Stretch and Bobbito: kings of New York City radio
Photographs document the historic hip-hop duo’s return to the airwaves
In the 1990s, an entire generation tuned into a New York college radio station as radio duo Adrian “Stretch” Bartos and Bobbito “Kool Bob Love” Garcia unleashed a hip-hop stream of consciousness that catapulted the careers of artists such as Nas, Eminem, Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G., Big Pun and countless others. Their Columbia University show, dubbed 89 Tec 9, was instrumental in the evolution of New York hip-hop and beyond. It celebrated underground hip-hop when few others did, and played an integral role in shaping hip-hop radio overall. Countless hip-hop heads, many who are now titans of culture, stayed up until 5 a.m. on Thursdays to catch the show. A great freestyle on their show could solidify an aspiring lyricist’s place in the inner sanctum of hip-hop. And if Stretch and Bobbito cracked jokes with you, that was it. You’d made it.
“That was the first spark. From there, things start happening,” says Jay-Z in the recent documentary Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives.
“At that time, your show was the most important show in the world,” Nas told Stretch and Bobbito in the documentary. “You guys opened the door for us, the next generation.” It was to their show that “Nasty” Nas (as he was then known) brought in a cassette of the unreleased Illmatic to share with the world.
“Stretch and Bobbito — that was our dream.” recalls Eminem in the documentary. “That was our dream. We made it.”
After a 19-year hiatus, Stretch and Bobbito make their official return to the airwaves courtesy of a new NPR podcast called What’s Good with Stretch & Bobbito. They landed Dave Chappelle for their first episode, and on upcoming shows they’ll chat with Stevie Wonder, Mahershala Ali, Eddie Huang, and Chance the Rapper. Stretch and Bobbito are now authors, filmmakers and sneaker designers and they both continue to DJ around the world. “Our show reached so many people who not only shaped hip-hop but also went on to touch other facets of culture from sports to media,” said Garcia. “Now hip-hop is … mainstream culture and we can have a larger conversation that reflects those early days but opens up the dialogue about where we are now.” In the days leading up to their return to the airwaves, we followed the duo through New York.