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Two Turntables and a Microphone

Spend time listening to Tarik Moody and DJ Don Cuco, and you'll soon realize The Rhythm Lab is the place for sonic experimentation.

"Jazz, acid jazz, trip-hop, broken beat, reggae we've got it all," says DJ Don Cuco (whose real name is Rico Simon Mendez).

At midnight each Saturday, The Rhythm Lab takes hold of The Current's airwaves until 2 a.m., pumping big beats into Sunday's small hours. Featuring countless styles, The Rhythm Lab works to cover what it calls the entire rhythm "diaspora."

"I graduated from Howard University," explains Moody, "and one of the required classes was the African Diaspora. It was a study of all literature, art and music that has African roots, to show how it all connected. So basically, I use the term 'diaspora' to connect all the music Rico and I are passionate about."

Ask Moody how he would categorize the music played on The Rhythm Lab and he is rather poetic. "I call it music inspired by the heartbeat," he says. "The underlying factor is the drum, the beat. It's what ties it all together."

The diversity of music on The Rhythm Lab spans the globe as well as music history.

"Look at Kyoto Jazz Massive," says Mendez. "Those dudes are from Japan, the beat's Latin oriented, but the label is out of Germany. It all comes together and our show's about that."

"I have a problem segregating music," adds Moody. "Why not play Kanye West and then Miles Davis right after? Both come from the same influences, and if you listen to the music, you'll hear those common elements."

Both Moody and Mendez are very aware of their own musical influences. Moody credits his father for turning him on to jazz and to music in general at an early age. And Mendez's DJ moniker "Don Cuco" is a tribute to his grandfather. Continuing the tradition, Moody and Mendez want to pass a love of music to their listeners.

"I hope The Rhythm Lab gives people a sense of openness," says Mendez. "People don't need to stick in one genre of music. There's so much out there. Once you tap into it, it's just endless."

"I always end the show by saying, 'Keep searching, keep digging,'" adds Moody. "Go to a record store or online and look for a record you never thought you'd buy. That's the best feeling-taking a chance on some new music and it turns out to be something you really like. It's like finding oil or gold."

Listen to The Rhythm Lab Saturdays at midnight. If you're not a night owl, listen to archived shows online.

(This article also appeared in the February 2006 "Plugged In" section of Minnesota Monthly.)