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Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Mario Rodriguez came into a world filled with the culture ofthe streets. Although living under the guidance of his devout Catholic parents, Rodriguez dabbled ineverything the streets had to offer from gang life to hip-hop.
Thanks to his older brother Delfino, a graffiti artist and break dancer (b-boy), Rodriguez went routeof hip-hop, a culture born on the streets but brought out the creative nature of its participants. Thefour elements of hip-hop culture – b-boying, graffiti art, emceeing (rapping) and DJing – Rodriguezexperimented in each one. Of course if one is going to be doing the hip-hop thing, one is going to needan appropriate nickname to roll with. Delfino was called Fienz on the streets, but Delfino and his friendshad a special name for Rodriguez.
“My brother’s friends used to come over the house like when I was in junior high,” Chonz saysnow. “There were no boxers back then really, so I was in the whitey tighties, and when they would comeover, they’d be like ‘Yo, chones [a Mexican slang word for underwear], go put some clothes on!’ I usedto kick it in my chones, take out the trash in my chones, so my name was chones for awhile. Then peoplejust started calling me Chonz.”
Now christened with a nickname, Rodriguez gravitated towards DJing. Inspired by the local Denver DJs,DJ Chonz practiced and honed his skills in his basement for close to two years before coming out andcompeting in DJ competition. When he won local radio DJ competition in 1996 after being undefeatedfor consecutive weeks, DJ Chonz’s star began to rise on the Denver hip-hop scene.
The win earned him a 30-minute and then a 60-minute segment on the hip-hop radio programEclipse: Shedding of a Blacker Light on KGNU and he was invited to compete in regional and nationalDJ competitions like the DMC Mixing Championships, Guitar Center Mixing Championships and theLowrider-sponsored DJing competitions. The competitions opened the door for Chonz to share the stagewith such hip-hop luminaries as Dr. Dre, Eminem, Slick Rick, The Roots, Snoop Dogg as well as tour withDe La Soul, Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon and Baby Bash.
After making so much noise on the local scene, in 2001 Denver’s largest hip-hop station KS107.5 (KQKS)allowed Chonz and local personalities Francois Baptiste and Kingdom to launch the Radio Bums MixtapeShow, a specialty hip-hop show on Sunday nights. Because of the popularity of the show and Chonz’s skills on the turntable KS107.5 recruited him to mix live in the studio for the weekend party mix and during the afternoon drive, making him the first DJ to ever mix live on commercial radio in Denver.
The gig made him the most recognizable DJ in the state of Colorado and surrounding states. Over theyears he’s lead to station to No. 1 rankings in various categories including afternoon and night hostfor the 18-34 demographic from 2009 to 2011 locally and now nationally in 2012. He’s been givennumerous awards from the likes of Denver’s alt-weekly Westword’s “Best of …” issue including Best Hip-Hop DJ, Best Denver Radio and Best Online Radio show for a daily mix he streamed live on the internet.He was also awarded Best Afternoon Show from the Colorado Broadcast Awards in 2010.
DJ Chonz also continues to dominate the nightclub scene with several weekly events in Denver as well asconsistent events in Las Vegas, San Diego, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
“ DJing for the radio is no different than me opening up for De La Soul and playing A Tribe Called Quest,Black Sheep, Dilated Peoples, Blackstar, and things like that to cater to that type of crowd,” Chonzsays. “I play to a crowd, as a DJ, you cater to your crowd and I play what’s relevant to a crowd. That’syour job as a DJ is to cater to your crowd.”
“ I’m just happy to be in the game,” Chonz continues. “Where are all the cats that came up with me herein Denver? I’m just happy to be here.”--