CMA Awards 2018

Wendy Williams Nods to Her Hip-Hop Favorites With Star-Studded Beach Party Concert

Anders Krusberg
Wendy Williams

Although it is viewed and visited by an estimation of millions, the set of The Wendy Williams Show -- the broadcast behemoth’s second home -- is an otherwise intimate space. The New York City-based pastel purple set has housed salacious conversations, both spirited and tense, with countless celebrity guests. Williams’ gift of gab is the show’s main draw, but tethered to it is her clear connection to music.

At 10 a.m., the frigid studio is booming with energy. DJ Boof, the show’s resident party starter, takes a trip down the last 20 years of Billboard chart history, with hits ranging from Beyonce’s “Baby Boy” and TLC’s “No Scrubs” to T-Pain’s “Buy U A Drank” and Rihanna’s “Rude Boy,” before throwing on newer bangers from Migos, Future and Kendrick Lamar.

A trio of aunties gets up out their seats for Christina Aguilera & Co.’s “Lady Marmalade,” and the high-octane emcee, Marco Glorious, eggs on the livest members still buzzing off Fatman Scoop’s “Be Faithful.” The outpouring of energy continues until the moment the woman of the hour emerges from the sliding doors, with an enthusiastic, “Here’s Wendy!

However, Williams’ personal sonic preferences make for a stark contrast with the body-rocking club tunes her DJ uses to fire up the studio audience. For one, once the show ends around midday and the guests file out, so does her desire to be surrounded with beats, bars and bass. “In the morning [music] plays everything. After the morning, nothing. No! Please, with that ratta-tat-tat,” she jokes, swatting the air with her hand.

In a conference room two floors removed from the studio, a now make-up free and robe-clad Wendy decompresses in silence. “I don’t chill out to music,” she says. “When I get home, there’s no music playing. Every TV is set on a different channel. I’m keeping up with the shows.”

On her two-hour drive back to the suburbs of New Jersey, the former radio personality and National Radio Hall of Fame inductee taps back into a familiar vein. “When I get in the car and I go home today, I want to hear talk radio,” she explains. “Curtis [Silwa] is no longer with [Ron] Kuby on 770 AM here in New York, but there is a fabulous woman of color -- her name is Ebony, so it’s Curtis and Ebony. I like them. I give the side eye to Dr. Laura on Sirius [XM] on the weekends.”

However, as her car bobs and weaves along the N.J. Turnpike commuting into the city, classic hip-hop dominates her speakers, pumping her up. “I consider myself a prize fighter going into a very, very tough ring called daytime TV, and I take it very seriously,” Williams says. “So when I roll out of the house in the morning, [I listen to] the entire Dipset catalogue, the entire Wu-Tang.” She also cites Heavy D, Biggie, Nas, LL Cool J, Def Squad, Jay Z and Mobb Deep as other frequents on her playlist.

It’s music like this that inspired the performance lineup for her upcoming All White Mixtape Beach Party: Vol. 1 concert. Big Daddy Kane, Naughty By Nature, M.O.P., Charly Black, Fat Joe, Remy Ma and a surprise special guest will light up the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk on July 23. Tickets for the beach party are available on Live Nation.

“Mixtapes were the soundtrack back in my day of peoples’ lives,” she says of the event’s salutatory name. Williams, who put out a few mixtapes of her own years ago, recalls Harlem’s Kool DJ Red Alert and DJ Ron G being some of her ‘tape suppliers. “You can listen to the radio and hear one song or another. You can hear Brand Nubian and you can hear Keith Murray -- but to hear them mixed, and somebody [going], ‘Yo yo yo, Queens where you at?’”

Consider the party a celebration of all that she has accomplished. In a professional broadcasting career that has spanned 31 years, she has only been unemployed for two weeks. The Wendy Williams Show aired its first episode in 2008, and will be entering its ninth season Sept. 18. “I had a great job, a great career,” she says, pausing to reflect. “But this, right here, is where I’m really supposed to be.”