“Little Louie” Vega is the Miles Davis of dance music. Like the impossible to categorize Davis, Vega is constantly reinventing himself and revolutionizing music itself in the process. During his nearly two-decade long career, Vega has crafted some of the most innovative singles in dance music history (“The Nervous Track”, “It’s Alright”, “I Feel It” and “You Can Do It”), kick started genres like soulful house (“Beautiful People,” “I Get Lifted”), and revitalized the careers of legends like Roy Ayers, George Benson and Tito Puente.
Born in the Bronx in 1965, Vega grew up surrounded by Latin music. Vega’s father, Louie Vega Sr, is an accomplished jazz and Latin saxophone player and his uncle Hector LaVoe was a renowned salsa singer who recorded for the Fania label. But Vega’s musical influences didn’t end with Latin music: in the eighties, he was a regular at legendary nightclubs like The Paradise Garage and he attended Afrika Bambaataa’s parties in the Bronx River Projects.
In 1985, Vega began his first nightclub residency at Devil’s Nest, in the Bronx, Roseland, Studio 54 and the Palladium. Vega’s style reflected his eclectic upbringing: his DJ sets included everything from Latin music to hip-hop to British new wave. But towards the end of the decade, Vega became disenchanted with the club scene’s increasing musical segregation. “People’s minds were starting to think in terms of categories,” Vega remembers.
LOUIE VEGA @ SOUL HEAVEN
Luckily, at the very same time Vega saw clubland’s creative lights dimming a bit, his soon-to-be production partner Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez was throwing wildly eclectic mobile parties in his Brooklyn neighborhood and cobbling together productions under the “Masters At Work” moniker. By 1987, the Masters At Work name attracted so much attention that Todd Terry borrowed their name-and their style-for the New York house classic “Alright, Alright.”
Terry, in turn, introduced Gonzalez to Vega and the two found an immediate kinship. Masters At Work productions soon began to take off. Innovative house remixes for the likes of Tito Puente, Saint Etienne and even Debbie Gibson quickly put the duo at the top of the underground dance music heap. And Vega’s influential “Underground Network” party at Sound Factory Bar in New York created the template for many a soulful house party to come including “Body & Soul” and yielded house music anthems like Barbara Tucker’s “Beautiful People” and River Ocean featuring India’s “Love & Happiness”.
Yet Vega and Gonzalez were still restless, so they created a new project called Nuyorican Soul. With its jazzy horn blasts, ambient soundscapes and wildly arrhythmic percussion, Nuyorican Soul’s first single “Nervous Track” pushed the boundaries of dance music even further. The Nuyorican Soul album, released in 1997, was even more innovative, bringing together gospel divas like Jocelyn Brown, latin soulstress India, hip -hop DJ Jazzy Jeff and soul legends like Roy Ayers under one roof. Like Daft Punk’s Homework, Blaze’s Ten Years After, or Roni Size’s New Forms, the album permanently altered the course of dance music.
LOUIE VEGA INTERVIEW
Louie Vega has now embarked on his most ambitious musical journey yet, with his explosive upcoming full-length solo project, Elements of Life. Featuring such artists as Anané, Raul Midon, Domingo Quinones, Albert ‘Sterling’ Menendez, Dimitri From Paris, and many more, Vega has broken ground, yet again, in this gorgeous musical collage of languages, cultures, and ideas, with no borders or inhibitions.