Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Mario Rodriguez came into a world filled with the culture off the streets.
Although living under the guidance of his devout Catholic parents, Rodriguez dabbled in everything the streets had to offer from gang life to hip-hop.
Thanks to his older brother Delfino, a graffiti artist and break dancer (b-boy), Rodriguez went the route of hip-hop, a culture born on the streets but brought out the creative nature of its participants.
Rodriguez experimented in each of the four elements of hip-hop culture: b-boying, graffiti art, emceeing (rapping) and DJing. While exceling at hip-hop, he needed an appropriate nickname. Delfino was called Fienz on the streets, but Delfino and his friends had a special name for Rodriguez.
“My brother’s friends used to come over to the house when I was in junior high,” says Chonz. “There were no boxers back then really, so I wore whitey tighties, and when they would come over, they’d say, ‘Yo, chones (a Mexican slang word for underwear), go put some clothes on!’ I used to kick it in my chones, take out the trash in my chones, so my name was chones for awhile. Then people just started calling me Chonz.”
Now christened with a nickname, Rodriguez gravitated towards DJing. Inspired by the local Denver DJs, DJ Chonz practiced and honed his skills in his basement for two years before coming out to compete in DJ competition. When he won a local radio DJ competition in 1996 after being undefeated for consecutive weeks, DJ Chonz’s star began to rise on the Denver hip-hop scene.
The win earned him a 30-minute and then a 60-minute segment on the hip-hop radio program “Eclipse: Shedding of a Blacker Light on KGNU” and he was invited to compete in regional and national DJ competitions such as the DMC Mixing Championships, Guitar Center Mixing Championships and the Lowrider-sponsored DJing competitions. The competitions opened the door for Chonz to share the stage with such hip-hop luminaries as Dr. Dre, Eminem, Slick Rick, The Roots, Snoop Dogg as well as tour with De La Soul, Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon and Baby Bash.
After making so much noise on the local scene, in 2001 Denver’s largest hip-hop station KS107.5 (KQKS-FM) allowed Chonz and local personalities Francois Baptiste and Kingdom to launch the Radio Bums MixtapeShow, a specialty hip-hop show on Sunday nights. Because of the popularity of the show and Chonz’s skills on the turntable, KS107.5 recruited him to mix live in the studio for the weekend party mix and during the afternoon drive, making him the first DJ to ever mix live on commercial radio in Denver.
Today, with 20 years of experience, he’s the most recognizable DJ in Colorado and surrounding states. Over the years he’s led the station to No. 1 rankings in various categories including afternoon and night host for the 18-34 demographic from 2009 to 2011 locally and nationally in 2012.
He’s won numerous awards from Denver’s alt-weekly Westword’s “Best of …” issues including Best Hip-Hop DJ, Best Denver Radio and Best Online Radio show for a daily mix he streamed live on the internet. He was also awarded Best Afternoon Show from the Colorado Broadcast Awards in 2010.
DJ Chonz also continues to dominate the nightclub scene with several weekly events in Denver as well as consistent events in Las Vegas, San Diego, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
When he’s not on the road or in the studio, giving back to the community is important to DJ Chonz. Especially when he can lead young people to find positive life direction from music. This is his second year working with CU’s Summer Industry Music Program (June 14-26), where he is involved with providing scholarships for high school students to attend.
This year marks DJ Chonz and his brother’s 7th consecutive year providing community hip-hop events to the City and County of Denver and greater Denver metro area. They will sponsor the Freestyle World Qualifier break dancing event in Denver on August 8. Denver is one of eight cities to make the finals.
“There are many genres of music,” Chonz says. “I am fortunate to be able to play all formats. This allows for growth as a person and as a DJ. A DJs job is to cater to a crowd and play what’s relevant to them. That’s what I do.”