Huey Morgan: ‘When I do what I love, the love spreads’

Huey Morgan is New York born and bred, so it should come as no surprise that the DJ and Fun Lovin’ Criminal bases his parties upon one of its finest inner city exports; the block party. Morgan has been in the music industry since New York hip-hop’s renaissance period and knows well its origins in funk and soul, its relation to the disco and Latin-American sounds that bled through inner Harlem during the seventies; so is the man best placed to mix that and much more in his eclectic, mix battle style sets! We’re super excited to welcome him to Band on the Wall on 10th February for one such block party, and ahead of the night, caught up with him to discuss the defining characteristics of an NYC block party.

It’s just shy of a decade since you began DJ’ing for the BBC, but what can you tell us about your first experience of club DJ’ing; did it predate your first slot on the airwaves, did it give you a buzz comparable to that of live performance and did it teach you any key lessons that remain with you today?

‘I started DJ’ing in clubs when I first met DJ Mateo DiFontaine at the Limelight after I got out of the U.S. Marines. It was a groovy time to be around the clubs in NYC, we had run of the city and checked out everything we could and it was amazing. That was the education that is my foundation. When I DJ a joint in Europe or the UK I bring that vibe of inclusivity and that can also be said of my radio shows. The ‘buzz’ is not the thing for me though. I just like to listen to great music and doing club gigs or the radio I get to do just that. That may be selfish, but the byproduct is that when I do what I love, the love spreads.’

You quite rightly recognised A Tribe Called Quest’s We The People to be an unfairly slept-on record earlier in the year and since doing so, we’ve seen the group slept-on further, without a single Grammy award nominations, to Q-Tip’s annoyance! Will you be showing your New York brothers some love in your forthcoming sets and what might your advice be for artists who, like Q-Tip, feel unfairly treated by the industry and its critics?

‘When you look at the music industry today it’s a labyrinth of mediocrity and fantasy. Hip-Hop is now professional wrestling and to imagine these new jacks trying to understand the world without the benefit of trailblazers like ATCQ is just what we collectively deserve for allowing our music to be incrementally dumbed-down over the last 20 years.’

Your discussion of Ray Charles’ What I’d Say and its importance during your formative years for Hope and Homes for children’s ‘End the Silence’ campaign was incredibly touching. You spoke of your affinity with Central Park during the clip; is there any place you find more inspiring/beautiful in NYC or is that your favourite location in the city?

‘When I cut school back in the day, me and my boys used to ride the subway all over NYC and check out stuff. It was a truly eye opening education and when I think of that time, I realise that the NYC subway is the blood vessels and arteries of the city itself.’

The block party and what it stands for is something that’s understood around the world. Notting Hill carnival perhaps bares the closest resemblance to an NYC block party in the UK, but we wondered what makes an NYC block party unique from any other and where’s the furthest afield you’ve had the pleasure of attending a block party?

‘The idea of a block party as you suggested in the question is one of continuity. When you go to a block party in NYC, you get all the good people getting down to dope joints and that’s the idea behind this. When I go out to spots now that I’m a dad and a husband I got no time to f*** up and go to some joint that has sh**ty jams and no vibe, so I figured I’d get smart and create a travelling party that brings the quality control to your evening out so you don’t have to take a risk with your precious evening out. Everyone need a NYC block party.’

You’ve been back in the studio with the Fun Lovin’ Criminals recently and we’ve heard already about your work at the Gibson studio laying down a rendition of Freddie King’s Going Down. Is there anything else you can tell us about your recent studio sessions, any recordings that are getting you truly excited and have you any other seventies numbers flying around your mind that you might tackle with the group?

‘The Fun Lovin’ Criminals are putting out two new joints. The first one that will be out later this year will be called, “Another Mimosa” and it’ll be the follow up to our album, “Mimosa”. It will be a collection of covers, reworking of our hits from previous albums and a few new joints. The second is an all original album that is currently under construction, and will be released in 2019.’

What are your plans and hopes for 2018, what would you like to see happen in music and the wider world?

‘I really hope we as a society stop f***ing around with identity based social justice. Martin Luther King said it over 45 years ago that an individual should be judged by the content of their character, not by the colour of their skin. I think he was right.’

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Saturday | 10.02.18

Huey Morgan’s NYC Block Party

Band on the Wall, Manchester