In September of 1991, a group of student deejays at the University of Maryland- College Park, fed up with the dearth of good hip-hop to be found on the DC area's airwaves, embarked on an "assault on commercial rap radio." From their staging grounds-- the studios of the campus' 10-watt radio station, 88.1 WMUC-- DJs Dominator, Shortcut, and The J launched the first incarnation of "The Soul Controller Mixshow," which quickly became a favorite of underground hip-hop heads in the region. With mixes and a diverse playlist that surpassed the commercial stations' best music blocks, the "SoulCeez" became a must-stop for emerging hip-hop artists who weren't well-known enough to get an interview or spins at the city's big urban stations, and was required listening for those in the know.
By the fall of 1995, the efforts of DJs Van Dan, Book, and The J had earned the SoulCeez their first foothold on enemy ground, securing a mixshow on Infinity Radio's WPGC-AM, then known in the streets as "Flava 1580," during that station's year-long experiment with an all Hip-Hop and Go-Go format. The crew had busy Friday nights, as they continued to host the WMUC show from 6-9pm, then would pack up and race to WPGC's studio for "The Sureshot," which aired from 10-midnight. The WPGC show met its demise when the station changed formats at the beginning of 1996, but Book made enough of an impression on the station's management that they called him up to the majors, adding him to the WPGC-FM roster of on-air mixers, where he has continued to amaze the 95.5 audience with his deft turntable skills for more than a decade.
In 2000, DJs Book, Stylus, Mr. Elite, and Bush Head Ed, all several years past their days of matriculation at UM, left WMUC to pursue ways to present the program to a larger audience. This "graduation" from college radio inspired a shift in the show's programming philosophy. Realizing that the tastes of adults who'd grown up on hip-hop was diverging with increasing speed from what younger audiences were being fed on commercial music outlets, the Soul Controllers' went "Hip-Hop AC (Adult Contemporary in radio industry parlance) ," becoming the home of "grown folks hip-hop," music from, and/or "inspired by the golden age of hip-hop."
With their eyes on emerging technologies, the SoulCeez produced webcasts from a makeshift bedroom studio that aired on the sites for Winnipeg's Pipeline Network, and New York City's Seven Heads Recordings. They also anxiously worked on ways to get in on the ground floor of just-about-to-start-up XM Satellite Radio, based in Washington, which culminated with a run of weekend coast-to-coast broadcasts that ran on XM channels 82 (then known as "Club 82") and 67 ("The City") from 2002-2004. When XM decided to go completely commercial-free on its music stations in 2004, Radio One, then the programmers of most of XM's Urban stations, lost interest, fired its staff, and gave the music channels back to XM, keeping only the talk station that they could run advertising on.
That same year, Pacifica station WPFW Washington (89.3), in a new effort to reach out to a younger audience, started development on a hip-hop programming block. The Soul Controllers were invited to become a part of the block, which came to be called "Decipher." Acknowledging that hip-hop wasn't the only good music that was being underplayed on the airwaves, the SoulCeez expanded their playlist to embrace "future funk with timeless flavor," music from classic- and neo-soul, broken beat, and other electronic-driven genres. The first Decipher broadcast aired in February of 2005; "Decipher Soul Controller Thursdays," with DJs Book, Stylus, Jahsonic, and Bush Head Ed, airs every Thursday night from 10-11pm.
For all of the subtle shifts in the Soul Controller's programming philosophy, the basic theme of "next... now," introducing audiences to artists and music that they'll love in years to come, is a constant that the Soul Controllers have built their reputation on over the past 15 years, and is a key part of what fans of the show have come to expect from "the flyest mixshow in the world."
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