We might be a little biased, but we have an AMAZING crew here at KFI. They are the hardest working people in radio.
From those you hear on-air regularly to those behind the scenes, there's a lot of moving parts to what makes up the ultimate final on-air product and their work is invaluable. Without them, KFI wouldn't be KFI!
So each month, we present one of these amazing and dedicated employees with the KFI Employee of The Month honor to recognize them and to give you a little more insight into those that bring you the KFI you love each day, and the best part is that these winners are chosen by their peers!
Each Employee of the Month receives a few fun prizes, a certificate, an official award, will be featured in an on-air promo and their name will be enshrined on a perpetual plaque that will be located in our building.
So, we'd like to introduce you to KFI's Employee of the Month for September....Mo Kelly!
Mo Kelly joined the KFI team in 2011 as a producer, but it was really easy to see that he was clearly destined for more and soon went from producing to hosting his own weekend show and regularly filling in for weekday hosts. When Mo gets a call to fill in, regardless of what day or time, he's the first to jump at the chance, and easily fits in with any crew. It would be very hard to find anyone who doesn't like working with Mo, because he makes the experience fun.
He has interviewed hundreds of people over the years, from politicians to newsmakers, to celebrities and musicians and his show won prestigious Southern California Journalism Awards in 2016 and 2018 and a National Entertainment and Arts Journalism award in 2018. This year, the Southern California Journalism Awards announced that Mo's show has been honored as a finalist in five categories including "Radio Journalist of the Year."
In addition to his award-winning work at KFI, Mo is a frequent commentator for BBC Radio, has a daily iHeartMedia and Black Information Network syndicated radio commentary feature called "Mo' Kelly's 2-Minute Warning' and has been featured as an analyst on dozens of local and national news shows specializing in politics and current affairs. His work has also been featured in countless online and print outlets like The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Atlanta Post, and the Los Angeles Sentinel.
Mo is a graduate of Georgetown University and is a 4th-degree black belt in the Korean martial art of Hapkido. He and his lovely wife love to travel and spend time with their family and two dogs, Benson and Riley. He spends some of his free time as an instructor in Hapkido but also serves as a referee for youth sports and has mentored countless students starting their careers in the news, music, and entertainment industry.
Here's what some of Mo's co-workers had to say about him:
"Mo is an all-around team player."
"He works so hard and he's f**king awesome."
"Whenever we need someone to fill in as a producer or as a host, Mo is the first one to jump in without question. He can host, he can produce, he can do sports, he can sing, dance....what CAN'T Mo do?!"
"One of the kindest, most professional people you will ever meet."
"Mo is an amazing wealth of information and experience...and on top of that, he's a total nerd when it comes to comics!"
"Smart, honest, kind, professional and can kick ass if he needs to...kind of like Denzel Washington in The Equalizer."
Learn a little more about Mo below!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a little unincorporated section of Los Angeles called Harbor City, CA. Didn’t have a harbor and wasn’t much of a city, but it was home. It is nestled between Carson and Torrance and arguably best known for birthing me and Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino is older than me, but I’m better looking and I’m pretty sure a better person. That’s the story I’m going with.
How long have you worked in radio?
Since 2002. First job was with now Radio Hall of Famer and sports radio legend Jim Rome. I was a devout listener to the show back in the mid 90s and would send in bits to Jim (BY FAX). He liked them enough that one day he reached out and offered me a job as his website producer and associate show producer. And from there, I was on my way in the world of radio. Next went to Ryan Seacrest, Tavis Smiley...then KFIAM640. In fact I think I’m most proud of the moment when Jim shouted me out and saluted how far I had come on both his radio and TV show. It’s pinned to my twitter profile. Will always appreciate what he taught me, both explicitly and implicitly.
What made you decide on a career in radio?
Jim Rome offered me a job and I could tell that the music industry was consolidating due to the onset of the digital age. It was the perfect lifeline. Napster was killing the industry and iTunes had just debuted in 2001. It was the beginning of the end for album sales as we knew them; which financially cratered the industry. No longer did people need to pay $20 for a whole CD with only 1 or two songs they liked. They could just download the song for 99 cents and cut out the middle people.
What do you like most about your job?
I have the best job in the world. My job is to be interesting and enthusiastic...in a nutshell. I have had sh!t jobs, the worst. I’ve worked for some absolutely contemptible people you wouldn’t dare speak at their funeral, out of fear of feeling compelled to tell the truth before God. I like being able to explore the depths of my creativity and the height of my ability. I get to leave it all on the table and if I should die tomorrow or 8 decades from now...I’m positive I wasted no opportunities in radio. I thank KFI dearly for that. Money has never been a chief motivator. I’m very frugal and virtually no vices. My money goes pretty far. I don’t need praise or awards. EoTM is great, don’t get me wrong. But I measure myself against me. I need to be good with myself with no regrets or wasted opportunities when I’m done overall. There are a thousand broadcasters more naturally talented than me...even better than me. I have no problem saying or admitting that. I just don’t believe I’ve met anyone who can outwork me. I’ll close the gap from there.
Any pet peeves?
Too many to mention, but poor spelling is near the top. We live in a text world and nobody under the age of 30 should have any excuse because they weren’t raised in the handwriting/cursive/pre-digital era. Take pride in your birth language. Spelling is a form of personal presentation; almost hygienic in nature. It’s like how you enter the room, whether your clothes are ironed and fit appropriately. People notice. It says a lot about who you are. Yes, I’m judgmental. Because we use it every single day in this online society. Everyone gets enough practice (more than 12 years of schooling) and everyone has spell check on their devices. You just have to care. We all make mistakes, but caring is about wanting to avoid them. We have a saying at my dojang (martial arts studio). “You can’t teach pride.”
Hapkido, Korean martial art of self-defense. It has been the best decision of my life and nothing else comes close. Well, maybe karaoke. But as for Hapkido, It teaches you about respect, struggle, confidence, failure, and managing one’s emotions. And yes, self-defense. All of our would-be Black belts are expected to attend some form of college or professional school in life, regardless of age. It is a well-rounded martial art which is also focused on developing well-rounded people.
We must also learn Korean history and culture. The martial art itself is compulsory for all South Korean military, police, presidential secret service and civilian forces; meaning it is practical and lethal. Right now we have a number of LASD and LAPD officers, detectives and sergeants at our studio (I’m senior student in the studio under our master instructor) so I take great pride and care in representing the art. I know LEOs use what we teach in their daily work. So it’s important.
In 2022, I plan to make my pilgrimage to South Korea to work and train with their military. Martial arts is “you against you.” You are only as proficient as you push yourself to be. I hope to practice for the rest of my life. Come see us at Song’s Hapkido West L.A. in Culver City.
Favorite food / drink?
Pizza, french toast and a good risotto. Definitely not in the same meal though. Favorite cuisine would be Mexican. Drink? I don’t think I have one as I pretty much only drink water with meals and cut back on the liquor.
What does the perfect 'day off' for you consist of?
Not getting up early. Not being on a schedule. Somewhere in a different hemisphere, hopefully on a cruise. I guess my wife could be there too. (Smile). Barcelona, Spain is probably my favorite place on Earth. If I were ever to become an expat, that’s where you’d find me.
What's the one thing that people don't know about you?
I hold every single grudge...forever. Every person who told me “no,” or girl/woman who turned me down in life, always motivation to later prove people wrong. I used to save every job rejection letter I got and pinned them to my wall as constant reminders. It’s okay to fail, but not okay to quit. The reason I’m an on-air personality today is because my previous boss Tavis Smiley said to my face I wasn’t good enough to either be an executive producer or an on-air personality. Either/or/both. I had given him a mock show of basically what The Mo’Kelly Show sounds like today. He didn’t even listen to it. This middle finger is for...never mind. You get the point.
Any advice for anyone just starting in the radio business?
Yes. It’s very simple.
- Be humbleThere’s always more to learn or skill(s) to improve.
- Be hungry.Closes the gap each and every time.
- Be a student of your craft.For when opportunity knocks, you’re ready to answer.
(Hint: it’s the same advice for martial arts and thus life.)