WQHT - History - From Dance To Hip-hop and R&B

From Dance To Hip-hop and R&B

Towards the end of 1992 and early 1993, Hot 97'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 Rap product. Artists such as Positive K, Mad Cobra and Onyx were phased in while some of the traditional freestyle and house music was drastically cut. The station started a gradual two year change towards an Urban Hip-Hop format.

During this time, Hot 97 also made several on-air and imaging changes. Long time station voice Chuck Riley was gone, leaving only Eric Edwards as the station voice. Edwards also changed his delivery style to fit in with the new urban sound of Hot 97. He is still the station voice to this day.

Long-time PD Joel Salkowitx was let go, replaced by Steve Smith. The station axed veteran jocks Al Bandiero, Jeff Thomas and others. Deborah Rath stayed on the longest but shifted over to sister station CD 101.9 in late 1994.

A new generation of radio personalities began appearing on Hot 97. Among the most famous was the addition of a new morning show of Ed Lover and Doctor Dre 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. Flex eventually rose up through the ranks and became Hot 97's long time night personality.

Other noteworthy personalities included the addition of Wendy Williams to PM Drive, Williams used to be the overnight jock back on Hot 103 in 1988. Angie Martinez, a researcher on New York Hottracks 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 Hot 97 and Martinez assuming afternoon drive, where she remains to this day.

In 1995, Hot 97 again became New York's top station in the Arbitron ratings. After Emmis purchased WRKS (98.7 Kiss FM) from Summit Communications in 1994 and gravitated its heritage urban format to the adult audience (dropping hip-hop altogether), Hot 97 went on to be the only radio station in New York for hip-hop until mid-1997 when WBLS reintroduced it on its playlists and moved to urban contemporary, moving WQHT to its current rhythmic contemporary format. In March 2002, Clear Channel Communications launched WWPR-FM (Power 105.1 FM) to challenge Hot 97, and went to number-five in the ratings. In the fall of 2005 Power 105.1 edged slightly ahead of Hot 97 for the first time ever during the same period of time as the Tsunami song parody. Most recently the station resurged back to the top of the ratings, although WLTW (106.7 Lite FM) is still the top-rated radio station in New York City.

Most recently, as of April 2012, Hot 97 overall Arbitron ratings have been once again nearing all time lows, with typical monthly averages in the low 3's. In the month of March 2012, WLTW was #1, followed by WCBS-FM, WHTZ, WKTU and WSKQ rounding out the top 5. Hot 97 was in 13th place with a 3.2 rating. The previous month their overall # was 2.8.

In May 2007, R&R and BDS moved WQHT back to the Rhythmic Airplay panel after a long tenure as an Urban reporter; however the station was always a rhythmic reporter per Mediabase. More recently, Hot 97 has begun to play more late 90's and early 2000s throwbacks. While the majority of the songs played on the station are current Hip-Hop and R & B Hits, classic hits by artists such as the Notorious B.I.G and Tupac have begun to receive more airplay.

In the fall of 2008, WQHT served as the home of the nationally syndicated Big Boy's Neighborhood, produced by ABC Radio and based from 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 Cipha Sounds & Rosenberg.

By 2010, due to rivals WXRK (92-3 Now) & Clear Channel Communications' WKTU moving towards rhythmic top 40 directions, Hot 97 switched to Urban Contemporary, ending the longtime rhythmic top 40 format at the station. Mediabase & Nielsen BDS still report the station as a rhythmic top 40. However, the rhythmic contemporary format has since resurfaced at Hot 97 with WXRK reverting to contemporary hit radio.

In April 2011, WQHT is now New York City's only rhythmic contemporary station with the reverting of rival WKTU back 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.

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