It's Friday night, and the crew behind the J. Pitts Show hip-hop podcast is recording the first of two "Best of the '00s" shows it will be posting online. The picks have been made by show founders Justin Pitts and DJ Nice Rec (Pete Mudge, who does much of the production work for the show) as well as regulars Jerome Fitzgerald and Eric Zemba.
What started as a way for Pitts to keep his radio show alive after graduating from college -- he was hip-hop director at WPTS -- has become a weekly tradition for the team, most often on Saturday nights. Around 300 subscribers listen in to the weekly Internet radio show, and uncounted others access it through the website (jpittsshow.com).
"A lot of our feedback comes from England," Pitts says. "We get a lot of people from overseas, but we don't get people from New York or Philly. We don't even really get listeners from Pittsburgh." Mudge questions that assertion and Pitts relents. "Actually, yeah, I've been out in the bar and had someone come up to me and tell me they love the podcast."
The picks for the "best of" show were hard-fought between the four contributors -- resulting in an eclectic mix. "This segment's gonna be weird," Mudge admits as he cues up the middle section of the episode. "We've got, like, three gangsta songs and then Atmosphere."
That's part of the charm: While the show focuses on hip hop, the hosts have varied enough tastes to make it different every time. Some shows are regular episodes, programmed mainly by Pitts. Mudge, for his part, programs the majority of the special episodes, mining a single artist or producer's catalog for "Man of the Hour" (or "Woman of the Hour," or "Group of the Hour") shows.
Fitzgerald is good for sound effects and sometimes questionable humor ("I don't think I've ever listened back and thought, 'Hey, I should have said that!'" he notes), while Zemba sits back quietly, offering occasional advice. The whole room listens through to all of the songs as they record, often dancing and singing along with the hooks.
The J. Pitts Show has logged 128 episodes since its inception in 2006 -- despite not making a dime from the downloads. "It's something we'd be doing anyhow," says Fitzgerald. "We get together and listen to music and make jokes on a Saturday night before we go out. We just happen to record it."