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Urban One’s fearless leader, Cathy Hughes, was recently honored on Variety’s “50 Greatest Hip-Hop Executives of All Time” list. The powerful listicle, which celebrates hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, honors the movers and shakers that have propelled the industry and culture forward with their legendary contributions.

Hughes made incredible strides for the world of R&B and hip-hop thanks to her legacy in media.

The dynamic radio and TV pioneer is the founder and chairperson of Urban One, Interactive One (iOne) and Radio One’s unstoppable broadcast media network. At 76, the media titan is at the helm of the nation’s largest African-American-owned and operated broadcast company.

With hard work and serious determination, the illustrious mogul parlayed her decades-long media career into a booming multimedia conglomerate that spans radio, television and digital media.

How it all started.

Hughes’ media journey started in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, where she cut her teeth at the black-owned radio station, KOWH.

After moving to Washington D.C. in 1971, the broadcast icon became a lecturer at the School of Communications at Howard University, where she served as the General Sales Manager of Howard University’s premiere radio station, WHUR. Within her first year, the media behemoth drove the station’s revenue up from $250,000 to a whopping $3 million.

During her tenure, she became the station’s first female Vice President and General Manager. The Omaha native left her massive imprint on WHUR when she created the format known as the “Quiet Storm,” a radio genre that is heavily composed of R&B and smooth jazz. The “Quiet Storm” format revolutionized urban radio and can be heard on hundreds of stations today. 

With grit and unrelenting fearlessness, Ms. Hughes acquired her first radio station WOL-AM 1450, in 1986, a move that would set the blueprint for Urban One’s historical legacy. That year, the multihyphenate launched The Cathy Hughes Morning Show, which amplified topics impacting the Black community and perspective. The star’s show pulled in millions of listeners and eventually became so successful that after a year of broadcasting, Hughes purchased a second station, WMMJ-FM, in 1987. The rest was history. 

The company is expanding rapidly.

In 1999, Hughes became the first Black female to own a company listed on the NASDAQ. Now, Hughes’ media fortress has expanded its footprint to unthinkable heights. The company reaches over 100 million viewers and listeners monthly through Radio One, TV One, iOne Digital, CLEO TV, One Solution and Reach Media.

With over 54 radio stations across the country, Radio One owns a number of hip-hop, gospel and talk radio stations across Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Cleveland and Houston, among other cities. The largest African-American-owned broadcast network also reigns supreme online due to its digital media branch iOne, which includes BOSSIP, MadameNoire, Global Grind, HipHopWired, NewsOne, Hello Beautiful and CassiusLife

Hughes’ phenomenal success in media has earned her many prestigious awards, including an NAACP Chairman’s Award and the Ida B. Wells Living Legacy Award. In 2010, she was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. The media titan also received her flowers in 2022 when she was inducted into the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame.

Now that’s hip-hop to the core. Congrats to Cathy Hughes!

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