"There was a void in Calgary radio, [we] just wanted to fill it," explains CJSW DJ Drew Atlas on why he and fellow Groove DJ "Gummi" created an urban music radio show.
On any given Sunday afternoon, urban music listeners who are tired of the same-old top-40 radio tracks where the latest Ricky Martin single is played twice within the same hour, can get their hip-hop, r&b and soul fix with The Groove. The three-hour show (3-6 p.m.) can be found on CJSW and celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. However, things haven’t always looked this optimistic; Drew can recall frustrating times when the show was first starting out.
"[When we] started off it was kind of hectic, we weren’t getting much material. We were pretty much playing what we had," he reminisces. "Slowly but surely labels got involved and the show started to grow."
Today, The Groove represents the voice of urban music in Calgary. The past couple of years have seen the addition of crew members Atu "The Vocal" and Ayaz "The IKon", bringing live energy and the behind-the-scenes knowledge to the show. Combined with the show’s founding members, the four DJs have developed a tight chemistry over the years, playing off each other’s individual personalities.
This is a rarity in the majority of radio today, where there is a dying breed of true radio personalities of the ’70s and early ’80s. Ultimately, this impersonal approach to radio creates a barrier between the listener and the DJ to the point of alienating the listener. The Groove breaks free from this trap and is on a more interactive tip with its listeners, combining humorous and insightful dialogue in between songs, while still delivering a full set of great music.
"We can’t come to The Groove every Sunday [and] have mad energy, but we come here cause we love what were doing," says Atu of the show’s philosophy.
Part of this can be attributed to the fact that all four of The Groove members are good friends and hang out on a regular basis, outside the show–Drew and Gummi are even roommates. This is clearly apparent just by listening to them joke around with each other, grilling one other in a way that only friends do.
"It’s hard to make fun of Atu every show," Gummi says half-jokingly, trying his best to keep a straight face, at which point Drew replies, "No, it’s easy man."
"Yeah but it’s hard to put up with the shit!" Atu defends himself, bringing the whole crew to laughter.
By showcasing the latest in current hip-hop and R&B/soul joints over the past five years, The Groove has introduced their listeners to music normally not accessible to urban music fans. The four DJs are constantly recommending artists through their own individual picks, whether it be the soulful, sultry seductions of Amel Larriuex or the ridiculous rhyme patterns of Pharoahe Monch.
"Subtly, but surely, were gonna get you!" warns the Vocal "If you don’t like all our picks, you’ll [at least] like one of them."
Despite being a cohesive unit, each member brings their own individual views and backgrounds to the show: Drew, originally from Trinidad, has a broad knowledge of soca, hip-hop and r&b; Gummi comes in with his background in reggae; Atu is the "soul-cat" of the bunch; and Ayaz specializes in r&b. However, all four share a common love for urban music as a whole and come together like Voltron, combining their own skills to form a tight-knit crew.
"We all learn from each other. When I first came in, I [didn’t know] a damn thing!" Ayaz confesses.
While the Calgary hip-hop scene is not nearly at the level of Toronto or Vancouver, there is still a solid urban fan base. While it may take some time to establish more urban music programming within commercial radio stations, one thing is certain–The Groove remains the main source for bringing urban music and culture to Calgarians.
CJSW is located at 90.9 fm and can be heard anywhere around the world on the World Wide Web, using RealAudio player, at <www.cjsw.com>.