A godfather of global dance music, Louie Vega has painted an award-winning career from a palette mixed with everything from salsa and afro-beat to jazz, hip-hop and soul. What distinguishes the Grammy winner and 4-time nominee as one of the best living house music deejays is his ability to evolve alongside the times, distill the current musical landscape through his unique taste and put his own timeless spin on it.
“Little” Louie Vega, as he is sometimes affectionately known, was born in the Bronx into a musically gifted family (his father, a jazz saxophonist, and his uncle, Salsa King Héctor Lavoe). The “Little” moniker is ironic, given the fact that by the 80s he was deejaying at clubs he wasn’t even old enough to attend, holding residencies at Studio 54, Devil’s Nest, Hearthrob, Roseland, and the Palladium. Soon Vega was producing his own remixes, which included Information Society’s “Running”, Noel’s “Silent Morning” and Debbie Gibson’s “Only in my Dreams”.
Then in 1991 he joined Atlantic Records—and hit the mainstream. Teaming with an-up-and-coming Marc Anthony, he helped to produce “Ride on the Rhythm”. An immediate hit, the single put Vega and Anthony on the map. The duo would rock the club circuit, with their success culminating when they opened for Tito Puente at his 100 Album concert at Madison Square Garden.
One of the keys to Vega’s success is his knack for refusing to be boxed into any one category, not only reflected in the various music styles his songs play with, but by his fruitful collaborations with other artists. And so more success came in 1991 from the production team he created with Brooklyn-based deejay Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez. Masters at Work, as they were called, were responsible for the critically acclaimed albums “Nuyorican Soul” and “Masters At Work – Our Time is Coming”. Not to mention the duo found the time to remix and or to produce for Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Madonna, Jamiroquai, Tito Puente, India, Janet Jackson, Tania Maria, George Benson, Black Eyed Peas, Jocelyn Brown, Los Amigos Invisibles, Bebe Winans, and Earth Wind & Fire.
Vega has always been hungry for a challenge, and the aughts saw him move into new roles that expanded on his artistry; first up, that of record label owner. Featuring a roster that included Anané Vega, Luisito Quintero, Elements Of Life (his live band), Mr. V, Boddhi Satva, Hugh Masekela, Roberto Roena, Lisa Fischer, and Cindy Mizelle, Vega Records has released over 130 singles and 9 Full Length CD / Albums. In addition, Louie Vega has released over 25 compilations (with over 2 million CDs sold) on the industry’s most revered imprints, including Ministry of Sound Recordings, Defected Records, Kingstreet, Azuli, Division (Italy), Concept, & Strictly Rhythm records.
In his other venture, he joined with world-renowned NYC-based jewellery designer Kenny Hwang to create a signature line of hats, jewellery, t-shirts, and additional memorabilia.
As these businesses flourished, so did Vega’s music, and in 2006 he received a Grammy Award for his remix of Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly” on Rhino Records. Then, not more than a year later, Cirque Du Soleil approached him and the house-music group Blaze to compose and produce a song for a once in a lifetime event. And so Anané Vega and Elements Of life performed the song “One Dream” to the acrobatics of Cirque Du Soleil during the 2007 Super Bowl Pre-Game Show to over 70,000 people at Dolphin Stadium in Florida and were seen by 145 million television viewers.
…Yet as we move through the twenty-tens, Louie shows no signs of slowing down…
The past four years since April 2010 have brought forth yet another outlet for Vega. Hosted by Vega and Kevin Hedge, the Roots NYC LIVE Radio Show airs on WBLS 107.5 (New York’s longest running R&B and soul radio station). Rated the #3 radio show in New York on Friday night, they air every Friday from 10 PM – Midnight (stream live www.wbls.com).
To keep the music flowing on all the continents, Vega can also be heard every Saturday from 5pm – 6pm over IBIZA SONICA on the Sunset Ritual Radio show with Anane Vega in Spain (www.ibizasonica.com), and every Saturday at 10pm via KAYA FM’s Dance Ritual with Louie Vega (www.kayafm.co.za) in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Ever the music innovator, in 2013 Vega released Elements of Life – Eclipse on the legendary Fania Records. The record, 4 ½ years in the making, keeps the style of Vega’s earlier albums (African, Jazz, Latin, World), but injects it with Soul, R&B, Gospel and Blues. Featured artists on the album include Anané Vega, Lisa Fischer, Cindy Mizelle, Ursula Rucker, Josh Milan, Luisito Quintero, Oveus Maximus and an all-star cast of musicians.
The occasion was momentous not only because it was the first new artist album Fania had released in years. In Vega’s words, “…[It] really comes full circle now, being able to be on the label my uncle Héctor Lavoe was on and the Fania All Stars who are all great inspirations for me. Fania Records is to Latin music what Motown is to R&B and Soul, so to even be a small page in this encyclopaedia of music is a dream come true for me.”
With all the good fortune he’s received, Vega finds it crucial to give back. During most of his free time he donates Vega Memorabilia to auctions, deejays at fundraisers and serves as a goodwill ambassador for the Christian Rivera Foundation.
Currently, Vega and Anané are headlining their Sunset Ritual brand, an outdoor party held at prestigious beach clubs around the world and drenched in the sounds of House, Global Disco, Afro tech and Old School. Sunset Ritual has toured the Mediterranean every summer since 2010, including a two-year residency at the Blue Marlin beach club in Ibiza. Just this past year, from the 21st of June until the 20th of September 2013, the Sunset Ritual’s good vibes were back in Ibiza, this time at the famed Ushuaïa Hotel. This May 2014, Anané and Louie will release the first Sunset Ritual Cd/DVD. Then in the summer Sunset Ritual will resume across beaches of Ibiza, Formentera, Italy, and Greece.
In 2014, Masters At Work will reunite with a full blown project and Anthology on the House Masters Defected Release #21. Louie Vega & Kenny Dope will once again come together to create music and do what they do best, produce and make you dance!
Breaking down musical barriers and bringing people together through a love of music has always been Vega’s aim; after more than 20 years in the game, his contributions continue to positively influence the global house and world music.
Listen closely as the best has yet to come from Louie Vega!