“The most rewarding thing about my career [spinning]” says legendary Twin Cities music DJ Disco T, “has just been helping people. I have been able to make people forget about how bad things might be, whether it was for an hour or multiple hours. And not just when things are bad, but take them to another level—another place.”
That simple premise held him in great stead over the course of 38 years. He has built such a strong following that, to this day, among his staunch supporters is another Twin Cities staple, comedian Fancy Ray McCloney, who states, “I’ve known Disco T since the ’80s as a friend, DJ, and advertising client. Nobody spins like this brother.
“He was thinking a whole different level than everybody else. With advertising, he was spreading his name and growing his brand. Disco-T is more than a DJ. He’s also a businessman who epitomizes excellence,” said McCloney.
Related story: Legendary DJ Disco T celebrated at fundraiser
In a field where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a spinner, how did Disco-t derive the distinct style that has seen him through some four decades? “Just not wanting to be like anyone else,” he said. “And studying the competition. Also, underselling and over-delivering. Making sure each and every night that I did my best. I practiced. For every show, countless hours, to make sure I did a great job.”
Praise also comes from those in his profession. DJ Stage One, an early contributor to Rhymesayers, attested, “DJ Disco T is an innovator, one of the godfathers of the Twin Cities hip hop party scene. He’s an avid music fan with a thirst for book knowledge and sharing his wisdom to others.”
He’s also been an inspiration to break the gender barrier as well reach across cultures. DJ MadMexican Porvida recalled, “Disco was one of the DJs that took me under his wing. I only ended up on his show because I had to give up my Friday Night Future Flavor spot on KMOJ because of grad school. Disco said the community needed me as a Latina and as a female, so he let me co-host and spin on his show.”
She added, “When I was a youngster, I always knew of Disco T because I would see signs for his gigs plastered on every light pole on the highway on-off ramps. When I finally turned of age, then I began to attend his gigs. I was always intrigued by his eclectic style. But what I was even more intrigued by was the way he connected Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“To assist with this connection, Disco asked me to co-host the Throwback Throwdown Show (KMOJ),” continued Porvida. “I was so amazed at how strong Disco’s community values were as he provided me a forum to represent my Latino community during a prime-time show.”
Disco’s greatest challenge, he noted, was to stay creative. Not just artistically but holding down the bottom line. “Not only the music. Also the business aspect of it. Anybody can go play some music. I always wanted to be Muhammad Ali and Don King balled up into one. I like the business side more than anything about it—from top to bottom—in terms of the marketing. DJs are great people, but I’ve seen a lot of them walk away with nothing.
“Look at how many businesses we saved,” he continued. “So, the owner can turn around and sell it for hundreds of thousands.” He was not going to be left wanting. “I want to be the owner of everything I mess with. I’ve never, since I was 14, worked for another man. Not one day.”
This principle finds him owner-proprietor for the past three years, of South Minneapolis retail clothes outlet 8.Mart. You could call it urban class, selling sneakers, shoes, sweats and more with an array of accessories. The shop, located just off of Chicago Avenue at 810 S. 38th Street in Minneapolis, offers bargain specials and regular prices the thrifty won’t find at most retail shops, plus a specialty: custom made tees.
Disco T reflects on 38 years at the top of his field, “We’re nothing without the customers, the people that support us.” He now finds himself facing the challenge of failing health in the form of cancer and meets it with dignity. Stating quite matter-of-factly in a recent YouTube video that he’s decided to deal with things on his own terms. “On a day-to-day basis, I take care of myself. It’s raw fruit and vegetables all day. Plenty of rest. I’ve decided not to do chemo and radiation simply because I’ve known at seven to 10 people [who have] tried it and it didn’t help them.
“I always told myself that I found myself in the same situation I wouldn’t do it. I would rather have a certain quality of life over quantity of sickness.”
He told MSR, “I would just like to thank the Twin Cities. This place has done well by me and my children. I would never have traded anywhere for me to become a young businessman in the community. Nowhere in the world.”
The Pisces Day Party—Tribute to the Legendary Disco T, a benefit show with proceeds going towards Disco-T’s fight to beat cancer is scheduled for March 1, 2020, from noon to 5 pm at Fine Line Music Café, located at 318 1st Ave. N. in downtown Minneapolis. The show is 18+; $10 in advance, $15 at the door.