Cedeno, Luis (Disco Wiz)
Cedeno, Luis (Disco Wiz). Bronx African American History Project. By Mark Naison and Oneka LaBennett. Fordham University Project, January, 2008.
Interviewee: Mr. Luis Cedeno
Interviewers: Dr. Mark Naison and Dr. Oneka LaBennett
Date: January 29, 2008
Luis Cedeno, also known as Disco Wiz, was the first Latino DJ in the Bronx. He is also as a preservationist of Hip-Hop culture, event coordinator, and a mentor to young people who are a part of Hip-Hop culture. His mother came from Cuba in 1958 right before the Cuban Revolution. His father came from Puerto Rico. They met in the Bronx, and he was born in 1961 and his brother born a year later. He was born in Fordham hospital, and he lived on Webster and 182, and then moved to 2250 Rye Avenue near the Grand Concourse. , also known as the South Fordham section of the Bronx. He recalls these neighborhoods as mixed neighborhoods, but at the same time still segregated. The race lines were clear, black and Latinos were not allowed past Fordham Road, in particular Poe Park.
The street life was very dynamic; he recalls that poverty and bigotry were both elements of his life growing up in his neighborhood. He was called a “spic” from the age of 5 until his early teens. It came from everywhere, even from the friends that he grew up with. He notes that class and race were the reasoning behind this bigotry. He remembers that the neighborhoods were mixed white, black, and Latino. His mother put him into Catholic school where he experienced even more bigotry at the hands of a mostly white student body. He got pulled out of the school because he pulled a knife on a kid who called him a “spic” in fourth grade. His mother ran two different Laundromats and his father was an alcoholic.
His love of music came from his grandmother and his extended family that also lived in the same adjoining buildings. His family was accepting of him, but his struggle as a mixed Puerto Rican and Cuban person caused him to never fully be embraced by his family. The music that his Grandmother and his family listened to was Salsa, in particular the early salsa movement. Artists they listened to were, Willie Colon, La Lupe, Ruban Blare, etc. He loved listening to Rock, in particular Chicago, the Beatles, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, the doors, and Led Zeppelin. He listened to this music on the radio. From the age of 11-13 he was involved with gang activity; he was a savage skull, and a supreme bachelor. It was a multi-ethnic gang, but it was mostly Latino and black kids. There was little tension between blacks and Latinos in his neighborhood. One very important thing to note about the neighborhood was that there was no music in the streets before hip hop. His friends and fellow gang members were always up to date on the news. He recalls hearing about politics, but there were no political activists on his block. He was never involved in music until Hip-Hop era.
His entrance into Hip-Hop had a lot to do with his personal friendships. He was first introduced to the Hip-Hop scene when he was 14 and got involved with boxing with the PAL. The first time he heard Kool Herc, he was amazed by the presentation, the size of the speakers and the sounds that were being produced. He never saw anything like that before. Something spoke inside of him, and he said, “It was an epiphany that was ancestral.” He had never been to Puerto Rico or Cuba, which he feels the music brought him back to those roots. At the time of meeting Herc, he also met grandmaster Cas, known at the time as Curtis. He was introduced by a mutual friend who introduced them because of their connection of the recent loss of their fathers. It was very unusual when it came to Hip-Hop for a black and Latino guy to hang out, and so his friendship with Cas was in some ways unusual.
Even before his meeting Cas, his first exposure to Hip-Hop was graffiti. The graffiti guys of his neighborhood were legends, and he and his peers looked up to him. He recalls tagging everywhere, his particular tag being Lou 183. He only tagged inside the subway cars, never graduated to burners. He recalls that graffiti was his first outward rebellious expression.
He eventually progressed into b-boying when he met Cas. His was very influenced by Bruce Lee and Kung Fu Films which would eventually influence his short stint as a break-dancer and a gymnast. He recalls that Cas was an up rocker and he was a down rocker, or focused on floor moves. He would b-boy at Kool Herc parties or Bambaataa parties.
Luis goes on to talk more about the influence Hip-Hop had on him. He says that “we knew we were doing something, but we didn’t know that it was that significant.” He remembers looking at Hip-Hop as “something that was theirs”, their expression and their outcry. Hip-Hop brought people together, as more and more people showed up to the jams. He was very aware of the fact that the Bronx was burning at the same time as these parties. There were parts of the Bronx that you couldn’t go to because it was burning. A big part of Hip-Hop parties was to have a street element. You couldn’t just throw a party, as all your equipment will be stolen; you had to be involved with the streets in order to have enough respect to throw these parties. You had to have a couple of guns or friends with guns in order to throw these parties.
Luis recalls that he started DJing by just bringing two phonographs together and playing music together. His friend Cas used his college tuition money to buy their first sound system. They then used this sound system to throw their own parties, the first one taking place in Slattery Park on 183rd street. He was known as DJ Louie Lou at the first parties that he threw. The police didn’t try to break up these parties, as they were too busy trying to shake people down and deal with the other issues in the city. About 30-40 people showed up. He wanted to be a battle style DJ. He went to every record store, mom and pop record stores, trying to search for the sounds he was looking for. Sometimes he’d sing the song or the beat he was searching for to the record stores in order to try and find the exact record. This was known as Crate Diggin.
His first show was a free show, and this first show meant everything to him, as it was the most significant thing that he had done up to this point. He and Cas played at 183rd, Creston Park, Slattery Park, 123 off of 181st street, Arthur Park, Echo Park, and many other parks made of concrete. He and Cas made the first recording of his parties.
Eventually he left the Bronx due to the fact that he was in a trouble in the streets. He then was hooked up with a job as call in waiter and was trained by old black men who were railroad porters. He then landed a job as a dishwasher and worked his way up as a sous chef. He then moved back to the Bronx and eventually to Manhattan. He reconnected with Cas and eventually reconnected to Hip-Hop, which he was estranged from for decades. In this time period he did a lot of charitable work, and read many books such as Malcolm X’s autobiography. Once he reconnected with Cas and battled cancer, he felt the need to get re-involved with Hip-Hop and became a spoken word artist. A part of this re-involvement was an attempt to preserve Hip-Hop history. He then began to DJ’s again around 5 years ago. Today he is still very involved in Hip-Hop and youth mentorship, as he strives to keep the legacy and the history of Hip-Hop alive.
Keywords: DJ Lou, DJ Disco Wiz, Luis Cedeno, South Fordham, Fordham, Slattery Park, Poe Park, Graffiti, DJing, Hip-Hop, birth of Hip-Hop, Crate Diggin, Park Jams, Arthur Park, Echo Park, Bambaata Parties, Cool Herc, Hip-Hop parties, Bronx, Latino, Puerto Rican influence on Hip-Hop, Bronx burning, 1960s, 1970s, Race relations, Spoken Word