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Dubya’s PRIME Cuts Will Hurt Nabe, Says Hillary DJ Riz: From Canarsie QB to Globetrotting Hip-Hop Star

When former Canarsie High School quarterback turned globetrotting hip-hop DJ Riz says ‘Raise your hands in the air,’ party-people in nightclubs from London to Shanghai say ‘yeah.’ DJ Riz, aka Joe Rizzo, who has just returned from an Asian tour that included Tokyo, Taipei and Hong Kong, has also played in clubs in Europe including Amsterdam, Madrid and Rome. Rizzo likes playing overseas where hip-hop is still a novelty, saying that the people love to dance with no pretensions. “They are a nice crowd to play for,” Rizzo said. “They really appreciate the music, the DJ’ing and the showmanship.” In New York, the crowds worry too much about their image, he says. “People in New York are too cool for the scene to really let their hair down,” said Rizzo. When he’s not overseas, he’s playing clubs on the tri-state circuit, Los Vegas – he has a monthly gig at the Bellagio – Puerto Rico and Florida. He also plays at the Mirage Nightclub, Long Island every Wednesday, in Atlantic City and has regular spot as a mixmaster on Saturdays between 9 and 10 p.m. on KTU 103.5 FM. Rizzo made his name in Europe in the mid ‘90s with a hit dance anthem, “Be Faithful,” which he made with Fat Man Scoop, as the Crooklyn Clan with DJ Sizzahandz – also a KTU mixmaster. But the Crooklyn Clan had problems getting recognition because people on the club circuit thought that the better-known Fat Man Scoop had made the record on his own, Rizzo said. “Many clubs thought the record was just Fat Man Scoop,” Rizzo said. “A lot of them don’t know we were the ones making the record.” But once his promoters let club owners know who the Crooklyn Clan was, they began to see some success. “Once the word got out, the success of that record allowed us to go over there (Europe) and DJ at some parties,” said Rizzo. The exposure that comes with commercial success of the song meant they could not longer use the sampled tracks for free – as they had for years. They therefore had to get permission from the copyright owners. Rizzo’s career started when he was still in college. Rizzo was heading for a career in the big leagues. He started playing team sports when he was eight years old. At Canarsie High School Rizzo shone playing baseball, basketball, and quarterback and safety positions in football. He went on to Nassau Community College, where he became a Junior College All Star and played at the Valley of the Sun, near Phoenix, Ariz against Mesa Community College. Playing Safety in 1990 at Hofstra University, Rizzo made the semi-final at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 3 playoff tournament. Rizzo’s father Andrew, who himself earned the title as the “Voice of Canarsie” announcing sports at Canarsie High School, was pushing for his son to pursue a career in sports. The father’s decision to buy the 14-year old’s first turntable would eventually lead to a career in music. “Every parent wants to see his son go into the pros,” Rizzo’s dad said. “I saw him become a DJ and now he gets the last laugh.” Andrew always pushed his son to become a successful athlete. “I did sports all my life. It was always, continue, continue, continue,” Riz said. But Joe Rizzo was torn. “I always loved the music,” said Rizzo, who used to DJ after practice. “I started to DJ when I was 15. But I also enjoyed sport. It was a see-saw between music and sport.” But eventually music won. “After really trying to do both, things started changing,” Rizzo said. “My heart was saying go toward music.” Eventually his father warmed to the idea of his son as a DJ. “He realized that it is not that easy to make it to the pros,” said Rizzo. “You really need to be dedicated and you need some luck.” So Rizzo made his name on the club circuit DJ’ing on a hip-hop radio shows at Hofstra University, with Jeff Foss and Adelphi University, with Wildman Steve. By 1995, Rizzo had moved to WNYU Radio, where he hosted "the Halftime Show" and won "Best College Hip Hop Radio Show" at the Gavin Seminar, an annual gathering of radio DJ’s, label heads and other powerbrokers in the industry, in 1995 and 1997. Riz DJ’d for MC Search (3rd Bass) and appeared on the Arsenio Hall show. A regular DJ with Hot 97, Rizzo was then picked up by top radio DJ Funkmaster Flex's to join "Flip Squad" DJ's, playing clubs such as the Tunnel and the Palladium. DJ Riz also won a two-man DJ battle in Chicago with now MTV regular DJ Skribble. He has also played at New York’s top clubs such as the Limelight and Expo. DJ'ing for Mike Tyson party one of the highpoints of his career as was DJ’ing at the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl. Rizzo first teamed up with DJ Sizzahandz in the early 90s. They toyed with calling themselves the Brooklyn Slumlords but instead settled on the Crooklyn Clan. Their personalities compliment each other, which also helps their creative process, Rizzo says. “He’s more all out energy – caffeine type of energy,” Rizzo said “I’m really laid back.” “If we come together and get focused, we can knock a good project out,” said Rizzo. “Once we are on a roll we can really get it together.” At 35, Rizzo is now a veteran on the club circuit, being brought up on Run DMC and Big Daddy Kane, and Grand Master Flash. “I fell in love ever since I first heard it on the radio,” said Rizzo, who listened to Hot 97-CHR Urban and Kiss. His influences were before old school, he said. “Old School is a late ‘98 record. We thought that mid-school. Old school to us is the early ‘80s.” But Rizzo, who wants to continue producing records and touring says, that he stays up do date listening to music, the Internet and networking with other DJs. “You really have to adapt with times,” he said. “You got to be aware when a record used to work and doesn’t any more. It’s about being up to date all the time.”

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