This interview gave me true insight on a man who is not just one of the biggest brightest stars in Miami but I also was able to sit down with a father, brother, husband, Mentor, Fisherman, and after today a FRIEND. It was a privilege to sit down with Laz and listen to his life and career story. Many thanks to Laz for this great opportunity. and a special thanks for all the great things your music has allowed me to be a part of.
Who is DJ Laz?
DJ Laz is a party animal. I mean I love parties. I love women. Woman love me back. They love the music and I know how to rock a party. I know how to make a women have a good time and one thing I’ve learned in this business is once you’ve got the women, everything else falls into place. I mean if your out to a club and you hear yo Laz got this party next week 10 to 1 women! Guess where your going the next week?
Absolutely. Because of your exceptional girl to guy ratio I’ve had much more success (laughs)
So we know you been in the game for a minute. Exactly how long have you been doing this?
Total? 23 years. (Grabs calculator) yeah ummm 23 years. I started when I was 14.
Basically I was the peon helping my brother doing gigs carrying equipment etc. I seen how the people reacted to the music and I thought.... Shit this for me right here. I knew from the first couple of gigs I went to with him I was like OK... Playing music, meeting girls, and getting paid. Hmmmm ok this is what I want.
So you’d say it was love at first butt cheek shake?
So Its safe to say that seeing your brother DJing is what motivated you to get involved?
Yeah the fact that I loved music would definitely be one of the reasons, but also the business aspect. C’mon it’s having fun and being able to make money while having fun and doing something that you loved to do. I soon realized that there was more to getting a paycheck than just going to work, if your getting paid to do what you love then its an added bonus. But I wanted to take it to the next level, I mean my brother was very complacent making his money spending it at the club, spinning a party here and there, but once I got a taste of that I was like, “shit I wanna make my own records. I want the parties dancing to my shit .I want OTHER DJs to play my records. I wanna be on stage.” I’ve always had that goal and desire of wanting to take it to the next level.
So we are talking 23 years of music WOW,
Yeah I mean its VERY rare with DJs these days who have been at the same radio station for hmm TWENTY of those twenty-three years.
Yeah no kidding...
You can have longevity in this business without a doubt, ya know its like anything you just gotta adapt and change with the times. But to be at the SAME radio station for that many years, I mean every time I tell somebody (how long) they are always like “what?” “Huh?” They like freak out and not just here all across the country
Well I can only imagine the people who have been listening to you all those years going what the....? 20 years that fast?
Right! And you know the key is to stay relevant ya know not only with music, cuz lets be honest, if I was DJ Laz still playing the SAME ol records I used to play back in the day... now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to do an old school set because that’s near and dear to my heart but if that’s ALL I did, then I would’ve definitely been out of gas a long time ago. Ya know what I’m saying?
So what makes a “good” DJ?
Well If you ask me Its somebody who plays for the crowd not themselves. I’ve said it a thousand times and there are SOME DJs that disagree with me. And they’ll be like “nooo you’re the DJ, you need to be in control!” And that’s fine and dandy but at the same time, yeah you are in control but there is no better feeling in the world than to know that you are controlling THAT many people At one time and when you throw A record on and the place just goes absolutely nuts and that kinda energy is being brought back to you.
I couldn’t even imagine...
It’s great. I think the largest crowd I’ve ever played for was about 42,000 people at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, TX and there is NOTHING like it but the bottom line is, you play what they wanna hear. Yea you throw your twist on it ,whatever you do, your lil tricks, GREAT but, at the end of the day, the DJ that plays for the crowd is gonna have A LOT more longevity than a DJ that plays for themselves because, somebody who plays for themselves has a core following but they don’t grow it maybe one or two. Some of these places with a crowd that have mass appeal where you have somebody who can rock a crowd who can READ a crowd which is a huge thing. I mean reading a crowd is everything and there are DJs out there that just don’t get it. Its a huge part of being a successful DJ. If you don’t know how to get out of a certain genre of music or when to get INTO a certain genre of music ummm your fucked.
You mean like when a DJ plays a song too long?
Yeah or even which I’ve been guilty of not playing a song long enough. You get so excited to play your next song and you wanna show people what you get not realizing that their in the middle of singing their favorite part and here you go with another hit and you just cut out their favorite part but understanding what happens out in the crowd comes with experience and being in the game a long time. (Laughs)
All this time all these experiences over two decades in this business. What motivates you now to do what you do?
Well one is I still LOVE what I do. And that’s hard to say. Not a lot of people can say they look forward to getting up to do their job, don’t get me wrong I have my days just like everybody else but at the end of the day I still LOVE what I do. And thank God I’m in a position where I’ve done pretty well for myself.
So give us the background on the title “pimp with the limp”
Well when I was first born the doctors told my mother that I’d never walk. Point blank straight NEVER walk. They said listen “he was born with a rare bone disease that will make it physically IMPOSSIBLE for him to walk” Theory told my mother that in the hospital and my mother said to the doctor “ hey doc don’t tell my husband what you just told me because he doesn’t have the faith that I have and you will SEE that my son is going to walk” the doctor basically respected her and did not tell my father. The doctor reiterated to my mother that “Its IMPOSSIBLE for your son to walk” and she tells the doc “nothings impossible” and the doctor walks out of the room. Shes in there by herself and she says that Jesus Christ appeared in front of her. And he said to her “have faith in me, your son will walk don’t believe what the doctors are saying and you will see” and boom he disappeared. My mother said that it was a life changing moment. So she then made a promise to St. Lazero that if I were to walk she would make a dress out of burlap (potato sack) everyday for a year. So one day (and I don’t know the time line on this) I was laying down in the crib like they said I would when all of a sudden boom I sat up. She looked at the crib and was like what the fuck?? She calls the doctor and says “doc Laz just sat up in the crib” and the doc said well that’s a miracle please keep me posted. Now again I don’t know the time line but she called the doctor back and said “doc Laz just stood up in the crib” and the doctor said Mrs. Mendez that’s unbelievable! Please keep me posted. Because it is impossible for your son to do that. And she said its not impossible I’m looking at him right now, and he said please keep me posted if anything changes. After that and it coulda been 8-10 months I dunno but she called the doctor back and said Laz just walked and the doctor said Mrs. Mendez do me a favor lose my number and check yourself into a mental institution cause it is IMPOSSIBLE for your son to walk. Don’t call me again I don’t have time for these things that your seeing. (WOW) I mean honestly if you looked at the charts and the diagrams you would side with the doctors. So she says, “oh ok don’t call you? I’m on my way to the hospital so you can see for yourself.” She said she got to the hospital where I was born (previously named Memorial Hospital which is now Joe Dimaggio) and there had to be 200 plus people outside. Basically every doctor there was outside because, this was unheard of in 1971. They had not seen no shit like this. I was born with my feet touching my chest! I should not have been walking. When I was born they broke all my bones and I was in a full body cast for four years. So she pulls me outta the car and puts me on the ground and I walked! Granted it wasn’t pretty. I was limping and all that but, I walked. The doctor fell to his knees and sat there for a half hour in shock. She said that it was one of those great moments of I told you so and everyone in the parking lot was like what the fuck??? So when everyone finally came to their senses they said ok the kid is walking lets get him in for surgery. This is why all the charity work is so important to me because I spent a ton of time in the hospital as a kid. After every surgery I basically had to learn how to walk again. Hell I was the master of a wheelchair. I could ride a wheelie for miles. I used to have to duct tape my hands because I couldn’t stay home. My mother would go to work and I would Evel Knievel down the road. (Laughs)
You have been pretty much the FACE of Miami for a long time now, as an avid listener what I admire most about you is your charity work. Can you tell me more about it?
I believe 100 hundred percent that you have to give back. AS good as this business has been to me, umm I’ve earned everything I’ve got but, I’ve never forgotten where I came from and I’m a firm believer that you HAVE to give back to the community. If this is the that place that you eat, sleep, and breathe every damn day and something is going on in your community and you have the ability to give back and you don’t? Cause you just wanna collect your money and be greedy and close your eyes to the rest of the world to me.... That’s fucked up. I’ve lived here most of my life and I’ve lived a way that most people will never in both good and bad ya know what I’m saying? About 8 to 9 years ago I been doing this, I don’t remember when I heard about radio lollipop but when I did I thought WOW that is perfect for me. The radio station sets up in the hospital and allows the kids to be kids again. A lot of those kids are there for broken arm and legs but SOME of those kids are there terminally and THAT’S when you realize that you really ain’t got a problem in the world. All the shit we complain about, my car, my kids and this and that its all bullshit after you spend a day with these kids and that’s why I give so much back. People make a lot of assumptions about me. “Oh Laz is paid he does this, he does that” and most of them have no idea what it took for me to be able to do this. What it took for me to get here. The rest of my charity work is just having a heart. The last thing I did this year was for the Sombrano family.
Please tell me about that.
Well Mr. Sombrano dropped his wife at work and was stopped at a light with his three kids in the back seat and a drunk driver, in the middle of the day, PLOWED into the back of his van and killed all three of his kids in one shot. That’s when you go ohhhhh fuck (well yeah of course) and the father, I mean can you imagine? Anyone with a heart is gonna be hurting but when your a parent and you see some shit like that? Oh my god, what do you do? I remember in the morning hearing that story and just being in shock...I put myself in that mans shoes and to lose just one of my children let alone three??? And watching the news I saw that they didn’t even have the money to pay for a proper burial for their kids. This is a working family ya know? Just basically working everyday to have a roof and keep the lights on and the burial was going to cost $30,000 and being in the position I’m in I thought well I wanna do something. So I brought them in and I think I opened peoples eyes and people were like wow Laz is telling the truth. These people just lost all three kids in one shot. People started pouring in. I opened to the doors to the station at 6 am and people started turning their cars around and not going to work. Picking up their kids and bringing them in with their piggy banks I mean whatever they had. I think we stayed on an extra hour so in 5 to 6 hours we were able to raise $70,000 for that family. And the craziest part was actually being there to deliver that money to the family. That man and woman gave me a hug that was indescribable. Walking into the church and this is the part that kills me right here the mother said to me crying like a mother should be she says “Laz do me a favor you have the power to remind people.....Remind people to kiss there kids everyday and tell them they love them because that’s the last thing I was able to do.” Walking out of that church I was stopped by the news anchors asking all kinds of questions and all I said was what that family is going through NO ONE should have to go thru.
(Laz was awarded the philanthropist award for this amazing showing of kindness)
So I think its pretty safe to sat that Trick AND Laz love the kids.
So I grew up in the 80’s during a time which musically was considered one of the STRONGER times what’s you take on the current music that’s out?
Well it is my job to introduce new music to the listeners and I’m cool with that and the way you do it is to introduce with other music that they already like so that they get comfortable. I remember back in the day I would get a record in the mail and think damn this is a banger I cant wait to get on the air and play this. Listen, the way I look at it is there is an era for the music. You got the old school cats saying that the new school stuff is garbage but what they fail to realize is that “Hey we were in a different time in our lives”. Each generation appreciates different music but I appreciate GOOD music, whether its old school new school and I’m def not a hater of those one hit wonders out there. God bless em cuz they were able to make a record that makes the crowd move and that’s still a record that make people go shit, this is a banger. As far as the comparison it all boils down to your taste depending on when you were born.
I guess when you got Ellen DeGeneress doing the Soulja Boy you’ve done something right.
Exactly. I had people calling up saying what is this crap? This isn’t real hip hop and they’re right it isn’t. But, what it is a real hit requested by real people and if your stuck on only one type of music from one era then your a real dumb ass. When I started, hip hop was so underground. It was not what the music is today. How people gravitate to it. Its mainstream now. I remember when I used to do hip hop sets I could only do 10 to 12 minute sets because there were only a certain number of songs that were allowed to even be played. You’d do a hip hop set then give them something else then another something else then more hip hop. Now its mainstream and its come along way and thank God for those artists who paved the way for it to be able to even be mainstream. But if you still are only listening to Run DMC etc. then guess what? Your gonna be in a room with only a few people who are rocking Adidas shell toes and that’s it. Music changes and we need to change with it.
So I see you over there with that big VIP music chain tell us what’s up with the label?Well a few partners and I decided to start VIP because I sold a lot of records back in 1990 whew 1990 that’s sounds bad. I was shopping a record called Mami y Negro which was a Merengue record. I spent a lot of time at home with the turntables cause basically I had pins in my legs and couldn’t do what the other kids were doing. So I started playing with this record and mixing it over a booty beat because back in the day booty was the shit and to this day still has a cult following. And I remember putting it together and it sounded good and I remember thinking damn, I need to do something with this because I didn’t wanna be at a club spinning or on the radio and just throwing it in. I wanna take this to the next level. I remember the first time I did it on the radio. I was playing the booty record and then I scratched in the Merengue with it and the people went nuts. They were calling in going what’s the name of that record, what’s the name of that record, not knowing that it was just me with the turntables mixing the two records. So I got together with Danny D and DJ Whiz the boys from the bottom and we made it a record and I tell you I could not get a deal ANYWHERE. I went to NY and I’m this little handicapped kid walking through Brooklyn and people wouldn’t mess with me cause they thought I was crazy but I finally, I got a chance to put the record out with a local company called Pandisk music and we took a chance and we ended up selling 150,000 and then we came out with next album and the next album after that and now we are currently over a million albums sold. So I decided to give back. Everyone has gotta get their start somewhere so, I knew what it was like to sell records, and I knew what it was like to have a hit record but, I had no idea about publishing or none of that. VIP music is a stepping stone for people to get to the next level. Because I’ve been screwed by labels in the past, I don’t believe in that but, I understand the cost of running a business and running a company. So if you come to VIP music and you got a hit record, then we are going to give you the fairest deal out there. There is no sleeping. If we got something then WE got something. And we are a team and everybody has to do their part.
Can you think back on any music or artists that helped or inspired you?
Well, I mean lets face it, I’m not a Hip-Hop artist ya know. Miami was known for booty records so I’d say 2 Live Crew, Uncle Luke, Splack Pack, Crazy Legs and the list goes on and on, Even Sir Mix A-lot. Absolutely! When I heard his record I was like “FUCK I wish that was mine.” (laughs) Because right away I knew that song was a classic. There is a difference between a hit record and making a classic. And Mix A-lot got him a classic and a classic pays you forever! A hit pays you a lot of money but a classic pays you forever. When your record is 18-19 years old and you got 12 year old kids singin the lyrics, that’s a “classic’. So yeah those guys. I basically took their sound and put a Latin flair to it. And the good thing about it is that I pioneered that sound. The music I do today is influenced by the same stuff but its a lil’ different. “Move Shake Drop” is a club party record with some booty influence. I remember Pitbull and I were at the studio with the Diaz Brothers and they played the track. It was different. It had a booty slash techno feel and Pit started saying things off the top of his head. We started going back and forth and next thing you know “Move Shake Drop is born. Throughout my career I’ve never had a record go gold and this record is just about to do it. The funny part is that the record took off on its own. I played it on the radio and it leaked onto the internet. The record just blew up. I remember a day where I’d have to personally send all the other big DJs the record then call them and let them know it was good and give my approval stamp, now because of the internet, if you got something good people are gonna hear it.
Got any tips for new artists/DJs?
You have such a tool in front of you with the internet. Record companies don’t want to have to build up an artist anymore. They are looking for someone who comes with their own hype their own following. Basically your going down the highway doing 50 they wanna scoop you up and do 150. There’s very few and far between opportunities that an artists just starts with nothing at a label and gets built up. So my advice is, get a buzz for yourself, use the internet to get you there. Use Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Unsignedtube etc. all of that. Use the tools that you have and self promote. The record companies WILL find you. Example “Move Shake Drop.”
So I gotta know you got a ton of records what is your personal favorite?
“Oye Morena”. That record right there was born in my first home. I had a studio/shed nah forget it, it was a shed with some equipment in it. It was me, a guy named Trick Dog and Cee Lo, 2 Dominican cats that I hooked up with, very talented street kids. We sat there and got drunk in the shed. I was on the SP1200 and “Oye Morena” was born. It was one of those records that we knew was good.... But we didn’t know it was THAT good. We started messin around and got the general concept of the record in a couple of hours. The next day we went to a recording studio....(well I wouldn’t call it a studio. I remember wow Jimmy Star I love you Jimmy!) we went to this place in Davie and this record exploded and this record is my version of a classic.
Any shout outs?
Well I definitely wanna shout out the readers of Nine5Four Magazine, Nine5Four Magazine itself and this opportunity, Dawndada.com, you Banks, my family and friends. Hopefully I opened the readers eyes to a little bit more about me because I have been judged many times but I’m just a regular dude. I’m fortunate dude and hopefully this interview helps. Shout out to Pitbull and Uncle Luke. Its been great to help give Pit his start and watch him come up. What he’s doing in music is just phenomenal and its great to have been a huge part of it.