Opinion: This Girl Ain’t Loyal—And That’s A Good Thing!

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By: / June 20, 2014

-“I think its shady as hell to move to your competitor radio station after years and years at hot 97. I love Breakfast club to pieces but…. these girls aint loyalll lol”
-“Having been with Hot 97 for two decades you then go and work for a rival station? It’s disloyal. All she did was think about her own damn self and that’s not a good look.”
commenters on news of Angie Martinez’s defection to Power 105.1

After over twenty years on-air and a storied, legendary career, radio personality Angie Martinez, known as The Voice of New York, has jumped ship to rival station Power 105.1.

Immediately, there were grumblings that she was being disloyal to leave Hot 97 for their heated rivals.

Disloyal to whom is the question I can’t figure out.

Disloyal to Funkmaster Flex, who has also been on the station for years and has side hustles in the automotive industry, record promotions and managing DJs?

Disloyal to The Hot 97 Morning Show, which she does not host?

Disloyal to the scores of DJs and executives she’s seen come and go over the past twenty years? Did any of them give a second thought to her livelihood when they made their career choices? Of course not. It’s ridiculous to even contemplate.

Ultimately, Angie’s decision to leave is between her and Jeffrey Smulyan, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Emmis Communications, which owns Hot 97 and several other stations and media properties, including Atlanta magazine and Texas Monthly.

Emmis Communications is based in Indianapolis, where 66 year old Smulyan lives and works. According to Forbes, Smulyan’s total compensation for 2013 was 4.5 million dollars. (And he owns 323,000 shares of the company).

Do you think Smulyan is pacing the floor of his home in Indianapolis right now, singing Chris Brown’s “Loyal” while throwing darts at Angie’s picture?

If her ratings had dropped and someone came to Smulyan and said Angie had to go, that would have been that. Would anyone scream out that Smulyan was being disloyal to a long-time employee?

The problem is that because Angie covered hip-hop and the industry so intensively for so long, (even becoming a Grammy-Award winning rapper herself), folks thinks she’s supposed to behave like Hot 97 is a crew. It’s not. It’s a business. And she doesn’t own it.

Is it a gutsy, power move? Hell yeah, it is. But since when is knowing your worth and exerting power classified as disloyal?

This is not The Game leaving G-Unit or LeBron leaving Cleveland. (I don’t happen to think those situations show disloyalty either. But I get how people could feel that way.)

This is a woman, two decades into her career, deciding to take the wheel and make a drastic shift. It’s risky, calculated and brilliant.

Now, there are ways that her move could have been seen as less-than-classy. If she’d taken half the staff with her, that would have been disloyal, (and probably illegal.) If she’d badmouthed the whole station prior to leaving or just not had a proper send-off at all, that could have been seen as disloyal.

But none of those things happened. She announced her departure, thanked the Hot 97 team and then took calls during her very last show. She said nothing about her next move until the announcement was made the next day and again, she simply thanked her new radio family.

In the early years of Will Smith’s career, hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons was trying to get him a television deal. But Simmons was spread thin and couldn’t do much. In the meantime, other members of Will Smith’s team got him a deal with NBC for The Fresh Prince.

In Russell’s memoir, Life After Def, he talks about how Will personally contacted him, explaining that he got a deal for television and was moving on. Not only did he personally let Russell know he was leaving, he also cut him a check for $250,000 because he knew Russell had spent time and money trying to him a deal.

Russell says that he always knew right then that Will Smith was going to go far in life. At that time, most of Russell’s clients would just disappear or pop up with another manager without bothering to let him know. But this young man stood up, wrote a check and left with a clear conscious and a sterling reputation.

Angie’s move, like Will’s years ago, is not disloyalty. This is professionalism at its best. If you think working for a company you don’t own for half your life and then leaving for a better opportunity is disloyal, you don’t know the meaning of the word.—Aliya S. King

Aliya S. King’s is the author of two novels and three non-fiction books, including the New York Times Bestseller, “Keep The Faith,” with recording artist Faith Evans. She had written for VIBE since 1998. Find her at aliyasking.com and @aliyasking.