For those of you who have grown up listening to Funk Flex every night on Hot 97 – and even those who haven’t – the infamous “Funkmaster Flex Night” drop that plays at the start of the show is one you can recognize anywhere. What many don’t know, however, is that it’s not just any old drop – it’s actually a sound clip from a 1993 episode of Late Night With David Letterman! And the funnier part? It was actually kind of a diss from Letterman!
That fall, actress Rosie Perez was sitting on Letterman‘s couch, discussing how she’d directed Lisette Melendez‘s “Goody Goody” music video, and how she cast the male lead after spotting him at one of Flex‘s parties.
“So I was going to the Palladium on Funkmaster Flex Night, you know that?” Rosie asked. “Oh, yeah,” Letterman responds sarcastically. “Funk. Master. Flex night… Hard to get a ticket to Funkmaster Flex Night.”
And boom! Within a week, Flex flipped it into a promo, and debuted it at the start of his show on Hot 97. 22 years later, it remains.
“For some reason, it became a big deal,” Flex told Rolling Stone in a recent piece about the now-famous drop. “I guess it was to some kids because Letterman is so not hip-hop. I was so hood…it was like, ‘When did he find time to say Flex‘s name?!?'”
Rosie recalls the night she first heard it:
“Do you know those big, fact, chunky cell phones? My big, fat, chunky cell phone was ringing off the hook. I was driving in my Jeep, and it kept ringing and ringing and ringing. [I pulled over to answer,] I think it was Midtown; I have a vision of Seventh Avenue in the 50s. I’m what like, ‘What?’ And they’re like, ‘Yo, Funkmaster Flex bit your shit! He stole the drop from Letterman and he’s using it as his tag on the radio!'”
She eventually heard it and screamed with excitement, but her friends weren’t as happy. “‘He didn’t give you credit!'” Rosie remembers them complaining, to which she’d told them, ‘What? Who cares!?’ It was awesome.”
Today, however, Flex gives the full credit to Rosie:
“Letterman was snappin’ on me, but for her to say it and for him to repeat it, it was a big deal. She was one of the few actresses, celebrities, that hip-hop wasn’t a stepping stone for. She was probably the only person at that time — I’m trying to think of who else — that would mention hip-hop, that wasn’t afraid.”
And that’s your little history lesson for today! Read the full piece over at Rolling Stone, and check out the original clip below.