Angela Yee is one of the most famous women in radio, earning multiple Gracie Awards and a place in the Radio Hall of Fame, thanks largely to her status as one of the three hosts of “the World’s Most Dangerous Morning Show” — Power 105.1’s Breakfast Club. That status is about to change, as the world learned two months ago when Angela Yee dropped the internet equivalent of a bomb by tweeting “’The Breakfast Club’ as you officially know it is over.”
The next morning, alongside her co-hosts of 12 years, DJ Envy and Charlamagne Tha God, Yee broke the news that she would officially be leaving pop culture’s staple morning show for her own gig, “Way Up With Angela Yee,” on iHeartMedia. Her last day on the “Breakfast Club” is Dec. 2. Yee will start her new mid-day nationally syndicated show — in a minimum of 30 markets to start — at the top of 2023.
Yee’s announcement led to “Breakfast Club” trending on Twitter and countless fans sharing their favorite moments from the show. There were the obvious highlights, like Birdman making it clear he wasn’t to be played with; Soulja Boy declaring his influence over music; and Kodak Black refusing to remove the balaclava from his head. Interestingly enough, Yee says her most memorable moments were the ones her multi-cultural family (her mother’s side is Afro-Caribbean, from Montserrat, while her father’s side is Chinese) could appreciate.
“I really love talking to people who are cultural icons and who my family would be excited about like, ‘Damn Angela went to Patti LaBelle’s house!’” Yee tells Variety. “That’s like a great conversation at the house for Thanksgiving. It’s always moments like that that really mean a lot.“
“To have had the opportunity to sit down with Nipsey Hussle and people like that, I think is really amazing for us, as far as history and even knowing these people in a different way than the rest of the world knows them,” she continues. “ I love that we have the opportunity to do that. When people are like, ‘I had no idea they were like that I actually really like them, now I’m going to listen to the album or watch the movie.'”
She lists a star-studded pack of tastemakers and celebrities like Yvonne Orji, Ari Lennox, 2 Chainz (“he’s been down with us from the beginning”), and “obviously, Ray J always has some really great interviews. There are just so many — when I have to think about that — it varies. Depending on what comes to my mind at the time, but we have had some really iconic guests and moments.”
In the weeks that have passed since the announcement, the show has had several episodes go viral, like a recent visit from Diddy where he declared he’d rather have a ceremony and gift his lover half a billion dollars than actually get married and have a wedding. There’s also the moment last week when Fat Joe, fresh off his hosting gig at the BET Hip-Hop Awards, teased Yee for announcing her departure but still showing up to work months later.
“Part of the reason the announcement came so early was to put it out there for the Breakfast Club to get their new host or hosts and for me to be able to get my staff together,” Yee explained. “There was no way we could do that without announcing it first. So it might seem like a long lead time, and I think we were really aggressive in thinking October would be the time but there’s a lot of vacation in November and December, everything is shut down, and iHeart is moving studios from Tribeca to Midtown, so I think they felt like, ‘Let’s just wait until the top of the year, everything is fresh you’re in the new studio and vacation has been had and we’re ready to go,’ so that’s why that timing happened like that.”
“I think it won’t feel real until I’m not on there anymore and not waking up at 4 a.m. and still doing everything else I do every day,” Yee responded when asked whether she’s had a chance to celebrate yet. “I haven’t even had a minute to celebrate or think about it because life is still happening just as fast as it was before it was revealed.”
She adds: “To be clear, I knew this was coming for a long time, for months and months, like probably over six months before we announced it, so while it might have been kind of shocking and out of nowhere for some people, this is something that I knew was going to happen so it’s just a relief to not have to be all secretive about it.”
This won’t be Yee’s first time having her own show. She got her start in radio at Sirius XM’s Shade 45 in 2005 as Cipha Sounds’ co-host on “The Cipha Sounds Effect,” and when Cipha left in 2008 to do Hot 97’s morning show, she turned down the opportunity to join him. Instead, when an initial plan to make Rap Radar’s Elliott Wilson her morning show co-host fell through, Shade 45 put her at the helm of “The Morning After With Angela Yee.”
“Looking back at it, some people thought I was crazy for not taking that opportunity at Hot 97 and staying at Sirius, which was really the underdog,” she says. “I think there were always a lot of people who doubted me because I was a woman, and they didn’t know if a woman-led show on a hip-hop heavy station like Shade 45 would do well, but I already had my weekly nighttime show ‘Lip Service’ there that was doing really well, so I think that gave me a little more encouragement.”
Staying put paid off, as Yee’s success at Sirius led to her attracting an offer just a year and a half later that would put her on the air with the Breakfast Club in December 2010.
“When I first was coming over to iHeart it was Clear Channel at the time, me and Charlamagne and Envy all knew each other,” she recalls. “Envy actually worked with me at Sirius and Charlamagne used to be on the ‘Wendy’ show, they both had been on my show before. It’s always a scary thing to leave something that is comfortable and certain for something unknown, especially when so many people are telling you that it’s not a good idea. Before I went there, I actually was considering moving to Philly or Atlanta to work in radio, but New York was the No. 1 market.”
New York might be the No. 1 market, but when “Breakfast Club” was just getting started, there was no talk of syndication. That would happen later, in 2013, and the show now airs in over 90 radio markets around the U.S. — but that success hasn’t come without obstacles.
“Being the only woman, that’s always a challenge,” Yee says. “Trying to have others understand your point of view and respect your point of view is not easy.”
“I put a lot of pressure to go above and beyond, even if it’s not noticeable to people,” Yee explains. “A lot of times I sacrifice my own life, I can’t go out I need to watch this show, or I need to finish this book, it really makes your whole life suffer. I could be laid up with my man and I can’t even relax and go to bed because it’s like, ‘I have to finish watching this.’ And I’m sure that’s annoying.”
“I think sometimes people don’t notice things like that and you don’t want them to,” Yee continued. “You don’t want it to seem like, ‘Oh it seems like she was up all night.’ You just want it to feel natural and flow. So part of that is doing that extra work and making the guests feel respected to know that you did take time out of your schedule to do that.”
There’s also an ugly side to being in the public eye, as Yee knows all too well. This summer she found herself being targeted by a certain superstar’s legion of online fans, while she was hosting the Essence Festival Livestream for Hulu.
“There was all this drama because Nicki Minaj was headlining the first night, but she ended up not being on the stream for whatever reason and a lot of people thought I was simply not saying her name, but it wasn’t my call to do that,” she explains. “They didn’t know if she was going to do the stream or not — so people were attacking me all night. It was a stressful time but I think I’m pretty good at knowing what it is. I just turned my phone off and didn’t pay attention to what people were saying.”
Instead, Yee chose to focus on her wins, deciding the moment was the perfect time to sign the contract for her new show.
“It is a great feeling to know that no matter what anyone tries to say about you, or the negativity that people come at you with, you just come out on top,” says Yee. “For me, that’s always been my greatest revenge. I know how hard I work. I know the value I bring and no one is ever going to make me feel like I don’t deserve what I get. I deserve more than what I get. I’m not the most beautiful, the most intelligent – but I know how hard I work and I know what I deserve.”
Being the only woman on “Breakfast Club” may have come with challenges but it’s also been an important part of Yee’s success story. She credits a number of the women around her for being central to her achieving her own show.
“One thing I really have been most appreciative of is the women that I feel like have helped me along the way,” she says. “Just behind the scenes, the team of women at iHeart who have really been pulling for me to make this happen… Before they gave me the show I thought I was just going to get a nighttime show in addition to ‘the Breakfast Club.’ That was the plan initially — to do something at night, whether it was once a week or every night or whenever — that was the plan. In my head, I was like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna do it, but eventually I’ll get my own show.’ I was able to skip that step and just go straight to having my own show. I’m just really grateful for Jennifer Leimgruber, Julie Talbott, Thea Mitchem and for my agent Heather [Cohen] who really pushed for this for me.”
Besides her gratitude toward the people who have helped push her, Yee is also counting the many blessings ahead of her – including her new midday time slot.
“I cannot wait to sleep until like 7 a.m.,” Yee confesses. “That’s going to be a blessing — although traffic is going to be a nightmare. For the past 18 years, I’ve been doing morning radio so it’s going to be such a relief to sleep a little later. That’s something I’m definitely not used to and I’m very excited for that. It’s going to be a life changer. Can I just start with that?”
And with the freedom to curate her own content, Yee says she’s also looking forward to giving her guests a platform.
“I think about who is going to be following me and who is next, who I can help mentor and all of those things are exciting to me. I hope later on in life there are a bunch of other Black women radio personalities who can say, ‘Angela gave me my shot’ or ‘Angela helped me do this,’ or ‘Angela plugged me with this person,’ and I think that’s what really means a lot, not just what you did for yourself but for other people also how you spread the love.”