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Respected hip-hop voice of New York Ebro Darden on paying your dues

Ebro Darden started out in radio in the early 90s.

Ebro Darden started out in radio in the early 90s. Now he’s the voice of New York on Apple’s Beats 1 station and the programming director at Hot 97. Ahead of The Grammy Awards, as part of The Drum's special music marketing edition, we caught up with him to find out what he’s learned on his journey to becoming one of hip-hop’s most authoritative voices.

You paid your dues – why should young people and artists pay theirs?

It helps you appreciate the craft and makes the opportunity and path mean more. And it is satisfying knowing you earned your slot.

You’re one of the more, er, senior members in hip-hop. What should people learn from your experience?

That taking time to discover your contribution to culture, art and people is what makes it all matter. Also, making sure you truly love the medium and path you think you want. If you love it, it doesn’t matter if it pays.

Do you hate being called ‘Old Man Ebro’ or is it a badge of honor?

I love it. It reminds myself and people that I have been here helping, pushing and challenging for almost 30 years. I am actually only 41, which is not old in life, but in hip-hop and this music format, it is.

What are the main differences in your approach between Hot 97 and Beats 1?

When I’m on-air at Hot 97 it has very little to do with music, it’s just fun. Beats 1 is all about new music, and artists, which is fun to explore.

What do you love most about Hot 97?

The honesty, integrity and closeness to local community and NYC – and how we still fight for local hip-hop as much as possible.

What do you love most about Beats 1?

The lack of concern for music categories and disregard for geography. We serve people who love to discover new music.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done on the air?

Broadcasting live from a golf cart in the middle of rush hour traffic in Portland (Oregon). Not sure what we were thinking there.

What’s the thing you’ve done on the air you’re most proud of?

Remaining employed. It’s harder than it looks.

What’s the thing you’ve done off the air you’re most proud of?

Having a personal life and businesses outside of radio.

What kind of artist buzz still matters?

The internet is now the street, and clubs will always matter. And barbershop conversation is still important.

What artist is going to take over 2017?

Gotta be Drake, Cole and Chance. They’ve got it.

Who deserves hip-hop Grammys this year?

Chance, Kanye, Drake, Anderson .Paak, Rihanna, Beyoncé and Fat Joe, Remy Ma and French Montana.

This interview was originally published in The Drum's music marketing issue.

Doug Zanger

I am the Americas editor for The Drum. A geographic mutt, I was born in Minnesota (lived outside of Minneapolis until I was 12), lived in suburban Philadelphia, attended college in Denver and London — and have proudly called Portland, Oregon (and the Pacific Northwest) my home for 25 years. Sadly, I love Philadelphia/Portland/Oregon sports and Arsenal. I am deeply committed to telling the best stories possible, to not only legitimately engage, but to contribute something meaningful to the industry as well. Yes, marketing can change the world, and we will always do our best to ensure we are doing our part.

All by Doug