For myself and many other teens, the radio was a staple of car drives with parents. From All Things Considered to classical music stations to pop radio, the sounds of our childhoods can be easily defined by disembodied voices and sounds playing from a car stereo system. A group of teen DJs have the opportunity to hone skills such as DJing, radio technology, and curation through 90.TEEN, KEXP’s youth-run radio show. The DJs, who are part of KEXP’s Youth DJs program, produce and program the show under the mentorship of KEXP’s DJs.
KEXP, whose offices are located in Seattle Center, specializes in alternative and indie music, usually rock. Since the station was founded by undergraduate students at the University of Washington, it seems fitting that students would once again have an opportunity to contribute to Seattle’s radio scene. The four young DJs of 90.TEEN, Vega Vi, Sofiiak, Sebastian Mendoza, and 9 Coleman-Harvey, have established interests in music production and broadcasting, and it’s clear to see their joy while they broadcast. Their excitement to be broadcasting, even in the wee hours of the morning, is evident in their voices. The January 16 episode features a selection of laid-back but funky beats, each song flowing into the other and occasionally interjected by the mellow voice of DJ 9. The songs put you in moods that range from chilled-out to wanting to get up and dance, a great backdrop for homework, relaxing on the couch, or an early morning commute.
As a form of media, radio is relatively antique. Radios became popular for general use in the 1920s, where the cheap cost of broadcasting provided the masses with entertainment. Throughout the 20th century, radio has been a mainstay for providing us with news, entertainment, and background noise to soundtrack our days. In the advent of the digital age and the rise of podcasts and streaming, most radio has been relegated to the car. 90.TEEN creates an opportunity to spark young peoples’ interest in broadcasting and radio, giving the broadcasters of the future the skills they need to produce high-quality broadcasts. In a way, KEXP is keeping radio alive: driving up interest in young people and increasing their involvement in broadcast not only gives them an outlet for self-expression, but also ensures that the medium will be a constant in our lives for generations to come.
The tastes of teens often inform pop culture, and the organizers of 90.TEEN know this. By giving youth an outlet to play music they enjoy, listeners gain a better understanding of what’s “hip with the kids” and teens see their interests represented. One thing all the teen DJs have in common is their passion for music. Each of them are multimedia artists, but much of their inspiration is driven by music. Some work in record shops, some are part of high school music groups, and others even make music themselves. The teens’ passion for music shines through in their broadcasts and in their biographies on the 90.TEEN page of the KEXP website; it is clear that they take pride in their art and work hard to produce a great show.
Through 90.TEEN, young people have the opportunity to breathe new life into an old-fashioned art form. Producing sounds that are distinctly modern, youth DJs hone their skills and produce a high-quality radio broadcast that is fully entertaining and inspiring. They are provided expert mentorship and taught skills needed to succeed in an area of high interest. And succeed they have: the broadcast is a blast to listen to, not only for the selection of music but also for the clear dedication of the DJs.
90.TEEN airs live on KEXP Saturday mornings from 6-7 AM. It is available to stream anytime on the KEXP website.