Starrene Rhett from The Urban Daily sat down with Ms. Yee for an exclusive interview.
Angela Yee’s flirtatious and witty interview style was made for radio, but becoming a DJ on a top rated national morning show wasn’t always part of her plan. The East Flatbush, Brooklyn native initially wanted to become a writer while growing up and even majored in English at Wesleyan University. But upon graduation she landed a job with Wu-Management, which allowed her to work with one of the most iconic groups in hip-hop.
Eventually her connections landed her on Sirius Satellite Radio where she found her true niche by hosting The Cipha Sounds Effect (which eventually became The Morning After With Angela Yee) and Lip Service. Nowadays the African-American and Chinese “Blasian” sensation chops it up with the hottest artists in Urban Music on Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club.
The Urban Daily caught up with radio’s it girl to find out how she serendipitously discovered her passion and how her years of work in the music industry have had an impact on the way people perceive certain artists.
TUD: What was life was like growing up for you and did you always know that you wanted to be involved in entertainment?
Angela Yee: I’ve always wanted to be a writer ever since I was in kindergarten, so that was ultimately what I wanted to do with my life. I do it a little bit here and there but as far as music, I’ve always loved music. We used to have a record player in the basement and I would sit there and listen to music all day and my favorite movie growing up was Purple Rain, so I used to watch that over and over and over again. I never really thought about being in the music industry or anything like that. It all kind of just happened for me.
I [started out] doing an internship in college at TVT Records. At the time they were doing jingles and TV tunes but they had some artists signed there [as well]. I did that internship then I ended up interning at MTV and then I ended up interning for Wu-Tang. That had a huge impact on me because when I graduated from college, the first job I got after school was working with them so it all kinda just happened for me. It wasn’t a conscious decision.
What were some of your most interesting experiences with Wu Management?
I think when I first started working there I was a little nervous because they had a reputation for being rowdy and I was like, “I don’t know if I want to do this,” but they were great. I’m still good friends with all of them to this day. I remember when I first met Method Man I didn’t like him [laughs]. It’s because you have to understand people’s personalities. I think he’s the greatest now but when I first met him he would yell at me all the time but I didn’t realize it was all kind of joking around like, it was like, “Who is that? Why is he such an asshole?” But then when I realized that all I had to do was say, “Man shut up and stop being a baby!” It was all good. And obviously working with someone like Ol’ Dirty Bastard, that was always mad fun crazy stories. I used to have to put signs up in the office that said “Do not smoke weed” during business hours. We were on the 9th floor and they would smoke so much that you could smell it in the lobby. It was crazy. I used to be like, “I can’t concentrate if y’all are gonna come in here [laughs]. But it was fun. It was a great job. I had a lot to do. I was assistant to the CEO and so I was doing stuff like taking care of payroll and having meetings, I was sitting in on everything, going to the studio and learning to do a lot of things and meeting a lot of people who I don’t think I could have met just being some place that didn’t let me take charge the way they let me take charge.
How did you transition to radio?
I got into radio because I’m really cool with [Eminem’s manager] Paul Rosenberg. [When Em was with] The Outsidaz they opened up for Wu-tang’s Park Hill Day. It was this thing they did in Staten Island that I did for them. And that was a big deal. That was when Eminem wasn’t signed and I had seen him perform at all the Lyricist Lounge events prior to that. So Paul and I had always been cool ever since before the whole deal with Dr. Dre.
I had worked at Shady Limited Clothing Line. I helped launch the brand when they first put out Eminem’s clothing line and when they got the deal at Sirius for the radio station I was like, “I kinda want to work there but I wanted to do marketing because that’s what I always did at all these different clothing lines and for different products. So I called Paul up and said, “Hey, I want to do marketing over at Sirius. Is there a position open? Can you get me an interview?” And he suggested that I try to go on the air with Cipha Sounds because Cipha was over there doing a show in the morning. So it was that easy. I went over there, I had no radio experience whatsoever but once I got my foot in the door I really worked extremely hard and took advantage of every opportunity I could for very little money. I was making half the salary that I was making prior to go over there to work and that had me in debt for so long. But after the first year, I ended up getting a decent raise but it still wasn’t the kind of money that I was making before I went there. Sometimes you have to go backwards in your salary and everything that you do so that you end up where you think you eventually belong.
So you basically fell in love with radio?
Yeah, it was really fun. When you do radio it’s addictive, you miss being on that mic and like that fact that it’s something different every day. I like the fact that it forces me to keep up with current events, which I enjoy doing anyway. I sit around and chop it up and talk all the time so it feels just very natural.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
I think the biggest challenge is always feeling like you’re getting what you deserve. And I think a lot of people feel that way. I remember being at Sirius and feeling like, “Ok, come on guys. I’ve been working here for six years now and ya’ll still treat me like how you treated me when I first came in here.” And I think that’s an issue a lot of people have because it was my first job in radio. It’s not like they wooed me from some other place and offered me the position because they wanted to, it was a situation where I was placed here and they didn’t really have a choice about it so I think that’s always a difficult thing. And they’ll tell me, “You’re doing a great job but we don’t have any money,” and that’s always an issue. That’s an issue at a lot of different places, to get what you feel you’re worth. So all I can say is, if you feel like it’s not working out for you, then you have to be really great at what you do and have great relationships so at the end of the day, if you have to walk away you can.
As a cultural influencer, how has your role impacted the music industry in terms of what people like and how they react to artists?
I like when I do interviews with an artist and they may not have liked an artist at first but after they see my interview they’ll like them better. I’m not a shock jock at all. I’m a nice person but I’m very aware of people’s music and I’m aware of what’s going on and I try to stay in touch with what people are listening to, what people care about. So I think it’s great when people come up here and we do an interview and I feel like I’m very informed and very respectful of the artist, so hopefully it has impacted people in a positive way. I’m excited when I see things posted online where we do great interviews with people and you learn things that you didn’t know. You get to see a little bit of these artist’s personalities and find out more about what they like besides just the music they make and find out more about why they’ve made the decisions that they’ve made in their lives.
Where do you see radio going in the future?
I think it’s gonna have to be integrated more with the world wide web because there’s no way to avoid it. That’s one of the biggest things going on and there’s no way to be affective if you don’t have that online presence to support you. And I think that people like options. [The internet has] been helpful here at Power 105. We have the website so people can stream live if you’re not in NY. And we have the iHeart Radio app, which is for iPhone, Blackberry for all the phones and you can listen from anywhere on that so I think it’s been beneficial.
Where’s your career going next? Will you be an old lady doing radio like Dr Ruth [laughs]?
I hope so, if they’ll have me. I do miss doing Lip Service, that was a really fun show where you get to show your personality and all of that and I enjoy being here with Charlamagne and DJ Envy, and if I could do both of those things that would be great. I love doing interviews but yeah, I hope to have a long career like Wendy Williams, like Angie Martinez has, or just a lot of people in radio that I look up to. Howard Stern has had a really long career. I just hope that things keep on getting better and better and better, but we should definitely branch out into television soon too.