NON-STOP HIP-HOP: Hip-hop radio conundrum

KUPS 90.1 FM is reppin' hip-hop on your radio ... so listen

By Jose Gutierrez Jr., M.Ed. on May 5, 2010

I've been involved with hip-hop radio since 1989 when I was invited to visit KAOS 89.3 FM in Olympia - where I host a show to this very day.  I was intrigued by the smooth voice of hip-hop radio pioneer Nancy G. Plus, I never forgot about KDAY in Los Angeles (my hometown) or Nasty Nes and the team of DJs at KFOX in Lakewood and Tacoma. So, a few years ago, when I was informed of Tacoma's KUPS 90.1 FM (streaming live on, the college radio station of Tacoma's University of Puget Sound, blasting hip-hop over the airwaves, I had to take notice. Today KUPS' powerful team of DJs has created an audio haven for hip-hop heads. 

The studios of KUPS 90.1 FM are located just a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from the formerly notorious gang capital of the Northwest known as Hilltop  - on the plush campus of the revered private school, UPS.  Broadcasting at a college radio-esque 100-watt signal, KUPS reaches through the heart of Tacoma and not much further - maybe Fife, Lakewood ... maybe - just maybe - Puyallup's outskirts on a good day.

On a good day you'll be blessed with the dope sounds of DJs like J.Bre, DubbLoon, DJ Mustard, Baboon Face, Ducci, Amelia, DJ Ve and/or E-N-G.  These are the players who liven up ho-hum days in The Tac with their unique brand of hip-hop radio, packaged in an awesome block of hip-hop programming. 

"For the past year we have had hip-hop on-air from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday," says co-host of the ReaLit Radio program, DubbLoon.  He and his partner, J.Bre, have welcomed guests like Wojack, Josh Rizeberg, Logics, Todd Sykes and Evergreen One for some conversation. 

While KUPS' program will soon change for the summer break, the station plans to launch a Wednesday through Friday block of hip-hop programming in September 2010, a change necessary due to the constant turnover of the student population from semester to semester. 

"Log on to for our summer schedule," says DJ Mustard, KUPS' hip-hop music director

It's an uphill challenge for college and public radio stations to compete with commercial giants for listeners, but quality and creativity are fresh produce in the world of indie radio.  MTVU recognized KUPS as the college radio station of the year for 2009-2010, and KUPS' hip-hop department was certainly a contributor in this recognition.  With regular playlists including the likes of The Jacka, Zion I, Blue Scholars, Khingz, Grynch, Macklemore, 2Pac, Nipsy Hustle and more - KUPS offers a standing variety of music commercial giants are too cowardly to play. 

"We play everything," says J.Bre, who recently ended his tenure as host and will soon graduate. "I am glad to have been a part of a radio station that keeps hip-hop alive," he says proudly. 

Overall, there is a gem in our backyard - and its name is KUPS.  It's truly a Tacoman's station, as it doesn't reach Olympia, Seattle or far outside the heart of Tac-town at all.  However, KUPS fills a major void left by the absence of KFOX, KTOY and KBBY - the last stations that programmed hip-hop/soul genres on-air. 

Remember: The airwaves belong to you, the people - tuning in to and supporting stations like KUPS is a duty for anyone who calls themselves a fan, lover or supporter of hip-hop.  Recognize game!

KUPS 90.1 FM