Best Local Recording Studio for Hip-Hop 2008 | 5fith Coast Records | People & Places | Phoenix

Arizona hip-hop legend Roca Dolla (formerly known as I-Roq) runs a smooth operation at 5fith Coast Records. With his partner and co-producer RTZ, Roca Dolla's churned out some serious beats and solid records for the MCs on his label, which include Valley rappers like Tray Gutter, Zig Zag (formerly of NB Ridaz), Ocean, and Tha Formula. National acts have enlisted the services of 5fith Coast for everything from music production to Internet promotion, too, including G-Unit artist Young Buck, Che Vicious from Aftermath Records, and Tupac's Outlawz. The studio itself is professionally insulated for acoustic perfection, and features more mixing boards, equipment, and speakers than a mid-career Rolling Stones tour.

Many great local records have been recorded at Full Well — everybody from Phoenix punk bands like NunZilla and Dephinger and glam rockers The New Romantics to indie rockers The January Taxi and The Walnuts have laid down albums there. The studio's equipped with a Tangent 3216 analog recording console, countless amplifiers, and 128-track ProTools HD3 system, so bands can capture their sound any way they like, be it live or overdubbed to perfection. In addition to having a good ear and knob-twisting skills, engineer Mike Bolenbach offers a wide array of post-production services, as well, including editing and mastering.

ASU's radio station plays more songs by local artists — from the experimental sounds of Yourchestra to the electro-pop of Peachcake to the hard rock of the Necronauts — than any other radio station in the Valley. The station's annual "Guest DJ Week," during the last week of March, boasts hosts from the hippest parts of the local music scene (previous guest DJs have included William Fucking Reed, Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World, Jared Bell of Lymbyc Systym, Treasure Mammal, and former New Times music editor Niki D'Andrea). When it comes to playing hot new local bands, The Blaze seems to have a knack for finding who's about to start a fire, whether it's putting local funk-rock jammers Black Carl on heavy rotation, or breaking in a new song by buzz kings What Laura Says Thinks and Feels. The only downside is the station's weak signal — if you're not within a 10-mile radius of the ASU campus, you're not going to get The Blaze on your dial. Luckily, the station streams live on the Internet, so anyone in the world can catch the best new music coming out of Phoenix.

We've found that one of the secrets in life is to make sure we know a few geeks and nerds. Not only are they adorable in their own way but outspoken eggheads tend to know everything and are good for imparting advice when our computer crashes or we need to pick out a plasma television. Whenever we're looking for the latest skinny on video games, we turn to Alon Waisman and Ara Shirinian, the hosts of Chatterbox Video Game Radio. Why? Because these joystick Jedi (and their sidekick, Richard Crawford) know their shit, that's why. Trying to decide whether you should get the latest hit game? Wondering why your Xbox 360 has the "red ring of death"? They will answer those questions, as well as dissect the latest news from the gaming world, and discuss nerdish topics du jour during their hour-long show on Tuesday evenings. It definitely beats getting advice from those dorks at Fry's Electronics, at any rate.

We'll admit it: Arizona's DUI crackdown has us depressed. Seems you can get arrested just for thinking about booze these days — for daring to actually drink a glass of beer, we've heard, you can face the death penalty. And it's not just the thousands of drivers who've gotten popped who are talking about the issue; it's the restaurants and bars, the cops, the lawyers. But leave it to Ken Sharp to bring everybody together to have that conversation on the air. Sharp, who used to facilitate court-ordered group discussions for drunk drivers, got the idea to build a radio show around the DUI topic, and after a Friday-night launch, was soon airing his show each weekday during the lunch hour on KFNX 1100-AM. The discussion has been fascinating and intensely real. This fall, Sharp intends to launch the show on a different station, so stay tuned for details. With the way things are going in this state, you really can't afford not to listen.

KWSS offers not only commercial-free programming but serves as home to the funniest radio comedy show in the Valley, Chillin' with B and Gas, which airs every Monday from 7 p.m. to midnight. Comedian Bryan Ricci joins deejay Kevin Gassman every week, where the pair cheekily discusses things like whether or not a particular song is "porn music," things that make relationships break down, and the crux of the show, the "Gasshole of the Week." The duo defines a "Gasshole" as a combination of an asshole and an idiot, and gives the title to people like Gardenia Johansson Zarkweski, the Valley mother who told a valet to watch her son while she and her Chihuahua went shopping at Scottsdale Fashion Square. The show's been going strong since December 2006 and doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon — at least not with so many unrecognized Gassholes still in town.

How does Jonathan L get the legendary Ronnie Spector on the phone, or bring in Johnette Napolitano for an in-studio performance, or nab an autographed poster of PJ Harvey? He just opens his Rolodex. Jonathan L has been in radio for more than 25 years — he knows people, and he's got some great stories. He might be a name-dropper to some, but he's really just mining his many musical encounters over the years to entertain listeners; he's more of the seasoned, sharing, rocker-type (and he's got spiky blond hair and more tattoos than Mötley Crüe). But what really makes Jonathan L so cool is his earnest, enduring love of music, and his desire to always find hot new bands. Sometimes it's breaking national stuff — like The Raveonettes, MGMT, N-Euro, and Landon Pigg — but it's often unsigned bands from various parts of the world, such as Paul Marklew (the U.K.), Hypernova (Iran), CEOz (France), and Miss Li (Sweden). He also spins a ton of local music. Jonathan L has given play to local bands like Crushed, Big Cock, St. Madness, Vayden, Thee Unfortunates, Telescope, Xray, and Friday Night Gunfight, to name but a few. Check out his show, The Lopsided World of Jonathan L, Saturday mornings from 6:45 to 10 a.m. and Sunday nights from 6 to 8 p.m.

Not only does scrappy Bay Area-born DJ Strawberry spin some of the hottest Top 40 and hip-hop jams from the likes of Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown, and the Valley's own Willy Northpole during his weekday programs from 2 to 6 p.m., but he adds fun aspects to his show like "Will It Flush?" in which he takes all sorts of objects, from a screwdriver to a pair of headphones to his own toothbrush, to see whether they can disappear down the commode. If listeners correctly bet whether or not something will flush, they win a bag of swag. (You can also watch clips of items being flushed on the station's Web site.) His on-air banter is quick and witty, and his love of sharing bizarre news — including how an employee of Warner Brothers Records' office sits right beneath Madonna's crotch on the giant promotional mural that covers the WBR building — is entertaining and endearing for listeners, too.

Redheaded radio jock Dave Pratt has been prattling across Valley airwaves since 1981, when he took a job with local rock station 98 KUPD as host of Pratt in the Morning. More than two decades later, Pratt left KUPD (which he calls "the best career decision I ever made" in his bio on and joined the staff of KMLE. Pratt's morning show was wildly successful on KUPD, and so it has been on KMLE as well, despite the jump from rock to country.

Pratt retains his decades-old nickname as the "Morning Mayor," and continues to be prominent in the local community, raising money for numerous charities, becoming part owner of Alice Cooper'stown restaurant/venue in Phoenix, and adding his witty banter and industry insights to the airwaves, every morning from 5 to 9 a.m.

We'll admit it: We're talk-radio junkies (and totally open to it all, regardless of political perspective or tone). Really. We love the crazies that call into Coast to Coast on 550-AM. Sometimes we think Michael Savage has a point. And we really wish Garrison Keillor were our grandpa. When it comes to locals, the selection is just as good, and narrowing down this category to one "best" host was tough. After all, daily heavy-hitters like Darrell Ankarlo and Larry Gaydos are immensely popular, but their long-winded rants, as well as their callers, verge on unlistenable. And we've got a great Spanish-speaking radio community here, and hosts like Alfredo Gutierrez certainly deserve a little recognition. But in the end, we have to go back to our old favorite: the guy we tune in to every Wednesday, without fail, when we want informed, interesting discussion on local issues. Steve Goldstein of KJZZ's Here and Now wins the prize for consistently bringing us researched, factual, rhetoric-free discussion. (His producer, Paul Atkinson, deserves a shout-out, as well.) From Goldstein's coverage of illegal immigration to his talks with the governor, we know we can count on him not to give us a headache.

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