So What!, a radio program that attempts to capture the mood of its club-bound cousin, is thriving as well: It runs Friday nights on KUVO-FM/89.3 from midnight to 2 a.m. Hamblin, who co-hosts So What! with current Step On partner/Freestyle magazine editor Shawn White (also known as DJ Style N. Fashion), is no stranger to broadcast mediums: He oversaw the video show Rhythm Visions from 1989 to 1993 and helmed a similar program, Da Hook Up, in 1995. "I brought in atypical elements," he says about his TV time. "Whether it was Portishead, Tricky, Massive Attack or Jamiroquai, those things were finding their way into the mix."
These days, however, Hamblin is concentrating on the clubs. In addition to So What!, his Yardie Lounge, a dancehall-reggae fling that began at Soapy Smith's in 1993, is now niched into the Cosmo Lounge, with DJ Dragon (Lamar Henry) joining him in the spotlight. (Deirdre O'Loughlin, who goes by "Ms. Deirdre," serves as the hostess for both events.) K-NEE also offers up acid jazz two nights a week at Boulder's 'Round Midnight and joins Step On associate Mikim for Worldwide at the Lion's Lair, a space not previously on the dance-music map. In Hamblin's words, Worldwide, which he created with DJ Aztec, a onetime collaborator now living in San Diego, "grew out of the fact that there is still all this music that I don't get to play at my other venues. It's Brazilian music, worldbeat, phat beats from around the globe. It's not about mixing, it's not about having a dance floor. It's a lounge experience.
"Worldwide is also about bringing back the intimate side of the City Spirit residency, which a lot of people miss since we moved to 9th Avenue West," he goes on. "9th Avenue West is a great location, but it's so big that a lot of people can't get into it. The Lion's Lair is a perfect little dive bar that reminds people of the old City Spirit vibe."
With so many projects in so many places, Hamblin is doing what he can to increase the hipness of late-night Denver. But he's frustrated by the pace of progress. "It's sad that most of the clubs in Denver are still owned by businessmen who never truly participated in the club scene," he points out. "I mean, how many disco nights do you need? I know people love it, but at the same time, you can try to move forward on some level. That may change in the future, though, as people who came up through the club and rave scene move into having proper businesses, which is already happening." Hamblin also takes issue with concert firms that are only now opening doors to dance artists. "We still had to wait until the music hit internationally--when this music was on the cover of every magazine in the world--before the local concert promoters finally started thinking it was cool to bring Aphex Twin and the Chemical Brothers to town. But it should have happened five years ago."
On the personal front, Hamblin has no such complaints. He's in charge of a mini-empire, and while it could hardly be more different from the one overseen by his dad, it's flourishing on its own terms. "My father has always been doing interesting stuff, from photography to running his own television station, his own advertising agency, and as a cinematographer," he says. "And for the longest time, I was nervous about living up to his standards--living up to what other people expected from me because I was his son. But at some point I moved beyond that, for the most part.
"We have mutual respect for each other," he insists. "I still don't think he understands or identifies with what I do, but I think he's become respectful of the fact that I've been able to carve out a living doing what I do. And, of course, I haven't gotten myself in any trouble or marred the family name. I've been a bad boy from time to time, but the Denver Police Department won't be ringing my father's phone."
Plenty of others are calling K-NEE: He's in more demand than ever, thanks to a reputation for knowing what the future holds. "It's all about roots, dub, reggae, drum-and-bass, world music and, most importantly, it's about love. Step On Productions is about love, too--the love of the music--and the people can feel that when they come out to the parties. They trust me to take them where they want to go."