Canadian singer/rapper the Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) last month at the iHeartRadio Z100 Jingle Ball in New York. / Chad Batka, New York Times

Canadian singer/rapper the Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) last month at the iHeartRadio Z100 Jingle Ball in New York. / Chad Batka, New York Times

 

A new year brings another new radio format for the Pohlad family's media company.

The operators of the modern-rock outlet Go 96.3 FM – who announced that station’s format change this time last year – will kick off 2016 by changing Christian station Praise 95.3 into a modern hip-hop and R&B station, which will be newly branded Go 95.3 FM. Their new format will debut Tuesday at 3 p.m.

Listeners may have trouble telling apart Go 96.3 and Go 95.3 by name, but they will easily distinguish the playlists from one another. The new station lists a stable of acts that includes such hip chart-toppers such as Drake, the Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole; hip-hop-flavored pop singers such as Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Jason Derulo; innovative indie-rap acts like Chance the Rapper, Action Bronson and Vince Staples, and homegrown Twin Cities stars Atmosphere, Brother Ali and Allan Kingdom.

Joe Pohlad, executive vice-president of Go Media (formerly Northern Lights Media), said the 95.3 hip-hop format will be geared toward millennials -- ages late-teens to about 30 -- much like the modern rock played on its sister station. Hence the idea to brand both outlets under the "Go" name.

"Millennials go back and forth between the two genres, so we think they'll appreciate flipping between the music we're serving on both our channels," Pohlad said.

Also the owners of the Minnesota Twins, the Pohlad family bought the Christian worship station KNOF for about $8 million last year but did not make clear what it intended to do with it.

Broadcasts of all Twins games will remain on Go 96.3 (formerly K-TWIN).

Meanwhile, the Praise format will continue being broadcast via HD radio, on the frequency 96.3 HD-2.

In a bit of roundabout history, the Pohlad's media company used to run the 96.3 FM frequency as an all-hip-hop and R&B station, B-96, but ditched that format in 2010. Joe Pohlad said that change was "entirely a strategic play" to fit the station's branding more around the broadcasting of Twins games.

"We never lost faith in the hip-hop format on its own," he said.

A former B-96 staffer, Peter Parker, will serve as Go 95.3's music director and -- at least for the first month or two -- its only regular on-air personality. He will be on air from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays. The station will also be commercial-free through January.

Since B-96 went off the air, hip-hop's popularity has been proven time and time again at least in the concert realm, from Atmosphere’s Soundset festival selling out with 30,000 fans the past three years to Macklemore and Wiz Khalifa packing the State Fair grandstand to Chance the Rapper filling Myth nightclub.

Hip-hop finally became more of a commodity on the local FM dial again last year with the advent of The Vibe 105 and Hot 102.5, both part of corporate chains that play nothing but old-school hip-hop. Go 96.3’s main competitor in the rock department, 89.3 the Current, also frequently spins many of the more modern, independent rap acts that Go 95.3 will purportedly play.

Pohlad said his company will likely try to market Go 95.3 through live promotional concerts just as it has done with Go 96.3, including a heavier hip-hop presence in the annual Go Fest at Target Field in August.

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