Julio G. Is for Real

Photo by Gregory Bojorqez“I’m gonna fuck ’em up on the turntables, Eazy-E style!” says KDAY DJ Julio G. off the air, with a mischievous grin and trademark laugh. It’s Friday, and the late Eazy-E’s 21-year-old son, Eric “Lil’ Eazy-E” Wright Jr. — wearing a huge medallion of his father’s likeness around his neck — is in the studio to promote his upcoming album Prince of Compton. Tonight, Julio’s West Coast gangsta rap program Westside Radio — which usually bumps South L.A. artists like King Tee, Kam and MC Eiht, along with Pomona’s Above the Law — is now Ruthless Radio: all Ruthless Records, all night. (Ruthless is the label Eazy-E founded and ran until his death 10 years ago.) As Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Tha Crossroads” plays in the background, one of hip-hop’s fiercest lyricists, N.W.A protégé the D.O.C. (a.k.a. Tracy Curry) calls in, raspy voice and all, proclaiming: “I’m not through with the West Coast yet!” Neither is Julio G., who ended his three-year hiatus from radio and came back home — to the new KDAY 93.5 — just about a year ago.To understand Julio and his hardcore following, you have to go to Imperial Highway and Long Beach Boulevard, in the southeast city of Lynwood. Back in the ’70s, Lynwood was mostly black, and it was there that Julio Gonzalez, half Mexican/half Puerto Rican, grew up double-riding his best friend Marcellus, who was black, on the handlebars of his bike, blasting Zapp. One day Julio walked into Marcellus’ uncle’s garage and saw what would change his life: “Marcellus had a turntable that he took out of his mom’s stereo thing,” he says, “a Radio Shack mixer and another whole opposite turntable with all these wires all connecting, all on his uncle’s pool table. Marcellus scratched ‘Sucker MC’s’ by Run-D.M.C. That was the first time I had ever seen that. I’ll never forget that: I wanted to be a DJ.”So Julio got his mom’s consola, one of those old-school Mexican stereos with an 8-track player, and began deejaying. “The first records I ever scratched were Javier Solís and Vicente Fernández” — straight ranchera music, the kind nobody would ever think of mixing. “All I could do was scratch on one thing, because there was no fader or mixer, just a fucked-up turntable and whatever sounds I could get from Vicente Fernández.” He would practice every morning before school when his mother went off to work.Living in Lynwood got a little tough because it had a real gang situation. Soon he and Marcellus were getting chased and jumped, so they started ditching school in order to avoid getting fucked with. When things got more serious, Julio’s mother decided to move him to South Gate High. A Puerto Rican guy from New York named Papo lived on Julio’s block, and he’d get tapes of New York rappers like the Furious Four and the Treacherous Three. Julio listened, and soon got hooked on hip-hop — and the only hip-hop station in town, KDAY, 1580 AM. KDAY was the nation’s first rap station, before corporate America got its greedy hands on the scene, and it had a group of DJs called the Mixmasters. Not only was Tony G. (Cuban Tony Gonzalez) the lone Latino DJ on KDAY, but, says Julio, he was “the best of the best.”“I wanted to be part of KDAY. I’d listen to Tony G., and I would tape the shit. I would try to duplicate what they were doing with my little turntable; that was my way of learning.”At South Gate, Julio connected with brothers Mellow Man Ace and Sen Dog and their friend B-Real, then known as DVX (Devastating Vocal Xcellence). “I would DJ and they’d rap,” he says. They’d play at parties in South Gate, Bell, Maywood, all over Southeast L.A. (The buzz would later lead Mellow Man Ace to bust out solo with the hit “Mentírosa,” co-produced by Julio G. and Tony G.) Meanwhile, B-Real and Sen Dog started up the popular skunky-bud-smoking rap group Cypress Hill. Party promoter and friend Luis Romo, whose brother had gone to school with Tony G., took Julio to KDAY. As Julio recalls, Luis introduced him to Tony G. like so: “My homeboy right here will fuck you up, Tony.” Julio was stunned. “Ah, no no no — I knew he was a legend. I was 17, so when I got on the turntables, I was really nervous. Then Tony got on the turntables and just fucked me up. That was my first lesson.”Tony and Julio clicked; Tony took Julio under his wing and showed him how to mark records and other DJ tricks. In September of 1986, a few months after he graduated from South Gate High, Julio became a KDAY Mixmaster, deejaying on Saturday nights and joining guys like Joe Cooley. Julio was now the only other Latino at KDAY. Deejaying with his idol, Tony G., he helped break hip-hop in Los Angeles. Back in 1986, KDAY hosted Friday Night Live – a show broadcast live from some local spot — and one week they happened to be at a Bell High School dance, where rapper Roxanne Shante and Bobby Brown — yes, that Bobby Brown — were dancing on a makeshift stage made of lunch benches. But that wouldn’t be the highlight of the night. While Julio was deejaying, he felt a tug on his shirt. “This little dude pulls my shirt while I’m on the air — ‘Hey man, I want you to check this album out!’ He pulls my shirt again. ‘You need to check out my record, man!’ And I’m thinking, what is this little Crip nigga doing in a Bell High School dance?” Julio played a verse of the song: “Cruising down the street in my six four.” The song turned out to be “Boyz-N-The Hood,” and that little dude was Eric “Eazy-E” Wright. He broke that album before anyone knew what was about to hit them.The two went in different directions, Eazy blowing up with N.W.A and Julio deejaying and, again with Tony G., co-producing Latin acts like Kid Frost and his hit “La Raza.” Eazy would later return the favor, “pulling me out of the woodwork,” says Julio. On July 4, 1994, at an event called Big Top Locos at the Olympic Auditorium, with headlining band Rage Against the Machine, Eazy and co-host Julio G. premiered their short-lived radio show, Ruthless Radio (which ran on 92.3 The BEAT). Julio and Eazy became best of friends. “He spent his last year with us at the G-Spot [Tony and Julio’s studio] in El Monte,” Julio says. “I remember one time I came into the studio and without them knowing I was in the room. I see Eazy on the floor, on his knees, with my daughter Dominique coloring a coloring book he had just bought her. Moments like that, that’s what really made me love him.” It was in the next few months that Eazy started feeling ill. “I remember he told me he was sick, but he always had bronchitis; it wasn’t like I could say, ‘He’s gonna die,’” says Julio, who held down the show while Eazy was in the hospital. But things quickly got worse. “I remember his last words to me were, ‘Do what you gotta do, Julio.’” On March 26, 1995, at the age of 31, Eazy-E died of AIDS-related pneumonia. When he passed on, Julio did what he had to do and kept what became the Mixmaster show going, eventually changing the name and hosting Westside Radio on The BEAT. When the ownership of that station changed hands in 2001, he decided he was ready to quit. He returned last year, he says, because “I had to keep it going. It’s what Eazy would have wanted.” “Julio fuckin’ G! Are you kiddin’ me?” says a female caller who can’t believe she’s on the phone with Julio G. But Julio is for real. He answers every single call, no intern, no Hollywood bullshit. “The reason I answer every call,” he says, “is that when Marcellus and I were calling this radio station trying to request ‘For Those Who Like To Groove’ by Ray Parker Jr., we’d be waiting to get through and it was busy. Finally we get through — ‘Yo, yo man you got to play this song, you need to play this song, we’re trying to get it on tape’ — but the song never came on, even though it took us about three and a half hours to get through. So when I got on the radio I never forgot that. It was always something real personal to me. I always think there’s a kid who wants to get through.” Yes, this radio rap game matters to Julio G. “I have a responsibility, to make a change with music, to inspire Latino kids,” he says. “I’m really an activist for the community and KDAY. This is some independent shit — a community station, for the community.” He then pauses and looks out to the streets. “I’m trying to do something positive,” he says. “I need to move the West Coast forward. ’Cause the hood is beautiful.”?

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