The Slow Redemption of DJ Disco Wiz

Hip-hop's first prominent Latino DJ offers a grisly but triumphant memoir

Then, 12 years ago, with Kiss FM blaring in the background, Wiz heard the voice of his old partner Caz, on air as part of a Cold Crush Brothers tribute. Making his way to the station, he passed along a piece of paper with his DJ name on it until it got to Caz—a coy move that sparked a reunion and caused Wiz to once again swoon under the gaze of his old muse. "I started to get more involved with hip-hop as a form of channeling out my creative juices," he says with a redemptive symmetry.

With the music back as a familiar factor in Wiz's life, the decision to pen his thoughts was, he says, "a whole different ball game!" An intention to write a book focused on hip-hop's aesthetics morphed into something altogether more frank: An early scene in It's Just Begun recounts Wiz's first time stabbing someone in cold, grisly detail, which sets the tome apart from the glossy vacuity of most musical self-profiles. "I wasn't ready to talk about my life at first," he explains. "My life is complex and so obscure, but once I started doing it, it was very therapeutic. It opened up chapters of my life not opened up for decades."

Now, 35 years on from stumbling into hip-hop at a PAL gymnasium, "I feel like I've managed to become relevant again," he explains. His name may not be writ large on an old-school record cover, but with a Friday-night show on Urban Latino Radio (spinning vintage rap tunes); spots bringing his aggressive DJ style and penchant for furious, up-tempo breakbeats to grassroots hip-hop activists Tools of War's "Turntablist Sessions"; and as creator of the Hip-Hop Meets Spoken Wordz fundraiser, which has brought together the Cold Crush Brothers with new-generation fire-starter Immortal Technique and Def Poetry Jam poetess La Bruja to perform in aid for the homeless, Wiz is back as a cog in the hip-hop machine.

"There's even talk about the book becoming a movie," he concludes. "So I'm testament to the positive things that hip-hop can do to a life."

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