HIP HOP HISTORY 101: DJ DISCO WIZ
June 23, 2009
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HIP HOP HISTORY 101: DJ DISCO WIZ

DJ Disco Wiz teams up with author Ivan Sanchez to chronicle his life as one of Hip Hops’ first Latino DJ’s. Ivan Sanchez rises to the occasion seamlessly managing to recount the harrowing experiences of Wiz’s life growing up in the Bronx during one of its most tumultuous times. Thankfully, the evolution of Hip-Hop serves as an escape to the reader, much in the same way it must have been for Wiz growing up amidst the Hip-Hop pioneers of the South Bronx especially, his mentor and friend Grandmaster Caz.

Somehow, through it all, DJ Wiz carved out a niche for himself as one of the first Latino DJs, successfully riding the very beginning of a wave and maintaining a career that remains vibrant to this day. This was evident by all the young Latino rappers who paid homage to him at the recent Powerhouse book party in Dumbo, Brooklyn in June, including such luminaries as Bobbito Garcia, Jeff Chang, Jamel Shabazz, Charlie Ahern and Nile Rogers.

I caught up with “DJ Disco Wiz” afterwards, his palpable energy crackling through the phone lines (digital or wireless!). His passion for his work and his latest book “It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ” is clearly on the forefront of his mind these days, and rightfully so because his journey, a memoir of gripping and raw proportions, is one not soon forgotten by his readers, if ever.

Luis “DJ Disco Wiz” Cedeno is able to give us a unique perspective on the emergence of Hip-Hop in the early 70’s having been placed smack dap in the middle of the all, on 183rd St. in the South Bronx. Back then, when the Bronx was burning, no one would touch that hood for nothin’. However, history has shown us creativity thrives thru the ashes of misery and despair, at least in retrospect. Wiz’s story is one hell of a jagged journey of survival and redemption for a kid who had quite a few odds stacked against him. His love of music, before it even was a genre, quite literally, helped save his life.

Ivan Sanchez, author of “Next Stop: Growing Up Wild Style in the Bronx” and now co-Author of “It’s Just Begun” finds himself in the precarious position of living DJ Disco Wiz’s life, via his heart and soul through this journey of words… not an easy task.

One can literally breathe in the intensity of DJ Disco Wiz’s life as together they chronicle the tumultuous roller coaster ride, ok, forget roller coaster metaphors – try ‘harrowing nightmare’ on for size, of Wiz’s life, creating a picture most of us could not endure, no less eventually thrive in. Wiz most certainly does thrive later on in his life…and he is still only in his forties.

Sanchez’ generosity of spirit as a writer shines through as co-writer of such a deeply personal story that ‘pulls no punches.’ Talking to Sanchez, one quickly gets that this experience took its toll but hey, who says there’s no bleeding in art?

Sanchez calmly reminisces in relation to the “nightmares I had about Wiz’s life” after his taped interviews. Reliving the street violence and prison hell bordering on surreal, Sanchez would sometimes wake up in a cold sweat himself. “I kept having vivid nightmares and certain chapters would have my hands shaking.” Nevertheless, the tone of the book is clear; a simple to the point horror of living a life that is filled from a very early age with family disillusionment, broken dreams and drug abuse, set to the ever-bourgeoning backdrop of Hip-Hop. Or is it the other way around? Hmm. Regardless, it doesn’t get more 70’s than “It’s Just Begun.”

Sanchez talks about Wiz having to make life-altering decisions as a young teen. “If you live in the suburbs, you protect your family, you go home. In the hood, you protect your family, you go to jail.” He sees the book as a “story of survival, how we overcome growing up in the South Bronx in the 70’s.” For Sanchez, the most defining chapter (or lyric: each chapter heading is named after a lyric from the song “It’s Just Begun”) is called “Peace Will Come”, named after an inmate named Peace who spoke the truth to Wiz and literally changed the direction of his life.

Wiz wants everyone who has ever felt defeated to read his book especially the “young me”. “Use my life” as food for thought of what one person can overcome i.e. drugs, prison, domestic violence, guns, addiction, gangs and finally something no one has control over: illness. “Streets are streets, survival is survival, man”, he says. “It’s a generational plaque that’s never ending. We are still fighting the same war in our hood: drugs then, drugs now”. Wiz pays homage to his peers in Hip-Hop, people like Grandmaster Caz who stuck by him through thick and thin. But the harsh truths of spending years in prison costing him similar successes are painfully clear.

Yet Wiz is a stand up guy who is quick to say “I don’t regret anything…I wouldn’t be the person I am today, if I had not gone through what I went through”. His message is simple and timeless: let go of the “phantom ideologies” that will get you killed or locked up for a very long time. The man has walked the walk and intends letting young people read his words; words that jump off the page and reach your soul if you let them.

In the end, Sanchez passion and love for the project boil over, as he exclaims, “It’s a historical moment for Latinos in Hip-Hop – finally, someone getting the credit they deserve”. DJ Disco Wiz’s life story and book is a cautionary tale in which he and Ivan hope to keep today’s youth from going down a path that usually ends one of two ways. But we all know better.

Today, Wiz understands what the “hardcore exterior of keeping it moving” street mentality is all about, something he’s done much of his life. What makes the book so compelling, is how his career as the first ‘Latino DJ of Hip-Hop’ including his contribution of the ‘mixed plate’, move along as a time line with his personal life in a unique way that really could have only happened during this era of the 70’s and 80’s when everything was just evolving organically. “We didn’t call it a jam”. Everything is so packaged now; it takes away what music is all about”. But DJ Wiz is living in the moment, relishing the fact that he is here, now, vibing with young audiences who are obviously feeling him. His recommendation for young people is to “learn about all genres of music”.

DJ Wiz is still spinning and spreading the word of what life is really all about. With “It’s Just Begun”, one nation is indeed under a groove.

Buy It’s Just Begun on Amazon.

Inti

Inti

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