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Angie Martinez

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Angie Martinez has been part of New York's hip hop community for most of the '90's, ruling New York radio station Hot 97's airwaves as rap's most energizing force.

She's about to put her own rhyming skills on the line with her Elektra debut album, aptly titled Up Close And Personal. The new disk delivers as advertised, providing in-your-face flavors written by the multi-talented boriqua star, as well as several soul-searching hip-hop gems that reveal a more provocative side. Tracks like "Mi Amor," and "Dem Thangs," shine bright on Up Close And Personal, with Angie getting backup from some of rap_s most compelling superstars, including Jay-Z, Wyclef, Snoop Dogg and Mary J. Blige.

But Angie is quick to point out her new album was never about resting on her hip-hop laurels. "The people I chose to work with me on this album are there because I have a personal relationship with them," she says. "It was never about 'I'll have my label call your label,' and all that. It was more about working with people that connect with me in some way."

Raised by a single mother, Angie grew up in a household that she describes as: "always filled with music. My mom was a program director for a jazz radio station. She had very eclectic taste. I learned early to be open to new sounds." She fell in love with hip-hop at an early age, but admits she had to do her own share of soul searching before developing the maturity it takes to recognize her calling. "I lived all over New York. I was raised in Brooklyn. I lived in the Bronx. I even lived down in Miami for a while when I was a teenager because my mom thought I was getting too wild." Angie says she snagged her first job at a Miami radio station doing odd jobs like answering phones, driving the van and helping out at parties and live events. "That's when I got my bearings, where I first began to focus. My mother was very supportive. When I came back to New York I landed a job at Hot 97."

She soon began working at the station with the legendary Funkmaster Flex. She also began appearing at and hosting major hip-hop parties. In fact it was another legend, KRS 1, who first inspired Angie to put down rhymes on wax, encouraging her after watching her improvise on the mic. "He offered to hook up with me and lay something down," she says. The song was "Heart Beat," with Angie sharing duties with none other than Redman. "Imagine the first time you are about to rap in a studio and you find yourself in a booth with Redman and KRS," she reminisces.

It was not surprising to her fans, of course. The cornerstone of Angie's career has always been authenticity. She's cut her rhyming teeth on a host of underground mix tapes, cut tracks with superstars like Mary J. Blige, and performed on the Grammy nominated single "Ladies Night" with Missy Elliott, Lil' Kim, Left Eye and Da Brat. Not bad for somebody who always put the DJ moniker before the MC tag. Until now.

"That's why I knew that when it came time for me to finally make my own album, it wasn't going to be about being a jock," she insists. "It had to be more personal and intimate. I'm on the radio because I love hip-hop. I represent that community, but there are so many other aspects to who I am as a person. I wanted this album to be about me expressing myself on those terms. I'm fortunate now, to have people who relate to me in that way. This is my way of taking that relationship to another level."

The range of emotions on Up Close And Personal reflects Angie's growth over the years. Songs like the heart-tugging "Every Little Girl," and the scathing "Go!! Muthafucka," reveal the depth and diversity of her vision.

"'Every Little Girl' is autobiographical. It's all there. About me going to Miami when I was younger, and going through all the changes and problems we girls go through to become strong," says Angie. "It's my whole story in a nutshell. Me at the radio station, me dealing with haters and all that. The important point the song makes is that we have to remember that no matter how much hardship we go through in our life, there is always going to be that fragile place in our heart."

Of course she flips the script on "Go!! (Muthafucka)". "That one is for the girls, as well," she laughs. "It's a combination of stories that have happened in different relationships. You know, when your boy goes from saying he loves you, he'll do anything for you, to him saying 'I need my space.' We're like 'What's that again motherfucker?' The song represents that feeling women get right at that time. I'm barking at him right at that point." Angie also hooks up with Lil' Mo on the catchy "No Playaz". "We're paying homage to the anti-players," she says. "You know, after you date a player or two it's nice to just chill with a guy that can keep it basic. Everybody portrays women in hip-hop as being just interested in 'ballers,' the rollers with the gold. This is our ode to the regular guy."

It's not surprising that Angie would give props to unsung suitors. Despite her own striking beauty and charisma, she has flourished as hip-hop's everywoman, becoming a beloved ambassador of New York's Puerto Rican Day Parade one day, and working to start a camp for disenfranchised girls the next. She's done a myriad of commercials and TV specials, hosted Russell Simmons' One World Music Beat, and has conducted interviews with everyone form Tupac Shakur to Hillary Clinton. Not surprisingly, every one of her experiences has helped transform Up Close And Personal.

"I've always had a great respect for women, strong women, starting with my mother," she says. "She taught me to keep it honest. That was one of the purposes of this album. To honestly express myself, with no holding back. I value the opportunity afforded me. I want to be a voice for hip-hop, but bring an entirely different perspective."

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