rich medina | opening minds on the party circuit

April 03, 2013

interview by: Kennedy Ashinze

Depth of knowledge and understanding of music, art and life don't get much better than in the mind of Philly’s legendary DJ Rich Medina, a longtime Globetrotter favorite. We've been known to cross continents to catch this man's legendary parties in New York. We caught the renaissance and family man live at the the Patta store in Amsterdam (according to Rich, the mecca of all things dope) while on tour in Europe.

GT: For our readers who are not familiar, who is Rich Medina?

RM: Rich Medina is just a kid from Jersey, who has been and is still in love with music and the culture that comes with it - since he was a child. And he is really lucky to be feeding his family and paying his bills with the very same thing.

GT: Talk to us about importance of range - and being able to create music people can relate to. 

RM: Growing up in an environment where music was always in the foreground in the late 70s, 80s - I mean it was there every day, at home, outside and at parties. And it was a time when I was gradually coming into my own and sometimes, didn’t really know any better. It’s not really a scheme of mine to play a whole bunch of different things. And you have to remember that back then, FM radio was a whole different world. You could hear Chaka Khan, Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, The O’Jays, whatever - all within one hour of programming. You would hear rock, soul, and jazz. That's until radio became a vehicle for urban music marketing, and that whole model changed.

GT: Congratulation on 10 years of your legendary JumpNFunk party. Can you tell us how it all started?

RM: Jump N' Funk is my Fela Kuti tribute party. We just celebrated our 10 year anniversary. It’s been a long strange trip, all in a good way. The party originally was based on trying to raise awareness about a Fela exhibit that was happening at the New Museum in New York. Ghariokwu Lemi, who did album art for Fela, was involved. The show was curated by a gentleman named Trevor Schoonmaker. Trevor, Debbie Sealy and I founded Jump N' Funk in the summer of 2001. It was all about raising awareness - it started as an after-work event. We would play Fela, of course, and Afro-house, and Afro-inspired music. Early on, it was really about getting the Afro-beat into people’s brains, driving that point home. Within two months, it just grew legs of its own. Ten years before that, I was scaring people out of the club with Fela records. I don’t say that lightly. I was literally chasing people off the dance floor.

GT: Why were people scared - and what's since changed?

RM: It was a combination of things — people not expecting to hear African music in the club. The syncopation of the drums, the way I was injecting it. I needed to find a better way to inject it, at the right times, the right events, with the right people to get the sound into people’s minds. They weren’t ready to deal with it on my timing and they weren’t ready to hear it at that particular club. Now here we are, and Fela is “the sexiest man alive.” On Broadway and everywhere, it’s crazy. To me, Fela was like James Brown with a political agenda. The same energy was there, but there was a message.

GT: Can you give us a brief summary of the infamous Little Ricky’s Rib Shack party at APT? 

RM: Little Ricky’s at APT was a tiny basement room Wednesday night party that went on for eight years, all the way up until APT closed. People still shed a tear for that one. Nobody more than me. I think I’m just really lucky that I’ve been a grunt resident DJ for a really long time, so I take stock in the idea of building something from the ground up, creating awareness naturally and when people became aware that I was in the basement on Wednesday nights, the room began to get a reputation. It was refreshing. I was in the right place at the right time, the same thing with Jump N Funk. Then there was the party with Q-Tip at Santos Party house. ‘Tip was coming to check me out at APT on the regular for a few years, telling me that he wanted to do a party together. It’s a crazy thing when you get to work next to somebody that you looked up to for a long time.

GT: And now you have the weekly joint with Akalepse, Props in New York?

RM: Yeah, Props is basically a continuation of Little Ricky. I was in the basement and Lepse just happened to be rocking upstairs and he was really dope. When APT closed and I wanted to move the party, it was important for me to keep Lepse close because he was a big part of why that party was so big for me. We changed the name to Props and made it something fresh, where we both took ownership from the start.

GT: Let’s talk about your love for Afrobeat. Have you made your way out to Nigeria to play?

RM: I think about going to Nigeria every day, man, but I just want to go correctly. I don’t want to go as an American tourist and get pinned down behind a McDonalds, when I’m actually trying to see what’s really happening in the streets. To do that, I’ve got to be with the right people and it’s got to be the right time. There are very few things in the world I’m looking forward to more than going to Lagos.

GT: I think they will embrace you with open arms. You have been in the game for almost 20 years. How has it been? How do you stay inspired? How do you keep it fresh?

RM: Only way to keep something enjoyable is to reinvent it as often as possible. The way you can reinvent yourself as a DJ is to not play the same damn records all the time. I don’t have some profound voodoo about it, it’s just two plus two. I love what I do.

GT: After 20 years in the industry, what’s your take on the Serato/vinyl dynamic?

RM: If it’s funky, it’s funky. It doesn’t really matter. Some dudes that won’t embrace the technology get left behind. Some embrace the technology, throw their records away, and they still get left behind. Everybody’s got an X on their chin, if somebody hits you the right way, they can knock you out. You have to be ready. Practice makes perfect, no matter what you’re doing. If you’re on the computer or you carry 50 record crates, if you are not you’re wasting everybody's time.

GT: You are legendary with your record collection. Do you have a current count right now?

It’s pretty big. It’s not as heavy as it used to be. I have a 4-year-old son now. After he was born, I moved my family into a house, away from my loft and in the move I trimmed down a good 7-8,000 records, but it’s still five digits.

GT: Any last words you want to give us?

RM: I want to say One Love to anybody that’s ever put themselves in the building where I was playing records, or ever bought a product that I was involved with musically. I really appreciate the hell out of those people. I’m looking forward to giving them more good things.