It's 10 o'clock on a Saturday night, and most of Madison's broadcast radio dial is swimming in a sea of pre-recorded programming. But at 106.7 FM ("Madtown jAMZ"), two local hip-hop artists are live and at the mike, passing along shoutouts from one Madisonian to another.
"This one's from Rubin, representing West High," says MC Starr. Starr and his co-host, DJ Pain 1, both perk up. They're West High graduates themselves.
"Good luck to all you high-schoolers as finals week approaches," says Pain. "Don't fail me! You want to put that report card up on the refrigerator!"
If you thought free-form commercial radio was a relic of decades past, you've never listened to the Saturday night mix show on Madtown jAMZ.
For four hours, DJ Pain 1 works his own laptop to create an original remix of hip-hop MP3s using Serato Scratch, a software program that lets DJs splice and mix digital files the same way they scratch vinyl.
"What's unique about this show is that you've got local hip-hop artists controlling the mix," says Pain. "We grew up here, and we're connected to the Madison hip-hop community. We know what kind of vibe they're looking for on a Saturday night."
The mix show is the brainchild of jAMZ program director J.D. Garfield.
"A lot of stations in this format across the country have a mix show," says Garfield. "But most of them don't have hosts, and especially not ones who are local artists themselves."
Garfield says the show is popular with young hip-hop fans who can't find places to see their favorite music performed live.
"There's a thirst for hip-hop in Madison, but you can't go to a club and see it. Radio is the only place locally you're going to hear it. We appeal to a young audience looking for that."
By day, DJ Pain 1 is Pacal Bayley, 24. He's a recent UW grad who majored in secondary education and plans a career as a high school teacher.
MC Starr - a.k.a. Cody Wilson - is also 24. He was a classmate of Bayley's at West High.
"Our mutual interest in hip-hop is what united us in high school," says Pain.
Starr and Pain currently perform together as the Fall Guys. Starr fronts the act as rapper. Pain's turntables and mixers sustain the beats and the music.
On jAMZ, Starr and Pain largely maintain those roles. Starr is the main voice of the mix show. Pain devotes his attention to composing his collection of MP3s and creating the musical vibe.
Starr says his favorite part of the mix is the shoutouts, and last Saturday night he was in his element. He gave a shoutout for Jonny B, who said he was "reppin' Sun Prairie."
This was radio tailored to a local community, and Starr knew it.
"Don't go away," he told his listeners. "You might hear your name next."