John Koutsakis, also known as J-Kruz, was the voice of Pittsburgh urban radio at WAMO 106.7FM for several years. After the station was sold Kruz applied to Clear Channel, Radio One and anything he could find. He was sending his resume once and sometimes twice a week to different radio stations across the country and landed a job in Dallas at 97.9 The Beat as a full-time on-air radio personality. He will be starting later this month.
He is excited about the new opportunity ahead of him. It will be pretty similar to what he was doing here in Pittsburgh at WAMO.
“One afternoon I received a phone call from the program director at 97.9 The Beat and he liked my sound and look and asked me what do I think about Dallas, Texas? Different cities have different markets and Dallas is a No. 5. He flew me out there and I was on the air for four hours and that showed me that they were really interested. I was scared at first because I’m more of an East Coast dee-jay and the style of music I listen to is more of an East Coast flavor,” Kruz said.
Originally from Queens, N.Y., Kruz, along with his brother Sossa Smooth, have been residents of Pittsburgh for 19 years. He has done a lot for the local artists here and he is going to miss all his fans and friends.
“Some people let me know that they appreciate what I did for them on the air and I’m glad I was able to do it for them. If I’m in the position to do for others because I’m making a lot of money, then I will always do for others because that is the kind of person I am. I’ve traveled and lived across the country and I’m very well cultured so moving to Dallas is not that big of a stretch for me. I’m leaving within two weeks and I start my full time position in September. I will stay in touch with everyone from the ’Burgh via Facebook and Twitter and I will miss you guys,” said Kruz.
Kruz has made it clear that if another radio station was to surface in Pittsburgh, he is not sure that he would want to be a part of it.
“It would be great to stay in Pittsburgh because I’ve planted so many seeds in this city and I started my career here, but I can’t sit around and wait for another radio station to come here. I know that one will come but I feel it will probably be a smaller station than the one we had. I was not guaranteed a job if a radio station does come and the market I’m going to is a bigger and better opportunity for me right now. Even if another radio station came to Pittsburgh and wanted me to stay, I probably would not. As far as 101 the Blaze is concerned, it is still going strong and they have recruited some up and coming on-air fresh talent. The radio is still poppin and it will still be here for the ’Burgh,” said Kruz.
“As I mentioned before, I am scared because this is a new town and a new adventure for me. I was receiving information from deejays here who know deejays in Dallas so it will be easy for me to connect with people while I’m there. I am not going alone because I’m taking my family with me. I am going up there for a month and then I’ll send for the rest of my family.”
Kruz knows that it is going to be different because he worked at WAMO for four and half years before he was actually on the air full time. He was a board operator which is pushing buttons. He was with Sheridan Broadcasting Networks for eight and half years. Even though he is leaving Pittsburgh, he will continue to make drops for 101 the Blaze since it is an Internet online radio station.
“Being in the radio business is risky business and it’s not making as much money as it use to make. With MP3 players being out there no one is buying albums any longer. They are buying singles now and listening to their MP3 players all day. Twenty years ago everyone was listening to the radio, but that has changed. I feel that you will get another station because the African-American market is too large for the city to be without one. I am going to take it one day at a time and I’m going to be aggressive, but I know that transition is not going to be easy. Since I’m going to a new place, I have to learn and soak up the way they do things in Dallas. As far as me going in the hood, I have to also learn who to hook up with and who not to hook up with. Any time there is hip-hop culture involved, there is drama involved. I’ve been doing my homework by checking out the local rap scene and clubs,” said Kruz.
J-Kruz is also one half of the hit making hip-hop group called Mano Y Mano. His brother Sossa Smooth is the other member who originally started the group a few years back.
“With our hip-hop group, Mano Y Mano, I think going to Dallas will be a good thing for the group. The album is done and the mixed-tape is almost done. The fact that I’m going down there with a finished product makes me very excited. Just because you are a deejay doesn’t mean that you are going to get your music played or they like your music. Another point is that just because you are on a radio station, doesn’t mean the street is feeling your music. The people at the station know that I am an on-air personality and a hip-hop artist, but the hood doesn’t know that yet. I am going to give it all I’ve got and attack that city. My goal is go down there and be that dude. I am not going to mess up this opportunity because my brother and I have a rap group. Eventually he will come down there when things blow up. We feel that after I’m down for a year and the right person hears our music, then we can take it from there,” said Kruz.