Storytime with Big Zach: Prof & DJ Fundo

Below is an excerpt from our Issue 01 feature, Story Time with Big Zach.

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Photos by Prof and DJ Fundo. We sent them on  tour with 4 disposable cameras and said, "go ham."

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Off my head I can count six … no wait, seven, seven girls I got with that I met over Myspace. Maybe more than that, but it’s been awhile. Shit, the ‘Myspace era’ was good to me. My group Kanser used to get a good amount of shows through Myspace, too. Every weekend we was somewhere. Most times it was just me and DJ Fundo, sliding up in small Midwest cities, doing rap shows. We was on some, (take out comma between “some ready”) ready, set, go, shit.

 

A show in Iowa City back in like ‘06 really jumps out at me. The place was packed. The bill was overloaded with like ten acts playing. Lots of rap, rap, rap. When we got on, our shit flowed fluid. Fundo and I played so many shows back then we got to the point where we didn’t even make setlists. He would stand behind the decks, feel out the crowd, drop beats, and I’d follow his lead. All the other groups would just press play and rap. If they did have a DJ they were just cutting the word ‘fresh’ over the chorus over and over and over, not realizing that no one actually likes the sound of scratching if there ain’t no science behind it.

 

Fundo was never really trying to hear all the spiritual mumbo jumbo I be talking. So he might tell this shit different. But I believe Fundo and I were spiritually and mentally ‘linked’ when we was on that stage. Facing the crowd with Fundo behind me I could feel when he was gonna cut the beat or drop the next track. He was making me better.

That was the night I realized my DJ was better than I was.

 

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Not long later, Kanser and a young Southside rapper named Prof were booked to play an event in some suburb’s high school gym. Maybe it was a high school dance? I don’t remember. Probably a couple hundred teenagers were in the gym. I don’t know if they were into underground rap, but they seemed down for whatever. Right before go time, the turntables short circuited and smoke started coming from the mixer.

We put out the problem, but our equipment was fried. Prof and the DJ figured out how to just play beats from the laptop on some ‘the show must go on’ type shit. I was acting grumpy ‘cause I hate rapping off a laptop. It doesn’t have the same spiritual feel as making hip-hop music with a DJ, and I wanted to show these kids our routines. When we took the stage I was off my square, rapping just a little over half ass. On stage we went back and forth between Prof songs and Kanser songs. I kept looking over at Prof thinking, “goddamn, this kid is not phased by this DJ shit at all.” Prof was stepping his game up and probably performing better to make up for lack of a DJ. Prof put on a show for those kids.

 

That was the night I realized Prof was a better rapper than I was.

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For a while we were all kinda crewed up, doing hella shows together. We went on this weeklong run through Iowa and Missouri once and that’s when I noticed how bonkers the energy Prof, Rahz (Prof’s former rap partner) and Fundo created. Even if the show was small, we’d still wind up at some dark strip club in a state where the laws are different and the strippers let you feel them up. Or some other bonkers shit like that.  

I should have dropped more stories about these dudes in my first book [Headspin, Headshots and History; Growing Up In Twin Cities Hip Hop] but it read more like a memoir of Twin Cities adventures, and most of the memories I made with Fundo either happened out of town or aren’t suitable for children under the age of 24.  

 

But fuck it, here’s one...

 

So we’re in St. Louis, Missouri. The promoter knows we got a nine hour drive home, so he tells us we can play early, and he’ll pay us right when we get off stage so that we can be outta town by midnight. The show was alright. There was a small crowd, maybe like 60 people, 20 of which could have been girls. We play, get off stage, and I tell everybody we are leaving in 15 minutes. 15 minutes later Rahz, Prof and I are packed up in the car out front ready to go. Where’s Fundo? Call him. Sent to voicemail. Call him again. Voicemail. Can’t spot him in the bar. Rahz is like, “Man I think he brought a girl out back.” So we drive around the block. Stealth-style, we turn off the headlights and creep into the parking lot. On some whisper shit somebody spots Fundo by the dumpster. He’s got his back to us up against a wall, looking like the last scene from the Blair Witch Project. We’re all cracking up, whisper laughing. Prof pulls out his phone and I wait until he says he has the video camera ready.

  

LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION!

   

I hit Fundo with the high beams and start blasting the horn. HONK! HONK! HONK! Prof jumps out the car with the camera phone yelling some shit. Fundo’s up against the wall getting a hand job from some St. Louis chick. Me and Rahz are practically pissing our pants laughing, but between laughs my mind is doing some division, addition, multiplication and subtraction.

Fundo had 15 minutes.

 

That’s only 900 seconds.

 

In 900 seconds, Fundo got off stage, went to the bar, probably bought a drink, found someway to spark a conversation with a woman he had never met before (plus, there was only 20 women to choose from). I would guess that took a minimum of three minutes. Leaving Fundo with only 720 seconds to persuade this woman to come into the alley and practice playing Pacman with the old school arcade video-game joystick.   

 

That’s a very impressive use of time.

 

Fundo was fucking pissed. I thought he was playing around just acting mad at first, but he was really fucking mad. He kept calling us haters. The nine hour car ride was all quiet and awkward.

 

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I don’t mean to brag, but….me and my homies threw some pretty dope warehouse parties back in the day. DJ Fundo rocked a few of them. Most memorable was a party across the street from Pizza Luce downtown. Shit was timed out 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Fundo had the headline 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. slot, but when everybody’s cellphone struck 3 a.m. there was still 400 kids facing Fundo trying to stay turnt up. I was back by the bar thinking Fundo’s already spun for two hours, if he’s tired then the parties over. This motherfucker stayed on the wheels until 4 a.m., dropping classics and new school shit. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life.

We had our share of fuck ups; needles would skip, records would scratch, mistakes were made. But that’s because we were keeping the art form pure. A lot of hip-hop acts in Minnesota back then had all their beat drops and changes built in. It might have sounded flawless, but their DJ’s were basically lip sinking. They were just up there for the look.

Fundo was really hands on. Kanser started working with singers and Fundo would get a feel for them and find dope beats for them to sing over. He always knew where all my punch lines were. He knew when it was time to freestyle. I’ve worked with hella DJs over the years. Lot of talented cats. But when I really reflect on shit, Fundo’s natural instincts to disk jocky are the most impressive I’ve ever seen.

So when Fundo became Prof’s full time DJ, the formula they created together is now redefining fun.