Kenny Dope: The Legend In Profile

16 February 2016

You could fill a book with Kenny ‘Dope’ GozalezMasters At Work easily runs into the thousands at last count, and his enormous collection of vinyl had already soared over the 50,000 mark. Amazingly, despite his enormous output, the artist has never sacrificed quality or consistency. Read his 4 page bio and innumerable interviews online and you’ll realise that Kenny Dope has never been interested in being a celebrity (despite 4 Grammy nominations), he’s just in it for the music.

‘Prolific’ doesn’t really do K Dope justice. And to condense his career down to a thousand odd words hasn’t been easy.

We haven’t been this enthusiastic about an artist coming down to the subcontinent since Hyperdub boss Kode9’s trip last year. Kenny Dope lands tonight, armed with crates of tunes and his encyclopaedic knowledge of music for Red Bull Music Academy sessions and club night in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore...

The artist most likely didn’t know the direction his life would take when he became a buyer at a local record shop in Brooklyn when he was just 15 years old. Gonzalez held on to that role till he was 21, educating himself in music and slowly building his enormous collection of vinyl and his love for pure, analogue sound.

Masters at Work began as a club night in the late 80s when Gonzalez teamed up with his good friend and partner Mike Delgado, organising a series of parties under the alias, which the two of them would play at. He built up the now aptly named Masters at Work brand from its party origins after meeting fellow Brooklyn beatmaker Todd Terry – a legend in his own right who debuted MAW’s first release “Alright Alright” and introduced Kenny Dope to “Little” Louie Vega.

Vega and Gonzalez have been the Masters at Work since then, steadily forging their way into becoming one of the most respected collaborations in modern music. Everyone wanted to get mixed by the masters and they were soon reworking music by the biggest stars in the industry including Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, to Madonna and Daft Punk.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say MAW were valued as the most revolutionary house production team of the 90s, changing the way music was perceived worldwide.

In the early 90s, Kenny and Louie also collaborated on Nuyorican Soul - named after their Puerto Rican, residence in New York City and soul music. Inspired by dancers he saw in the jazz room at Southport Weekender festival in England, Kenny Dope came up with a syncopated beat style of music. Nuyorican Soul released their now celebrated first single “The Nervous Track” on Nervous Records shortly after, which became the first broken beat record ever released.

Despite all of that however, Kenny’s 1995 album ‘The Bucketheads’ truly marked his breakthrough as a solo artist. One track in particular, called “The Bomb (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind)” cracked the pop charts in Europe, escalating his career further. By the time the 2000s rolled around, Kenny Dope had released music through some of the most influential labels at the time (Strictly Rhythm, Freeze, Nervous, Henry Street Records and TNT) and was remixing music by R. Kelly, Shirley Bassey, The Jackson 5, DJ Gregory, Aaliyah, Soul Fuzion, and Kanye West. It’s a testimony to his talent that Gonzalez has stayed relevant through all this time without compromising on his sound in the least. He’s stuck to making timeless classics and dance anthems to this day.

Apart from Masters at Work and his expansive solo career, Kenny Dope always plays the role of a label owner at Dopewax and Kay-Dee Records. The former started off releasing mostly raw, beat driven records produced by Kenny but eventually opened up other artists and producers. Kay-Dee, on the other hand, focuses on re-recordings and releasing rare music that fall under a variety of genre categories from funk and soul to gospel and even movie soundtracks.

Kenny Dope is a veritable juggernaut in the music industry. But despite top of 4 Grammy nominations, a discography that could fill in a phone book and creating a whole genre on his own, Kenny Dope remains one of the most down-to-earth selectors and producers out there. The only thing that matters, and has always mattered, is the music.

Kenny Dope’s RBMA session begins at 5pm today (Wednesday 17 February) at Bandstand. The session will be moderated by Nick Dwyer, who you’ll remember from Kode9’s session last year. The club night will follow with music by Soulspace, Jitter and the man himself.

Details for Mumbai and Bangalore events hyperlinked.


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