The last few months have sparked major changes for the historic NYC hip-hop radio station, Hot 97. After Angie Martinez left back in June to join competing station, Power 105, one by one some of Hot's biggest names have also ventured off to start fresh somewhere else. Mister Cee, Big Dennis, and most recently Cipha Sounds, who took over Martinez's spot, have all parted ways in the last few months, after each serving the station for around two decades.

The station that New Yorkers have known for years is entering a new era, and fresh off Cipha's departure news, XXL caught up with the 17-year Hot 97 employee to get the inside scoop on recent occurrences. But first, the dirt: following last week's Juan Epstein podcast where in true Ciph fashion, the veteran radio personality vented his woes for all of the Tri-State's four million listeners to hear, people got a little more privy to the happenings inside of the station's offices and wanted answers. Cipha revealed that things got "weird" for him at the company due to the fact that Hot brought in yet another replacement for Angie's former slot, MTV correspondent Nessa, without giving him a heads up, along with a host of other mishaps.

From the effect of Angie leaving to what happened with his morning show prior to the station's current Ebro In The Morning, Cipha breaks down the final few months of his tenure, and unveiled a few of his new endeavors, like a VH1 show in the works with Alicia Keys. With his trademark humor that serves him well in his ventures in hip-hop comedy, Cipha discusses Nessa taking over his slot, what led him to the point of parting ways with his longtime employer and what he's planning to do next in terms of his comedy. —Miranda J.

XXL: What got into you and Peter Rosenberg on that episode of Juan Epstein that you just let it all out?
Cipha Sounds: Honestly, if you listen to Juan Epstein, we talk 100 percent honest all the time. There’s nothing about that podcast that’s different than any other one, it just so happened to be a hot topic at the moment and it spread around. You can go back and listen to years of Juan Epstein when we talk about what’s going on at the station. We’d talk about Ebro on there all the time. It’s just that, it was normal.

Did that have any connection with you and Hot 97 parting ways?
No, not at all.

Many people got that impression.
Yeah, I guess me leaving made people listen to it and there’s just foreshadowing. They look back on it and say it, "It was because of this...," When really, I was feeling upset for a while. It had nothing to do with the podcasts.

In the podcast you were saying that you gave new Hot 97 personality Nessa a call to congratulate her. What exactly did you say?
I said congratulations and that I’m a fan of hers. I love her on [MTV’s] Girl Code. I have a lot of friends on Girl Code and Guy Code. I said it’s a tough market, it’s a tough slot. There’s shoes to be filled with that slot, not even talking about me but just in general. I was just like, I don’t know what’s happening with me and the station. I don’t know where I’m going to be but if we’re in the same room, I don’t want it to be awkward, so I wanted to talk to you first. I just wanted to make sure that we’re cool.

So being that they decided to bring her in for the 3 p.m. slot [at Hot 97] that you had been given after Angie Martinez left, were you ever open to taking over another slot?
I was always open to anything at Hot 97. I’ve done... I have a joke at Hot 97, the only slot I can’t do is Klay Slay’s show because I don’t have all that street grimy hip-hop. I’ve done every single slot at Hot 97. I’ve filled in for Camilo when he used to have a Reggaeton slot. I could do the reggae show. I filled in for Flex at the beginning of my career. I filled in for middays, I filled in for Angie. Every weekend slot, I was always open to it. But it just got weird. Hot 97 is the kindest, bravest, warmest human being that I’ve ever known in my life.

You mentioned Angie, though, and in the last few months, you, Angie and [Mister] Cee have all left. What do you think this means for Hot 97? Do you think they’re just entering a new era?
That’s what it feels like. It feels like they’re going a different direction than they used to go. I don’t know what exactly it is. I think that if you’ve been in New York for a long time and you’re a native New Yorker like me, then it definitely looks different. But to them, I think they’re looking at it like, "Yeah, we want it to look different. It’s a new thing." I think maybe if I was doing that then I would just change the name because it’s a different thing. Like, if I had a store that sold sneakers and then the next day, I sold Tupperware, I would change the name.

cipha sounds hot 97 alicia keys

In the podcast, you said that you were even offered a position at Power 105 before Angie. Why didn’t you take that?
That was mis-quoted in the press. That spot was offered to me a while ago. Not when Angie got it, like a while ago. It was like when I was [on] in the mornings. People made it seem like right now when Angie had it. Why didn’t I take it? I love Hot 97. I don’t have any problems with any other stations but I’m lucky that Hot 97 is the only radio station I worked at because most people bounce around a lot. Even when you’re from New York, you have to, like, go out of town and cut your teeth somewhere. In North Carolina, Philly, Miami, wherever it is, and then try to make your way back. I was lucky; I started off as an intern and grew in the station. So, it was like a gift and a curse because I was always, like, "Lil Cyph." I’m like, "Nah, I’m not ‘Lil Cyph' no more."

Do you have any regrets about not taking that offer? After seeing how everything is falling into place now?
Not just with that, but my personal philosophy in life is not having any regrets. So it’s like, I don’t know where my life would have taken me if I did take it but I know I love the way my life is now. I do all my comedy stuff, my improv, I’m starting this tech company. I’ve got a bunch of different stuff I’m doing, so I don’t have regrets. I hate to sound philosophical but everything [happens] for a reason.

What happened with your morning show? After K. Foxx got let go, it seems like the show ended oddly.
Yeah, it did get weird. Looking back, especially. The show was always like, "A Black, a Puerto Rican and a Jew." K. Foxx got fired, so we needed a black voice. So then they had Ebro be the black voice and then it just changed from there. I don’t think anyone wrote down a plan of how The Morning Show was going to change, but it’s just, we look back at it and our memory quantifies it and makes it shorter, but it was a long time. It was a long period of a long time when these things happened. I don’t think that there was a plan of changing it, I think it just evolved.

What happened with you in that transition with the Ebro In The Morning show? How did you fit in?
Honestly, there were budget issues. We were merging with another company. We merged with BLS. So just little stuff like that. Corporate stuff that I don’t even really... It’s just bottom line numbers. Some people got let go. There were double roles. Like when you merge with a company, do you need double presidents? No, you get rid of one and keep the other. I just got caught up in the mix of it and I’ve always been loyal so I just stayed through it all. Like, "It’ll work itself out." Then, I started not liking all of the changes. Really, I didn’t even mind the changes, it’s just the uncertainty. Like, just let me know how long I’m going to do this and I’ll rock with it. I have a comedy mind. No matter what you tell me, I’m going to make it funny, but let me make it funny, that’s all.

Speaking of all those changes, how was it when Angie left for you?
Oh, it was devastating. It was heartbreaking because she was one of the pillars of the radio station. I wasn’t even there, I was with Dave Chapelle at Radio City Music Hall doing those shows and I saw it on Instagram. Next thing you know, everyone is saying goodbye. I wish I was there. So it was sad. I was also happy though; when you make a big move like that, it’s cool. That’s like my big sister.

Would you ever think about continuing in radio?
Yeah, of course. I love all that stuff. I just don’t want to be known as just the radio guy. I do a lot of things. Radio is one outlet. I didn’t realize it until after I left that people thought I was so synonymous with Hot 97. I love radio but I also love comedy. I love TV, movies, I do all that stuff. I’m driving for Uber now. [Laughs]

Is your comedy going to be your focus from this point on?
It always was; when I got The Morning Show, it was a comedy show. It was funny bits, we had skits, we had jokes. The Morning Show was just an extension of the comedy. It was combining both my worlds. It was hip-hop improv, hip-hop comedy. People are like, "Oh, you’re doing comedy now." I’m like, "Always been." The only reason I got on the radio was because my boss was like, "Oh, you’re funny on the radio." That was like 2000-something. She was like, “Oh you’re funny on the radio, I’m going to give you a jock position." I didn’t even want it, I was like, "Nah, I want to be a DJ." But it was because [she said I’m] funny, not like, "You’re a good jock." It’s always been a part of it. It’s nothing new. Gust now it’s starting to blow up.

cipha sounds hot 97 comedy

Speaking of comedy and progressing in it, have you ever though of getting a TV show?
Yeah, I’m working on it. All these projects have been in the works. I’ve got two pilots that I’m working on. I’ve got five other scripts ideas I’m working on. I went to L.A. five times last year pitching.

Anything specific?
Well, this main show I’m working on, Take It Personal, I partnered with Alicia Keys and this guy Ian Gelfand, who was the producer of the VH1 Hot 97 show. Me and him became good friends, so we shot this show where I do my improv every Friday at the UCB theater. We get a hip-hop celebrity to tell a story and then we create a whole show based on that story, all made up on the spot. So Swizz [Beatz] did it and he loved it. He said his wife would love it because it’s theater-based and acting. So we’re partners with it and we’re just trying to get it to go through.

So it seems that the dots are really connecting. By doing the comedy show for all those years, that’s kind of the end goal.
I don’t know, but people keep separating it. I can do both. All my comedy is under the hip-hop umbrella. I could do stand-up from seven to midnight every day and I could DJ from 12:30 to 4 a.m. if I wanted.

You mentioned Dave Chapelle earlier and when I think of hip-hop comedy, he’s kind of like the master. What’s your relationship with Dave Chapelle?
Chapelle is great. Chapelle is not really the hang out type but when he did the shows at Radio City, he had me on those shows. He’s asked me to do other things but I couldn’t do it because I was on the radio. So now I can do it. But Chapelle is great. I got real cool with Chris Rock lately. Me and Tracy Morgan are super cool. All these guys give me advice. They’ve told me to take the plunge. To go with it full steam. I got great mentors. I got great people to call. Patrice O’Neal, God bless the dead, was one of the strongest mentors I had to push me into comedy. Some white people, too. [Laughs]

You're on Instagram making jokes about the unemployment line. People are thinking you don’t know what’s next, but in reality, you have it all together.
Every Instagram I’ve put up since [I left Hot 97] is comedy. I put up a thing that I was driving for Uber and my ex-girlfriend hit me like, "What happened? Are you driving for Uber?" I’m happy. This is great. I don’t want to sound generic. This is real. And I didn’t get fired; The Daily News and Pix 11 said I got fired. The Hot 97 statement was so bland and generic that it looked like I got fired. I didn’t get fired. Does that matter? That doesn’t matter. Even if I did, so what? If you go back on my Instagram, it’s all jokes and memes.

Like Hot 97 having no toilet paper?
They had toilet paper. Just lazy fucking employees that wouldn’t put it on the damn roll. I was going to set up a system where they had a sign in and a sign out sheet. They wouldn’t let me do it.

So your parting words for Hot 97 are for them to put the toilet paper on the roll?
Yeah. Tell Human Resources to get on their job and tell the people that they have to put the toilet paper on the dispenser. And just so you know, Hot 97 is the kindest, bravest, warmest human being that I’ve ever known in my life.

Related: Cipha Sounds Is Leaving Hot 97
Cipha Sounds Doesn’t Know If He’ll Be Staying With Hot 97
Cipha Sounds Replaces Angie Martinez On Hot 97
2 Chainz Takes In Improv Comedy At Cipha Sounds’ Weekly Show

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