Best R&B/Hip-Hop Radio Station 2013 | The Beat (KNRJ 101.1 FM) | People & Places | Phoenix

Hip-hop is probably dead and that's sad. But if you're looking for a place to relive the glory days, 101.1 The Beat will resurrect you. Rarely will you hear any Auto-Tuned noise or irreverent songs about Molly or any caterwauling from Drake.

Instead, the aim of Ramses Ja, the station's music director, is to reach back into the past while looking forward and being true to that culture. Ja started out at Power 98 doing an underground hip-hop show, playing acts like Aesop Rock, Dilated Peoples, and whatever else he felt progressed or represented genuine hip-hop. Now, he continues to keep the energy flowing on the most refreshing hip-hop station on the airwaves, playing everything from Tupac to Kendrick Lamar. Maybe hip-hop isn't as dead as presumed. However, even if you do hear some corporate rap, just remember that even The Beat has to pay its bills.

This local jazz and blues station, also home to national NPR broadcasts, has been entertaining Arizonans since 1985, when Rio Salado College bought the station. A wide variety of genres fall under the umbrella of jazz, and KJZZ manages to play them all — even though jazz takes over the airwaves only in the evenings from 8 o'clock on. From cool and soft to experimental and Latin, there's something for every fan. On Sunday nights, the station dips into the blues reservoirs to feature soulful tunes from days gone by. Yet KJZZ also keeps up with current musicians in the genre, giving them and other lesser-known artists equal air time with legends like Duke Ellington and Bessie Smith. That means listeners can tune into 91.5 at night to sing along with favorites and also discover songs they wish they'd heard sooner. In between tracks, DJs like Blaise Lantana provide educational tidbits, musings about musicians' influences and inspirations, and insights into the history of the jazz scene.

We don't even miss The Edge 103.9 anymore, may it rest in peace. That's because we have KWSS. After finally switching to a high-powered frequency earlier this year, KWSS is making more strides than ever in bringing the Valley its banquet of alternative, local, and just plain incredible music.

Where else can you hear songs by Love, Palms; Bogan Via; Kongos; and dozens of other neighborly musicians before and after your heart is warmed by the likes of Alt-J, Cults, LCD Soundsystem, and everything else that's cool today? No other station is pushing the envelope like these guys, with their Monday Morning Record Club (playing an entire album, from beginning to end) or their "Long Song of the Day" and "Laughing Gass" on Driving with Gass. It feels like you're listening to your friend's podcast or something, but then again, you kind of are.

Between the two brand-name country radio stations in the Valley, there's only one that's recognizable from year to year. KNIX doesn't cycle through personalities, as Ben and Matt are still handling the morning show, Billy Michaels still takes care of the afternoons, and that fella in the barrel still shows up every now and then. Now, we understand the fact that a country radio station in the Valley has to play Taylor Swift and has to play her often. That said, there still seems to be quite a bit of testosterone in the programming on KNIX, with the likes of Eric Church, Zac Brown Band, and Jason Aldean, and we're not about to complain about any of that.

Doug & Wolf might be the only sports talk show in the Valley that takes time for "Basin-onians" to get used to. After you figure out why former Arizona Cardinals fullback Ron Wolfley is screaming over Pantera's "Walk" or telling a story over a Dr. Dre beat, and after you find out what "FOOSHAW" is, and why you would want "FOOSHAW" on a T-shirt, then you'll have things under control. Then you can fully appreciate a radio duo that's performing at the highest level our species can generate.

Wolfley's partner, Doug Franz, is a transplant, but he's become a hometown guy, unlike that New York transplant who comes on at 2 p.m. Sometimes they're talking local sports, and sometimes it's national. Sometimes, it's hardly related to sports. But if you find yourself in a vehicle or just near the transistor in the morning, then Doug and Wolf are your guys.

We're not necessarily proud to admit it, but we pretty much get our daily news from two sources these days: Facebook and KJZZ. Which means just one source. But what a source. From NPR's Morning Edition to the last few minutes of Fresh Air, we listen all day long. We sit in parking lots waiting for the ends of stories. We plan our morning commute around the talk shows. And we are grateful to the talented local staff at our NPR affiliate, who every year seem to do more with what we know (because we're in the news business, too) must be less. You might not find us in the driveway picking up the morning paper anymore, but you can bet we've got the kitchen radio tuned to NPR while we drink our coffee and get ready to face the day.

On an average weekday, Karen, Vincent, and Kelly are regular Johnnys-on-the-spot, obtaining court documents for us and answering just about any silly question about the forced parade of accused killers, rapists, child torturers, thieves, and gangstas moving through the court system.

But the trio really shone during the epic Jodi Arias murder trial, which ran all the way from January 2 to May 23. With news media from all over the world calling or appearing in person to cover the sensational trial, and dozens of trial watchers jostling for seats in the courtroom each day, Arra, Funari, and Vail faced the court PIO version of American Ninja Warrior, and we'd argue they all hit the buzzer at the top. These three, unlike some government PIOs, more than earn our taxpayer dollars. We'll see them again soon, when the Arias trial continues with the redo of the death-penalty sentencing phase.

Few political figures have been stronger advocates for the LGBT community than Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and wife Nicole, an attorney and partner at one of the Valley's top law firms, Quarles & Brady. The couple was named Man and Woman of the Year by Echo Magazine, and these two do more than just talk about LGBT rights — Nicole has taken the lead on anti-bullying initiatives, including a summit on bullying for Arizona educators. Greg pushed to make it illegal in Phoenix to discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation and gender identity, leading the charge to add those changes to the city's anti-discrimination policy. And both have offered public support for marriage equality. After a previous mayor who made headlines for his girlfriend troubles rather than for helping others, this is a two-fer the city of Phoenix is lucky to have.

You remember Steve Nash, the former Phoenix Suns star who ruined his career by going to the Los Angeles Lakers. Well, not quite, because he continues to make an arena-load of dough — he signed a three-year, $27 million deal with L.A. when he bolted the Valley of the Sun. The Lakers outright sucked last year (though not as much as the Suns did sans Nash), but what really sucks for the two-time MVP point guard is his ongoing divorce-settlement negotiations with ex-wife Alejandra Amarilla. When Nash split from Amarilla a day after she had their third child, rumors abounded. We even wondered how such a decent Canadian boy could be so callous — his wife had just given birth, for decency's sake! But wags said there was much more to it than met the eye (always is, right?), and to Nash and Amarilla's credit, they never detailed exactly what caused the rift.

Lately, suddenly dapper Steve (since he's moved to La La Land) and exotically beautiful Alejandra have been at it again. Seems Nash paid his ex handsomely (a reported $5 million) when they split, but she wants more for the kids, and the Arizona Court of Appeals has ruled that he now must pay it, overturning a Maricopa County Superior Court ruling. The amount of that support for their son and twin girls has yet to be decided, but it should be substantial (dude's richer than God, but not as rich as Kobe). The court also warned the couple not to take potshots at each other in the media, like a tweet by Amarilla following the lower-court ruling that the appeals court called "biting criticism of Father's integrity." As far as we know, Nash's never questioned Amarilla's integrity. "Nobody's business but [his] own," to quote Lou Reed.

The "best" politicians are those who have mastered the fine art of telling competing interests what they want to hear. Outwardly, these charlatans appear sincere, forthcoming, practical, while in reality, they are as trustworthy as Mephistopheles.

Locally, when it comes to political deception, it doesn't get much better than Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. A Republican, he ran to the hard right in 2010, portraying himself as a tough guy on immigration, with the political scene still roiling from the battle over Senate Bill 1070, which Monty supported. He won and went on to campaign virtually unopposed in 2012. Meanwhile, Montgomery sensed a shift away from the truculent nativism he had exploited previously, and began a sidestep to the middle.

To those who want immigration reform, he now poses as a relative moderate, a Sand Land GOPer who can listen to reason. But when he's at right-wing events, he talks border security and little else. Who's the real Monty? By their fruits ye shall know them, and Monty's peach is rotten and smelly. He continues the nativist policies of his disbarred, disgraced predecessor Andy Thomas, while claiming he's only following the law. And some overly credulous moderates still believe him! That's what we call an impressive pol, even if the guy doesn't cast a shadow in the sun.

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