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KPFT's Zin Tribute Was as Live as He Would Have Wanted It to Be

“Play it live.”

That was Zin’s main motto inside the doors of KPFT. No matter who was on the station, whether he interviewed or performed with them, he always wanted their purest form to be heard. Multiple tributes had been given since his death on Sunday, whether on Zin's AllRealRadio station via Brother Jesse or on KPFT, his former radio home.

Wednesday night, Matt Sonzala, Zin's co-founder of KPFT's hip-hop mainstay Damage Control, returned to the studio where they first hosted the show on a random Monday in 2002. Paul Wall & Chamillionaire were to be the first guests, but Paul admitted then he couldn’t find the station. Sonzala’s voice, normally razor-thin, felt far looser than usual. The Free Radicals played some blissful horn arrangements while Sonzala and current hosts DJ Chill and Zeaky Bobby each traded stories about how they initially met Zin, how Zeaky first came to become a host on Damage Control and more.

“I remember when he was selling incense,” Sonzala joked. “It’s how I used to keep in touch with him. He used to be on AOL Messenger with Zincense as his name.”

The studio felt like the older days at KPFT, when hundreds used to wait in the lobby before Damage Control kicked off at 11 p.m. on Wednesdays. Kam Franklin of The Suffers, who used to intern at the station, appeared. Same for K-Rino and plenty of others who had come across Zin’s spirit, his words of wisdom or his jokes.

“I’ll miss his smile,” DJ Sun remarked. He was among the many at the station on Wednesday night, still in disbelief that Zin was gone, even as he was in Denver working on establishing a second home for AllRealRadio.

Franklin, in an impromptu performance with the Free Radicals, freestyled a tribute. “How can we be like, how can we be more like Zin?” she sang. Rappers Rob Ripper, Equality, Savii of H.I.S.D., Killer Streez and Lyric Michelle all held a mini-cipher bouncing off one another, each mentioning Zin as if he were their personal navigator at times. He was a motivator and cheerleader, always telling them to build and learn their community.

“Everytime I hear somebody paying respect, showing love to Zin, I wanna text him,” Sonzala said after a testimony from Savii. “It’s choking me up hearing everybody talk about my brother.”

For the four-hour show, the Damage Control crew played old Zin freestyles and tracks, including the 2003 freestyle with Zin, Bun B and David Banner where Banner and Bun met for the first time. Another moment where The Black Eyed Peas randomly showed up on a Monday afternoon for a quick freestyle session. Others like DJ Good Grief, DJ Elevated and K-Rino shared testimony about Zin, each with the same unifying story about Zin being on the frontline, being involved with the community and able to blend in with almost every side of the city.

“We lost three titans these last couple of months: Wickett Crickett, who without him there is no Day 1; Amber Savage, who sadly just lost her battle with cancer, and now Zin,” Sonzala remarked.

The music played. The voices continued to sway in unison for one last tribute to Zin, as loud and live as he would have wanted it to be.

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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell