For Mario Rodriquez, also known as DJ Chonz, DJing has been his career for more than a decade. From his humble beginnings in the basement of his parents’ home in the early 90’ to being the most recognizable DJ in the state of Colorado, DJ Chonz has paid more than his share of dues. Growing up, Rodriguez was immersed in the culture of the streets, which included gang life, drugs and of course hip-hop. The hip-hop lifestyle is what he gravitated towards due to the fact that his older brother was a graffiti artist and a break dancer as well. He finally emerged from his “underground lair” in 1996 when he participated in a DJ competition hosted by KGNU’s “Eclipse: Shedding of a Blacker Light” radio show. Chonz took the airwaves by storm winning the radio battle week after week where the station eventually had to retire him as undefeated. He was then given a permanent spot on the show for the next two years with hosts Chris Nathan, Hakeem and Francois Baptiste. “Yeah, I got my own slot,” Chonz remembers. “The ‘Chonz Half Hour’ and then the ‘Chonz Hour’, that was a big thing.” After gaining fame through the competition circuit, to his name in participating in the competitions, he was booked to perform and open up for dozens of artists including Dr. Dre, Eminem, Rakim, The Roots, Slick Rick, The Fugees, and De La Soul.
At this point in his career, Chonz hung up his battle gloves and took his DJing to the next level by studying and finishing his Bachelor of Science degree in music industry studies at the University of Colorado Denver. During is last year of study in 2001, Chonz received an offer to intern with California promotions giant Cali Kings in Los Angeles. Just as he was about to leave for his internship with the Cali Kings, Chonz was offered and accepted the job as house DJ for the Radio Bums Mixtape Show on KS107.5. Once the program directors at the station witnessed Chonz’s skills on the turntables, they asked him to spin during the Friday and Saturday dance parties. That weekend gig led to the creation of the “Traffic Jam” a daily afternoon slot where he spins and mixes an hour of commercial free music. Although Chonz is sometimes criticized by hip-hop elitists for what they consider selling out and playing music that a corporation tells him to play, Chonz says that he’s always stayed with the true essence of hip-hop and DJing. ”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,” Chonz says.
Chonz then started the Radio Bums Record Pool. It started off with only a few DJs and has grown over the years to include more than 30 Denver DJs, each of them working at some of the most popular clubs in Denver. With the success of his record pool, his 3 hour co-host afternoon slot on KS107.5, his new music program, “Future Jamz Show” on Sunday nights, and side gigs in promotion and marketing, Chonz couldn’t have asked for a better career thus far.“ I’m just happy to be in the game,” Chonz says. “Where are all the cats that came up with me here in Denver? I’m just happy to be here.”