Tim Westwood, the pioneering hip-hop DJ whose adopted “street” patois divided listeners, has been axed as Radio 1’s voice of rap after nearly 20 years on the station.
The middle-class son of the former Bishop of Peterborough, Westwood, 55, was frequently mocked for speaking in the street slang of the largely black rap artists he championed.
But the Sony Award-winning broadcaster also introduced generations of listeners to the latest developments in hip-hop and helped a new wave of British performers become stars in the US-dominated genre.
His close relationship with hip-hop’s biggest names, from Public Enemy to Jay Z, who recognised the influence Westwood wielded over fans, delivered many exclusives for the BBC.
Westwood joined Radio 1 in 1994 to present the station’s first dedicated rap show.
He will be replaced by rising star Charlie Sloth, under a shake-up designed to promote a new generation of “urban” presenters.
Westwood’s association with digital sister station 1Xtra, where he had been one of the most prominent voices, will also come to an end.
Ben Cooper, Radio 1 Controller said: “I’d like to thank Tim for the last 20 years on Radio 1. His passion for hip-hop is legendary. I wish him all the very best.”
Westwood’s agent said he was unavailable to comment as he was preparing to play a club show in Leeds on Friday night.
Sloth, a London-born hip hop artist and DJ, said: “It’s like a dream come true for me and something that I’ve worked towards my whole career, especially to be succeeding a legend like Tim Westwood who has done so much for the game. I know they are big shoes to fill, but luckily, man’s got fat feet.”
Radio 1 is seeking to reduce the average age of its listenership from 29 and is prepared to lose long-standing presenters in order to appeal to a younger audience.
Westwood hit the headlines when he was injured in a drive-by shooting in South London in 1999. Gunmen on a motorbike reportedly pulled up alongside his Range Rover and shot him and his assistant.
His show was accused of playing tracks which promoted knife violence by David Cameron in a 2006 speech, a claim Radio 1 fiercely rejected.
The DJ was believed to have partly inspired Sacha Baron Cohen’s comic creation Ali G, which satirised white rap fans’ attempts to copy the style and speech patterns of black culture.
The winner of the 2010 Radio Academy John Peel Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, Westwood could forge a new career broadcasting directly to his loyal fanbase. He has more than 400,000 Twitter followers and his YouTube channel has received more than 180 million views.
The shake-up gives a prominent new Saturday night role to Mistajam, the Nottingham DJ who has risen up through the ranks.
Trevor Nelson, another veteran Radio 1 presenter, is staying. The urban music host has renewed his contract with 1Xtra where he presents a weekday show. Nelson will also continue to present a midweek soul show on Radio 2 and be a “part of the Radio 1 family”, the BBC said.
Keeping it “real” – The thoughts of Tim Westwood
“It’s going to be up there. Yeah man, and also, yeah man. People is really feeling that, so that should be real flavour.”
“So that’s the way it's going down. Kick them to the curb man. We’re gonna keep it real man.”
“What I must say to the mans and dems is the thing about the Westwood after party is the ladies.”
“Go hard or go home! Go hard brother number one, two, three.”
“The bomb's about to go off, baby.”