Corey Mizell likes to think of all DJs as "emotion controllers."
"That's the mark of a good DJ," he says. "You know how to control the mood. If you're at a party or a club and you want everyone to have a good time, you play something fast to get people dancing. If it's the end of the night, you can slow it down and get everyone off the floor."
Mizell, who goes by DJ ChaChee, first started spinning records almost 18 years ago. He's now a health information management major at the University of Pittsburgh in his junior year, and hip-hop director at Pitt's 92.1 WPTS-FM.
The Florida native moved to Pittsburgh a little over 10 years ago to pursue a career in music. The former army man struggled at first, living off his GI Bill payments, but he did find a fast friend and partner in local rapper Lhagic, who often co-hosts Mizell's Culture Shock Radio show, Saturdays from 7 to 9 p.m.
Bringing Culture Shock to life in the mid-'00s was challenging. "I got kind of frustrated," he admits. "I didn't have much support with the station. This was a very tough ground to have people support hip hop, because a lot of people don't understand it." He took a hiatus from college in 2009, and returned and started the show back up this year.
After the commercial success of artists like Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller, Pittsburgh hip hop has been making more than a little noise. But Mizell stresses that even more talent lies in the underground scene, and his goal is to give these artists a voice. He first took the reins as hip-hop director during the early stages of Wiz's popularity, and WPTS gave the rapper his first Pitt show.
"I really feel as though we're a catapult for a lot of artists that come through here," Mizell says.
With the hard work of his fellow students, Mizell sees WPTS undergoing a rebirth. The station has been nominated for mtvU Woodie awards in recent years, and it's working to make the move to Internet-radio giant iHeartRadio, which Mizell hopes will garner even more attention for Pittsburgh's underground hip hop.
"I'm back [at the station] and ready to breathe more life into it," he says.