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Volunteer of the quarter shares his love of hip hop

Jeanette Genson, Assistant Scene Editor - January 9, 2013

Peter Ortega has potentially the best job on campus. He listens to his favorite music while sharing it with all of his friends and whomever else wants to listen. Ortega is a hip-hop DJ at 88.1 The ‘Burg, and was also named the Volunteer of the Quarter at the station.

“I don’t call it a job, first of all, because I love what I’m doing,” Ortega, junior marketing major, said.

Ortega, known as P-Lo on the air, spends hours choosing songs for his radio show playlist. He works with the flow, and really thinks about what his listeners will feel when tuning into his show.

“I make sure my music flows, so if there’s slow music, you won’t put on a fast song after that or vise-versa,” Ortega said. “Gotta make sure everything fits in my way.”

His musical vision for each show begins the day before he goes on the air, making sure his songs are set up the way he wants. This includes going over every song with a fine-tooth comb to find any cursing.

Not only does he have to check for bad words, he also has to analyze the context in which they are said. Some curse words are appropriate on the air when referred to in a non-offensive way.

The DJs also have to come up with all their own playlists, and everything they are going to say a day ahead of time

“A lot of the stuff I say over the air is ad-libbed most of the time, so when you hear me speak, ya know I might say some weird things,” Ortega said.

When he talks about his love of music, his passion doesn’t come from his words -- or even from gesturing his hands side to side as if he was reciting lyrics -- it comes from his soul.

He has infinite knowledge of almost any hip-hop artist’s career, whether it happened yesterday or 20 years ago.

Repping a green and yellow Seattle Sonics wristband and headphones, Ortega fits the image of a Pacific Northwest rapper with ease. His knowledge comes from growing up in a house with heavy musical influences from ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s R&B.

He can easily recall facts such as the name of the first rap song ever to hit the airwaves (The Message by Grandmaster Flash) and why it was so iconic.

Give him the chance and he’ll hold forth for 10 minutes on the family tree of hip-hop, how Notorious BIG spawned Lil Kim, and who Tyga’s next big-ticket artist is.

“Macklemore, see, he’s amazing because he’s been around for -- god knows how long,” he said about the local favorite who has recently burst into popular hip-hop.

Ortega’s favorite part of his job is just playing music in the studio all day. He admits that the only time he can’t wait to get out of the studio is when he’s hungry; other than that, time just flies.

“Also I love working events,” Ortega said, referring to football games and other events The ‘Burg is present for. “So basically in the studio, and playing events, are my favorite things.”

He believes he attained not only volunteer for the month of November, but also volunteer of the quarter, because when he began DJ-ing, he signed up for all of the available events.

According to Chris Hull, general manager of the ‘Burg, when determining who will receive volunteer of the quarter, professional staff from both The ‘Burg and US Bank decide based on a number of qualities. US Bank awards the winner with a gift basket with $100 of customized gifts.

Ortega said the most challenging part of being a DJ is not being able to please everyone. He may play a song that he has looked forward to airing for weeks, and the crowd may not approve.

Also, he sometimes has to play songs he would rather leave out of his set, such as Nicki Minaj, but he has to give her some air time in order to please a lot of his female listeners.

P-Lo’s show has a specific flow which he prefers for his time slot on Fridays from 3-6 p.m.

First, he plays an hour of old school hip-hop, what he likes to call his “reminiscing hour’. The second hour features ‘90s and early 2000s hip-hop. He then ends the hour with current hip-hop hits.

“What hip-hop DJs would call more ‘slappers,’ alot of ya know, bangers, stuff that gets people dancing,” Ortega said.

While in the studio, Ortega sometimes shuts the lights off, turns on the party lights, and dances through his set.

He wants students to get involved and participate with his show, and he hopes people have as much fun as he does during his set.

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