Former co-host of the legendary "Late Night Hype" show – a hip-hop radio show that could be found on WMSE every Tuesday for slightly over a decade – Aaron "DJ Aaron Wade" Pulley just couldn't stay away from radio.
Pulley, who is now WLUM's general sales manager, went from being behind the microphone to being the man behind the business side of radio, leading a staff at FM 102.1 that's dedicated to keeping the popular radio station profitable and afloat.
His path didn't stop there, however, as an interesting opportunity to once again showcase the genre that he grew up loving fell into his lap. Though a work colleague he discovered the website Slacker.com, an internet radio station, and he soon found himself being asked to program their underground hip-hop station.
The station has been active for around half a year now and I talked with DJ Aaron Wade about the past and the present.
OnMilwaukee.com: After years of being away from the radio as a personality and an active promoter of underground hip-hop though your legendary "Late Night Hype" show on WMSE, you recently decided to jump back into radio via the Internet. What led you back to it?
Aaron Pulley: Honestly, I had no intention of jumping back into anything at all, at first. I have a demanding job and a family with two little girls to take care of so I had no problem with stopping rap music involvement when we retired LNH. I stopped doing all that at just the right time. But, I still love the music and have since '85 when I was introduced to it. I have had little "spells" where I've badly missed doing LNH at WMSE. But overall, I've mainly just missed the music and being on top of it all the time.
I worked with Stephen Kallao, who did afternoons at FM102.1. He came to Milwaukee from San Diego, where Slacker is based out of, and he programs for them. He told me Slacker was looking for a person to program underground hip-hop and that he'd given them my name. I had about a 45-minute conversation with the programming boss there. I gave them some things to listen to, read and watch – past radio stuff at WMSE – and they offered me the opportunity of creating their "Underground Hip-Hop" station from scratch.
I jumped at it because it allows me the opportunity to work on my own time, and at my own pace, from the comfort of my own home. That is pure fun to me! I thought, "Man, this is perfect!" So, I jumped at the chance and am thankful they reached out to me.
OMC: Slacker.com is a website that allows users to rank songs and artists and provide real time input, similar to Pandora and other iStations. When you are adding music, how do you decide what makes the cut and what doesn't?
AP: Honestly, it's difficult. At WMSE, I had the luxury of playing whatever I wanted. I had a tendency to get stuck in the "boom bap" style of rap. But, it is important that this station be more broad. Underground hip-hop seems like a specific genre, but it actually has many sub-genres and is hard to define. So, I try to make sure many styles, all regions of the country – even some music from overseas – and many, many, different artists are represented.
This station is 70 percent music discovery and 30 percent songs serious rap fans know and love. One of the things I pride myself in is having a sound ear for what makes a really good rap song. That's ultimately what Slacker.com is counting on with my programming this station. I'm looking for mainly either rugged, boom bap or soulful beats – nice flows where the emcee is showing smarts and talent, and of course, DJs cutting on hooks or at other places in songs. Underground hip-hop just has to have cuts! Keeps songs interesting and is still always impressive! If you liked what we played on LNH, chances are that you will also enjoy this station.
OMC: I noticed a lacking in local hip-hop, and with the history that you have at your fingertips, will there be any classic cuts or artists getting added in the future?
AP: I'd like to, but Slacker.com doesn't currently have anything from Milwaukee in its library. If I add any songs from Milwaukee, I will obviously be extremely selective. It is on my list of things to do with the station. It's going to take me a little more time to get a couple of Milwaukee songs added to their database.
OMC: We've discussed the ending of the "Late Night Hype" show before, but now that it is even further from when the show went off the air, is there anything that you miss about doing it?
AP: The thing I probably miss most is hanging out with Rob and JP in the studio – and Jay Bee, when he co-hosted. It was a fun night out of the house, clowning with the guys and focusing on music. WMSE was a great place to spend that time. I have fun reminiscing on all guests, stories and interviews we had. This Slacker.com station definitely fills the personal void and I absolutely love working on it from home. The staying out late on a work night got really, really tough.
OMC: Do you have any advice for this next generation of the local hip-hop culture?
AP: I'm a little out of touch with the local scene now, but it seems like there are some cool things going on. The Miltown Beat Down, for example. I don't know if I'd call it "advice" but I've always gotten a lot out of networking. So much more can get accomplished if one builds a vast network. Always network. The more friends you have, the easier it is to make things happen.
OMC: Anything else?
AP: Thank you so much for giving me this forum to inform people about this unique station on Slacker.com. You can listen on your home computer, on your phone – just search for the app – or on your tablet. When at Slacker.com, select "hip-hop and R&B" and there you will find "underground hip-hop." I welcome your feedback and suggestions at email@example.com. Enjoy!
Don't be a hater! LNH, and DJ Aaron Wade, are frickin' awesome! 'Nuff said.
I listen to that station on Slacker Radio and I didn't realize it was him. Slacker is awesome!
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