DJ Spinna Prepares to Host This Weekend’s Michael Jackson Tribute Party


Editor’s note: In Tweets is Watching, Phillip Mlynar asks local artists questions based solely on the contents of their Twitter timeline.

DJ Spinna will be holding down deck duties at a Michael Jackson tribute party this Sunday. Once that’s in the bag, he’ll be hitting the lab to ready up a Jigmastas reunion album that’s slated to drop later this year. Before then, here’s Spinna talking through his Twitter timeline admiration of George Duke, reminiscing over M.J., and looking back to being on the set of a certain Spike Lee video joint.

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Can you remember when you first came across George Duke’s music?
Yeah, the first record I remember hearing was “Reach For It” as a kid, which is probably his first commercial success. Prior to that he was doing mostly jazz-fusion but this record had the funk to it. I was six-years-old when that came out.

What appealed to you most about “Reach for It”?
Well funk was the mode at that time, you know, so it was very similar to what was happening with Funkadelic like it had that same fat bottom. Same as Ohio Players. It was in the mode of that time.

How would you sum up George Duke’s importance?
His body of work has so much depth. He started off orchestrating classical jazz stuff, he worked with Frank Zappa on the experimental rock side, and then all of his MPS records before he got signed to Epic, they’re just experimental and eccentric as well as very musical and technical. He was ahead of his time: he used a lot of keyboards and synthesizers and the way he put them together was uncanny. He was kinda intergalactic!

Then when you start looking into the collaborations, like he’s on Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall album a few times, there’s so much stuff like that. And he was highly influenced by Brazilian music and disco and funk and he had a little pop success in the ’80s, so he was all over the place! I remember that every record I picked up of his he always had a smiling face on the cover! I’m sure if you had a conversation with him he’d have said life is too short and you’ve got to enjoy it.

What’s your favorite way another producer has sampled George Duke’s music?
Dilla, to me, did it best on [Common’s] “Thelonious.” Nothing compared to that, the way Dilla heard that little snippet [on “Vulcan Mind Probe”], those little two seconds, and the way he used it.

How do you feel about the new Spike Lee movie?
Yeah, he just launched a Kickstarter and yesterday he met his goal of $1.2 million. For me, I’m a full Spike Lee supporter. I’ve done events with him — he’s actually hosting my next Michael Jackson fundraiser this Sunday. I think what he’s done for black culture with movies that he’s made, it’s monumental. I’m looking forward to his new film but to me it’s more about supporting him as a person.

Did you donate to Spike Lee’s Kickstarter?
Absolutely. He had a deejaying extravaganza event in Brooklyn the other night and he had me, Clark Kent, DJ Scratch, Mick Boogie and J. Period spin. I didn’t charge him for playing. And on the Kickstarter I definitely donated.

If you could go back and soundtrack one of his movies, which one would you pick?
Do The Right Thing! That paralleled the early hip-hop movement of the ’90s — that was the hip-hop film! You had Public Enemy with “Fight The Power” on the soundtrack and the streets of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn and, in fact, when they were shooting the “Fight The Power” video I was at the shoot! I have a picture from that. I’m not in the picture, ha ha, but I took a picture of the crowd. It was crazy. It was like all of Brooklyn was outside in this dead-end block and Public Enemy were on stage performing and there were cops everywhere and people hanging outside their window. It was incredible. Spike Lee was a star to the hip-hop generation; he made films in the ’90s that spoke to us.

What’s the Michael Jackson party you’re throwing this weekend?
Even before Michael Jackson passed away I’ve been doing these Michael Jackson versus Prince parties just celebrating their bodies of work. Once the death of Michael came upon us I continued to do tribute parties. Spike Lee caught wind of that. He was wanting to do a Brooklyn Loves Michael Jackson tribute party and someone told him I was already doing something similar and we talked about working together. There’s a lot of red tape in the city though, so he’ll be hosting my event Forever Michael, which is this coming Sunday.

Do you get emotional when deejaying at these tribute parties?
Oh yeah, of course, I grew up listening to his music and he touched so many people. I don’t care what anyone says — he’s definitely the biggest artist of our time. No matter how many people try to copy him and copy his music, there will never be another Michael. A lot of people know this and those are the people who I get coming to the parties — the diehards. I remember doing a party in 2009, the year he died, and kids were allowed to come through so we had kids from four-years-old up to their parents all enjoying his music. His music affected us in a great way.

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