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Who has the most power in hip-hop media?

original image via complex

Editorial creative director for complex Aria Hughes recently published an article via complex official website reflecting the power or influence rankings of hip hop media personalities. Hughes starts the article by discussing the evolution of hip hop media coverage, identifying the two distinct groups that covered hip hop culture, the journalists who wrote for publications and the personalities who spoke on radio and television.

However in the modern days of the music industry the lines have blurred between being a personality and a journalist. Hughes uses this fact to firstly bring to light the current state of media in hip hop because frankly some personalities who may be well loved due to tv or radio fame. However Hughes makes it clear that influence alone does not constitute power in media, it is the ability to turn your passion and skills in hip hop and content into a multimillion dollar empire.

Obviously we wouldn't rank these hard working professionals with such a vague description and neither did Hughes as she give a deep dive breakdown of exactly which factors went into ranking these media creatives. Hughes along with complex staff (assuming) used a scoring method based on five categories: commentary and banter, star power of guests, consistency, viral moments and the integrity of content. Now lets get into the rankings.

From rappers to radio hosts to YouTubers to Twitch streamers and everyone in between, here is COMPLEX'S inaugural power ranking of hip-hop media personalities...

25. Jazzy

Featured on: Jazzy’s World TV Known for: Being a precocious kid interviewing global music stars Followers: 430K IG; 372K YouTube Most memorable moments: Jay-Z, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar

Jazzy collects high-profile interviews like infinity stones. So far, the 12-year-old prodigy has linked up with Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Nicki Minaj—and something tells us it’s only a matter of time before she gets Drake on the record. Her interview style relies heavily on generic questions like, “What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?” or “Who are some artists that inspire you?” But how much more can we ask from a pre-teen? Besides, the news cycle is already heavy and dark enough. Jazzy may not be the source you go to for big reveals, but she is filling a growing demand for lighthearted and fun content in the hip-hop media space.

23. Sway Calloway

Featured on: Sway in the Morning on Sirius XM Known for: Lighthearted hip-hop interviews, lyrical-miracle freestyle sessions, his signature head wrap Followers: 1M IG; 554K Twitter Most memorable moments: Kanye interview, Sway freestyle segment (Five Fingers of Death)

As one-half of ’80s Bay Area duo Sway & King Tech, Sway was one of the first hip-hop artists (turned celebrity host). Some might remember him from his days as a co-host on KMEL’s nationally syndicated radio show The Wake Up Show, or when he later joined MTV as a correspondent in the early 2000s. For the last 10 years Sway has hosted a weekday morning show on Eminem’s Shade 45 channel on SiriusXM, where “How Sway?” instantly became a GOAT hip-hop quotable. Sway even pops up in an episode of The Boondocks, voicing an animated version of himself in “The Story Of Gangstalicious.” Sway’s steady voice has been such a staple in hip-hop coverage for so long that it’s become like comfort food for fans of a certain vintage. He may not be as prominent as he once was, but he’s still an active media personality with immeasurable contributions to the game.

19. Adam22

Featured on: No Jumper Followers: 3M IG; 4.6M YouTube Known for: Putting young rappers on early, creating controversy on- and off-air Most memorable moments: XXXtentacion, King Von, Blueface and Chrisean

Adam Grandmaison went from an unknown BMX blogger to one of the most influential figures of the SoundCloud rap era, but his journey has been marked by scandal. From a content perspective, Adam22 has undoubtedly been instrumental in breaking some of the most infamous hip-hop acts of this generation, from XXXtentacion to Tekashi 6ix9ine, well before mainstream media was tuned in. However, the lion’s share of Adam22’s content is more about being problematic than promising. No Jumper isn’t picky, and Adam22 has always been eager to put a microphone in front of any aspiring rapper with a modicum of IG clout. This ambulance-chasing mentality has built Adam22’s empire and created plenty of viral moments, but also feels like a cynical exercise in feeding the lowest common denominator. That stench is exacerbated when you consider Adam22’s long list of misconduct allegations, questionable comments, and most recently, his very public falling out with several No Jumper hosts. With his recent heel turn toward edgelord commentary (as in the long “debate” show with neo-Nazi Richard Spencer) and aspiring porn stardom (no links here, buddy), Adam22 and No Jumper’s relevance in hip-hop media may be in permanent decline.

18. Big Boy

Featured on: BigBoyTV Followers: 542K IG; 1M YouTube Known For: Comedic timing and energetic interviews Most memorable moments: Kevin Gates, Kanye West, Young Thug

Big Boy’s name has been synonymous with West Coast hip-hop for over 25 years, having started at L.A.’s Power 106 in 1997. (Check Vince Staples’ ‘FM!’ album for proof.) The veteran interviewer toes the line between funny and serious, and leans more conversational than confrontational. His loose, easygoing demeanor disarms his guests and puts them at ease, but his general style is very radio-centric—heavy on lighthearted banter and silly games—which means it hasn’t necessarily evolved with the times. Hip-hop media and coverage has historically been East Coast-centric, usually viewing everything through a New York lens. But Big Boy has long been the loudest voice representing the West Coast and garnering respect and attention from all artists, regardless of where they’re from.

15. Funkmaster Flex

Featured on: Hot 97 radio show Known for: Bombastic rap commentary and even louder sound effects Followers: 3M IG; 800K Twitter Most memorable moments: Black Thought Freestyle, Jim Jones interview, “Otis” premiere

Funkmaster Flex is not an artist, but his iconic voice is worth millions. The veteran Hot 97 hip-hop radio host/DJ is an indelible media presence because of his adlibs, late-night rants, and ability to book legendary artists to spit freestyles for his show. Flex became a host on Hot 97 during the radio station’s inception in 1992, and to this day his bomb-drop sound effect is a measure of a song’s heat (hello, “Otis”), so much so that rappers reference it in their verses. Flex’s occasional late-night radio diatribes also continue to move the needle and become must-listen content just to hear who or what got him so tight. With his legacy already cemented, Flex is now like a cool uncle who pals around with the O.G.s but can still relate to the younger generation (witness his unforgettable session with Tyler, the Creator). Just beware the wrath when unc gets cranky.

14. Angela Yee

Featured on: The Breakfast Club (formerly), Angela Yee’s Lip Service, Way Up With Angela Yee Known for: Being a prolific host who is also a great team player Followers: 1.7M IG; 865.9K Twitter Most memorable moments: Lip Service with King Von, Interview on The Breakfast Club with Birdman, Lip Service interview with Nick Cannon

Angela Yee was reporting hip-hop gossip and news long before her high-profile role as one of the three co-hosts on The Breakfast Club, where she was known for dishing out her Rumor Report and keeping Charlamagne and DJ Envy grounded. The East Flatbush native got her feet wet in 2005 as a co-host for The Cipha Sounds Effect show on Sirius XM’s Shade 45; since then, Yee has kept viewers engaged on both her syndicated radio show and her sex-talk podcast Lip Service. Recently embarking on the next chapter of her career, Yee officially ended her 12-year stint on The Breakfast Club to launch her solo radio show, Way Up With Angela Yee. The show debuted in February 2023 with Ray J as one of her guest hosts. Yee’s staying power is no fluke—she has superlative broadcast instincts, knowing how to pull compelling material out of her guests and when to let moments breathe.

13. Ebro

Featured on: Ebro in the Morning, The Ebro Show, Rap Life Radio, Rap Life Review, The Message Known for: Being unafraid to share dissenting opinions or calling out artists if necessary Followers: 796K IG; 297.7K Twitter Most memorable moments: Kodak Black’s 2018 interview, 2018 beef with 6ix9ine

Ebro Darden has been in the media business behind the scenes since 1990, but most people recognize him for being the grumpy voice of reason for over a decade on Hot 97’s Ebro in the Morning. In 2015, Ebro gained more power when he was named the global editorial head of hip-hop and R&B for Apple Music, meaning he now holds decision-making roles at both a huge radio platform and a huge streamer—influence indeed. Ebro’s interviews tend to focus on music and the business side of the industry, and critics might say that he lords his gatekeeper status over artists and audiences alike. But every now and then, he’ll create a viral buzz, like when he called out Kodak Black about his rape allegations or caused stirs on Twitter for standing his ground with an unpopular opinion.

original image via complex

11. Jason Lee

Featured on: Hollywood Unlocked With Jason Lee, The Jason Lee Show Known for: Humorous and direct commentary on pop culture, insider info, and fun interviews with A-list celebrities Followers: 3.3M IG (Hollywood Unlocked); 82.3K Twitter Most memorable moments: Kanye West’s 2022 interview, first image of Rihanna and ASAP Rocky’s baby, Kelis interview

At the heart of many viral moments is media personality Jason Lee, who parlayed Love & Hip-Hop fame into a burgeoning media business. At first, he merely documented the biggest news in music and pop culture on his blog Hollywood Unlocked. But in the last three years, he’s helped create explosive moments. In 2022, Lee nabbed an exclusive interview with Kanye West, in which the controversial rapper discussed his relationship with ex-wife Kim Kardashian and his kids. (Lee would go on to briefly work for Ye as his “head of media and partnerships.”) As the host of The Jason Lee Show on Revolt TV, he has already booked huge interviews with Cardi B and Offset, Blueface and Chrisean Rock, and Blac Chyna. While Lee has demonstrated a strong booking power, his content often dips into the messy side of the business. And he doesn’t always get things right (remember when HU prematurely reported that the Queen was dead?). Nevertheless, Lee is an entertaining personality who captures a very real shift in the rap media landscape in