It’s the kind of news that Tim Westwood himself would deliver on air with a litter of explosive sound effects and shattering glass. After two decades, one of the most recognisable voices in the business is leaving BBC Radio 1. He joined in 1994 to present the station’s first rap show.
It’s not a huge surprise he’s leaving, as Radio 1 continues a drive to capture younger audiences, and probably feels like it has to move on from a DJ now heading towards his sixties. But his schtick will be missed.
Not just because of his often goofy jokes, but because through 20 years he’s endured as one of the most respected broadcasters in hip hop. Artists – especially US artists – would all knock on Tim Westwood’s studio door before anyone else when they came to the UK. Snoop Dogg, Nicki Minaj, Eminem.
When Shawn Carter played his now-historic performance at Glastonbury in 2009, the only person he’d speak to before the biggest UK gig of his life was Tim Westwood. The result was hilarious (see below). Westwood saluting Jay Z’s stage outfits backstage, claiming “this is the pre-jump off, jump off”. Jay Z in return, talking through his garms, saying “this isn’t even my fresh, this is my pre-fresh” as the camera comically zoomed in and out.
In large parts, to a casual listener, Tim Westwood’s Saturday night (and, up until recently, his day-time 1Xtra) shows were ludicrous fun – like one long old-skool mixtape with egotistical commentary.
A hail of gun shots and macho nonsense, interwoven with entertaining claims like “this is the year of the Big Dawg”. The same claim he made last year, and the year before that. His persona may be knowingly clownish, and his tracksuits ill-fitting, but ultimately it’s Westwood’s encyclopaedic knowledge of hip hop that earned him such a respected reputation as a broadcaster.
He’ll be replaced by a new breed on Saturday evenings. Mistajam – who’s established himself as 1Xtra’s equivalent of Zane Lowe – will take over the early evening slot from Trevor Nelson. Larger than life star Charlie Sloth (not unlike Westwood), who retweets compliments about himself more than any other DJ, will inherit the Big Dawg’s kennel. After 20 years, maybe it is time for a refresh. Or is that a pre-fresh?