World-renowned DJ, Fondle 'Em label boss and sneaker freak, who co-hosted WKCR-FM's Stretch Armstrong And Bobbito Show, which introduced many of today's biggest hip-hop stars to the world, Bobbito García will be celebrating the magical music of Stevie Wonder with DJ Spinna at their popular Wonder-Full night at Revival (783 College), Friday (September 12). $20 advance. milkaudio.com.
What do you recall about Jay-Z the first time he came into the studio?
What a cocky bastard he was even then. He just had a 12-inch single and he was already behaving like a superstar. I was thinking, "Yo, this kid has no reason to be acting so cocky," but eventually he proved me wrong. From day one he carried himself like "I'm number one and I'm gonna show them."
When did you get into Stevie Wonder's music?
As a kid, my father had a wide range of records by Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente - but I didn't have a sophisticated enough ear to appreciate any of that stuff. When I was seven in 1973, the first album from my father's collection that I heard and wanted to play on my own was Stevie Wonder's Innervisions. Somehow, the social commentary and the fact that Stevie speaks Spanish on the record really connected with me.
How did the Wonder-Full concept arise?
That dates back to 1999, when E-Love, a DJ I was mentoring here in New York, wanted to do a tribute party to the Stevie Wonder album Songs In The Key Of Life, which was her equivalent of what Innervisions meant to me. She asked DJ Spinna and me to join her at some small club on the Lower East Side, and that's where the egg was hatched, so to speak. Then, in 2001, Spinna's wife, Keita, decided to bring the Stevie Wonder party back, so we came up with the Wonder-Full name. The response was so incredible, we've continued doing it in New York every year since, and it's just gotten bigger and better.
Has it changed and evolved over the years?
Oh, yeah, it's a continuous research project. We don't just play Stevie Wonder's hits. We're going for lesser-known album cuts, songs he composed for other artists, all kinds of jazz, funk, rare groove covers of his music and the new remixes of his songs that are being done every day as well as hip-hop tracks that sample his music. So Spinna and I always keep an ear to what's coming out and the really obscure stuff we're constantly learning about and adding new bangers to the set.
What have been the highlights for you?
It's kinda hard to top the nights when Stevie showed up. Back in 2007, he was playing Madison Square Garden and we had arranged to do an unofficial after-party at a club about four blocks away. At around 4 am, he slid in with his wife, daughter and some family members, and I could see people crying in the crowd.
Then, in June, we were doing a special birthday tribute to Stevie at the Hammerstein Grand Ballroom in Manhattan and he appeared at peak time, like 1:30 am. You can imagine the reaction of the 2,000 people there. It was crazy. We had to stop the record. He started singing to the crowd a cappella, which you can see on my MySpace page (myspace.com/bobbitogarcia). To hear Stevie say, "You don't know how grateful I am for keeping my music alive," was amazing. If we never did another party, Spinna and I could both die happy after that.