Did radio DJ Peter Rosenberg just become one the most influential music critics in hip-hop? A morning DJ on New York hip-hop mainstay Hot 97, Rosenberg ignited a war of words this weekend, simply by referring to Nicki Minaj‘s song “Starships” as “bulls**t” while on stage at the station’s annual Summer Jam concert. In response, Minaj’s patron Lil Wayne yanked her and her fellow Young Money artists from the show lineup. Twitter has been on fire ever since. And all because of a DJ (and recently hired TV host) who had recently declared “the days of hip-hop being about beef are coming to a close.” Who is he?
Since joining the Hot 97 staff in 2007, Rosenberg has gradually made his presence known both on the air and online, where he runs a podcast and YouTube channel, and built a reputation as a tastemaker.
It was Rosenberg who scored the first interview with elusive rapper Earl Sweatshirt (of Odd Future) following his return to the scene. And his long-form live-interview series, Noisemakers, has become an increasingly important venue for hip-hop’s elite: this year’s Noisemakers sessions included have a visit to the influential South By Southwest music festival, where he interviewed a seemingly not sober Nas.
More recently, MTV tapped Rosenberg to host its brand new game show, Hip Hop Squares, where he plays X’s and O’s with some of the biggest stars in hip-hop. In particular, Rosenberg has talked up the program as a showcase for the camaraderie among artists as diverse as Common, Ghostface Killah and DJ Khaled. “It’s true, the days of hip-hop being about beef are coming to a close,” he told XXL recently.
He has cited the show as a relief from the often-contentious discussions that feed morning radio. He told XXL:
And being on morning radio on Hot 97, I often get caught up in these situations where I’m saying things about people and blah, blah, blah. It wasn’t like, Rosenberg, say something really out there that’s going to get people to talk. “What’s your opinion on this record? Don’t you think this sucks?” That’s like half of my life, people coming up to me and asking me if I think something sucks. And sometimes I do.
But while he commands a degree of respect, Rosenberg has never been shy about his willingness to play provocateur. On Twitter, where he refers to himself as the “Jewish Johnny Carson”, his photo is a shot of him with Howard Stern. And Summer Jam wasn’t the first time Rosenberg had thrown shade on Minaj. Just two weeks earlier, he used one of his “The Realness” segments to blast her “Right By My Side” video. “Nicki Minaj may not make good rap, but at least she makes out with good rappers,” he said of her video co-star, Nas.
As SPIN points out, though, “Starships” is rarely even played on Hot 97′s airwaves, and the whole affair may show that Rosenberg is trying to live in two worlds — balancing support for credible, “underground” hip-hop with “schticky” fare like MTV’s mainstream game show — as much as Minaj is with her mix of pop and hip-hop hits.
Still, Rosenberg and other Hot 97 DJs today downplayed his role in Minaj’s no-show. “She didn’t want to do Summer Jam, and you gave her a nice scapegoat,” co-host Cipha Sounds told him (on the air). Listen below.