PHAT-N-JAZZY PRESENTS ’80S SOUL NITE featuring Square Biz, DJ BMF
9 p.m. | Will’s Pub, 1042 N. Mills Ave. | 407-748-8256 | willspub.org | $7 | 18 and up
In an era where most were through being cool and donning sunglasses at night (and the like), pop, dance and new wave ruled the radio. So for a kid in the ’80s attending Lake Highland Prep who was prematurely obsessed with innovative hip-hop like Beastie Boys and A Tribe Called Quest, high school could be a difficult time to relate to your peers. And while Orlando’s DJ BMF (Greg Lentz), who most know best as a founding member of the long-running Phat-N-Jazzy crew, appreciates all the soulful elements of the massively popular, wide-spanning ’80s discography, his definition of an ’80s night is not your typical one-hit wonderland.
“In the ’80s, I was more about hip-hop,” BMF says. “I was all about Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Beastie Boys. And it was not until I went up to New York in probably ’89 that I really encountered ’80s disco and soul music, and what is considered New York dance classics. It wasn’t really hip in mainstream Orlando in the ’80s. There wasn’t any outlet for that type of music.”
His earliest exposure to these sounds came when skating laps around Semoran Skateway, but that was as far as his appreciation went until he relocated. By 1989, the indomitable pop forces of Janet Jackson, Prince and Michael Jackson overshadowed a treasure trove of active soul artists. Even in New York, where BMF credits legendary stations like WBLS-FM and Kiss-FM for turning him on to favorites like Colonel Abrams, George Clinton and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, it took a sincere search to feed the DJ’s fast-developing intrigue.
“I think a lot of us, in terms of DJs who were into hip-hop, later went back to find out where the samples came from and then, naturally, got more into where the samples came from,” BMF says. “With that [more obscure] stuff, it takes a lot of searching or maybe hearing another DJ play it to encounter it.
My biggest influence at that time was New York radio. I found that, and I was like, ‘Wow, this music exists?’ And I just fell in love with it, and I’ve been working it into my sets ever since.”
BMF builds his DJ sets – sometimes themed, like the upcoming ’80s Soul Nite, which also features Gerry Williams performing live covers with his band Square Biz (a nod to Teena Marie) – from his extensive collection of 45s, which currently revolves around 6,000 records and at its most sprawling stood 10,000 strong. His favorite local spots to seek new material are Rock & Roll Heaven and area flea markets, but he admits Orlando’s selection has long been tapped out for his specific needs as a full-time DJ, active since 1993.
Luckily for Phat-N-Jazzy fans, his constantly maintained collection itself allows for ample opportunity to mix things up, which is already a simplified process thanks to a trend in ’80s music to bookend songs with extended transitions. “As a DJ, I love that, because it made stuff so mixable and mix-friendly,” BMF says. “Probably the ’80s more than anything had those long intros and long outros. Disco started that; ’80s took it to another level, where you could draw out intros, so you can blend one song into another.”
Phat-N-Jazzy was an integral part of the recent Questlove residency, and BMF kicked off the string of days in June, opening for the like-minded vinyl hoarder and hip-hop pioneer as he has several times before. BMF recalls that when Questlove first joined him at the Social for this 2014 bout, his unintentional welcome song was especially fitting to his personal history with Questlove:
“I first heard of Questlove as a DJ because he used to go around with King Britt, who was known from [touring with hip-hop group] Digable Planets [and performing as Sylk 130],” BMF says. “Questlove was like the opening DJ; no one knew who he was. I think the Roots had one album out. And they toured Florida. They played Orlando and Daytona and Tampa in the mid-’90s, so he’s kind of a buddy of King Britt’s, and it’s funny because when Questlove walked in [the Social], I was playing a Sylk 130 song.”
For this week’s retro party, the DJ will be projecting totally ’80s music videos while he spins before and after Square Biz’s sure-to-be electric set of R&B classics from Prince, Stevie Wonder, Rick James, the Jacksons and more.
“You know, they do ’80s nights, but you never hear Chaka Khan or the Mary Jane Girls, stuff like that,” BMF says. “You only hear the quirky new wave. I just wanted to do an ’80s night my style.”