As we come close to the kick off of our new Thursday night party in Boston “Key’s Open Doors”(July 30th), I decided to chop it up with this months guest, DJ Riz(1/2 of the Crooklyn Clan). First for those that dont know, let me break down real quick the purpose of the party. K.O.D = “Keys Open Doors” The party is always invite only, if u were given the tiny envelope which contains the invite(designed by the homie Ryan from Enamel Kingdom) with the gold key & chain attached, that gets you and as many people as you’d like into the party..free..no hassles, no questions…if the door is closed it will be locked..however,that key literally works and will unlock it, and ur all set… if u’d like to be on the guest list u must call 1 617 880 9778..the party is located at 106.5 Bedford Street in Boston(near Downtown Crossing)… the point of this party is,everyone is welcome, just be clear there are no requests.. we don’t care too much if it’s your Birthday and there will be no Lady Gaga in sight… if it sounds like you’d wanna be a part of, again simply call 1 617 880 9778.
So over the weekend I got a chance to talk to Riz real quick and we basically just broke down the different points of his career:
DJ Riz & DJ Red Alert Circa 87
Just to get a few of the basic traditional questions, when did you first start DJing and what type of records made you gravitate towards wanting to be a DJ…was it friends who were Djing? Also what radio shows were you listening to at this time?
DJ Riz: I first started djing in 1985. My friends mom was our tenant in brooklyn bought me my first 3 records for my birthday cause we always exchanged bday gifts. Those 3 records were: “Rock It” – Herbie Hancock, “Live at the Disco Fever” – Lovebug Starski, & “One for the Trebble” – Davey Dmx.There were a few radio stations back then that really inspired me to become a dj. I tried to find all the mixshows on the dial. I used to come home from school and listen to the “Paco Supermix” on 92 ktu around that time. I recorded it everyday. The played megamixes from the latin rascals, the animal, chep nunez and other djs. They played stuff like ‘Planet Rock’, Jive Rhythm Tracks, ‘I’m Ready’, ‘Hip Hop Be Bop’, ‘Get Tough’, ‘Breakdancer’, ‘Remember what you like’, ect…They always did interesting edits and mixes which caught my attention and opened my ears to creativity.I also listened to Red Alert and Chuck Chillout on 98.7 Kiss as well as Tony Humphries and few others on Kiss who played the urban house music which I loved. I listened to 105.9 a lot, they had Bambaata, Mr. Magic, etc…then came the awesome 2, DNA & Hank Love, and others. My favorite show though was “Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack” with DJ Marley Marl on WBLS. I would listen every friday and sat from 9pm-12, religiously. I wouldn’t leave my house till I called up there and got my shout out. After that, I would go hang out and have my walkman or radio with me. If I wasn’t in town or able to listen, I would give my friend cassettes to record the shows for me. Like Rakim once said “I was a fiend”, lol.
I have so many shows(courtesy of Will C) where Mr. Magic pratically shouts you out on every one, referring to you as “white Wiz’, ha, whats the story with that?
DJ Riz: My DJ name was giving to me by a friend “the white wiz dj riz”. I kinda ran with it cause it rhymed with my name and back then, those sorts of titles were in for dj’s. I used to call up the show every week and get my white wiz dj riz shout out. It became so frequent that after a while, they shouted me out automatically on a regular, even if I didn’t call. I remember Mr. Magic, Craig G, Tradegy, and a few others used to answer the phone, I was so amped!
Once you got into DJing a little more heavily were there any ‘mentors’ in particualar you’d look to?.
DJ Riz: There was a kid in my neighborhood named frank who was a local dj. I used to go by his house and watch him, he actually showed me how to dj. I always mention him in every interview I ever did. Thanks frank! Brooklyn had a bunch of dope dj’s. In the late 80’s I hooked up with the likes of DJ Majesty (Da King & I, also in the battle scene in the Juice movie), Daddy Rich (3rd bass), Clark Kent, DJ Dice (Das Efx). We all lived like 10 minutes from each other and would have practice sessions on a daily basis. I always surrounded myself with different types of dj’s so it could help me become well rounded. Battle, club, scratchin, mixing, whatever it was. That was important to me. Another important thing back then was building your record collection. I started by goin to all the dope record stores in the city. Vinylmania, downtown, music factory. Beat Street, Rock&Soul, etc..
Oh man, record shopping must have been insane at that time, especially in New York..
I would buy a lot of local djs collections who stopped spinning. I would also go up to kiss fm cause my friend owned a croissant shop right downstairs from them. He would take me up there and I would meet red alert and others. I always left with a crate of records that they were gettin rid of. Years later, after getting on radio and doing clubs, I was on every record labels list and would get all the new stuff sent to me daily. We still would go shopping for records we needed, house, reggae, etc. I also became and avid 12″ record collector. I would hit record conventions, hole in the wall mom and pops stores, liquidation places all over the world with a few other vinyl junkies (Sting International, Sean C, Dj Spinna, Dj Premier, A-Vee). Those truley we’re the good old days, I would never give up that era for ANYTHING and glad I came up as a dj during that time.
Let’s talk about Radio for a second,you first got on the Radio around 1990 on Hofstra Radio(88.7)…give a little history on how you went from there to “The Hip Hop Spot” to “New York Live” to “The Halftime Show” to KTU. And I gotta mention “The Halftime Show” was such an essential part of the whole mid 90’s Indy Rap scene(and most definatly still holding it down today), you guys would have everyone from Redman and Method Man all the way to Natural Elements and Mr Voodoo, it was really a special time.
DJ Riz: My first radio show was in 1990 with Jeff Foss when I was going to college at Hofstra University. He had the “p5” show which was legendary because it was the home to local artists like Public Enemy, Original Concept, Leaders of the New School and a few others. Ez G Rockwell (Original Concept) and Johnny Juice were the regular djs. They were dope. I kept givin Jeff my mixtapes hopin to get on someday. he called me one night to fill in and I became a regular in the rotation. A few years later, after I graduated school I went to another legendary show “the hip hop spot” with Wildman Steve. Ed lover & Dr. Dre (Yo!Mtv Raps), Chuck D. (Public Enemy) as well as Bill Stepheny(Def Jam/Stepsun) used to do the show before steve. After the station was sold, I joined Mayhem and Martin Moor on WNYU for a few years on the “New York Live” show, which later became “The Halftime Show” when Mayhem and Martin left, and became myself, DJ Eclipse (Fat Beats, Non Phixion) and Lynn Gonzales. Eclipse still does the show till this day! The underground radio era in the early-late 90’s was incredible. We were getting major label groups & artists always coming up to the shows. The records that were being made in that era were consistently good. Independent records and labels were at there peak. There were many outlets like our show, Stretch and Bob, Underground Railroad, Fat Beats, so many showcases, open mics(Nu Yorican), battles, etc…I feel honored to have been part of (imo) the greatest era of Hip Hop, period! Around 2001, I was winding down my college radio days and actually started doing a mixshow on commercial station WKTU. Thus station was a top 40 station which played barely any hip hop. My friend DJ Moody brought me up to DJ Skribbles show on KTU which was all dance music. I did a live set on his show with vinyl, burning thru 80’s, 90’s and some commercial hip hop. After that, they wanted me to do mixes for the station, which u could say was like an open format mix, throwing in different genres of music. This was before serato, mahups, etc…were really the norm.They wanted to add some dj’s to, so I told them I wanna put my partner Siz down and we eventually had a 1 hour Crooklyn Clan show for 4 or 5 years, then changes at the station made for an end to our show as well as many others. In all my years of radio, we always tried to mix up genres and make it interesting.
DJ Riz w/Wildman Steve, Cipha Sounds & Mobb Deep
So you DJ’d for MC Serch(along with DJ Eclipse)when he went solo,this was what around 1992? Was he the first MC you had DJ’d for , or were there any local groups you were a part of before that?
DJ Riz: Yea, I had met Eclipse through Serch and we both became Serchs show DJs. DJ Daddy Rich put in a good word for me. I djd a few shows with Mad Skillz, O.C. and Missing Linx, but Serch was all the time. I didn’t really take on more offers because I liked spinning in the clubs. That’s what I wanted to do at the time, especially being on radio.
And I think it was around this time you started releasing your own Party Breaks. Now before Crooklyn Clan you had a few released under the name ‘Brooklyn Slum Lordz’ that came out on Nervous(93/94)…that was you and DJ Scribble and Eclipse.I wanna say I had another 12″ by you guys that had Firstborn(YBT) on the production credits…am I right?
DJ Riz: Yea, the first record was Skribble, First Born(both members of Young Black Teenagers) and myself . We were called “The Brooklyn Slumlords”(laughs). The 2nd record was Skribble, DJ Eclipse and me. After that, we did “Brooklyn Slumlords presents Crooklyn Clan” that was the beginning of me and Sizzahandz.
Where/when did you hook up with Sizzahandz?
DJ Riz: Sizzhandz & I lived in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn. Its funny cause we never hung out together but we did have djing & music in common. I forgot how we linked up to put out our first record, but I think it came out on Strapped (Nervous) around 1994. We then were thinking “let’s try and approach AV8 records”. At that time, they were putting out most of those party breaks. Armand Van Helden put out the first ones on that label and we would always hear them on the radio, they we’re dope.We then got in contact with a producer named Manny Napuri who was from “the Nubian Crackers”. They used to put out some good shit on the label Slammin Records. He hooked us up with Marc Petricone who was the owner of AV8. We used to meet up in queens at Mannys studio and let them hear what we were doing. We then put out our first record on AV8 which was “Coffee Breaks”. (1994/95).
That’s the record with the now infamous DJ Kool sample “is New York in the house, say what now…” over the Total/B.I.G beat…I think no matter what City you were from, you were rocking that, I remember when Justin Hoffman was DJing in Boston in the early 90’s he was always playing that record and people would go nuts, even though it was blatanly asking if ‘New York’ was in the house,haha…so was this around the time you hooked up with Funkmaster Flex and the Flip Squad?
DJ Riz: Haha, shout out to Justin Hoffman! Yeah,at that time, I got down the “Flip Squad” which was run by Funkmaster Flex. Some of the “Original Members” consisted of Flex, Biz Markie, DJ Enuff, Big Kap, Frankie Cutless, and a few others. We had radio djs, club djs playin all the joints so it created a nice buzz. We had the NY radio/club scene on lock so we dictated a lot of music at that time.
There was also a Flip Squad album in 1998, that featured a much different line up, Mark Ronson,Doo Wop and Cipha Sounds etc were now added, I remember getting the record thru MCA, it sorta came and went, and then The Big Dawg Pitbulls started…
DJ Riz: I’m not sure if that flip squad album ever came out commercially, it might have just been only a promo, but at that time, yeah, the Flip Squad broke apart right when the album was supposed to come out.
So…what’s the story behind Fatman Scoop? I don’t think he needs any introduction, if anyone has ever stepped into a night club you’ve heard his voice…give a little history on how you guys all hooked up..I know he worked promo for Tommy Boy in the early 90’s(also appearing in many of their adds in the back of the Source 93-95),(little known fact alert: Fatman Scoop made a cameo on Diamond D’s Stunts Blunts & Hip Hop on one of the interludes, not yelling, just background chatter, he’s not credited,but mentioned it while on the air on Hot 97 in the late 90’s)
DJ Riz: I actually knew Scoop when I as on radio,yeah he was workin at Tommy Boy at the time so we were in contact talking about Tommy Boy Records. Scoop told me he asked Flex “who made the Benjaminz Party Break” Flex said “Riz”. So Scoop hit me up and asked, I said me and my partner Sizzahandz made it. He was then interested in doing a party record with us, he was an emcee as well back in the day. The first record we made together was “Hands Up” where we used Busta’s “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See”. Scoop had a very commanding voice and we were excited that we had someone to say what we wanted to use(instead of sampling). Scoop would send us his ideas and we would tell him as well, what we wanted him to say. He sent us the vocals and me and Siz put the record together. That was the start of “the voice of the clubs” in this new era of party breaks. We then went on to record the platinum single “Be Faithful”, which I can’t believe till this day, still gets a reaction like its a new record. Big Kap also had a dope party voice and did a few records as well as one together with scoop which we didn’t produce,around late 97/98.
Around this time you started doing some work for Dante Ross’ Stimulated Label(through Loud)you had that DJ track on the Stimulated Volume 1 Compilation, but it’s the now classic Live From Brooklyn that really was the stellar release from that period…how did that all come about?
DJ Riz: my good friend DJ Emz worked for Dante Ross at stimulated and would always get me to do stuff on the label. I did a scratch track for all the artists that were featured on the Stimulated album as well as “Live from BK” Volume 1, which I think was done on vinyl only around 1997. Emz gave me the idea to do the “Live from BK” (thanks Emz).I recorded that from Sean C. (Vinyl Reanimators-lol) spot in Brooklyn on his A-Dat machine. Some parts were done live, and others obviously tracked. Sean’s cat “Ms. Puskins”, who amazingly is still alive today sat on the couch the whole time I was working on the mix, so we gave her engineering credits, cause Sean sure as hell wasn’t there most of the time. When he was, he was trying to re-live his old radio days and start mixing and scratching(laughs).
Is there anything in particular you look for in new records?…And what are your thoughts on Serato & DJing in general today,with it becoming so easy for anyone to get their hands on the tracks needed and build up a library overnight…
DJ Riz: Honestly, I play mostly commercial parties cause I travel a lot so I just make sure I have the new popular joints. I like to make my own edits, dj tools of certain songs so I can play them. That’s the good thing about Serato, which I’ve been using for around 5 years now and is a dope program. Emz was actually the first person I saw using it, he showed it to me and I was very impressed, at that point, I knew the dj game was gonna change in a major way.It’s a double edge sword because u can do so much with it, have unlimited music, not have to lug crates around anymore, but now the playing field is wide open. Every dj has access to music, mixes, etc…u can find ANYTHING on the Internet.It helped make people who were never djs, working djs. I’m def all for upcoming djs continuing the tradition, but at least do your homework musically, learn the older music, practice your skills, don’t copy other djs mixes. There’s enough ways to be yourself as a dj. When its 11pm, your the opening dj and the club has 50-100 people, don’t play all the hits cause u think that’s what u have to do to rock the party, there’s tons of good stuff to play to gradually maintain the dance floor until the club gets more crowded. You will have your times to play the main part of the night, until then play your role like ALL of us did at one time.
Finally, I am always curious about other DJ’s, but any favorite joints you love playing, and or just enjoy hearing when your out?
DJ Riz: Haha, as u well kno, being a dj yourself, we can write a scroll of all time favorite records we love or like to play. When I’m doin the dope Old School only real music lovin parties like the infamous APT with DJ Premier, DJ Eclipse, Stretch Armstrong, or Tony Touch Tuesdays at Sutra, we can play what we love.Songs like Kraftwerk “Numbers”, Malcolm Mclaren world famous, Nas “Represent”, the O’Jays “I Love Music”, Underground Solution “Luv Dancin'”, Old School Reggae etc…man there’s wayyyy to many to mention. I just shout out the dope parties that go on in nyc still that play great music (Santos with Q-Tip, Rich Medina, APT with DJ Spinna & Bobbito, Beatminerz, Eli Escobar and Cosmo Baker with the bang party, the Rub with Ayres, Dj Eleven, Cosmo and the rest of the crew, DJ Soul with his 90s parties).
DJ AM, DJ Riz & Stretch Armstrong @ APT, Like They Used to Say 1 Year Anniversary Party
as an Added Bonus here is DJ Riz’s Megamix he made for Tim Westwood circa 1994, it is hands down my favorite mix ever done…real talk..