Marcus Chapman is a radio personality, music historian, voiceover talent, published author, screenwriter, an on-air contributor for the TV One music documentary series “Unsung” & the film documentary series “Unsung Hollywood,” and host of “The Best of the 90s” radio show. Hailing from Chicago’s southeast side, Chapman started collecting music at the age of 4 and began researching music charts at 17. He started his radio career in 1992 at WKDI in DeKalb, Illinois, while attending Northern Illinois University. Upon graduating in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a minor in Black Studies, Chapman became the youngest employee at WGCI, Chicago’s #1 radio station at that time. In less than a year, he joined the staff of on-air personalities.
After four years of being at WGCI, MC Marcus Chapman (as he became known on-air) was the host of the station’s two hottest weekend shows and the city’s number one weekly party. Indianapolis radio station WTLC then hired Chapman as host of their nightly 6 to 10 show. While helping WTLC achieve number 1 ratings at night, Chapman earned attention from stations in various cities around the country. Dallas-Ft. Worth Station KKDA (K104) hired Chapman. Following his stint in Dallas, he returned to Chicago and WGCI.
During that time, he also worked as a music researcher for the radio data company Mediabase. He tracked the daily playlists of stations throughout the country, and the reported data was used to compile weekly charts for the industry magazine Radio & Records.
In 2015 Chapman released “The Coolest Music Book Ever Made aka The MC 500,” the first half of a music guide with short write-ups about 500 different songs from various genres and eras covering over 40 years. The book release led to Chapman contributing to the TV One music documentary series Unsung.
In 2016 he released “The Coolest Music Book Ever Made aka The MC 500 Vol. 2” and contributed to the Unsung Hollywood series and the Unsung Music Series. During his TV appearances, Chapman relocated back to his hometown of Chicago and worked as an instructor at the Illinois Media School in 2017 and 2018. In 2019 Chapman wrote the screenplay for a feature film adapted from a 2010 autobiography about his radio career in the ’90s and early 2000s. In 2021 he began hosting, producing, and programming a weekly R&B and hip-hop radio show called “The Best of the 90s,” which can be heard on the Chicago-based FM Omni Channel (formerly 95.1 FM Chicago).
Chicago Defender: How Did You Get Your Start in Radio?
Marcus Chapman: I started doing a radio while in college. At that time, I didn’t have a major. I was taking regular general education classes. When it came time to declare a major, I remember going to the Career Development Center at Northern Illinois University. They had a book about careers, and while flipping through it, I saw a section on radio and broadcasting. When I read the description, it said you had to enjoy talking to people, enjoy music and talking on the phone. These were right up my alley. That’s when I decided to major in communications.
From there, I did a college radio show for three years. In the beginning, I played house music on the show. Since I don’t mix, I had a friend, DJ Ville, help me out. He created the mixes, and we co-hosted the show. The music we played was from my collection.
After my first semester, I switched from House to playing Funk and R&B from the 70s and early 80s. That was the music I enjoyed. When I started collecting records, I had albums from Parliament, Earth Wind and Fire, and the Ohio Players. That was really my musical base.
Chicago Defender: After Graduating from NIU, You Started Working at WGCI. What was that experience like?
Marcus Chapman: During my last year of college, I did an internship at WGCI/AM1390. At that time, they were playing older music from the 60s and 70s, and since I was doing a 70s based radio show in college, I interned with the AM Station (AM1390). After graduation, I was hired as a studio assistant. I would pull charts and take requests.
The night I auditioned to get on the station as a personality was when the Chicago Bulls won their fourth title. I did my first show early that morning after the championship festivities. Then, when it was time for me to do my thing on the air, I passed my audition and ended up joining the staff.
Chicago Defender: Where did your role as a music historian come into play?
Marcus Chapman: I was a music historian before a radio personality. I’ve been collecting records since I was a child. So, between all of that, I started doing a lot of reading at that time. I just continued to read over the years and do research. It just all comes from a desire to want to know more.
Chicago Defender: You’ve been able to enjoy some longevity and be able to transition into different roles. Why do you think you’ve been able to sustain yourself so long and keep your name and your brand out there as relevant?
Marcus Chapman: Well, I have to say this partially comes from being multi-talented, and I’ve never had an identity crisis. There is MC Marcus Chapman, the radio personality and, Marcus Chapman, the man. I do many things that don’t have anything to do with radio and have served me in other areas. Since radio is so unpredictable, there are moments where I was absent from it for long stretches, so I had to transition to other things that tap into a different side of my personality.
The author side and historian side allow me to speak about music. It all comes back to reading and doing research. Professional radio isn’t really about music. It’s about interacting with the public. It’s two different skill sets. Unless you’re doing a specialty show, you are not picking music. On-air personalities haven’t picked music on professional radio since Dr. King was assassinated. That’s when that responsibility went from the on-air personalities to program and music directors.
Chicago Defender: So what are you doing now?
Marcus Chapman: Most recently, people know me for appearing on TV One’s “UnSung” series. I approached the series the same way I did radio shows. I did my research and prepared for the episodes. In most of the episodes that I appeared in, I dominated or at least had a very significant role in those episodes. Eventually, I ended up having the third most appearances in the history of the series.
I also do voiceover work. I have done some different commercials for different companies. Currently, I’m hosting a radio show called the “Best of the 90s”. What’s unique about my show is I choose the music. Like I said earlier, in professional radio, on-air personalities usually cannot do that. So it gives me a chance to be young and current at the same time. In addition, I try to provide background information on the music to provide the show with additional flavor.
Chicago Defender: What does the future hold for Marcus Chapman?
Marcus Chapman: In addition to my radio show, my film is being pitched to different production companies and distributors to actually get it made. I also will appear again on three episodes of UnSung that will air in February for Black History Month. I’m an ambitious guy who is easy to get along with, but I’m not afraid to go above and beyond. I’ve always tried to reach my potential instead of just simply having it. So many people have potential, and they never achieve what they’re capable of doing. I never wanted to be that guy. I never wanted to be a person who could have been. I want to be a person who makes things happen.
Click here to listen to previous “Best of the 90s” shows with Marcus Chapman. Follow Marcus Chapman on all social media channels @Mcmarcuschapman or on YouTube at http://YouTube.com/mcmarcuschapman.
Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living in Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSandersOfficial.