The radio DJ known as the “The Voice of New York” has had a front-row seat to the rise of legends – including Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay Z – and now she’s sharing the juicy details. Aptly titled My Voice, Martinez’s memoir, out May 17, explores the cultural developments “that touched me, that I learned from – and the moments people reacted to the most,” she exclusively tells PEOPLE.
That includes a controversial interview with Shakur, who spoke with Martinez mere months before his death in 1996.
“He was charming and amazing, but he was also angry at certain people. And aggressive,” Martinez, 45, reveals. “I just felt that the time was so sensitive that some of the things he said would have made the situation worse.”
And so Martinez made a tough call: “I only aired 12 minutes of a 2-hour interview,” she says. “I have it still to this day.”
But in her autobiography (you can preorder here), the native New Yorker shares never-before-seen quotes Shakur gave as the East Coast-West Coast rap war reached a fever pitch.
“He felt like he had been done wrong,” Martinez shares. “He was on a mission. He had an agenda about what he wanted to say, what people wanted to know, and he was very aggressive and poetic.”
Martinez would go on to inform listeners at her longtime station Hot 97 (she later made a buzzed-about move to Power 105.1) of Tupac’s death.
“When he got shot, it was horrifying,” she explains. “And I was on the radio when it happened. I had to tell the whole city. Mind you, there’s no Twitter, no Instagram … People in New York found out Tupac died from me.”
Andrew Eccles / Penguin
And that’s just one of the memories Martinez – who was also a hip-hop artist in the ’90s and ’00s – delves into for her most personal project to date.
“People might remember certain interviews or the time that I had to get on the radio and tell New York that Biggie had passed. Or that time I got on the radio and was mediating this problem between R. Kelly and Jay Z. They might have these moments of the career, but what they didn’t know was what I was going through at the same time.”
Through all the ups and downs, Martinez shares her inspiring meteoric climb from answering hot lines to becoming one of the most influential radio hosts – a process she says was neither calculated nor the result of luck.
“Sometimes I may come off like I know what I’m doing or I’m confident, but I’m not always,” she tells PEOPLE. “I think I’m like the kid who loved hip hop and all of a sudden – I don’t know what it was – it started to put me in positions to do great things. I wasn’t necessarily prepared or ready or expecting these opportunities, but they happen. And I think sometimes you gotta go. Sometimes you gotta say, ‘Okay’ – even if you’re not sure you’re ready.”