Conversations With Chad: DJ Pizo Details Early Dangerous Crew, Working With Too Short, Tony! Toni! Toné!, Spice 1 + More

During an exclusive interview for DubCNN, Chad Kiser recently spoke to “The Beat Fixer,” DJ Pizo. In Part 1 with DJ Pizo we talk about him being one of the first DJ’s on the west coast, hooking up with Too Short, how the Dangerous Crew was formed, finding out his involvement on a host of releases, and even how he got down with Tony Toni Tone.

Pizo, what’s up man? How you doing?

Just the same old shit man. Trying to get this Spice CD finished for my dude out in Australia. Just doing some mixes and shit.

Oh, alright. Well, you ready to do this?

Let’s do it!

Well, I guess we’ll start off with this then. How did you get started doing what you’re doing? How did you become DJ Pizo?

One day my cousin from New York came at me, like in the early 80’s, and was telling me that niggas out there was spinning records. You know, two turntables and a mixer, and scratching records. I was like “scratching records? For real? They really do that?”. And he was like “Yeah!”. So I was at my aunt & uncle’s house where they had the old school turntable with the arm, and I got on there and started scratching up Richard Pryor records, Aretha Franklin or whatever I could when they was at work.

Shit, from that point on, I graduated outta high school, and I had been working so I saved up and bought me some 1200’s. My boy Charlie set it up. I got me some 1200’s and it was a rap after that. Cuz I was so ahead of my time DJ-ing cuz wasn’t too many people doing it at that time. There may have been 3 or 4 DJ’s in the whole entire Bay Area. So that was a long time ago.

Who did you first start Djing for as far as shows and whatnot?

The first actual dude I DJ’d for was this guy from my neighborhood called Little G. We did a song on him called “Little G’s Coming Up” at this studio in Berkley, California. The engineer, is actually the lead singer of the Counting Crows right now. I ran in him to not too long ago, and he remembered me from that session. But Little G is the first person I can say that I actually DJ’d for. He was small time, you know, $hort was small at that time. $hort was on 75 Girls Records, so he wasn’t running around with no money in his pocket.

So, how did you hook up with $hort?

There was this chick named Tonya, and there was this dude named Hollywood. And Tonya was on Hollywood’s album cover. Hollywood was on 75 Girls Records. He was before $hort. And he introduced me to $hort years before $hort blew up. And we had kinda seen $hort around the way in passing and stuff like that. I was calling Hammer, cuz he had just really started getting some notoriety. I was telling him that I would DJ for him, cuz I was working at Davey Tree trimming trees and shit! And he said he already had 2 DJ’s but that he was doing an autograph signing up at Leopold’s and Too $hort’s supposed to be there so come up there. So I went up there and asked $hort to sign an autograph for my friend, and my friend told $hort that I DJ, and he auditioned me and the next week I was in Nashville, TN! Djing for Too $hort!

Chad Kiser: Damn!

It seems that it happened that quick, but see I had seen $hort in passing for like 4 or 5 years. We went to the same parties and some things like that, there was a couple girls that we knew mutually, and whatever. When that Life is…Too $hort thing came out and thing hit platinum it was a wrap! His career had took off at that point.

Now when did you actually come on the scene, Born To Mack?
I actually came in and scratched on “Mack Attack” off the Born to Mack album. I got fired, and that’s when he did Life is…Too $hort. Cuz I didn’t do nothing on that album. Nothing. $hortdog’s In The House is where it all really began as far as mainstream. Cuz at the time that Life Is.. was out, this is the time that Tony Toni Tone was fixing to release “The Revival”. $hort had fired me, but I kept recording. And then Blind Joe, rest his soul, he used to let everybody, and I mean everybody, Shorty B know him and whoever from the old school know who Blind Joe was. The dude was blind, but he had a studio, a little hole in the wall studio, but everybody who was anybody came out to the Bay went through Blind Joe’s spot. And I just kept recording and shit, and then the Tony’s was going through there, D’Wayne and Raphael, and I hooked up with them.

They heard the record, “play this record as frequently as possible, then as it becomes needed play this record once a day as needed..”. I had that at the beginning of a scratch tape, and I did it Joe’s and I let them hear it. D’Wayne lost his mind and said he had to have that on his record. And it’s called “Feels Good”. I listened to it and told him that it didn’t sound like it really needed anything else, but they wanted me to put the DJ edge on there and make it sound like it’s remixed already. That’s how they wanted to release it. And nobody had ever really done anything like that. So while $hort was over there doing his thing, I was over here with the Tony’s fixing to do one of the bigger songs that had ever come out of the Bay!

When “Feels Good” came out, it was a wrap after that! $hort started calling me. He seen me and D’Wayne at a concert in Oakland at the Coliseum. He came up and asked me what’s up and I told him I was fucking with these niggaz, and he saying he was working on his new album, and he needed some help. I told him to call me on Monday and let’s do this. He called me on Monday, came and picked me up and we went up to Al Eaton’s and when we walked in the studio I said, “Ok, our job is to fade to platinum.” And that’s where he got that saying from. “I’m trying to fade to platinum, like on Shorty the Pimp..” that’s where he got that saying from. Every time we go into the studio I always say that. No matter whatever your last album did, we have to fade to platinum. Otherwise it’s over.

So he fires you after Born To Mack, and then wants your help on Shortdog’s In The House? What were contributions to that album?

Basically, what he’ll say I was was an over-the-shoulder producer. That’s what he’ll say cuz niggaz wasn’t really sampling the way I was sampling. Even to this day! You might hear something, but I’ll hear something totally different. So you gotta think how early in the game this was, and samplers were very hard to come by. Usually a studio would have it. So this damn near pre-CD! At that time, CD’s were expensive. CD players were expensive. It would cost you $150 dollars for them to burn you a CD after your mastering session. That’s how early in the game it was. But on Shortdog’s In The House I did Short But Funky, Rap Like Me and basically the whole album.

I was in there for the whole album so you can hear traces of me over the whole entire album. But I only got credit for Shortdog’s In The House and Rap Like Me. That was it. It was a work-for-hire deal. I didn’t know what kind of contract I was signing, or else I’d still be getting royalties off of Short But Funky to this day! They play that motherfucker everyday! And I ain’t seeing nothing on that! Nothing on none of that shit.

Tell me a little bit about yours and Spice-1’s history together…

Spice was a just a nigga from the condos, the place we call the condos out here in Hayward, CA. He just was a young nigga. He was on one side, and we was on the other side. It wasn’t no funk like that, but that’s just how it was, he was from over there, and we was from over here. And then I moved out cuz I had graduated from high school. I’m over in the condos, and Spice lived in the condos. Me and Chaz Hayes was doing parties. This was about ’84-’85 I’ma say. And at this time, Spice would come over hella late. He was a little bad-ass kid!

My dude Daryl Lockhart had a girlfriend who lived next door to Spice. So he kept telling me that Chico could rap. I was like, well he ain’t come holla at me yet, cuz I was into it deep by this time. So me and Daryl would go to work everyday together, and he would keep telling me about Chico. So I finally tell him if he tight have him come holla at me. So late one night, about 2 in the morning on a school night, I hear some rocks hit my window. And this nigga like, “man, let me come up rap!” I let him come up, we smoke some weed, and then that nigga got down!

The first rap he ever did was called The Alphabet Rap. He was like 14-15 years old. He went through the whole alphabet. Hit every letter. And was talking about something! So from that point I just kinda took him up under my wing cuz he was good and he was doing a little Tascam244 shit, 4-track shit. He got so good that I told $hort about him. $hort told me to bring him to the studio. So I brought Spice to the studio, and $hort said that if Spice can do something to this dude over here, then we gonna let him do something.

The dude he was talking about was Richie Rich. And Richie Rich let Spice-1 have it! He got him bad! But what it did was make Spice go home and hone his skills even more. Then you gotta look at the two careers. Where Spice went and where Richie Rich went, and not saying anything bad or derogatory about Rich, but with Spice it wasn’t his business but his skills that got him where he’s at. Spice-1’s just like my little brother, man. I been knowing him since he was a kid.

How did the original Dangerous Crew come together?

See, Dangerous Crew was Joe The Boss, Randy Austin, Chris Hicks (who put out the Luniz & Dru Down on C&H Records), Too Clean, Super Side, and DJ Pierre (which is me). And that was the original crew. That was during the Shortdog’s In The House days. Now, just like after that Rappin’ 4-Tay had did a song with $hort that went kinda big, and he just kinda started putting people together, and I told him that I had Spice. And he said to grab him and we’ll put him on there. So that was the Dangerous Crew album, cuz didn’t nobody really rap except for Too $hort until he brought in Spice & 4-Tay. He put it together, but the shit didn’t do nothing. Whether it was mismanaged or maybe it was before its time or whatever, it didn’t do nothing. But $hort put all that together.

So when do Ant Banks and Pooh-Man come into the picture?

At that time, Ant Banks had done Dangerous Dame and all that shit, and he came by one day and he was complain that they wasn’t paying him. I told him to not go to the studio if they ain’t paying you. So at this time I had taken Spice, Mercedes, Little G and a few others and did the first Bay Area compilation called “Dope Like A Pound or A Key.” I’m not seeing any money from the Shortdog’s In The House album that went platinum, and niggas is having much show money, much royalties money and everything else. My pockets is thin as fuck!

I had put this compilation out to kinda get Spice out there some more. And after that had dropped, and that 187 Proof and shit had dropped. What you hear now on there, all that shit is replayed. That’s not the original shit. I got all the original shit. I guess Ant Banks apparently got wind of Spice. Everybody was working out of studios, but I was primarily working out of Live Oaks, with an engineer that I named D-Wiz. The Tony’s originally brought me up to Live Oaks, and then everybody started coming up there when they heard the Tony’s had done work there. I had Spice up there and the next thing I know, Ant Banks and MC Pooh came out with “Fuckin’ Wit Dank.” That’s what blew Ant Banks out the water. Now $hort wants to fuck with him cuz he got the hottest track in the Bay. So he started coming over to the camp and Banks knew how to run the boards and all that shit. I didn’t really know how to do none of that shit. That’s where all that began.

Then Shorty B came into the picture, Sean G, and then Shorty B brought in Pee-Wee, and the crew just kept getting bigger and bigger and kinda pushing me out cuz now I’m having to deal with musician’s. And I’m coming in, and they already got shit made. And I’m like “I got these samples, and drum samples. So if you like it just loop it or whatever.” I come in the next day, and they done took the loop out of there and they done played their own shit over it. Now I’m out the picture cuz I’m getting no royalties, publishing or none of that. No credit or nothing. It is what it is though.

So did that bring you up to the Get In Where You Fit In album?

That album I kinda took personally because it was like I was getting pushed out. You got all these very talented musician’s and stuff, and I was being pushed out. So when it came to that album, I was like just do what you do. I was sitting in the studio watching them make this album, and I was getting paid anyway, so I was letting them do that they do. When we go out on the road, I DJ for this nigga. So I let them do what they was doing.

I was living with Raphael Saadiq at this time in Sacramento, but I would come up and stay all weekend in the studio on Myrtle Street, in West Oakland. Get some samples and shit like that, and bring them up and see if they wan to fuck with them. If not, ok. If you do, then there it is. Money In The Ghetto? That’s me. I brought that to them. You can hear a lot of shit in $hort’s camp that’s DJ-orientated. But it wasn’t…basically, West Coast DJ’s don’t get the props that East Coast DJ’s get…period! And it’s always been like that

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this Exclusive Interview with DJ Pizo on Chad Kiser soon.