DJ Spen

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DJ Spen 2018

Sean Spencer (born October 13, 1968), better known by his stage name DJ Spen or Spen, is an American DJ, record producer, and record executive. He got his start, at the age of 13, as a local DJ in Baltimore, Maryland in the early 1980s, making mix tapes for local radio shows and playing parties. In 1983, Spencer, (along with Kevin Liles, Rodney "Kool Rod" Holloman, Darryl "Junie Jams" Mims, and Wayne Mallory) started a hip hop group called the Numarx in the basement of his parents' Baltimore row house. With Kool Rod and Junie Jams as the MCs, the group performed around Baltimore and the surrounding areas and opened for acts such as LL Cool J and Run-DMC. Later Spencer, Liles, and Holloman (along with Bill Pettaway and Ky Adeyemo) wrote Girl You Know It's True, which became a popular hit in German nightclubs and was eventually heard by Milli Vanilli producer Frank Farian. Spen also worked for several Baltimore area radio stations including V-103, WERQ-FM "92Q", WKYS-FM, and WWIN-FM "Majic 95.9" (where he started the popular Flashback Saturday Night Dance Party). He eventually became the Mix Show Director at V-103.

In 1989, Spen moved away from hip hop and joined the powerhouse dance music production team The Basement Boys who remixed or produced artists such as Paula Abdul, Michael Jackson, Crystal Waters, and Ultra Nate. Karizma later joined the group and was DJ Spen's production partner. The two often produced under the alias "Deepah Ones" and Karizma became a mix show DJ during Spen’s tenure as Mix Show Director on V-103. In 1998 DJ Spen stopped working on radio to fully devote his time to production and DJ work. He continued to work with the Basement Boys for several years before starting a business venture called Code Red Recordings, with partner Gary Deane Ahrens. Code Red eventually snagged a distribution deal with the popular house music giant, Defected Records based in the UK. In 2011, Spen ventured out on his own to start the house music label Quantize Recordings, where he serves as President/CEO. Thomas "Thommy" Davis (original member of The Basement Boys and co-producer on the Grammy Award winning song Gypsy Woman starring vocalist Crystal Waters) serves as Vice President of A&R.

DJ Spen continues to play internationally and has performed at some of the most sought after venues and locales around the world including Ministry of Sound; Coachella; Southport Weekender UK; SunceBeat Festival Croatia; and Ibiza. He and his former studio production partner Karizma often perform DJ sets together, wowing crowds with their back and forth routines that include broken beats, loops, and tricks using drum machines and up to 7 digital turntables. In the summer of 2018, DJ Spen and Italian producer Michele Chiavarini scored a number 1 on Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart with their remix of Donna Summer's Hot Stuff.

Early Life[edit]

DJ Spen was born in Baltimore, Maryland and was the youngest of three boys. His parents were raised in small towns in Virginia and moved to Maryland before he was born.  Spen’s mother was one of thirteen siblings and the family was very active in the Baptist church.  His grandfather, Alonzo Moore, started the family church, Springhill Baptist Church in rural Virginia.   His family and extended family members served in various roles in the church from the choir to the band and ministry team.  Spen would spend holidays and summers in Virginia, so gospel music and church activities were a large part of his upbringing.  He has described himself as a follower of Christ and those beliefs are often reflected in the music he writes and produces.

In addition to his exposure to gospel music, Spen’s older brothers introduced him to rock, soul, and funk music in the early 70s.  One of his older brothers played guitar and the other hosted parties at local colleges. This exposure had a profound impact on him.  His parents supported his interest and bought him his first record player around the age of six.  This was the foundation of DJ Spen’s music career.

Spen’s parents allowed him, along with his friends, to start the Numarx in the basement of their Baltimore home in 1982.  His parents permitted him to continue his pursuit of music and often drove him to Numarx performances, DJ gigs and stints at local radio stations, before he was able to drive himself.

Education[edit]

DJ Spen received a private Catholic school education throughout his childhood in Baltimore. He attended St. Ambrose Elementary School, All Saints Middle School, and graduated from Mt. St. Joseph High School in 1986. While his parents allowed Spen to pursue his career in music, they also required that he attend college.  He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Coppin State College (now Coppin State University) in 1990.

Career[edit]

DJ Spen's first "work" in the music industry was making mix tapes. As early as 1982, Spen reports that his mother would drive him to local AM radio station WEBB, where we would drop off mix tapes. He was quickly noticed by WEBB radio personality Randy Dennis, who would eventually become his manager. As a local DJ and member of a hip-hop crew, Spen spent a lot of his early teen years in local record shops buying records. During this time, he met a number of DJs who heavily influenced his career, including Thommy Davis (of Basement Boys fame) who was one of the co-producers of Gypsy Woman. By 1985, Spen joined Thommy Davis and other local DJs working in a Baltimore record store part-time. After enrolling in college, Spen met a professor who was able to help him secure an internship with WWIN-FM radio as an on-air radio personality for the early Sunday morning shift in 1989. Shortly after securing that internship, he was hired as the full-time weekday personality from midnight to six AM under the direction of program director Harold Pompey. DJ Spen continued to work at various radio stations in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area – often working different shifts at two stations. It was during this time that he became an on-air host at “Majic 95.9 FM” (now called Magic 95.9 FM) in Baltimore and created the popular “Flashback Saturday Night Dance Party” which is still on the air with his friend, Baltimore club music DJ KW Griff, at the helm.

The Numarx[edit]

Just before his 14th birthday in September 1982 DJ Spen's mother drove him to WEBB, an R&B/hip-hop station, to drop off a mix tape. At that time, he was making mixes with one turntable, a mixer, and a boombox. He had called the station the day before and spoken with up and coming radio personality, Randy Dennis, to tell him about the mix tapes he was making at home. He told Dennis that he could do some of the same turntable tricks and mixing that were becoming popular with local hip hop "crews". During that conversation, Dennis challenged Spen to bring a tape to the station. Very shortly after listening to the tape, The very next day, Spen heard his mix being played on the air. Spen called the station and spoke with Randy Dennis who asked him what the name of his crew was. Spen didn't have an official crew yet, but while he was on the phone he looked over at his Numark mixer and told Dennis his crew was called "The Numarx". Dennis asked Spen to make some more mixes and told him he would be in touch. Meanwhile, his original mix continued to be in regular rotation at the station. Spen called his close friend Wayne "Mozes" Mallory and The Numarx crew was officially born. Randy Dennis left WEBB very soon after. Spen persisted with contacting the radio station, since his mix was still on heavy rotation. He eventually reached Chuck Maxx, Randy Dennis' successor, and explained that he was the DJ who made the mix the station had been playing. Chuck connected The Numarx with Virgil Sims, a local promoter who went to work getting them gigs. Spen and Mozes worked on getting more equipment and honing their DJ skills. The first public appearance of The Numarx was at the Baltimore Civic Center in December 1982, opening for Davy DMX.

The Numarx Expand[edit]

Spen and Mozes, as The Numarx, continued to do radio mixes, play local parties, and DJ for local MCs. In early 1983, Rodney "Kool Rod" Holloman, a middle school classmate of both Spen and Mozes, joined the crew as their MC. Later that year, Kool Rod brought Kevin "K.G" Liles to the group as the second MC. The group, who practiced in Spen's basement, continued to do local performances and parties. In 1984 Kool Rod's cousin, DJ Darryl "Junie Jam" Mims, became the fifth member of The Numarx. The group's performance schedule really took off. The same year, The Numarx were the opening act for major hip hop artists who performed in Baltimore, such as LL Cool J and Run-DMC. They continued to provide a steady stream of mixes for radio and also recorded their first song. Buss It[1] was released in 1984 on KMA Records.

In 1985, The Numarx moved from AM radio to doing mixes for Baltimore urban contemporary radio station, V-103. It was at V-103, that Spen was reunited with Randy Dennis. Dennis became the group's manager the same year. Under Dennis, The Numarx started branching out beyond Baltimore to perform at various events and parties in Maryland, DC, and Virginia. In early 1987, the group recorded Rhymes So Def[2] at Studio Records in Oxon Hill, MD. Through Randy Dennis, The Numarx formed a relationship with the recording studio, and the song was released the same year on the Studio Records label. The song earned a fair amount of success and airplay in the Mid-Atlantic region of the east coast.

Girl You Know It's True[edit]

The Numarx followed up Rhymes So Def with the release of Girl You Know It's True in 1987[3]. The idea for the song began when the Numarx wrote a rap to a track composed by local musician/songwriter Bill Pettaway. Liles and Holloman wrote the words and Spencer made the beat. Pettaway, Spencer, Liles, and Holloman continued to craft the tune. In addition, then-current Starpoint member Kayode "Ky" Adeyemo joined in, co-writing and co-producing the song with Pettaway. Adeyemo played keyboards and wrote the infectious “Ooh Ooh Ooh” hook for the song.  Kevin Liles and Kool Rod are the lead vocalists rhyming on the record with Spencer providing some background vocals. However, the most prominent vocalist on the hook and backing vocals of the song is Charles "Ooh Oh Ooh" Christopher. Charles was friends with Pettaway, Adeyemo, and Starpoint keyboardist George Phillips and became the voice that everyone was singing along with. Although the song did not match the success of Rhymes So Def, Girl You Know It's True did connect with audiences on the other side of the Atlantic, becoming a popular hit in the German clubs[4]. In 1988, The Numarx released their lone album Our Time Has Come, which included their original version of Girl You Know It's True.

1988 Milli Vanilli covered Girl You Know It's True, which earned multi platinum status in the United States.[5]

The End of the Numarx[edit]

In 1989, The Numarx formed a small independent record label called Marx Brothers Records. Not long after, Mims and Holloman left the group. The Numarx released a few more projects including Do It Good[6], which enjoyed regional success and was later remixed by The Basement Boys - becoming a dance music hit. By 1991, DJ Spen had left the group to become an on-air radio personality in Baltimore and also joined the Baltimore-based powerhouse dance music production outfit Basement Boys that produced hit dance music numbers for Michael Jackson, Crystal Waters, Toni Braxton, and Ultra Nate’. Liles and Mallory remained together and recorded one more song entitled, Drop Down To Your Knees[7] before disbanding the group. After working as a local music promoter on the east coast, Liles went on to work for Def Jam Recordings, where he eventually worked his way to the role of President. He is currently CEO of 300 Entertainment in New York, which produces and manages some of the biggest names in R&B and hip hop music.

The Basement Boys[edit]

As his time with the Numarx was coming to an end, Spen was becoming more and more interested in dance music. He joined the Baltimore-based production group and record label The Basement Boys where he cultivated and honed his classic garage house music style. Eventually he was joined by Karizma who was his studio partner during the mid 1990s to early 2000s. In 1995, DJ Spen completed his first full-fledged dance music production, A Feelin[8][9] featuring the original members of Jasper Street Company (a vocal group he formed and Teddy Douglas named). Over the next eight years, Spen continued producing with The Basement Boys and churned out several dance music hits including, Solid Ground[10], Temptation[11], Craze At Midnight, and God Helps Those (Who Help Themselves)[12].

Code Red Recordings[edit]

By the end of 2003, DJ Spen had left The Basement Boys. In early 2004, he started the Code Red Recordings label along with partner Gary Dean. During this time, Spen formed the Muthafunkaz production team with Dean, Gary Hudgins, and Irvin Madden. Hudgins and Madden were longtime friends of Spen's and had worked as session musicians for several Basement Boys projects. The Muthafunkaz' first release was The Best I Can/Brutal on Code Red Recordings.[13] A short time later, the group created a band by the same name, featuring vocalists Sheila Ford, Marc Evans, Rodney Hamlett, and Erin Madden. The production group created a string of successful dance hits including It's So Easy[14] (featuring Grammy Award winning vocalist Ann Nesby); DJ Technic Gabryelle[15], The Way You Love Me[16], and I Miss You[17]. Code Red also released a remix for Toni Braxton's Unmake My Heart. The label was eventually offered a distribution deal with UK-based Defected Records.

Quantize Recordings[edit]

In 2012, DJ Spen and Gary Dean parted ways when Spen ventured off to start Quantize Recordings, a production company, record label and publishing company). Spen immediately brought on his old friend Thommy Davis, who serves as Co-Executive Producer and VP of A&R. The label has released over 200 songs and currently releases two to three dance music projects weekly. Quantize is one of the most recognized names in house music and has worked with some of the genres biggest names including Ann Nesby, Jocelyn Brown, Joi Caldwell, SuSu Bobien, Tracy Hamlin, Shaun Escoffrey, Dawn Tallman, Alicia Myers. In the summer of 2018, the label had a number 1 Billboard Dance Chart song with Barbara Tucker's cover[18] of Think (About It).

References[edit]

  1. ^ McSaszi84 (2009-07-16), Nurmarx - Buss It (KMA-1984), retrieved 2018-11-05
  2. ^ Hardcore Phonography (2016-08-31), NUMARX - RHYMES SO DEF (REGULAR VERSION), retrieved 2018-11-05
  3. ^ R.H. Marcus (2017-08-18), Numarx – Girl You Know It's True (1987), retrieved 2018-11-05
  4. ^ "Girl You Know It's True by Milli Vanilli - Songfacts". www.songfacts.com. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  5. ^ "Gold & Platinum - RIAA". RIAA. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  6. ^ Andrea F (2014-03-30), Numarx - Do It Good (Basement Mix), retrieved 2018-11-05
  7. ^ RJJNY (2009-03-27), Numarx - Drop Down To Your Knees (AshSheKnee Mix), retrieved 2018-11-05
  8. ^ ruffbizness (2012-03-08), The Jasper Street Company - A Feeling - 1995, retrieved 2018-11-05
  9. ^ "DJ Spen Presents Jasper Street Company* - A Feelin'". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  10. ^ "D.J. Spen* Presents Jasper Street Company* - Solid Ground". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  11. ^ "DJ Spen Presents Jasper Street Co. - Temptation (Lead Us Not)". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  12. ^ "DJ Spen Presents Jasper St. Co.* - God Helps Those (Who Help Themselves)". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  13. ^ "DJ Spen Presents The MuthaFunkaz* - The Best I Can". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  14. ^ "DJ Spen & The MuthaFunkaz Feat. Ann Nesby - It's So Easy". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  15. ^ "DJ Spen Presents DJ Technic - Gabryelle". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  16. ^ "DJ Spen & The MuthaFunkaz present Marc Evans - The Way You Love Me". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  17. ^ "DJ Spen & The Muthafunkaz - The Muthalode". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  18. ^ "Barbara Tucker - Think (About It)". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-11-05.

External Links[edit]