DJ Z-Trip and DJ P's 2001 album, Uneasy Listening Vol. 1, is one of the greatest mix CDs ever. Made with all-vinyl mixing and mashing, ULV1 brought hip-hop in all its blended, cut-and-scratch glory to people who might not like—or know—the genre.
While Afrika Bambaataa helped launch hip-hop by putting two Kraftwerk records together, ULV1 used an even more unlikely source code: Phil Collins into Del tha Funkee Homosapien; Public Enemy's "Bring the Noise" over hilariously not-noisy stuff such as "Promises, Promises." It was a landmark for making hip-hop and DJing fun again, but it also put hip-hop back on the dance floor where it belonged.
ULV1 was co-authored by Z-Trip (a.k.a. Zach Sciacca), late of Arizona rave circuit faves Bombshelter DJs, and DJ P (a.k.a. Danny Phillips). Z-Trip already had a name for himself, having contributed a rock-rap remix of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" to the Small Soldiers soundtrack a few years before. But when ULV1 hit, Z-Trip really took off. "Neither of us were ready for it," Z-Trip says. "We thought people were just going to laugh it off." They didn't.
Mash-ups until then were what cheeky Brit DJs did with dance tracks on their computers. Z and P showed what could happen on turntables. "But that kind of shit had been around for a while," Z-Trip says. "Nobody called it 'mash-up'—it was just mixing and blending. Negativland, Steinski, Coldcut—all those guys did it. It's not as key to me to have the title [mash-up king], but I'll take it."
And he did. By 2002, Z-Trip had inked a deal with Hollywood Records, but his brand of hip-hop—full of hard-to-clear samples—was better live than on record; the deal lasted only one disc.
That album, Shifting Gears, revealed Z-Trip to be a better party rocker than producer, more Kid Capri than DJ Premier. His tracks are usually breakbeats, a loop and a lot of scratching over indie-hop MCs. The most recent, "Something Different" (off the soundtrack for the video game All-Pro Football 2K8), doesn't live up to its name; it's just another loop-and-scratch-fest featuring Jurassic 5's Charli 2Na.
"It's not like I was experimenting too much. It needed to be shit that'd make you wanna tackle a motherfucker," he says of All-Pro. "But at this point in my career, to be able to have Rakim record for me over a Chevelle track—or to have Dead Prez do vocals over a Deftones track—that's huge for me."
Z-Trip seems primed for his ever-expanding career, more like a Paul Oakenfold than an Eminem. He was the everykid crate digger in the 2002 DJ documentary Scratch, and he still speaks with an enthusiasm unheard of in the haterade-drinking world of barely breaking-even underground hip-hop. And when you have a tour bus—as he does while promoting All-Pro—well, what's to hate? He won't even talk smack about the sorry state of hip-hop radio, popular as it is.
"I can't say hip-hop has gone astray. It's always evolved," Z-Trip says. "But it's always been a part of youth culture, and if kids are bumpin' it, you have to respect that."
It's ironic that his onetime collaborator DJ P, who was largely passed over by ULV1's success ("I was just at a different point in my career," Z-Trip says of his disproportionate props), is now a newly inducted member of the age-old B-boys Rocksteady Crew as well as a resident DJ at Las Vegas' tony Club Moon. There, P's vinyl-only mash-up style ("It's called 'blending,'" P insists) puts him on par with the computer-aided likes of the other town favorite, DJ AM. Lamenting the eclipsing of vinyl by DJ software, P says, "The art form's dead."
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Z-Trip, meanwhile, has adapted. "At first, I was like, 'Oh, fuck, there goes all the diggin' for records.' But once I started fucking with it, I started embracing it. You can't balk at anything that's going to let you do more shit."
All-Pro is another lesson in adapting. "It's not like this album is brand-brand-new—the Judgment Night and Spawn soundtracks both did the whole rock-and-hip-hop thing," Z-Trip says. "It's new for me."
What isn't new for Z-Trip is rocking parties. He's played on bills with the Rolling Stones and Dave Matthews and in front of even bigger Bonnaroo and Coachella crowds. Now, against a backdrop of computer football, it's just another kind of party. "I just keep pushing it," he says.
DJ Z-TRIP PERFORMS WITH ACEYALONE, GIFT OF GAB, DJ TRICKY T, DEAD PREZ AND SPECIAL GUESTS AT THE GROVE OF ANAHEIM, 2200 E. KATELLA AVE., ANAHEIM, (714) 712-2700; WWW.THEGROVEOFANAHEIM.COM . THURS., AUG. 23, 9 P.M. $25.