Active since the '80s as a DJ, producer, and label operator, and as one-half of Masters at Work, Little Louie Vega is a permanent part of dance music history. Vega made a name for himself behind the decks in the New York City club circuit prior to branching out with studio work. Besides producing his own releases with an array of vocal and instrumental collaborators, he has remixed tracks for commercial dance-pop vocalists and underground producers alike. Remarkably eclectic across four decades, Vega has been deeply immersed in an array of club music styles -- house being foremost, and has all the while kept the genre's connections to disco, freestyle, rap, and Latin jazz illuminated. Among his most notable career achievements are number one Billboard club hits such as "Ride on the Rhythm" (with Marc Anthony, 1991) and "I Can't Get No Sleep" (Masters at Work featuring India, 1993), and a Grammy award in the category of Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical (for his remix of Curtis Mayfield's "Superfly," 2003). His revered discography of mix albums and studio projects includes Louie Vega Starring...XXVII (2016), which was Grammy-nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Album. Vega has never lost touch with his roots, epitomized by NYC Disco (2018).
Born and raised in New York City's Bronx borough, Vega grew up surrounded by music, as the son of saxophonist Luis Vega, Sr. and a nephew of salsa legend Héctor Lavoe. Vega began DJ'ing as a teenager, after he watched some high school friends spin records. He was soon a regular at parties and founded a small label. While spinning at the infamous Studio 54, Vega met house producer Todd Terry, who regularly gave Vega new cuts to try out on the crowd. Vega's own first remix commissions, across 1986 and 1987, included Information Society's "Running," Debbie Gibson's "Only in My Dreams," and Noel's "Silent Morning." By then, he was a fixture in the N.Y.C. club scene, with the DJ booths of the Devil's Nest, Hearthrob, and the Sound Factory also familiar territory to him.
Vega debuted as a solo producer in 1989 with "Don't Tell Me" for TVT and "Keep Pumpin' It Up" for SBK One. Both singles were issued under the name Freestyle Orchestra, the first of Vega's many aliases, though the majority of his subsequent solo output has been credited to his birth name. Additional early success resulted after Vega was commissioned to do songs for the movie East Side Story, which placed him in the path of singer Marc Anthony. Vega and Anthony signed to Atlantic as a duo and released the single "Ride on the Rhythm," which featured Vega's father on saxophone and topped Billboard's club chart in 1991. Shortly thereafter, he and Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez became established as Masters at Work, but Vega eventually continued to record quite frequently as a solo artist and remained sought as a remix producer. Most notably, he won a Grammy for his work on an update of Curtis Mayfield's "Superfly" (Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical; 2003).
Although Vega has had a full career as an individual, he is more widely known as one-half of the production team Masters at Work. He met partner Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez through fellow producer Todd Terry, who originally used the name for some late-'80s output. Since 1990, Vega and Gonzalez have issued dozens of 12" productions, mostly on their own MAW label. They've peaked commercially with the chart-topping India collaboration "I Can't Get No Sleep" (1993), and have remixed the likes of Jamiroquai, Madonna, and Michael Jackson, among tracks by dozens of other artists. As Nuyorican Soul, the two worked with such jazz legends as Tito Puente and George Benson for a self-titled album (1997) that reached number 25 on the U.K. chart. The success of Nuyorican Soul cut a path for Vega to lead another all-star affair, Elements of Life, with help from fellow deep house heavy weights Josh Milan and Kevin Hedge of Blaze, along with top-tier session vocalists Cyndi Mizelle and Lisa Fischer. That group's activity culminated with the album Eclipse (2013). The collaborative spirit continued through Louie Vega Starring...XXVII (2016), on which Vega worked with material from Funkadelic, Jocelyn Brown, and long-term collaborator and wife Anané. That album was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Dance/Electronic Album.
Across the decades, Vega has also continued to tour the world as a DJ with his unique blend of classics, obscurities, and Latin dancefloor anthems old and new. His selecting and DJ'ing skills have been showcased on over 20 commercially released DJ mixes, such as Little Louie Vega at the Underground Network NYC (1993), Back in the Box (2007), and Vega on King Street: A 20 Year Celebration (2013). NYC Disco (2018) applied many of his skills with a selection of remixed, edited, and reworked club classics of the late '70s and early '80s. ~ Andy Kellman & Diana Potts