Take a look at our sit-down with Syndicate Radio’s Nick Ospina, Justin Muzack and Kent Mulato as we dig deeper into the world of underground radio and how they built their rapidly rising radio show in Los Angeles.
Ask anyone in world of entertainment and media and there’s no doubt that Los Angeles is one of the largest markets in the world. With over 12 million people residing in the current metro area and with new dreamers moving to LALA-land every day, if you’re in the world of music and entertainment, Los Angeles is the perfect testing ground to launch your entertainment dreams.
While there’s a host of Podcasts and Youtube channels dedicated to covering artists and their music, Los Angeles based radio station 101.5 and their radio show Syndicate Radio has continued to break new talent and prove that FM radio is nowhere near dead, shining a light on underground music across the world.
Despite Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and Sirius XM radio dividing listeners, Syndicate Radio is drawing a real following on FM with listeners not only in LA but across the globe as the show is also available for fans on the streaming services. New to FM radio but OG’s in the game of online Hip-Hop radio, Syndicate Radio digs deeper into the music, solidified by a motto of “no genre left behind.” While championing for artists on the rise and underground talent Syndicate Radio is a model that remains true to focusing on good music, not ads and hidden agendas backed by payola.
Despite LA’s Power 106 and 92.3 dominating the Hip-Hop airwaves for years, 101.5 is making huge strides in the market for underground acts and artists that otherwise wouldn’t fit the programming model for iHeartRadio stations. Also rivaling 92.3’s KDAY as an alternative avenue for classic Rap music and deep cuts, 101.5 has carved out a niche in the L.A. market that deserves the listener’s ears.
Born out of garage and first starting off as DJ class for LAUSD students in the San Fernando Valley, Nick Ospina, Justin Muzack, Kent Mulato and Ashley Ramirez developed Syndicate Radio into one of LA’s fastest rising shows. While they are still in the early stages of their new deal with KQBH, Syndicate Radio has been in the works for nearly a decade highlighting dope music from classic rap songs to new rising underground talent.
Check out more info below and follow Syndicate Radio on 101.5 to support real underground and classic rap music:
AllHipHop: So talk to me about the inspiration for this show and how its developed to what it is today…
Justin: I always knew Nick was naturally smart and super organized and we came together on the booking side of things. We’ve had other members that came along for the journey but the three of us have always stuck together because I think our skill sets are different but we are always able to come together – that was the first thing.
Kent: It really started because I’ve been DJing since 2009 and I had a homie who was a drummer and he started teaching and he asked me to teach him how to DJ. I was a teacher at LAUSD and there was an update to this program called Traktor that I used and so on the upgrade with Traktor Pro there was this update with broadcasting and I thought it would be cool to start a show and teach people how to DJ.
We always recorded the set but with the live set as a teacher you have to do everything right and I always wanted to broadcast it. Yes I was teaching them to DJ, but everyone would just hang out and it just kind of morphed into us putting a show together. As we started learning to mix sets and blend based off of that, we started a show and that’s when Justin came and he never left. He brought Nick with him, it was organic, we never tried to get on the scene, since day one it’s always been no genre left behind and then just having people come over and just hang out it’s been an open door policy since we started.
AllHipHop: Seems like you guys have that family kick back vibe and then you mix in the music too. Nick I know you do a lot of admin work and you are a man of many hats, can you talk about your role?
Nick: Most of it is administrative, but for the last five years, I’ve started taking over social media stuff and I do the posting and what not. The administrative stuff in the past was just booking artists and making sure everyone was ready for the sets and the venue, make sure the guys are on point and if ever there was a situation where we need a more business face and I’m usually the one that sets up and takes on that role, but mainly its been making sure these guys are all ready and we know what we are going to talk about and we have all our equipment or whatever.
Kent: He’s really been the facilitator, if something goes wrong its like, “Nick can you figure this out?” Thats what it’s always been and he’s always been flexible with that. Like Justin said it’s always been a cool dynamic that the three of us have because we all three have different skills and all the boxes are checked. Nobody really has a lot of egos, nobody is worried about their spot and it’s all about how we move forward and accomplish the goals. It was always about “we” and “us” and it’s about the team.
AllHipHop: You guys are definitely filling a void, LA has several radio stations but you guys seem to play lots of underground records and classic stuff that nobody else does. Who are some artists that you guys have been playing on the show that the fans need to check for both locally and worldwide.
Justin: Between Kent and I, we do play more local artists and a lot of the people I end up playing are people from the Great Late Show – my other show on KQBH. Rucci is dope, Blxst, Papa J Ruiz a kid from Colorado, there’s this cat Dom like Snob, Broken Mogul from Alabama. Not so local but people from LA. Katori Walker, the Elephant in the Room camp we support them also and have been for a while.
Nick: I would say to the void part, we definitely started something back in 2011 that was not being done anywhere else. We were rusty and were beginners but the sound quality was on point and I don’t think we capitalized on it like we could have. We had like 500-1000 average listeners every episode early on, but the difference back then was we were the only ones to really just interview local artists.
Kent: I’m too honest and if the music is wack I’m like nah, but Justin is the one that handles that now and he has an ear for picking out and finding new talent. The show evolved but it felt like we had a bunch of local artists and we had a bunch of the same artists that were trying to get on the show. You start getting the same kind of DJ’s coming through there are still some gems out there but we are still featuring guest DJs but because of COVID we haven’t been able to feature that higher echelon of artists and DJS
AllHipHop: Talk about COVID’s impact on the radio show and the station as a whole:
Justin: It’s really impacted us, just thinking back on what Kent said and the relationships that Ive built over the years, but the times make it so difficult to execute and with the guest DJs it’s been cool at Norms studio with the lights but there’s nothing like when you have a DJ come drop a set. Whether its Nathan To It or Starchild and Alchi we were building it out and getting people to know it more and its becoming a spot where DJs can come. But it’s def been harder to facilitate – it just sucks that we can’t do it the way we want to do it.
Nick: We had to shut the show down after our mix cloud technician got COVID and that was too close for comfort so we had to stop. Like Justin said its definitely changed everything but we have found ways to adapt and adjust to the changes, thats the only thing that really sucks. Within all these years everyone has honed their skills whether its hosting, DJ ing and administrating but when things open up, it will be all good.
Nick: Its like hold up we are finally on FM and its’ like things are going in a good direction
AllHipHop: So from the Traktor program in a garage to online shows to FM. You guys are now on FM radio. Can you speak about what that means to you guys?
Kent: I cried, I could not believe it. We all knew that it was happening but this is all Justin and Nick’s connects and their networking and all that stuff. But that day when we finally put the notification out there, there was a dramatic trailer that people saw and we got a lot of love.
Justin: Yea we have held your shows from a bunch of places but to have a home on FM is crazy!
Nick: First thing that comes to mind is its real, its no longer a hobby or a way to kick it with the homies, it’s a legit job and it means that these 9-10 years now have all lead to something. Validation. It’s like the one thing that I actually ever stuck with in life that ever went somewhere beside my friendship with these guys. It sounds funny but its real. I’ve never had a job for longer than 3 or 4 years.
I was booking DJ Quik, Rakim, Dogg Pound, Merkules, Blacc Youngsta, Chris Webby and so transitioning to all this it just makes sense. It puts into perspective like we are here and we can do more. There is so much that we have evolved into and we still haven’t even reached our full potential. I’m anxious for whats next. With FM it doesn’t feel like we made it but its like we got our foot in the door and we are still going.
Justin: For me it was a beautiful thing, Even though I was already on KQBH but I felt it more when we announced it because it was like now my team is here and I always felt like if we stuck together the sky is the limit. It put things in perspective for me. This is the one thing that I have and its one thing to have with Pharcyde TV and working two jobs. But KQBH allows us to really do what we want and we have control of our intellectual property. Now we are on Spotify to monetize what we are doing and it’s the ideal situation to where we can really live up to our motto of “no genre left behind.” I think it allows us to be our real selves and we are true to ourselves. I just say its a beautiful moment in a pandemic and we made our dreams come true. Even when I’m tired and need to edit.
Nick: The whole COVID thing was almost a blessing because it made it so we could really focus on this and do it right and now we are on FM. No going out and gigs and parties and now we’ve figured it out – we were all unemployed and it allowed us to come together.
Kent: To me aside from the money not being right and not being able to go to Disneyland COVID has actually been kind of tight. Before we even did the first episode we were weighing our options and just off the strength before. We were like, “we could take this to 3 places” and just off the strength we weren’t’ thinking FM because we cuss and other stuff like that, but they didn’t tell us that we could be on later and play explicit stuff and then they told us about the late show.
Justin: It makes a big difference on radio edits and stuff like that. Right then I told them and we locked it in because the director of the station and I have a good relationship. We are one of the shows that has the consistency that’s something I think she recognized – it was perfect time because the fourth member Nick’s girlfriend Ashley is a big part of the show. To be honest it works out beautiful because we all host and Kent and I DJ, but it is dope to have one person that is solely focused on topics and it’s a female voice, Ashley.
Kent: It gets even realer than that but she will call me out every time and it’s valuable because it adds a dynamic to a show – the show we put up tomorrow – we go back and forth a lot and she has a real authenticity that goes back and forth.
Nick: It comes to her so naturally and it just flows so well, the dynamic she adds is perfect.
Justin: We’ve had other female hosts, but she works so well, we had an open door policy and going back to what Nick said, she is a key player who is dynamic on the mic and now we have that focus and being able to pre-record. I don’t have to focus too much on DJing and hosting at the same time. There’s an A, B, C and D mic and I’m the C mic and I’m ok with that because she is so good at what she does – it just makes sense.
For more information on Syndicate Radio check them out via the link below and tune in to 101.5 if you’re in the Los Angeles area.