July 7, 2014

An Inside Look at Miss Info of Hot 97

How Miss Info Became Hip-Hop’s Ultimate Insider -from Buzzfeed

Today, Minya Oh is the linchpin of Hot 97, rap’s most influential radio station. Getting there only took 20 years.

On a winter-cold evening in late March at a comedy club near the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan, a DJ and aspiring comedian named Cipha Sounds takes the stage for a short set before a screening of the first episodes of a VH1 show called This Is Hot 97. In the audience, music insiders and fashion bloggers mix with television suits. Ebro Darden, Angie Martinez, Funkmaster Flex, Peter Rosenberg, Laura Stylez, and Miss Info — radio personalities from the iconic New York hip-hop station Hot 97 who, together with Cipha Sounds, comprise the show’s cast — sit at front-row cocktail tables. “All the black folks in the house, make some noise!” Cipha Sounds says, to applause from the crowd. “All the white people, make some noise! All the Latino people, make some noise! Other?” he asks. The room falls silent. “Anyone else in the house? Miss Info?” he says. This draws a handful of laughs.

At Hot 97, where she’s worked for 10 years and is now the news director, the Korean-American Miss Info is used to being the only Asian person in the room. She started her career in hip-hop as an outsider — a young Asian-American woman new to New York — but since she’s become one of the most respected and unlikely voices not only in New York radio, but in hip-hop.

Since 1994, Miss Info, whose full name is Minya Oh, has flouted prevailing notions about what sort of background a hip-hop expert should have. She’s helped reshape the content and tone of hip-hop journalism, with her own brand of meticulously researched celebrity gossip, emotionally revealing artist interviews, and explorations into tech and style. Starring in a VH1 show isn’t exactly like writing album reviews, but Info has gamely evolved over the years, working in magazines, television, radio, and on the internet. She’s now seen by fans and peers as an all-around spokesperson for hip-hop, but for all her success, Oh seems to still feed off a deep inner well of curiosity. No matter what she knows, or is able to uncover, she’s eager to learn more.

Then the episodes play — there is a sketch in which Martinez and Flex bicker about who’s better on Twitter, and a Macklemore cameo. Miss Info gets in a good line, calling on-air partners Rosenberg and Cipha Sounds the “rap Teletubbies.” Afterward, Info sits with her colleagues onstage, taking questions from the moscato-fueled crowd, whose members wonder why would Hot 97 would want to make a goofy, “unscripted” office comedy.

Since it became one of the country’s first hip-hop stations in 1993, Hot 97 has become as legendary as the artists it’s promoted. This is the place where Biggie debuted records, the proving ground where a freestyle could make you a king or burn your career, and where hip-hop lived. So what’s with all of the jokes? Ebro Darden, the station program director turned full-time on-air talent, responds with a gentle scold: Hip-hop people work and have families too, he says, not for the first time. At his side, Oh tenses her face, seemingly trying to avoid rolling her eyes. To her, this is a tired question with a simple answer: Hip-hop adapts to survive.

Twenty years deep in the game, Info knows this better than most. But as Darden answers the fan, she doesn’t jump in to support him. Straight-faced, she blinks and nods; she’s not shy, but quiet. Some radio personalities get off on confrontation, but Info is not one of them. She’s a scalpel, not a bulldozer. In the overlapping, loudmouth worlds of hip-hop and media, her success is strange, and hard-won.

Read the rest of the article on Miss Info from Buzzfeed here

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