Hip-hop's history is living - it is still being made. The innovators and originators are still around to tell their story. Our musical story is alive because they are alive to still tell it. They are still making it to this day. Enter Miztah Zelle.
Zelle was born in Tacoma and started making music in 1983. He started out as a B-Boy. A few years later Tacoma began to get rough. Gangs, drugs and violence entered the scene. Miztah Zelle escaped the drama by moving to the Tri-Cities. Here he found himself in a city where he was one of the few rappers. He had all his hip-hop knowledge from Tacoma with him. This was where Zelle found his M.C. voice.
When he moved back to Tacoma a year later, he met Prince B, who was a D.J. from Brooklyn living in Tacoma. Prince B exposed Zelle to the East Coast rap that most people around here could not even get exposed to. Zelle began rapping seriously at this time. His first M.C. name was M.C. 3-D. At the time, big-rimmed glasses called Cazals were popular. The Fat Boys often rocked them. There was a knock-off brand called Gazelle. M.C. 3-D at the time would rub the "Ga" off the glasses with alcohol so they just said "zelle". This is how he got the name.
About this time Zelle formed his first crew called Double Threat Terror (D.T.T.). They had big regional success, touring with the High Performance Breakers in Canada, opening for T La Rock and Greg Nice. Zelle got to witness the legendary High Performance vs. New York City Breaker battle that put Tacoma hip-hop on the map. B-Boy battles and M.C. battles was the name of the game back then - not written rap battles like we see today in the vein of Grind Time or Alliance Battle League, but true freestyle rap-battles. Zelle would travel from the Southside to the Eastside to the Tacoma Mall, to Garfield High School in Seattle, literally anywhere they could go where they heard there would be M.C.s there to beat.
Zelle and other top local rappers at that time enjoyed local radio-play as well. Zelle remembers freestyling live on KTOY, the old Bates Technical College radio-station, with Ready Rob. When Miztah Zelle was 15, he went to Foss High School and met Mark Womack (General Wojack), M.C. Def at the time. There he got down with the Death City Rockers. This was a crew that eventually became Death City Posse (D.C.P.), then eventually Criminal Nation. Some of the original-members, along with Zelle & Wo', were K-Luv, Quiz Sean D, J-Slice (now Knucklehead Banga), Kane and Pookie (Clifton). YouTube the Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Posse On Broadway" video you will see the youthful Death City Rockers in the video.
Criminal Nation got a lot of its beats from D.J. Eugenius. He started to shoot Zelle beats, and that's when Zelle began recording solo music. His first song was "Tales of a Gangster." This was when Zelle met E-Dawg. Zelle was also manager of all five local music-stores called Little Record Mart. Through his underground West Coast music connections, Zelle was able to introduce the Northwest to then underground San Francisco Bay Area artists like E-40 and Mac Dre. At the time, no other music store could stock this music.
By 1994, Zelle was producing his own music. He dropped a self-produced album "Yard Full of Bones Volume 1." He added a Miztah to his name, trying to be more mature. These were albums printed-up on cassette tapes, no CDs yet. While working in the store, Zelle became kind of like a role model for young Tacoma rappers who would come hang out in his store all day. He mentored many notable MCs that are around to this day, such as C.D. Sane and Mr. Homicide.
Zelle would give his music to the military guys and they would take it all over the country. The promotion worked and his name got out. Right now in Europe, collectors of obscure G-Funk West Coast hip-hop will shell out $800 for a Miztah Zelle album from the 90s.
Zelle still gets-down with the likes of Lok Skywalker and Tak Patron, but he's now is now a 42-year-old grandfather. He promotes, records and manages his two sons now, Shoulderz (www.shoulderz.com) and Young Daze, who is 17 years old. This is Zelle's greatest reward, hearing a dope verse from his son.
That's now where he gets his hip-hop pleasure.
To get Miztah Zelle's music, visit www.miztahzelle.bandcamp.com