Hot 97’s Lisa Evers Bridges Hip-Hop And The Mainstream
As a lead journalist in hip-hop since its primal stages, Lisa Evers has witnessed the evolution of the genre while covering the transitions, progressions, and controversies every step of the way. From being the first mainstream correspondent to interview 50 Cent to heavily encouraging activism in the hip-hop community on her Hot 97 series Street Soldiers, Evers’ hustler spirit has truly made its stamp in hip-hop and has helped push the culture into the mainstream spotlight. Also a journalist for Fox 5, Evers prides herself on knocking down the barriers in the culture, introducing hip-hop to those who don’t recognize its value.
Throughout the duration of her career, Lisa Evers has helped the hip-hop community in a number of ways, from gathering supplies for Hurricane Katrina victims to most recently connecting the hip-hop community with NYC police commissioner Ray Kelly to spark conversation surrounding Stop And Frisk laws. “We had Ray Kelly live on Hot 97 for the first time ever taking telephone calls from the listeners,” she says about her work in radio. “No one from his staff was screening them. So that kind of dialogue, I think, is really what we’re all about. Really about bringing people together.”
Even though Lisa has indeed already made her mark in hip-hop, she’s not quite finished yet, and is dedicated to continuing fighting for the culture. “You don’t sit there and go, ‘I don’t have that, the conditions aren’t ideal.’ The hip-hop attitude is, ‘Let’s make it happen.'”—Miranda J. (@Randa_Writes)
Street Soldiers airs every Sunday at 9 a.m. on Hot 97.
XXL: How did you get into journalism?
Lisa Evers: I’ve always been interested in what’s going on. When I first got to the city, I was a model and I was doing volunteer crime fighting. Learned martial arts just to defend myself. It was just something that I really really loved and I wanted to do. I wasn’t trained for it in college or anything, but I did go to school. But it was just trying to get jobs like everybody , trying to get your foot in the door. First you substitute for somebody then you get a big break.
You started at Fox 5 and then you moved to Hot 97?
I started at Hot 97 first, and at that time I was working four freelance radio jobs trying to make a name for myself as a reporter. And then the Hot 97 opportunity came up. And that was something that was very unusual. The whole idea that you could do a public affairs show that was really a news-based show and that it was doing something positive was very new. And then the fact that it was on a hip-hop station when the station was starting out in the early years, it was very forward-thinking of them. Hip-hop is mainstream now; at that time it wasn’t, so there was this whole thing of the streets. But then, I knew the streets, and that had kind of been my beat all along. Then from all the work I did in the community, it just evolved from that.
I was working as a reporter for 10 10 Wins, a regular news reporter full time, and I was looking around going, “Gosh, I would really like to get into television and be a television news reporter.” And there was an [opening] here at Fox 5, so I said, “Let me just submit. Let me see if I can do a test run.” I got the job 24 hours after I came in. But [the news director] understood the Hot 97 audience and he understood our Fox audience. We have the youngest demo, the hipper, more edgy type of programming, and there was a natural fit.
I was reading an interview with Rick Rubin and he was saying that, starting out in hip-hop, there was a lot of tension between staying true to the streets and merging with rock. Is that what you have seen?
Hip-hop has come into the mainstream and become mainstream, but the basic core of what I call hip-hop is still there. These are core principals that I use as a TV new reporter, as a radio talk show host, for my social media platforms—basically, the hustle. News is a hustle, ’cause I wanna beat other people to have the story. That’s very hip-hop. And I think the other things that inspire me constantly… Look at 50 Cent, who gave me his first TV interview here on Fox. People thought he was a washed up guy who had been nearly killed; that’s how they were looking at him, and we gave him that first shot. And he gave me that opportunity. He trusted me for that, for which I’ll always be grateful for him.
But I think the core of hip-hop is that entrepreneurial spirit, which is, basically, you don’t wait for opportunities, you make opportunities. That’s something I think is totally in sync with what I do at Fox as a TV reporter too. They respect my connections with hip-hop. They respect the connections with the street. And understand that a lot of big movements start out on the streets and start out in hip-hop.