?

Ebro: I don’t believe HOT 97 has made any mistakes, rather I feel like we’ve had to make unpopular, tough decisions.  I would also say that the existence of Power 105 since March 2002 has really only contributed to HOT 97 slowing down how much new music we break because Power doesn’t take as many risks as we do.

TGJ: Let’s talk taste. Who is Ebro listening to, and in your opinion, “who’s got next”?

Ebro: I’ve been listening to a few people – Anderson .Paak, Vince Staples, Vic Mensa, Bas, Joey Bada$$, Majid Jordan.

TGJ: New York’s Hip-Hop scene has struggled to make as many moves as many would have liked in recent years. Could you give a detailed explanation as to why you think this is, and what could be done to change this?

Ebro: I don’t believe the NY/tri-state has struggled.  We’ve had Fetty Wap, A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg are from here, Joey Bada$$ is one of the highest-selling, independent acts.  And then you’ve got up-and-comers like Justine Skye out of Brooklyn.  People also forget that French Montana, 2 Milly, Bobby Shmudra, Desiigner are all from NY. 

TGJ: Good point! As one of the music’s more respected power players we imagine you’re often approached to aid in the development of new artists. In your opinion, what would it take to build a Beyonce or Rihanna level female artist for today’s generation, and why do you think the industry is yet to produce one in recent years?

Ebro: It takes money.  So no one’s produced one in recent years because it’s expensive – new outfits every day, glam squad every day, the biggest & best songs available, expensive bags and shoes. 

TGJ: Critics of Hip-Hop’s more violent cuts would say that these numbers are just as harmful to the Black community as racially-charged police brutality. What is your stance on the matter, and what ethical issues have you faced during your run in your current position?

Ebro: I’ve always felt that the true hits and hit songs on the radio aren’t violent, and I can show you documentation that supports the reality that most of the music is not about violence.  I do agree that the imagery in some rap music is too violent and we all should take responsibility for that if we’re in this hip hop culture.  I would further challenge you to see that the biggest successes in hip hop today are not about violence – Kendrick, Kanye, J. Cole.  Unfortunately, we live in a world where negativity always outshines positivity.  I’d also challenge you again to say that if we take responsibility for our neighbourhoods, our cousins, our sons, our daughters, and their behaviour, we can change what people talk about in the music by changing what they experience at home.  In terms of ethical issues – I do usually know of the secret planning of albums and the truth behind a lot of the rumours when it comes to the music industry, and I’ll always keep private people’s business private, unless they’ve given me the green light otherwise.

TGJ: When all is said and done, how would Ebro like to be remembered?

Ebro:I just want people to know me as a lover of Hip Hop and music, who liked to talk sh**.

Catch Darden in action via Beats 1 Radio Monday through Friday from 6pm-8pm!

Interview by David Asante.

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7 Comments

  1. May 20, 2016 at 11:13 am
    Good says:
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    I loved this interview.

  2. May 20, 2016 at 11:14 am
    OVO kane says:
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    My respect for this dude is always rising. I didn’t know he was from Cali.

  3. May 20, 2016 at 11:26 am
    IG : @mixedboy says:
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    So s***!

    • May 20, 2016 at 12:59 pm
      OVO kane says:
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      I wouldn’t expect an airhead like you to appreciate a serious piece about a serous person. Go back to snapchat boo boo.

  4. May 20, 2016 at 12:59 pm
    king says:
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    He’s smart

    • May 20, 2016 at 3:49 pm
      dee says:
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      and cute!

  5. May 21, 2016 at 10:08 pm
    Reddish tran ivy blokz Need UK timely says:
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    He looks nice

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