Metro Times first interviewed Origix and D.C. at WHFR 89.3 back in 2003. At the time, they were two years into their commitment to play the best, non-commercial hip-hop being made. Fast forward a dozen years, and the two have grown, alongside both their time slot and their audience. We spoke with Origix via email.
Metro Times: I know you’re an emcee as well. What made you initially want to do a radio format?
Well, growing up, I always made homemade cassette mixtapes of hip-hop I liked and would pass them out to whoever I knew that was not up on the same music I was into. Then, as time went on, we started making our own music. I heard a radio show one night hosted by a guy by the name of Joe P on 89.3 FM WHFR. He was playing local and other kinds of hip-hop. So initially, the idea was get a hold of him and see if he would play our music, and he did.
I figured, if they’d play our stuff, maybe we could get a show somehow, and then we could play all the artists we knew or knew of. D.C. was going to Henry Ford College at the time and found out what it took to get in the radio program class. We both enrolled and did whatever it took to get accepted to get a time slot on air. That’s basically how ‘The Zone’ was created. Our first show aired April 20, 2002.
MT: How has the show changed, and how have your views changed, since the show started?
Origix: Back in 2002, college radio was still really grassroots and played a major part in an artist’s development. We went from a two-hour show at first to being given a four-hour slot, which we did for about 10 years before switching back to a two-hour slot. Back in those days, the show was one of this city’s only platforms to expose and break artists before the Internet really got big with podcasting, YouTube, and SoundCloud. We had many exclusive interviews on our show, and since commercial radio still barely played independent artists, we became that voice on FM radio for the listeners.
You used to have to really put in work to break a record. Now, I see so many not even putting in half the effort. Radio used to be a strong voice for artists, and now you can do so much on your own that radio does not become every artist’s necessity.
MT: Who all is the show?
Origix: The Zone Radio is Origix and D.C. (Shawn Featherston and Tim Patterson) on 89.3 WHFR.FM Dearborn/Detroit. We broadcast on the campus of Henry Ford College.
MT: What is your most popular segment?
Origix: We occasionally have artists perform live in studio, which always goes over really well. I would also say when DJs come in and spin live, it’s very popular with our listeners. One show that stands out to me was when, in the days after Proof died, Trick Trick declined many interviews. He came on our show to express his feelings. That was a deep and heartfelt interview. Other moments I can recall are winning broadcast awards in several categories for the MAEB [Michigan Association of Educational Broadcasting] as well as awards from DetroitRap.com and the University of Detroit Mercy.
MT: Have you ever “broken” any new artists? What artists were you playing before they became popular?
Origix: Yes. In Detroit and nationally, we’ve broken many: J Dilla Records, Obie Trice, Guilty Simpson, Black Milk, Esham, Proof, Twiztid, Danny Brown, Apollo Brown, Bizarre, King Gordy, Nick Speed, Royce da 5’9″ are the Detroit artists. One major artist we put the city on was Tech N9ne. We played and had him on so many times before the industry knew about Tech, and other artists such as Yelawolf, Kid Cudi, the Kottonmouth Kings, J.Cole, Rittz, Killer Mike, Freddie Gibbs all have went on to have very successful carriers.
MT: Have you ever had any offers to take the show to another radio station?
Origix: Yes we have had a handful of Internet stations make the ask. But far as urban FM radio — no, these radio stations would never let us have the freedom to play what we want. If I was able to do the show on Shade 45 or something like WDET, I would be glad to move it back to a weekly format.
MT: How much material is submitted to you by artists?
Origix: We used to get more music in the past than I could ever count. Every artist who was really trying to do something with their music made it a point to make radio edits that we could play. Now, only the real hardest-working people make sure they have music that radio can play. We can’t play what they don’t send, but with all these Internet outlets, a lot of folks don’t think they need clean music anymore. In my opinion, cats have gotten lazy. We for sure get a lot of new music each month — that’s why each month my playlist is fresh and new, but 75 percent is now all serviced and sent by email, not as a physical product.
MT: How has social media impacted your show?
Origix: The Zone was around long before MySpace, so I have really seen the rise and decline of music using social media. The good things have been the ability to connect directly with listeners and fans that live outside our range. With mobile devices being able to stream almost anywhere, it certainly helps people find us. To me, it’s done more harm than good, since everyone with a computer can now set up a so-called radio show; it’s really taking away from what legit FM shows do with actual DJs.
Social media has changed the way we do our show, which is one of the reasons The Zone is now a monthly show on first Saturdays. We can play all the hottest music in a month and then, after it airs, archive it, and have it available for playback throughout the month. Our show is like a live on-air mixtape with interviews. Unfortunately, so many artists make music now and want to get it out ASAP with little promo. They just post it on YouTube, Facebook, or whatever and don’t really plan on how to use all avenues of marketing, especially here in Detroit.
MT: What are your views toward Detroit hip-hop today as compared to when you first started?
Origix: Detroit was just starting to discover our sound 15 years ago, and the cats coming out the underground were not fully accepted across the nation. We’ve made a name on the hip-hop map; we used to have only a couple of artists that were noticed outside the city limit. We have found an identity, and there are certain sounds that you hear, and say, “That’s some Detroit music.” We now have rappers and producers who are respected by many genres across the world. We have created a culture here where you better take what we do seriously, and we will do it with or without the industry.
The Zone Radio broadcasts on 89.3 WHFR and on WHFR.fm Dearborn/Detroit the first Saturday of every month, from 10 p.m.- midnight.