The location could be anywhere in Chicago after dark. It’s a hot sweaty mess of a dance floor, and DJ Zebo is on the decks. Peering at the crowd from behind his thick-rimmed specs, head nodding like a metronome; his sound is one of confidence and controlled frenzy, as highlighted in Newcity Magazine, where he was honored in their annual Music 45 issue—alongside the likes of Kanye West, Andrew Bird and Smashing Pumpkins—as one of the top 45 musical artists in Chicago. Not to mention he was featured in URB Magazine's "Next 100" list in their last feature.
“…Zebo packs a cut-up crateful of styles, from hip-hop and B-more to French electro-disco and even a nasty snippet of a techno track or throwback freestyle gem. While this maximal approach might be increasingly common among DJs who cater to the ADD-riddled mash-up club casualties, Zebo stays head and shoulders above the rest for knowing that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Skills can be honed, but taste can’t be taught…”
Zebo’s journey from music lover to deck slayer started like many others before him, growing up in a suburban shadow of the big city, finding inspiration in the rave scene of the late 90s. “The whole idea of using vinyl as a medium for such a ‘tech’ style event was crazy for me. I knew then that [DJing] is what I wanted to do,” he recalls. Although house and jungle dominated his early turntable diet, Zebo was a polygamous lover of music, and he hustled to find any opportunity to play, be it raves, loft parties, weddings, corporate parties, in-store events and fashion shows.
It is this genuine love of music paired with incredible deck acumen that propels DJ Zebo beyond the reach of all the other DJs trying to out-reference, out-cred and out-mix each other, their varied selections resembling 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound laptop. Zebo’s not simply wearing his musical heart on his sleeve—as the WAV file tattooed on his ever-moving forearm might seem to indicate—but actually spinning dance floor gold with both his technical abilities and intuition in reading the crowd, a modern day Serato-equipped Rumpelstiltskin.
Yet for all his vaunted versatility, no matter what direction his sets head, Zebo’s initial love of jungle seems to subconsciously permeate his music at peak hour, with bombastic basslines rolling on and on underneath familiar hooks and clever samples. Pitched-up, pitched-down, scratched-up and around, Zebo’s a populist at heart, finding the redeeming values in both subterranean cool and overt pop—it’s a delicate tightrope to walk, but this DJ has the balance to pull it off.