Stezo Used Funk & Fly Dance Moves To Take Rap Music To A New Place (Video)
In 2017 Connecticut’s Hip-Hop scene includes the likes of Apathy, Chris Webby, and Blacastan, among others. These MCs represent different towns in “The Constitution State.” Not far from New York City is the city of New Haven. The home of Yale University and famed “clam pie” pizza made a statement in the Rap music world in 1989. Boston, Philadelphia, Trenton, Newark and other cities along the Interstate 95 were producing important MCs and groups. With an artist named Stezo, it was a turn for New Haven and the state of Connecticut.
True of Redman, Keith Murray, K-Solo, DJ Scratch, Das-EFX, Craig Mack, 8-Off Agallah, and so many others, some of Stezo’s first looks were by way of EPMD. In 1988, he was an energetic force in Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith’s “You Gots To Chill” music video. The MC/producers from across the Long Island Sound were signed to Fresh/Sleeping Bag Records, and that’s exactly the label that took the strongest interest in the self-produced music of Steve Williams.
By 1989, Stezo released Crazy Noise. The album was mixed and engineered by the late Paul C. McKasty, who would be tragically murdered that same year. Like Paul’s celebrated work with Ultramagnetic MC’s, the LP’s mix brings Stezo’s words and music to life, in perfect harmony. Breakout single “It’s My Turn” employed the crisp drum line from Skull Snaps’ “It’s A New Day,” the wavy alarm effect of ESG’s “U.F.O.,” and a few bars of George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” Funk. It was a peppy concoction, and just right for the MC to grab the mic with authority.
The visual features Stezo displaying some of the dance moves that landed him in the public eye, to begin with. This time, he has the dance troop. Shot in Lower Manhattan, the video includes the World Trade Center towers in the background. Before long, the MC is airborne care of a helicopter while Kool DJ Red Alert spins his record back on the ground. The visual is a testament to a happy, colorful period in Hip-Hop where MCs like Slick Rick, Special Ed, and Beastie Boys were having fun with their presentation. As a new artist, Stezo stepped out with something strong.
Crazy Noise hit the R&B/Hip-Hop charts, made did not make a dent compared to the level of those other artists. Sadly, Sleeping Bag/Fresh Records would close their doors within three years, as artists like EPMD and Nice & Smooth’s contracts were picked up elsewhere. Stezo was a casualty of a transition period in Hip-Hop and his imprint. Stezo would work with others, including cousin Dooley-O and Large Professor affiliate Chris Lowe, as well as follow with 1997’s Where’s The Funk At? Sadly, a lot of time seemed to have passed.
“It’s My Turn” is praised for its sample choices. Particularly in the case of the Skull Snaps break, it would appear on later hits by Black Moon, The Pharcyde, Gang Starr, Das-EFX, and Common, among many others. However, the video may be the real enduring charm of Stezo’s debut.
#BonusBeat: Ambrosia For Heads‘ friends at Dope Folks Records have partnered with Stezo to release Stezo’s More Rarities EP. Limited edition vinyl is available, but Heads can stream as much as they wish:
This effort follows up the previously released (and sold out) Unreleased & Rarities compilation.