Soundtrack to my life: 5 songs that influenced DJ Kenny Dope

From Puerto Rican composer Ismael Rivera to soul music great Nina Simone, the New York house music master DJ tells us the songs that influenced him

US DJ Kenny Dope. Photo credit: Kieth Major
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Listening to a Kenny Dope track is like trawling through an encyclopedia of Latin funk, house, hip-hop, soul and jazz. An avid collector with more than 50,000 records to his name, Dope cemented his status as an influential producer and DJ thanks to his work as part of the award-winning duo Masters at Work, in addition to his solo career in which he has remixed everyone from Shirley Bassey to Kanye West.

He credits his home of Brooklyn for expanding his musical tastes. “Being from there means that you are growing up in a melting pot and you are exposed to a wide variety of music,” he says. “Watching DJs play different kinds of music is really what inspired me to get into what I am doing now."

Dope says that playing a variety of music himself allowed him to hone his own personal style.

Speaking to us ahead of a set at Dubai’s Analog Room tonight, he runs us through the five songs that have helped to shape his life and career.

A song that reminds me of my childhood:  anything by Ismael Rivera

I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn in an area called Sunset Park and on the radio in my house was a lot of old Latin music. A lot of it came from my father’s record collection. Whenever I hear his songs it does take me back. I can’t really pinpoint a particular song because I remember it all being together as one. But I chose Rivera here because not only was he always on the speakers, but he was representative of that time in my life.

A song that changed my career: The Bomb by Kenny Dope (1994)

That was the song that took me to the next level and changed the scope of what I am doing, both creatively and financially. It also shows that music is really all about timing. When this song was released, disco samples were coming in. What struck people about this track was that the introduction was very long. And by the time the song started and climaxed, it grabbed people on the dance floor. When that song came out it caught everyone off-guard and I think that was the reason for its success.

A song I wish I’d written: Move Your Body by Marshall Jefferson (1986)

Man, this is the song that introduced house music to the world and that Chicago sound. Jefferson had a lot of hits before this, but this was the song that really broke through in a lot of different ways. It broke through to the hip-hop kids, it broke through to the house music kids and it just went worldwide. Now that’s something I would have loved to have written.

A song that makes me cry: See-Line Woman by Nina Simone (1964)

Nina Simone went through a lot of things in her life, particularly racial discrimination, which still goes on today. This whole racism thing I just can’t understand. We are all people and we should all hang out and talk things through, you know what I mean? We may come from different cultures but for that to turn into racism is something I just don’t understand. It is crazy. And this record talks about that.

A song that reminds me of Brooklyn: Top Billin by Audio 2 (1988)

That song is definitely Brooklyn. It has this odd kind of beat and time signature and it is a straight-up party record. Brooklyn has changed a lot over the years, but it has now become the spot to party. The clubs are now all there and when people want to go out and party they know that Brooklyn is where it’s at.

Kenny Dope performs on Thursday at Analog Room, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dubai – Jumeirah Beach, The Walk, JBR, Dubai. Doors open at 10pm and tickets cost Dh100. For more information on Kenny Dope click here.


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