In a world where radio is dying and the once all-important radio personality is going extinct, there is a singular shining star from the mecca of hip hop who manages to embody all the best aspects of a classic New York radio personality — but with a format and feel that is perfectly updated for the increasingly digital music landscape of 2022.
Gabe P is the founder and host of On the Radar, and over the last few years he’s grown the show from a modest side-hustle into New York City’s premier radio and digital platform for interviews and live performances with the hottest up-and-coming artists. Anyone who claims to be in tune with new music has seen one of their favorite new artists backdropped by the now iconic green studio background, cloud-filled sky, and extremely well-branded intro as Gabe “steps out and they step in.”
The platform saw its first big wave of growth through the pandemic shutdowns, another as it helped shine a light on the Bronx drill wave, and now has developed into a mandatory NYC press run stop. Today, the show attracts huge names from around the country, has earned millions of views and over 110K subscribers, and most recently landed its own home in primetime on the legendary Power 105.1 radio station.
We sat down with Gabe, who today gets stopped in the street and asked to recite his famous “Yessir Baby!” catchphrase, to learn about the origins of On the Radar and how he’s managed to create the hottest new platform for emerging artists in hip hop.
While most people began to tune in through the pandemic shutdowns, and more recently as it continues to attract bigger and bigger names, the origins of On the Radar actually go back to 2018 — and Gabe’s journey goes back even farther.
Growing up in Long Island, Gabe played a bunch of different instruments and even gave being a singer a go at local talent shows, but it wasn’t until he went to college that he found his true calling. Within the first few weeks of his freshman year at St. John’s University, Gabe had started working at the college radio station WSJU, in short order finding himself hosting his own shows covering a range of topics from music to sports to comic books.
At some point during the spring semester of his sophomore year, he got the opportunity to interview Power 105’s legendary radio personality, Angie Martinez. He and his co-host Nyla Symone must have left an impression, because Angie ended up taking the two of them with her back to Power, where they interned that summer. And just like that, Gabe was in the door at one of the most legendary radio stations in hip hop.
His college years and early days of working at Power — with a brief stint at Shade 45 on Sirius XM — consisted mostly of behind-the-scenes work, with a few opportunities here and there to jump in front of the camera to cover the latest pop-up shop or fill in for someone who couldn’t make it.
Those early days also coincided with the early Soundcloud era, during which he developed an appreciation for the new wave of artists like Lil Uzi Vert, XXXTentacion and Ski Mask the Slump God who spoke to his mutual love for hip hop and punk rock with their energetic genre-bending styles — relating like many did to the viral videos of Uzi singing along to Paramore and other nostalgic early 00s pop punk.
By the top of 2018, he had been officially hired on Power 105’s digital team and really started to look for ways to leave his mark. At that point, there was a notable lack of platforms for new artists and an even greater shortage of young, up-and-coming personalities to take up the mantle occupied by tenured (and increasingly) elder statesmen. At the same time, while the ratings and influence of traditional radio were undeniably in freefall, Gabe was keeping a close eye on the way The Breakfast Club Interviews and new digital platforms like No Jumper were exploding in popularity on Youtube and across social media with their personable hosts and finger on the pulse of the increasingly online culture. Seeing the opportunity of a lifetime, he went to work putting together his own platform.
Starting out as the scrappiest of upstarts, he enlisted fellow members of Power’s digital team to help create the initial assets and now-legendary On the Radar logo for his extracurricular, non-revenue-generating sidehustle that would be housed in a spare studio in the iHeart Radio building — for which he had to fight tooth-and-nail to be able to use for a few hours per week.
“When I first started it I remember I wanted it to be a part of Power. But they were telling me “Nah, build it on your own. Let this be your own thing.” I remember at the time I felt a way about that, but looking back I realize that made sense because if some kid came up to me now saying the same thing I would feel the same. So it makes sense to me now why they said what they said, and that forced me to really grind and stay patient which ultimately turned out for the best.”
Without the initial Power co-sign, Gabe had to get creative… and patient. He utilized his limited access to the iHeart building, the allure of his Power 105.1 affiliation, and the various connections he had made in the industry to scrape together one or two interviews per week — mostly with up-and-coming local acts from the city like Phony Ppl, Jay Gwuapo, Gangtivity, 27Delly and Marlon Craft. At Rolling Loud 2019, On the Radar had its first big outing, where Gabe got the chance to sit down IRL with some notable names like Blaatina, Fat Nick and Maliibu Miitch — and earned his first major repost when Nicki Minaj and the Barbs got a hold of a clip of Mitch singing her praises.
While steadily moving in the right direction, for the better part of the next two years Gabe and On the Radar were fully under the radar as he put in his 10,000 hours grinding out interviews whenever possible, but rarely cracking 1,000 views on any one video.
Much like the rest of the world, everything changed for Gabe when the pandemic shutdowns hit. With in-person appearances at a standstill, he pivoted to remote interviews over the phone or on Zoom. And rather than slow down, he kicked the show into high gear as he went from 1 or 2 interviews per week, to multiple per day.
While artists were scrambling for ways to promote their music during those chaotic early days, Gabe had a platform ready to go. He took advantage of the situation to connect with bigger artists from the city like 22Gz, Ron Suno and (NYC-adjacent) Coi Leray. It also opened the door to connect with artists from around the country who for the first time didn’t necessarily need to be on site, some of the early notable gets being Bankroll Freddie, Aminé, Drakeo the Ruler, Clever and super randomly Justin LaBoy and Paul Wall.
It wasn’t all wins though, there were definitely hits and misses. Like last summer when a hard drive corrupted and he lost a whole bunch of recorded interviews and freestyles, nearly stopping the entire show in its tracks just as it was beginning to build some momentum.
Other times he has missed out on interviews with big names. Gabe remembers a few notable artists he had a chance to interview.
“I fumbled a lot of interviews with big artists back in the early days. Not because I didn’t want to, I think I was just afraid to ruffle any feathers by doing an artist that big because at that point we didn’t have any followers or subscribers. I fumbled YNW Melly, which I regret to this day because an artist like him could have really skyrocketed On the Radar all the way back in 2018. But everything happens for a reason. I also had similar situations with Latto and Rod Wave early on — and even DaBaby before “Suge” came out.
“So those situations kind of affect how I run On the Radar now. I’m still picky with who comes on, but I try to do as much content with as many artists as possible because you really never know who’s gonna be the next one to blow up.”
As a result of Gabe’s hustle through the darkest days of the shutdowns, by the top of 2021 there was growing momentum building around On the Radar. He hustled to upgrade the content by bringing back the in-person interviews, experimenting with different formats for freestyles, VHS-tape behind-the-scenes footage with the likes of Capella Grey, Bizzy Banks and Dusty Locane, and at one point even interviewing Brooklyn drill pioneers Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow while playing NBA2K.
He also began to look for a physical home for the show outside of the iHeart building, experimenting with different studios like Invite Only and Studio Square Recordings — which is where he conducted the hugely important first interview of the red-hot Bronx drill trio of Kay Flock, B-Lovee and Dougie B that would introduce them to the world and set the stage for what was to come.
Released in May of 2021, the interview was perfectly timed as interest in the young trio was peaking following the release of their breakout joint single “Brotherly Love.” As a result, it instantly became the biggest On the Radar interview to date and the first to crack 100K views — today standing at over 340K views. Not only did it play a major role in sparking the Bronx Drill wave by exposing the demand for coverage of the new wave of young artists making waves in the BX, it positioned Gabe and On the Radar as the place to go to learn about NYC’s hottest rising stars.
Up until that point, Gabe had been conducting interviews very much guerilla-style, with no fixed home or even proper microphones. But in the summer of 2021 he reconnected with an old friend, Devvon Terrell who had just opened up a studio space in Queens fully equipped with all the necessary equipment to host a podcast. Investing in his vision for the future of the show, he reached into his nonexistent budget to rent space a few times a week in what would become the instantly recognizable home of On the Radar.
The new space not only upgraded the quality of the sound and video, it gave the show the fresh, branded look and fixed home it needed to attract bigger talent and fully step on the gas. Even more importantly, it made it possible to record professional quality audio and live performances — setting the stage for the iconic On the Radar Freestyles that would launch the show into the popular consciousness.
As a proof-of-concept for the new freestyle format, Gabe assembled his “Starting Five” — a group of his artist friends including Lola Brooke, Dolla $ign Jay, Nate Joel, Zero Mckenzi and Tydre to kick off the first batch of On the Radar Freestyles in the new space. With the concept more than proven, over the next few months On the Radar started to become the go-to place in NYC for up-and-coming artists to show off their personality and talent behind the mic. This in turn, opened the door to land bigger appearances from notable artists from the city like 22Gz, CJ and Edot Baby, and attract out-of-towners like YSL’s Lil Gotit, Flint’s BFB da Packman and Detroit’s Baby Money for sit-down interviews in the new space.
Perhaps most importantly, the arrival of the On the Radar Freestyles coincided with the explosion of the Bronx Drill wave through the fall of 2021 — and with it a whole new wave of hungry artists like Ciggy Blacc, Nas EBK, Bando, Kenzo Balla, 917 Rackz, C Blu and a whole bunch more looking to stake their claim as one of the faces of the blossoming subgenre on the city’s hottest ne platform.
In October, a young Bronx Drill artist known as DThang from River Park Towers appeared on the show for the freestyle that changed everything. A few weeks prior he had been to the show for his first-ever interview that quickly became one of the biggest on the platform, for the first time speaking on his role as one of the originators of the Bronx drill sound on the heels of a string of successful singles and a very public back-and-forth with his purported cousin, Bronx drill frontrunner Kay Flock.
When he returned for his freestyle, DThang hit an absolute homerun. He captivated audiences from NYC and far beyond with the distinctly compelling combination of his naturally high-pitched teenage voice, babyface looks, and tightly crafted gritty drill bars delivered with the steadfast conviction of a veteran gangster from NY’s most notorious borough.
“The DThang one man. I think the best way to put it is what the Pitchfork article said, he had an out-of-body experience… That boy came in after his man Bando recorded his. Walked right in there, got on the mic, did his thing in one take, and asked me if I thought it was good. I said yes of course and then it did what it did. One take in and out.”
“There were a lot of factors that made DThang’s Freestyle special. It was like a perfect storm of his energy that day, his unique sound, and the buzz around him. Obviously there was some behind-the-scenes stuff going on, but when you listen to it it really sounds like a dope song with a ton of replayability. One thing about On the Radar is our production level is higher than a lot of places because we’re running all the audio through ProTools so they end up soundling like a finished song. And you also have to respect the fact that he didn’t name drop or diss anyone, which is something he was proud of after the fact too.”
In a moment that was equally important for DThang as it was for On the Radar, the freestyle caught fire as soon as it dropped, quickly becoming the first video on the channel to hit 1M views — and to this day remains the most viewed clip with an eye-popping 7.3M views. It also undoubtedly put him on the radar of French Montana and set the stage for their recent collab “Good Night.”
One specific thing Gabe credits the success of the freestyles with is the quality of the sound. He thinks one of the most important factors that made the DThang freestyle blew up so big was that it sounded like a fully polished song — adding a major boost to the production quality and replay value of the On the Radar Freestyles.
His theory proved correct as the freestyles continued to be a hit over the next few months as videos from the emerging class of Bronx Drill artists continued to be the most successful on the channel. As new faces like Sha EK, Lee Drilly, Sha Gz, Sugarhill Keem, Blockwork and a bunch more each racked up hundreds of thousands of views, it cemented an On the Radar appearance as a prerequisite for being a somebody within the scene.
Gabe continued to innovate by introducing cyphers, inviting a whole group of artists to perform in a harken back to one of his biggest inspirations, the legendary the Rap City Basement Cyphers. He credits Queens’ Shawny Binladen with the idea for the first official cypher, who made sure to bring along Big Yaya, Four50, Dee Aura, Big Baby and Melly Migo for the Yellow Tape Boyz Cypher. Which led to other legendary cyphers like the widely publicized Ladies Cypher featuring popular new NYC female artists (London Hill, Lola Brooke, K Goddess, Connie Diiamond, Billy B, Pretty Dij, Big Zen) or A$AP Illz’s ‘Words Can’t Explain’ Cypher (Hoodfly Mike, Fleego, VIP Skylark, Semi S7evin, 30MG Letto).
Most recently, the 41 Cypher almost certainly helped launch the careers of the Brooklyn-based 41 trio made up of Jenn Carter, Kyle Richh and Tata after becoming the second biggest video on the platform in just 2 months with 2.8M views.
In April of this year, On the Radar officialy arrived on the radio. Marking a full circle moment for Gabe, Power 105.1 and iHeartRadio gave the show the green light for primetime — debuting on April 15th as a weekly recurring segment airing from 8pm – 10pm EST.
Recognizing its place as a full blown tastemaker in 2022, uniquely influential on social media and now terrestrial radio, artists from New York City and well beyond have been taking advantage of the On the Radar platform. Successful appearances from more established NY artists like Stunna Gambino, Benny the Butcher & the Black Soprano Family, Ron Suno, Eli Fross, Rowdy Rebel and more who already have their own following outside of the Bronx Drill audience are proof that its become an important part of how New York artists are breaking and maintaining relevance. Cash Cobain and Chow Lee also had a standout appearance earlier this year when they performed a mashup of their Sexy Drill bops “Vacant” and “JHoliday” to promote their new joint album.
There have also been several notable female artists from NYC capitalizing on the blueprint like Shani Boni, Ice Spice, Kenzo B and Jenn Carter who have had popular performances and sit amongst the most viewed on the channel.
Gabe was also sure to point out that On the Radar’s reach goes far beyond the five boroughs. Just in the last few months they’ve welcomed big names from around the country including Chicago’s brightest rising star PGF Nuk, Newark’s Jersey Club originator Bandmanrill, Baton Rouge’s Fredo Bang and CMG’s newest Memphis-native signee Glorilla.
Not only that, in recent months On the Radar has gone fully international welcoming the infectious Jamaican superstar Skillibeng and a series of UK artists including AJ Tracey and Digga D from all the way across the pond — who currently hold the 4th and 5th most viewed freestyles on the channel.
AJ Tracey also joins a growing list of artists including Broward County’s Trapland Pat who have repurposed their viral On the Radar Freestyles into official songs released on DSPs, and one of several to hit the OVO Sound playlist. Tracey’s viral performance even earned a like from Champagne Papi himself.
In addition to his hustle, network and finger on the pulse of all the hottest new artists, the true key ingredient of On the Radar is Gabe himself. From his infectious enthusiasm, to his polished radio voice and casual professionalism, to his New York-native Puerto Rican swag — at just 26 years old he uniquely embodies all of the best qualities of the once ubiquitous radio personality of hip hop’s golden era, but perfectly adjusted for the digital media landscape of 2022.
“You know what it is bro. I came up under Angie Martinez (at Power 105.1). We all know who Angie is, if you don’t you are buggin respectfully. I see the way Angie treats her guests, which is different than a lot people who are looking for headlines and clicks. That’s the business we’re in, but I think there’s a way to go about it. I care about the artists and unfortunately we see a lot of artists get in bad situations… For me, I want people to get to know them. Not by asking messy questions but by trying to help humanize them… I think as media people we have a responsibility to ask the questions people want to hear, but in a way that’s not going to hurt them or be detrimental to the artist. And I think that approach of finding that balance has been kind of lost in the way a lot of hip hop media works.”
“If someone really does want to address something in delicate way we can do that, like with the Bizzy Banks and CJ situation last year, but we’ll always talk about it beforehand and I’m never going to force anyone to talk about anything. I try to be tactful and I don’t intend to burn any bridges with any of the artists that come on the show…. And hopefully I can help bring some integrity back to doing interviews. The clickbait stuff is not going to last long and the real gonna last forever.”
And finally, Gabe answered the question that up-and-coming artists around the country want to know: How does one get on On the Radar?
“The reason why On the Radar is what it is is because no pays, or has ever paid to be on here. The way we go about things is thoughtfully curated in a certain way. And if people were paying to get on it we wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are now. There’s a line from The Incredibles where the bad guy Syndrome says ‘If everyone is super then no one is.’ So in kind of the same way, if everyone is ‘on the radar’ then there’s nothing special about being ‘on the radar.’ And there isn’t even really a radar at all.
You see how we curate it. We have artists from a few thousand to a few million followers. In one week we go from bigger artists from outside the city like Skillibeing, Westside Boogie, Yungeen Ace or Chloe Bailey, to newer NY guys like Lonny Love and 2219Lee who are killing it with the Sexy Drill sound.”
When I look for artists I look for some kind of buzz or momentum around them. To be honest, at this point the bar for Drill artists is pretty high because there are just so many of them. Someone like Sha Gz who came on recently is a good example. He’s killing it out here, has a fanbase, just had a video hit a million views and has bunch of successful solo songs. That’s kind of the bar now.
I also have to admit I am partial to lyricists because you know, bars over everything. Like recently we’ve had a lot of the guys in and around Griselda come up here like Rick Hyde, Flee Lord, El Camino, Chase Fetti and OT the Real.
At the end of the day having a fanbase and having good music is how you get on On the Radar. Bottom line is it has to make sense for me just as much as you. Of course it makes sense for the artist, On the Radar makes sense for all artists. But we pick who comes based on who is going to help push the brand forward.
And again no, you can’t pay to get on. And ungodly spamming my comments is probably the easiest way to not be invited on the show. I know who’s opinion I trust, and I know who I like. If I want you to be on the show I will reach out.”
You heard the man. Telling him to “Check DM” is not going to increase your chance of getting on the show.
As On the Radar’s star continues to rise, Gabe has been receiving his flowers as more and more begin to realize the undeniable impact of the platform, and yet still is working hard to plant seeds for the future.
Now with an actual home on the legendary Power 105.1 Radio Station, bigger and badder interviews, freestyles, and cyphers are on the way — and an increased presence at local events and covering festivals like Rolling Loud, Powerhouse and more. There is also a new studio currently under construction with a brand new look and feel, complete with a recording studio artists can book when they’re in town that’s set to open sometime this summer.
“I’m definitely excited for the future. We’ve got the new space coming. Shoutout to everyone who’s inspired me along the way. Big Tigger from Rap City Basement, Charlie Sloth and other freestyle platforms. Interview platforms like No Jumper, The Breakfast Club, Angie of course. I take all the things I learned from them into account when I’m creating this new space, because I want to respect the legacy they’ve left behind while also creating a new legacy for the next person after me.”
“As far as the show we’re getting the new space together and we’ll be coming with more freestyles, more interviews, more cyphers. Having Adam22 from No Jumper on really inspired me to start bringing on more creators. I also want to take it to different places like LA, Atlanta, even the UK to lock in to do some interviews and freestyles in places like that because On the Radar is global, it’s a movement, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. While we’ll always keep our NYC roots, the show is bigger than New York and I strongly believe it’s going to become the next big music platform.”
“That’s why another goal for the show is to continue to diversify like we’ve been doing with different genres, international artists, etc. Whether you’re 15, 25, or 45, or whether its drills, straight bars, R&B, afrobeats, dancehall, spanish, UK – we’re gonna have something for everybody. If people ain’t in tune yet they’re gonna get in tune soon. Like I said, the next big music platform just wait on it.”
Gabe closed our interview like a true radio personality, expertly signing off with another one of his own branded catchphrases: “Step in, step out, don’t get stepped on. Word to Hoodfly Mike”
Follow Gabe P, subscribe to On the Radar, and tune in to Power 105.1 for interviews, freestyles and more from the hottest emerging talent in hip hop.