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Mashing Things Up w/ DJ Riz
Monday, October 13, 2008

With nearly 20 years of experience, including both touring internationally and spinning for the NFL, DJ Riz has a plethora of knowledge and insight when it comes to the world of DJing. The former Hofstra University football player who once shared a field with former New York Jet Wayne Chrebet put out his first album on Nervous Records as a part of the group Brooklyn Slumlordz, which also included DJ Skribble, DJ Eclipse and Firstborn. In the mid-90’s Riz teamed with another longtime friend, DJ Sizzahandz, and created Crooklyn Clan. The duo has a fairly large claim to fame; they’re two of the forefathers of the mashup. This week Riz sat down with me to talk about mashups, how the club scene has changed in America over the years, and what made his first radio show such a memorable one.

Adam Bernard: I hear we have something in common; we both spent a lot of time in Dempster Hall at Hofstra University. You had your first radio show there, correct?
DJ Riz: Yeah, I was at WRHU. My first radio show was 1990 and they have such a good history of hip-hop, the guy that programmed the show was Jeff Foss and he had this show called P5 and when you’re a real hip-hop head from back in the day you get to know where the good hip-hop stations are and who’s got the good shows and he definitely had one of the best shows. Dr. Dre before he was with Ed Lover, that whole crew over there from Long Island, from Public Enemy to Leaders of the New School, that was their home grounds. The first radio show I did was actually after one of my football games. It was on a Saturday night. The Leaders had their first single, I think it was “Case of the PTA,” and they actually stopped by the show and were like, “Yo we want to shout out Marley Marl, BLS, Red Alert, they played our record tonight.” They were all happy and shit and they just came back here because that was like their home, they used to come all the time, so my first radio show ever DJing on radio was the night when Charlie Brown, Busta and all of them were in there, so it was kind of a legendary moment for me being that it was my first show. I gotta dig that cassette up because I got it somewhere.

AB: It’s great that you taped that.
R: Yeah, I wouldn’t miss that shit for anything. From that station to the two stations I was at afterwards at Adelphi and NYU I’ve seen everybody come through, from Eminem to Jay-Z. I have a lot of good memories. When it comes to radio, college is a big part, that’s where people connect.

AB: Moving from the radio to the clubs, having performed in clubs for nearly 20 years how have you seen the club culture grow and change?
R: It was more about the music in the 90’s, it wasn’t so much about the bottles, the tables, and “look at me I’m cool, I’m drinking a Grey Goose bottle.” It was more about people having a good time. There would be girls everywhere at every club, for every generation there’s gonna be a bunch of hot girls, but I think it’s more like a show now as to where back then it was more about the music and people used to just have a lot more fun, man.

AB: I was about to say, people don’t seem to have as much fun when they go out anymore.
R: Nah, I think it’s almost like you go out, you stand there and you have a drink in your hand and you want to look cool and you think you can have all the girls, but the same thing’s going on at the next table. It’s crazy. It is what it is, I accept it because there’s nothing else you can do, especially if you still want to DJ, you just gotta be like whatever, but it’s definitely changed. I think it’s changed for the worse, maybe better for the clubs because they get that guaranteed bottle money, but the parties are generic to me. You go to the next club and it’s the same shit. That’s why I like traveling. You’re gonna have your bottles and your tables, but it seems like when you’re away everybody is just there to have a good time, it’s not like some profile shit.

AB: And you’ve done some real traveling, playing Ibiza and all sorts of places. Do you have any especially good memories from touring and performing in those spots?
R: Anywhere overseas they’re so into what you’re doing. If you’re a guest DJ it’s gonna be more of an event to them instead of just like a regular club night. There are going to be people there who just sit and watch you. I remember in Japan, you do a little scratching, it doesn’t even have to be like no battle shit or anything, and they start clapping and yelling. If you’re doing something visual for them it’s getting them excited and it makes you feel good.

AB: What do you think are some of the most common misconceptions about DJs and the art of DJing?
R: I think in this digital era it’s kind of wack because somebody’s grandmother can DJ now. If she has all the music she can just get up there and I don’t know if technically she’s gonna be good or not, but there are a lot of people out there that haven’t been doing it for a long time and just think it’s cool and it’s a new way to make money and it’s a new way to be seen in the clubs. I think that misconception is big because you got all these guys like myself and tons of other DJs that have been practicing and grinding and doing radio and doing clubs for years and it’s almost like if this girl has big tits and looks good she’s gonna get a gig and she’s gonna get paid well for it just because it looks good. That whole DJing shit has just changed as well as the club scene, as we were talking about before, you want to be seen so if there’s a fucking hot girl DJing some people might be like, “Wow, she’s dope.” You’re great, you’re playing good music, and she might suck. It’s kind of wack when you’re from the technical side of DJing as to where that is just the gimmick side of DJing.

AB: I saw one really nice looking female DJ a couple years ago who couldn’t blend to save her soul.
R: Yeah, it’s crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I got a bunch of homegirls that I’ve known for years that are really good and even them, they’re pissed because it’s hard enough for a girl to break into that scene and now you got this girl who doesn’t even know how to mix and she’s getting a gig because she’s showing more cleavage. But it is what it is.

AB: Outside of the clubs you have a very unique gig, you DJ for the NFL. What does that entail? Are you there with all the cheerleaders and everything?
R: Another Hofstra graduate has been working for the NFL for years and I was real close with her, she kind of ties me in to all this stuff. I actually started doing it with Skribble because he was doing it before when he was doing his MTV gigs and stuff and being that I have the connection there and we’re both sports heads he kind of took me along and I did some of the parties with him. Eventually I just wound up doing it by myself. Every year they have this kickoff party, this year it’s going to be in Columbus Circle because the Giants won so it’s in New York. Last year it was in Indianapolis because the Colts won. That was crazy, I walked out and all I was doing was playing music. They had big performers, they had Kelly Clarkson, Faith Hill, really big artists people are waiting to see. I’m just like the warm up guy, but to me that shit is incredible because I’m such a football freak. It’s like a dream come true. I get to meet all these old school players, some of the new ones. I get to go to all the Super Bowls. I went to the last seven, as long as I’ve been doing this. Whatever they have for me to do, whether it’s in front of all these people getting together with the artists, or doing a corporate party for the commissioner, or something like that, whatever it is I’m gonna do it.

AB: I checked out your website, crooklynclan.net. Tell me a little bit about it.
R: We’ve taken what we’ve done Crooklyn Clan-wise over the years and we kind of got a jump on the whole mash up era before it really really really got commercial. It’s almost like a DJ service. The tracks are for sale, of course, but for us we try to make it to where it’s a DJ service for DJs only, and these things go like hotcakes sometimes. There are so many DJs all over the world and look at it like “I like this, I want to drop it in my set.” It’s almost like an online record shop. Back in the days me and DJ Premier and Kenny Dope of Masters at Work used to go record digging for days in different states, getting dirty, and this is almost the same thing. Kids will sit behind their computers and just like browse for hours until they find what they want.

AB: I notice you also require that DJs have paid for the original, as well.
R: Yeah. We try to make it as safe as possible, but this thing is such a gray area, this mash up shit, it’s kind of like we’re helping the artists in a way. Some people have never heard of Joan Jett. Some people have never heard of Billy Joel, these young kids, but to hear Billy Joel in the club over some drum beats by Timbaland or something like that, it kind of adds longevity and it kind of opens up a new fan base to these people that they never would have had. I’m not sure Billy Joel would say I like my vocals on this, but I think Billy Joel is too big and too busy to be worried about that, it’s probably just the people who work for him, the publishing people. I think it’s so out of hand they probably don’t even care anymore. There really is no law for this stuff. We’re gonna go and do it until we can’t do it no more. We were one of the forefathers of all this why not just keep going?

Check out DJ Riz at crooklynclan.net and myspace.com/djriznyc

Story originally ran on beyondrace.com


posted by Adam Bernard @ 8:37 AM  
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