The "Power" of Giving Back
Written by Ellen Sue Burton
It was Christmas, 2006. The Broward County Professional Firefighters & Paramedics had just finished doing their annual toy drive for the Children’s Cancer Caring Center. The toys were nestled all snug in their locked trailer when they were unmercifully taken by thieves. Pretty hard to imagine that somebody as tough as DJ Laz, who was on the air at Power 96 station for his morning show, had to openly wipe the tears from his eyes as he used his fierce and mighty roar, and his inner pussycat, to solicit contributions over the radio. Several days of updates on his program culminated into two radio station vans full of toys for the kids and, ultimately, the presentation of an honorary Union Firefighter helmet to DJ Laz. This is one of the reasons why South Florida loves DJ Laz. This is the one of the reasons why his morning show is capturing the hearts of readers from hot sexy teens to even hotter and sexier MILFs and a diversity of listeners in between.
Where did DJ Laz, whose fans affectionately call him “The Pimp With The Limp”, learn to never take no for an answer? Who taught him the lessons of facing his adversities head on? Take a fast pass back to 1971. Benita Mendez had just delivered a beautiful baby boy, Lazaro, and was told by the doctors that her son, born with a rare bone disease, would never be able to walk, let alone rise from the prone position he was sentenced to. Sitting in his hospital room Benita, having seen an apparition of Jesus Christ who told her to have faith and ignore the doctors’ dismal forecast, regrouped and re-energized and beheld the long journey she had ahead of her. Months later when her son first rolled himself over and then dragged himself up to his feet to hold on to the railing, Benita delighted in bragging to his doctors, who had told her “that she was crazy and to check herself into a mental institute,” that miracles do happen. And DJ Laz, the recipient of this miracle, uses this Tale From the Crib to continue to pay this phenomenon forward.
“The best part of my job is making people smile and showing them who I am. You won’t find a different DJ Laz on the radio than you would find at the dentist or the supermarket. It is the same DJ Laz all the way around. So if you like it, you like it. But if you don’t, then…..!” DJ’ing runs through his blood. He started DJ’ing when he was 14 years old and he hasn’t stopped since. His brother was his biggest inspiration after he introduced DJ Laz to the DJ’ing scene. “I wanted to take it to the next level. I wanted to make my own records and to be on the radio.” His first job at the radio station was as an assistant to music producer and radio personality Bob Rosenberg of South Florida’s Hot 105. DJ Laz found his way to Power 96 two and a half years later and has been there ever since. He started making his mark in the music industry with the hit song “Mami el Negro”, released in 1991 the single debuted in the Top 100.
DJ Laz encountered many obstacles in his path to success, but after surviving 17 surgeries as a child, nothing could stand in his way. He experienced major resistance to change within the industry from record labels and companies that didn’t believe the new idea of merging the Latin rhythm with the bass beat could become a welcome genre amongst the listeners. “We put the single out and the next thing you know is that we had the number one record all over the place. I went to California; and I was in San Francisco and everybody knew the words to my song. That was the best feeling in the world. Then when I was in Texas doing shows the record label was coming to me and saying, “We need an album.”
What makes DJ Laz’s music work? Influenced by his culture, this Cuban-American DJ is one of the first DJs to blend the hip-hop base with the Latin rhythm, creating a new South Florida sound. The songs were always there, but the ability to move with it was not. This creation ultimately made music history and is why DJ Laz is working on his sixth album entitled “Category #6”. According to DJ Laz, it will be the best to date of all of his other records. “I have evolved as a person, as an artist. And one thing that you have to do in this business is to change with the times.” However, he explains you have to stay true to who you are and use not only your skills but your charm and charisma, the things South Florida loves the most about him. “What I lacked in physical ability I gained in personality. I turned my disability into a beneficial tool. I wasn’t supposed to walk; I was supposed to lay flat in my bed my entire life. So just being able to do anything was an accomplishment for me.” DJ Laz is someone who has made the Latin community very proud. His highly successful single, “Mami El Negro”, released in 1996, is the first of its kind to spawn the early evolution of Latin Bass, utilizing the machine-gun beats of bass with the syncopated tropical voice of Latino music.The single debuted in the Billboard Top 100. His most popular album, “Cruzin”, “The Ultimate Party Album”, was followed by “Pimpin”, an album that blew up the charts with the combination of bilingual raps, true Latin rhythms, and live instruments in the innovative style DJ Laz calls “Merengue Swing.” Awaiting the release of his sixth album, “Category 6” this summer, fans are already rallying around their favorite artist by purchasing over 170,000 digital downloads of the hit single from the album, “Move Shake Drop.” DJ Laz believes that although change can be a risk, it is worth a chance. “Life is about taking chances.” His basic philosophy is that when there is no improvement a genre won’t last. And the best example he gives is the reggeaton music. “The problem with reggae ton sound is that it all sounded the same. There wasn’t enough music to sustain an entire format. It sounded like a broken record. If you want to continue to be successful you have to reinvent yourself,” he adds.
Having worked with many key people in the industry, including DS Brothers, Jim Jonson, Frequency, Rick Ross and Pitbull (whom DJ Laz was instrumental in bringing to the forefront), DJ Laz has used their influence in creating his own style. According to DJ Laz, the key ingredient is to believe in yourself. “Nowadays if you are very creative, you are talented, and you believe in yourself, there are so many outlets and new technology for you to be able to let people hear what you do. Now, you have to be patient and you have to be persistent. You don’t become successful overnight. And, if you are lucky, it takes time. The faster you go up, the faster you come down. I’d rather have longevity.”
And there’s nobody in the world that hopes that DJ Laz retains that longevity more than the staff and children of Miami Children’s Hospital and the Radio Lollipop charity. A unique international children’s charity run solely by volunteers with donations from the community, its mission is to provide care, comfort, play, and entertainment to children in the hospital. Radio Lollipop broadcasts to the patients’ rooms while volunteers visit with interactive activities, contest questions, and even prizes. Patients visit the studio and are an integral part of the on-air show. In addition to donating thousands of dollars personally, DJ Laz has initiated additional innovative ways to raise funds. The biggest and most exciting is his annual Radiothon for Radio Lollipop that involves calling in major corporations, as well as listeners and personal friends, to donate money and toys. Last year he raised $44,000 with this event alone. Partnering with Ben & Jerry’s he has even scooped ice cream cones for “Free Cone Day” to raise money for Radio Lollipop.
Nuria Claramunt of Radio Lollipop sums it up the best: “DJ Laz has never forgotten the pain and sometimes fear that a child can have in a hospital and continues to bring smiles to the patients through his entertainment, generosity, great sense of humor, and his wonderful compassionate personality. The world is truly a much better place because of DJ Laz.” “We don’t make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give,” DJ Laz says.
There are no truer words to describe this radio personality and the difference he is making in South Florida. DJ Laz, givin’ it up and givin’ it back. – DUO