Today sees the release of the Quantize Miami Sampler 2019, compiled and mixed by US house icon DJ Spen, who first laid his hand on the decks at the age of thirteen, while growing up in his native city of Baltimore, and hasn’t looked back since. Also known as Sean Spencer, the internationally renowned DJ and producer began his illustrious career in the mid-’80s as a hip-hop radio DJ making beats under the moniker Numarx, responsible for writing and recording ‘Girl You Know It’s True’, later covered and made into a smash hit by Milli Vanilli.
The years that followed saw DJ Spen move away from hip-hop and towards the classic Chicago house sound that would define his productions for years to come, after joining forces with famed production collective The Basement Boys. Working under the name Jasper Street Co., DJ Spen released his first 12″ through Basement Boys Records in 1995, the energetic gospel house cut ‘A Feeling’. This was the first in a lauded series of releases for the label that brought Spen commercial and dancefloor success over the next decade, earning him international recognition as a house music pioneer.
In 2004, DJ Spen split from Basement Boys, releasing through Black Vinyl Records and his own label Code Red before founding his second imprint Quantize Recordings, which has since become a regular outlet for his music. Alongside his own productions, DJ Spen has built a reputation as a talented and prolific remix artist, putting his own unique stamp on pop anthems from Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Everything but the Girl, Toni Braxton and more.
“I know that it might be a little unusual for a DJ to use gospel music for a Top 10,” explains Spen, “but gospel music is intrinsic to who I am. At the end of the day, gospel music represents happiness and love to me – not to mention the amazing vocals. So while all my music isn’t necessarily gospel, I love to bring a positive message through my music. There’s nothing better for me than seeing someone’s smile light up the dance floor because of my music or a person telling me that my music uplifted them or gave them hope. So here’s my Top 10.”
1. The Clark Sisters – ‘You Brought The Sunshine’
“I love this record. The vocals are amazing, the production work is stellar and when it came out, it stood out like a ‘pop’ record when other gospel records didn’t have the same kind of sound quality.”
2. Shirley Caesar – ‘Hold My Mule’
“This record has been sampled so many times that it’s ridiculous. People love this record but most people don’t even understand what Shirley is singing about. The song is actually a sermon. The message is about not being ashamed to praise God. Shirley Caesar’s energy is amazing. It’s a timeless piece and no surprise that it’s been sampled so much.”
3. Kirk Franklin – ‘Looking For You’
“When Kirk Franklin, who is one of my favourite gospel artists, samples Patrice Rushen, who is one of my all-time soul, jazz, disco artists, you’re definitely in for a treat! This is definitely one of the best inspirational recordings ever made.”
4. The Gospelaires Of Dayton Ohio – ‘God Helps Those Who Help Themselves’
“This record had such a powerful impact on me that it inspired one of the biggest Jasper Street company tracks ever. From what I remember, Tony Humphries used to kill this record in the ’80s at club Zanzabar. It doesn’t play that well with modern day dance music, but on a big system it sounds incredible.”
5. Diane Williams – ‘Jesus Can Work It Out’
“Karizma made this standard gospel classic a main stream commodity in dance music and even pop and r&b. There’s probably nowhere in the United States that knows anything about gospel music that doesn’t know this song. It’s an absolute masterpiece.”
6. Edwin Hawkins – ‘Oh Happy Day’
“This record is a gospel mainstay. On a personal level it reminds me of my brother the late Paul “Trouble” Anderson who made a remake of this record that completely and utterly relates to the dance floors of today.”
7. James Cleveland – ‘The Lord Is My Light’
“This is actually my family song (yes we have a song – my grandfather built a church and most of my relatives sing on the choir or play am instrument). So anyway, ‘the Lord is my light’ lyrics are from a scripture in the Bible (Psalms 27), it fully explains the truth about being fearless when You have God in your life.”
8. The Staple Singers – ‘I’ll Take You There’
“Truly this recording says everything in it’s first verse. ‘I know a place where ain’t nobody crying and ain’t nobody worried’. It’s a song about Heaven that is completely inspiring.”
9. Sandra Crouch – ‘Completely Yes (Yes Lord)’
“This record is an amazing display of what a gospel choir truly sounds like. It’s a praise and worship song that has an amazing climax.”
10. Ann Nesby – ‘Praisin’ His Name’
“When we recorded this track, Ann was actually sick with a head cold. Karizma and I didn’t think the session was going to go well at all. We were completely wrong! Ann Nesby delivered that track from top to bottom flawlessly. I have never witnessed such professionalism and dedication. The Holy Spirit was definitely on Ann when she recorded that record. This record never gets old to me.”
DJ Spen’s Quantize Miami Sampler 2019 is out now. Book Spen to DJ your event HERE.
You can listen to all Ask the DJ playlists on the FMS Magazine Spotify CHANNEL.
Find DJ Spen’s playlist below and HERE.