Anthony Phillip Guzman Prieto had many faces within San Diego hip-hop.
To San Diego graffiti writers he was Peng One-an amiable OG who freely shared the secrets of the dark art of post-industrial, post-midnight hieroglyphics, and a gruff force of order in San Diego's lawless graffiti yards.
Among San Diego DJs he was known as the reclusive producer Disko Rick. He sought little recognition for the grimy beats he produced, huddled over his Emu SP1200 in his boxers at 7 a.m. As Disco Rick, he brought down many a house with his virtuoso manipulations of records and faders.
To Jodie Van Ness, he was her fiancé. "I fell in love with him the first day I met him," she says. "He was into breaking when he was a kid, but in the late '80s he got really into graffiti. He was a vandal. He saw it as his way of marking his territory."
The most misunderstood of the so-called hip-hop "elements," most of the public instinctively links graffiti to gangs and violence. Though such links can't be completely denied, most graffiti artists are simply after name recognition acquired through "getting up" or having their tag all over the city. Peng One was not only a tagger, but excelled in "pieces," which are complex, multi-color renderings of the artist's tag.
"He was good at all the different styles," Van Ness says. "He was the first to paint at a lot of the yards around the city. He also liked to paint in T.J."
San Diego was Peng One's home territory, but he loved to paint up and down the West Coast-especially on trains. "He did a numbered series of tags on trains-he got to over a thousand before he stopped," Van Ness recalls. It wasn't uncommon for graffiti artists in other cities to mail him pictures of the trains that were carrying his tag throughout the nation.
In the late '90s, Peng One decided music was a more productive and potentially more lucrative way to garner props, and gained his Disko Rick moniker. As Van Ness recalls, "His proudest days were when he got his turntables and his sampler."
Though he never completely stopped painting, he began stalking beats the same way he chased trains, and the sound he sought was as dark and industrial as the yards he used to haunt. Heavily influenced by the "scratch-turntablist" movement largely credited to Invisibl Skratch Piklz, he founded a record label named Fierce Productions. Under the group name First Power Crew, he put out "break records" that were filled with brooding beats designed to inspire only the most abstract scratching and beat juggling.
By the late '90s, the records caught the ear of none other than Q-Bert-the king of all scratch DJs and Disko Rick's personal muse. Q-Bert used several First Power beats for his productions, including his acclaimed "Wave Twisters" video, several of his Dirtstyle scratch records and on the CD for his Turntable Timmy children's book.
This summer, Prieto passed away suddenly. He was a complex individual who selectively presented his different sides to different people. Those who knew him as a graffiti artist often knew nothing about his accomplishments in music, and vice versa. His stories are now becoming local lore, whether it's getting busted for painting in his own backyard, ditching cops by slipping into a bum's sleeping bag or supposedly scarring his hands as a symbol of dedication to DJing.
He was both at the core of San Diego's hip-hop movement and at the core of many folks' hearts.
"There's just so many of us who miss him," says Van Ness.
A series of posthumous Disko Rick break records will be released in the coming months, as well as several productions with the First Power Crew. www.firstpowercrew.com.