RIP STEZO, HE DEFINED '89.

Stezo's album "Crazy Noise" left an indelible mark on me, one of those few LPs you could play from beginning to end, and one that fought HARD for spins during the dogfight of hip-hop's most brilliant era. "1989, the number..." think about who said that (Chuck D) and what an impact "Fight The Power" had. Think about Do The Right Thing. Think about greatest duo of all time EPMD's "Unfinished Business." The polarizing Jordan IV...De La's debut...Kool G Rap's debut...the DOC album...the Pete Rose scandal...the dastardly Detroit Pistons making a Boston guy like me actually root for the Lakers. Stezo's "Crazy Noise" dropped the same year (!!!) and still has a hold on me, still locks me into 1989 with the grip and flair of Burton's Batman. I had the Bat symbol shaved into my head, and Stezo's cassette in the walkman. Eventually the ink on that tape faded away, but anyone that "was there" can recall the first time they saw "It's My Turn" on Yo! MTV Raps, and the holy shit moment when you witnessed EPMD's back-up dancer rapping in a helicopter. Anyone buying acid washed, torn-up denim at Chess King or Merry Go Round knew they had the green light because of Stezo's cover. Anyone that cares about the ingredients these days knows that Stezo, Dooley-O, and Chris Lowe found and subsequently immortalized the Skull Snaps drum break for "It's My Turn," a break that lived on to be the rock-solid backbone of 90's hip-hop (rest in peace engineer Paul C, who let the drums breathe in the intro). Stezo embodied hip-hop...all the elements, and from what I understand, rapping was the last of the four he made his own...the voice, the effortless flow...what an era. I challenge you to put on "Gets Into His Move" right now (it's on Spotify, and there's a real loud one on Youtube) and not make that face everyone loves to associate with filter-free funk. I had it on at the gym in January (remember the gym?), and I probably looked like an over-caffeinated psychopath pacing back and forth like a caged tiger as it rocked. "Check 1, 2 and you don't quit...my name is Stezo, and I'm the ultimate..." and then you have his actual DJ Jim Slice chiming in with his vocals for a bar "yo they on the TIP." Magic. An era where you had an actual bond with your DJ, before you could just send a file 500 miles away to some guy you met on rap Tinder asking him to scratch on your song. For all of the fanfare "It's My Turn" received, the title cut "Crazy Noise" to me, was just as dope, pairing another unflipped drum break (Rock Dirge) with Stezo's laid back flow, even drifting into Kool Keith territory lyrically on the third verse ("smartness, after smartness, after smartness"). When I slipped into downtown Boston to buy "Crazy Noise," I knew Stezo as EPMD's dancer, the New Haven b-boy who invented the "Steve Martin" dance and featured in their seminal "You Gots to Chill" video, and that right there made him cool as hell, someone I'd probably follow to the end of the earth in 1989 (ha). His album, "his turn," if you will, confirmed that. Rest in Peace Stezo, perhaps the only person besides the enigmatic Jane to have EPMD make an entire song about them. "Sick 'em champ." RIP STEZO.

- Eso

1989 EPMD stezo

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