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.
I never knew the brother, but he made some of the best records in one of the most competitive and innovative periods in hip-hop. Saddened to hear he lost his life. Thank you for the music, Stezo! 🙏🏼💔— Stretch Armstrong (@StretchArmy) April 30, 2020
Rest in eternal peace, Stezo. Salute to Dooley O, Chris Lowe, The Skinny Boys, Egon, Apathy, Dana Scott & all the CT Hip Hop community.— Dart_Adams (@Dart_Adams) April 30, 2020
Rest peacefully Stezo. pic.twitter.com/HjwzRc0yHY— Stoned Zen Pimp #2 (@Curtis_Metcalf1) April 30, 2020
If it's true, RIP Stezo. To this day, 'Crazy Noise' has one of the best mixes I've ever heard on a rap album. RIP Paul C, too. pic.twitter.com/kZp8zedtfN— Light Scratches on Disc; Plays Fine (@UrkelMoeDee) April 30, 2020
I just found out this morning tbat Stezo passed away. Another hip hop pioneer gone too soon. F*** Corona.— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) April 30, 2020
+ massive rest in peace to the great steve ‘#stezo’ williams. i remember when his single ‘it’s my turn’ dropped like yesterday. i was a shorty watching yo! mtv raps. as a dancer, i must have rewound that song 9o times as i was trying to perfect the dance moves. pic.twitter.com/4e9FFB8zMT— RΛSHΛRD NΛMUH + (@RASHARDNAMUH) April 30, 2020
RIP Stezo 😞— Rob Pursey (@robpursey) April 30, 2020
Anyone who knows me knows that his debut album was/is one of my personal favourites - few albums I can listen to front to back forever but this is one of them. Also if ‘It’s My Turn’ and ‘To The Max’ weren’t playing at your jam in ‘89 then your jam wasn’t legit pic.twitter.com/KynO4Gc8zE
Stezo Rest In Peace. Damn this is painful year.— J-Zone (The Du-Rites) (@jzonedonttweet) April 30, 2020
RIP Stezo 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼 ...“ it’s my turn “ classic— DJ Green Lantern (@DJGREENLANTERN) April 30, 2020
Only just hearing now about Stezo. Very sad news. Another legend gone.— Grown Up Rap (@GrownUpRap) April 30, 2020
“There’s no way that the crowd can sit down.” Another Rap legend gone. R.I.P Stezo 😢pic.twitter.com/doRdyHysYF— Michael Morgan (@mikewhoatv) April 30, 2020
RIP Stezo. first made noise as a dancer for EPMD, but was NO JOKE as an MC. Crazy Noise is an unheralded classic. “It's My Turn" was the first time anyone used that Skull Snaps "It's a New Day" drum break. It became one of the most commonly sampled breaks ever. damn. pic.twitter.com/LQCevsKQ4e— The Sicilian Shooter (Saifullah) (@vinnie_paz) April 30, 2020
I’m sad for CT rn. RIP EPMD affiliate/New Haven native Stezo. He’s the reason for EPMD’s early fan favorite “The Steve Martin.” Watch him in their “You Gots To Chill” video in ‘88. He created that dance & made “Skull Snaps” a Hip Hop sampling standard. https://t.co/24O8G8hiZq— Dana Scott (@iam_DanaScott) April 30, 2020
R.I.P Stezo. Not only did he have a few records I liked back in the days, but he was also a good Barber like me. Rest easy 🕊🕊🕊🕊— SHABAAM SAHDEEQ (@ShabaamSahdeeq) April 30, 2020
Rest In Peace STEZO !!! Another brother gone from the era I love the most. HipHop, rhymes, dancing, classic beats. It’s my Turn, To the Max, freak the funk.... Like EPMD said on Steve Martin “sick um champ!! .. Get um Steve, Get um Steve Get um !! RIP— R.A. the Rugged Man (@RAtheRuggedMan) April 30, 2020
R.I.P STEZO!! It's my turn was the dance anthem back in the days!!— planetasia (@planetasia) April 30, 2020
Rest In Peace to Stezo. His song “it’s my turn”used to be my jam. When it was cool to dance at parties— GuiltySimpson (@guiltysimpson) April 30, 2020
Something extra sticky about Stezo’s rhymes. He oozed the funk—unhurried, downright syrupy—forcing his lyrics deep into your cranium.— Jonathan Shecter (@SheckyGreen) April 30, 2020
‘Slow down, and yo, let the rhyme flow...’
Influenced by EPMD and guided by Paul C’s megatronic beats, Stezo released two classic 12s in 1989. pic.twitter.com/HsauVMVz4f
Wow. RIP Stezo. Google him— DAG SAVAGE (@DagSav) April 30, 2020