In an age of quick gratification and the instant attention switch, Kenny “Dope” Gonzalezis a name respected for both quality and consistency. Over the last 25 years, the fourtime Grammy-nominated DJ and producer has been astounding audiences across theworld with his fusions of house, hip-hop, Latin, jazz, funk & soul, reggae, alternative popand broken beats. By releasing literally thousands of original tracks and hundreds ofremixes, Kenny has earned a reputation as a living encyclopedia of beats as both a soloartist, and as one-half of the legendary house duo, Masters At Work.
At an early age, Kenny began absorbing the hip-hop beats being played at local houseand block parties in Sunset Park, Brooklyn where he grew up. He began his musicalcareer as a buyer for a local record shop called WNR Music Center, where hebroadened his musical knowledge and found his love of “diggin” for records. To date,Kenny’s collection totals over 50,000 records.
In the late 80’s, Mike Delgado, a good friend and partner of Kenny’s, organized a seriesof parties under the alias Masters At Work which the two of them would play at.Brooklyn DJ/producer Todd Terry attended these parties, and soon after, Kenny wouldcut school to watch Todd work on beats and record with singers and rappers. Thecombination of working at the store, learning how records were produced, and beingaround creative people influenced Kenny to begin his own productions. He then metKing Grand (Russell Cole) and the two formed a group called KAOS. In 1987, Kennyand Todd produced the group’s album titled Courts In Session, which was released thenext year on Gregg Fore’s label Bad Boy Records.
Over time, Kenny had built up the Masters At Work brand from its party-origins, and in1987 the club hits “Alright Alright” and “Dum Dum Cry” were released by Todd Terryunder the Masters At Work name. In return for the releases, Todd introduced Kenny to“Little” Louie Vega, another talented young Bronx DJ. In 1990, Kenny and Louieofficially began a creative partnership, appropriately dubbed Masters At Work (MAW),and their sound quickly became a force in the clubs. They were soon sought after byartists and labels, and eventually remixed everyone from Michael Jackson and LutherVandross, to Madonna and Daft Punk. With Louie influenced by salsa, house andfreestyle and Kenny by hip-hop and reggae, the two went on to become labeled by manyas the most revolutionary house production team of the 90’s.
In 1993, Kenny and Louie collaborated on a project called Nuyorican Soul, which wasnamed after their heritage (Puerto Rican), residence (New York City), and style of music(Soul). During a MAW gig at the Southport Weekender festival in England, Kenny wasinspired by the dancers in the jazz room and had an idea for a syncopated beat style ofmusic, which he dubbed the “broken beat” style. Nuyorican Soul released its first single“The Nervous Track” on Nervous Records shortly after, which became the first brokenbeat record ever released. In this time frame, not only did Kenny collaborate with Louieon MAW projects, he also produced and remixed tracks in the hip-hop and reggaescene. “Get Up (Clap Your Hands)” and “The Madd Racket” were huge club tracks, andhe also produced the Unreleased Project which featured Shaggy on the “Gunshot” track.Kenny’s breakthrough as a solo artist came in 1995. One night, disheartened by themusic that was being released throughout the business, Kenny went home and pulledout a series of classic records, and after three days he’d produced an entire album, TheBucketheads. This was a huge turning point for him, as one track on the album, “TheBomb (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind)” broke through the European pop charts andbecame his first major solo hit. Under different aliases, Kenny went on to releasenumerous projects on influential labels like Strictly Rhythm, Freeze, Nervous, HenryStreet Records and TNT. Starting in 2000, and over the next decade, Kenny also wenton to create classic remixes for the likes of R. Kelly, Shirley Bassey, The Jackson 5, DJGregory, Aaliyah, Soul Fuzion, and Kanye West.
Alongside being a DJ and producer, Kenny also holds the title of record label owner.Frank Mendez of Nu Groove Records gave him his first label Dopewax, so that he’dhave an outlet to release anything he wanted. Kenny kept the label going after NuGroove closed its doors, and it’s been a consistent outlet of house music to this day.Initially, the releases were primarily raw, tracky, beat records produced by Kenny. Hethen started going into the vocal side of things, and even released remixes of KanyeWest and Jill Scott tracks on the label. Demos started to come in, and now Dopewax isopen to other artists & producers along with Kenny’s music.
Kenny has another label, Kay-Dee Records, which focuses on re-recording andreleasing rare and classic music: everything from funk, soul & breaks, to gospel andmovie soundtracks. It was initially born out of a challenge from Scottish DJ legend KebDarge, who wanted to come up with a funk version of MAW’s “The Nervous Track”. Kebcame back a short while later with “Nervous” by The New Mastersounds, which would bethe first release on Kay-Dee. The idea for Kay-Dee then became to record newproductions with classic recording techniques. Kenny sought out to find old masters andproduce entirely new mixes of them. Not to remix, but to mix down the original andcreate new masters to give collectors and DJ’s a completely new version. Kay-DeeRecords is a true haven for those with a passion for rare “real” music, and a deep lovefor vinyl.
Aside from his own artist projects, Kenny has been a producer for a slew of other artists.For nearly fifteen years, he has produced music for R&B singer Raheem De Vaughn.Kenny produced eleven tracks on Raheem’s 2011 album Love & War Masterpeace,which was Grammy-nominated for Best R&B Album Of The Year. Featured artists ofthose tracks include Ludacris, Wale, Damian Marley, Jill Scott and Anthony Hamilton.Two of Kenny’s latest projects include producing rapper Rasheed Chappell’s FutureBefore Nostalgia album, and also putting together a 12-piece funk & soul band calledThe Fantastic Souls.
Throughout his career, Kenny admits there were times when he wasn’t inspired to createmusic because of what was dominating the new direction of sound. However, learningto listen without prejudice has allowed him to continue to discover new styles, artists andmusicians, and keep his love for the music alive. Kenny stays inspired and motivatednot by doing what he likes, but doing what he loves. This is what makes his musictimeless. Look out for him on tour this summer in Ibiza and throughout the rest of theworld, and for new upcoming releases on his Dopewax imprint.Back