Born in 1971 in Bronx, New York; children: Niko Ruffin. Addresses: Office--WQHT-FM, 395 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014. Website--Angie Martinez Official Website:

Angie Martinez is a hip-hop artist and a deejay for the New York City radio station WQHT-FM. She has worked for the station since 1982 and has interviewed almost every major figure in hip-hop during that time. She has also released two albums, Up Close and Personal and Animal House. Her radio show has an estimated two million listeners.

Martinez, who was born in the Bronx and grew up in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Beach Haven, had a difficult childhood. Her father left the family when she was ten years old, and as she told Ramiro Burr in the Houston Chronicle, "I think that has made a lot of aspects of my life a little more difficult than they needed to be, but I'm doing all right." She still does not know where her father is.

Her mother, Shirley Maldonado, got a job as a radio station program director during a brief stay in Miami. Because she was a single parent and it was easier for her to take her daughter to work than to leave her alone at home, Martinez, then a teenager, often went with her, and worked at the station answering phones and driving the van. Maldonado told Brett Atwood in Billboard that Martinez "was an active listener of the format that I was programming at the time. So, from a business perspective, her ears were helpful. At age 16, she was living the music."

When Maldonado moved back to New York, Martinez went with her, and got a job assisting the general manager of WQHT-FM. This gave her a sense of strength and opportunity, as well as a positive feeling about herself and her abilities, and it helped turn her difficult life around.

Although she did not plan to work on the air, Martinez followed her mother's advice, who told her it was important to learn how to do everything in radio. Accordingly, she made an audition tape, not expecting it to lead to anything. When another deejay called in sick, however, Martinez went on the air. She told Atwood, "I just threw on a pair of sweat pants and went out the door. I had no preparation or anything. I ran upstairs and told my mom that I was going to finally be on the radio, and she turned on every radio in the house." Although her first performance wasn't polished, she was called again when the regular deejay was sick, and eventually earned a permanent spot on the air. She has been on the air ever since.

In addition to being inspired by her mother's career, Martinez was also impressed by Latina stars, such as Lisa Lisa and actress Rosie Perez. Seeing and hearing them "made me feel like there's a place for me out there somewhere," she told Burr. Although she loved working as a deejay, she told the New York Post that she also wanted to "try something new. I was getting a little bored, personally and creatively." In 1996 she appeared in a cameo on Lil' Kim's single, "Not Tonight." The song went to number three and was nominated for a Grammy Award.

Martinez made her own recording debut with Up Close and Personal in 2001. Because she had interviewed many big-name artists on her radio show, she was able to feature them on the album. Guest artists included Jay-Z, Wyclef Jean, Snoop Dogg, and Mary J. Blige. Some reviewers felt she relied too heavily on these guests; Gala Pierce wrote in the Arlington Heights, Illinois, Daily Herald that because of the heavy collaboration, the album was "sidestepping its chance for a unique vision." Martinez said, however, that she learned a great deal from them. "I don't know anybody who wouldn't want to make a song with these incredible artists," she told Burr. And she told a New York Post reporter, "Every word by me on this album is about me."

Making the album was a transforming experience for Martinez, who told Burr, "I realized that if something was bothering me, and I could write about it and put it in a song, I could make it go away. That's when I was like, 'I love this; I need to do it more.'" Animal House was released in 2002. It peaked at number eleven on the Billboard 200 chart. The album's tracks contain songs about difficult relationships as well as successful ones.

In 2002 Martinez was offered a position as a judge on the television show American Idol, a talent contest for singers. In the show, judges listen to aspiring singers and offer frank (and sometimes brutal) assessments of their chances to make it in the music world. Martinez had never seen the show until after she took the job, and she was unaware of how cruel the judges were expected to be. After her first few auditions, she quit. She didn't want to tell anyone to give up on their dreams of musical success, especially since many of the contestants were fans of hers. In that same year, Martinez, who still remembers her own troubled adolescence, opened a camp for young women to help motivate them to pursue their dreams.

In January of 2003 Martinez told listeners on her radio show that she was five months pregnant, confirming rumors that had begun circulating among her fans. Although she didn't name the baby's father, sources at the Elektra record label told Chuck "Jigsaw" Creekmur at that the child's father was Nokio, a member of the Baltimore-based R&B quintet Dru Hill. Their child, a son named Niko Ruffin, was born on June 13, 2003. At the time, she was working to complete a new set for a 2003 release date.

In an online chat hosted by, Martinez advised teens who wanted to succeed in music: "Whatever you do, learn your craft and be prepared to work really hard," adding, "A lot of people will have opinions or expectations of you, and you have to be really clear on what's going to make you happy in the big picture."

by Kelly Winters

Angie Martinez's Career

Intern and staffer at WPOW radio, Miami, FL; consultant, WLVE, Miami, FL; programmer and deejay at WQHT-FM, New York, NY, 1990-; released Up Close and Personal, 2001, and Animal House, 2002.

Famous Works

Further Reading



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