The Hip-Hop community is once again gathered in mourning and remembrance after news that rapper Stezo has passed away at the age of 51. As a former dancer for EPMD, Stezo broke out on his own in the late 1980s and went on to establish himself as an entrepreneur.
Stezo was born Steve Williams in New Haven, Conn. and was a relative of Dooley-O, also from Connecticut, who is credited as the first Hip-Hop artist to sample the classic “It’s A New Day” breakbeat from 1970s band, Skull Snaps.
Most first took notice of Stezo after his appearance in EPMD’s “You Gots To Chill” video, complete with some epic dance moves as Erick “E Double” Sermon and Parrish “PMD” Smith cool and confident rhyming took centerstage. He went on to embark upon a rap career in 1989, releasing his debut album Crazy Noise and dropping a pair of well-received singles in “To The Max” and the hit “It’s My Turn.”
Some accounts put “It’s My Turn” as the first recording to use the Skull Snaps break, and was produced by Stezo. According to a Micro-Chop interview, Chris Lowe, who was Stezo’s DJ, along with Dooley-O and Stezo were all into the beat digging scene and made pause tapes before graduating to actual samplers and drum machines. The legendary Paul C. McKasty aligned himself with Stezo and served as an engineer for the Crazy Noise project according to Discogs.
Stezo went on to release two more albums in 1997’s Where’s The Funk At and 2005’s C.T. (The Lost State). He was also the owner of two barbershops, with one location recently opening in Charlotte, N.C. Stezo kept his Hip-Hop ties intact, shouting out DITC’s Lord Finesse in a recent birthday post.
As the news of Stezo’s loss has gone wide, many Hip-Hop notables have shared memories and their condolences which we’ll list below. We’d like to join them in expressing our warmest thoughts for those who knew and loved Stezo. May he rest powerfully in peace.