photo by Chris Loomis

Mo!

Written by Jason P. Woodbury Category: Spotlight Issue: August 2018
Group Free

Drive-time doyenne Monique “Mo!” Rodriguez brings sass and local love to Alt AZ 93.3.

When long-running Valley radio station KDKB shifted formats from classic rock to modern alternative in 2014, it initially jettisoned all on-air talent along with the Styx and Boston selections in favor of DJ-less music programming. But it didn’t take long for station management to right the course, with DJs like Monique “Mo!” Rodriguez leading the charge. The 31-year-old has worked in radio since 2011, broadcasting at stations like My 103.9 (now known as Hot 103.9) and KUPD, where she brought a woman’s voice to the male-dominated hard rock station, before heading to Alt AZ 93.3 FM. In April 2017, she took over the coveted morning slot with The Mo! Show. Her exuberance and quick wit make her a natural, and her social media presence – on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and maybe a Slack channel coming soon – makes it clear the Arizona native has the kind of personality listeners can’t get by simply putting Spotify on shuffle. Sipping an iced coffee at Cartel Coffee Lab in Tempe on a blistering summer afternoon, Mo walks us through her radio journey and keeping it positive in the A.M.

How did you get into radio?
I was really stoned one night, and I was like, “I need to do something different with my life.” [Laughs] Before I did radio, I was a massage therapist, [but] I really had a knack to entertain.

What were you into growing up?
My mom raised me on Funkadelic. A lot of hip-hop, a lot of rap. Growing up in the ‘90s, West Coast/East Coast rap was a huge thing. Being 10 years old and your first concert being Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, it’s definitely different than [alternative radio]. But I grew up an MTV kid, so you see all different kinds of music. What intrigued me the most were the personalities.

Who was your favorite VJ?
Kennedy was always great. I loved her. Matt Pinfield. He came through Alt-AZ and did a morning show for a few days. He’s a legend. Carson Daly on TRL was probably my favorite. Growing up, I wanted to be like him.

Are you naturally a morning person, or did the new gig require some adjustments?
It’s weird, I’m naturally a night owl and a morning person. I don’t know how that happened. The afternoon is where I start dragging. I’m like, “Uggghh.” But the first few days of doing the morning show were an adjustment. I was used to going to bed at 3 a.m. Now I’m waking up at 3 a.m.

You do a lot of pop culture content. Is starting conversations a goal?
I don’t want to just front and back sell the songs. That’s not what I’m here for. I’m trying to get topics of the day going for people to think and talk about. What I try to do is bring different things to the table that aren’t negative. Well… I might be negative or troll a tiny bit, but I’m not trying to talk about the same negative stuff.

You’re into geek culture, too, with your “Nerdgasm” blogs and features. Did you grow up with that?
I was raised by TV. Video games are my huge deal. I grew up with Nintendo, then Sega, then I was like, “Oh, what’s a Playstation? What’s an XBox?”

You focus a lot on local music with your “Homegrown” feature. Why is Arizona music a priority for you?
I think it’s important to shine a lot on Arizona bands. There’s a lot of great music here. I’m the only one on the station born and raised in Arizona, so it’s only right I do it. I got to represent the state I love. I get emotional talking about it!

Favorite local bands?
A band that really needs to break and be on the radio is The Technicolors. Their music is solid to the root, man. I love Playboy Manbaby, Fairy Bones, Bear Ghost – those bands have such a presence on stage and it shines. I really enjoy them.