Any decent radio personality can feign a bit of enthusiasm to maintain appearances, but DJ Bonics sounds genuinely excited about his new Go 95.3 gig.
The accomplished turntablist, who moved here just two weeks ago, has worked with a few hip-hop stations across the country in the past, from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to L.A.'s Power 106. But his most recent stint at Portland's We 96.3 was short-lived and left a bad taste in his mouth.
"It really took a lot out of me,” he says. “I was in a bit of a dark place."
Much like Go 95.3, the Portland station had touted itself as an alternative to what Bonics calls "fast food" radio, pledging to support local music. But when the DJ played a lesser-known track by a Portland rapper on the air, the station's higher-ups balked and ultimately opted for a more traditional format.
"Mr. Peter Parker is a friend of mine, and he heard my frustration," says Bonics. Go 95.3's music director and afternoon host put in a good word with the station, facilitating Bonics' move to Minneapolis. "What they're trying to accomplish here is really an inspiration. They're really trying to do something that is built on passion."
Bonics recognizes the changing nature of radio's curatorial role in a digital age where anyone can pretty much stream whatever they want. His tastes and personality shine through on his midday slot from 10 to 3, where he showcases sounds that reflect both the charts and the local scene, giving up-and-coming artists a platform alongside bigger names.
In addition to his on-air experience, Bonics is a two-time Red Bull Thre3style competition finalist who also fits the behind-the-decks definition of a DJ. After becoming enthralled with turntabalism in college, he began to play solo sets, eventually becoming one of Pittsburgh's top club party-starters. That's where he linked up with a young Wiz Khalifa, back in the Kush & Orange Juice mixtape days, before "Black and Yellow" made the rapper a superstar.
Bonics affiliation with Wiz's Taylor Gang label has brought the DJ all around the world to play a range of club shows and festivals – it was during Wiz's pair of mobbed Soundset performances that Bonics was first introduced to the Minnesota rap scene. His connection to this local Pittsburgh rapper made good has given Bonics a firsthand look at what can happen when regional artists gain national opportunities, and he looks forward to being a part of a platform that pushes newer artists here in the Twin Cities.
On air, Bonics showcases his association with Taylor Gang on “Taylor'd Tuesdays,” a show that will feature interviews and deep cuts from Wiz Khalifa and his label. And as a Go 95.3 DJ, Bonics will still have the opportunity to tour with Wiz, doing his radio show on the road, possibly extending the station's reach beyond Minnesota. "I'll be able to really bring something to the Twin Cities, and show the rest of of the world that the Twin Cities has something special to offer," he says.
Go 95.3 and Bonics share a commitment to moving beyond the big names to blend familiar music with the unheard, and for Bonics, the monthly Go Shows at the Fine Line represent this philosophy in action. "We get to put local artists on the same stage as national acts, and it's really a good look for everybody," he says.
As Bonic digs further into the wide range of artists and performers in the Twin Cities, he's more and more excited to be able to give their work recognition. But the ultimate testament to his newfound level of freedom? "I even got to play the song that got me in trouble in Portland on Go 95 recently," he says.