Max Glazer wears a calm expression on his face. Nothing seems to phase him, because based on his coordinates at the corner of the north side of Houston, west of Sullivan Street, in Manhattan he expects anything to happen on the bustling throughway where Miss Lily’s Variety is located. In the two years since the opening of Miss Lily’s Variety and Melvin’s Juice Box, high profile neighbors like Anna Wintour, or restaurant regulars like Russell Simmons pass by within a blink of peeping dime piece ladies, a street fight and delirious hobos. Maybe it’s the locale, or maybe it’s just the unpredictability of New York City. Either way it’s because Miss Lily’s has become a magnet for patrons of all types who appreciate authentic Caribbean cuisine and good music. Max can be found here planted in front of the “On Air” light that glares from the window of where Radio Lily broadcasts, he has the best seat in the house to take in the sights and sounds.
Bearing witness to Murphy’s Law comes with Max Glazer’s territory. After all, he’s a DJ, a really good one who observes his surroundings, using it to inspire the music he plays. Glazer’s experience dates back to the golden era of Fat Beats record store in Greenwich Village, another one-stop shop for music, and a former mecca for hip-hop that shuttered its doors in 2010. Max Glazer was a part of that legacy as an employee in the ’90s. Elsewhere, he was a name on the NYC nightlife circuit deejaying alongside Hot 97′s Mister Cee and Cipha Sounds. He also added tour DJ to his résumé for the likes of Rihanna, Sean Paul, and Cham. Times have changed, and so have the places where Max Glazer spins. Repping for his crew Federation Sound, Glazer continues to build his brand for playing the most relevant dancehall for all audiences whether through weekly podcasts, wicked parties at The Westway, or on Radio Lily’s airwaves.
One of Glazer’s greatest mixes to date is a downloadable one-track set that comes with the brand new Miss Lily’s Family Style compilation album, distributed by VP Records. The 15-song LP is a reflection of what you’re likely to hear at 130 Houston St. From the creative direction of the artwork and CD, designed by Miss Lily’s partners Matt Goias and Spliffington to look like a worn album sleeve on the outside, and a 45 record on the inside. The past is as important to the future of dancehall in this solid as a rock presentation of it in 2013. If you ask Max Glazer, there’s a story in each track as if the album could speak for itself. When Mass Appeal sat down with Glazer last week over a steaming cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, we talked about the significance of Family Style on the heels of Miss Lily’s recent anniversary, coming up in the game with Cipha Sounds, and his favorite dubplates of all time. Ring the alarm!
STREAM: MISS LILY’S MEGAMIX BY MAX GLAZER
Mass Appeal: Congratulations on the one year anniversary! How was the celebration?
Max Glazer: The one year anniversary was great. It was the one year anniversary of Miss Lily’s Variety, Melvin’s Juice Box (where we sit), also very close to the one year of Radio Lily because we started the radio about two weeks after we opened the store. It’s sort of a pretty serious year of non-stop work. But it was dope. We had Johnny Osbourne perform, Tarrus Riley, a lot of the guys who are kind of just part of the family and people come through who have been involved with the store, the juice bar, the radio.
What were some of the other highlights?
MG: Clive Chin, Carol Dodd. who is the daughter of Coxonne Dodd (Studio One) came through. It didn’t leave with us, but they let us play some like unreleased Dennis Brown. They’ve been doing all this digging in the archives of Studio One stuff and pulling tapes of stuff that have never been released.
Then also to have the album [Miss Lily's Family Style] which we envisioned sort of before this place even opened actually. The idea of doing an album that reflects the style and musical sensibility of the place and to actually have that finally come together and be coming out in this same sort of anniversary week/window. It seemed like it was taking a long time when we were doing it, but the timing worked out well.
How did you put together the tracklist? Was that difficult to whittle it down to just 15 tracks?
MG: Yeah, we started out with a list of a zillion-billion songs. But it was also like, it’s not necessarily meant to be a reggae compilation for people who buy a reggae or a dancehall CD every week, or buy 10 every week, or download 10 every week. The idea was to not necessarily just do something new, and not something old. Most importantly that is representative of the place and our musical sensibility, which is a little bit of old, a little bit of new.
I dunno if distilled is the right word, but pick things that we really love, and help to translate it, hopefully to a broader audience. At the same time, being 15 songs that we all love, and you’ll hear all of these if your life takes you in and out of here.
Who’s part of the fam-a-lam?
MG: All of the artists on here are all connected to the place. Mr. Vegas did his album release party here, we’ve had him on the radio, we’ve had him perform here, it’s gotta be half a dozen times. That’s part of the family. Tarrus Riley, he’s on here. Tarrus shot a video next door in the restaurant. We had him perform at the anniversary. He’s a big part of the family. Konshens, (“So Mi Tan”) is on here. We’ve had Konshens on the radio with us, twice. Again, part of the family. His video for the song that’s on here, half of it is shot in here while he was on Radio Lily.
You can basically pull out anecdotes for every single song on here.
MG: Yeah, for the most part. Kes who does “Wotless” was here. Romain Virgo (“Rich In Love”) also did an acoustic live performance in here. It’s not every single person, but we wanted to definitely have a heavy load of people who we’ve actually done events with here, who we work with. The reason why we do that—it’s people’s music that we love, and what better way to further that and take that to the next step is let’s do a radio show, have an album release party. ‘Oh we’re doing our compilation.’ we really wanted to include the people who are actively in and out of here. To do that completely we would need 15 CDs. [laughs]
It still stands out from other compilations though.
MG: The idea here is to really reflect what sort of happens, what has happened, what can happen, what may happen on any given day here as people come in and out. I think it’s more interesting to try to take the things from a cross section of reggae and soca and put it together in a way that someone might listen to it. So it’s interesting to take that a part a bit and make it not as thematic. Not as musically thematic. The theme is sort of an eclectic variety you’ll encounter in the actual place
What have you accomplished since you guys opened?
I’ll speak more to the musical stuff. Being able to have Radio Lily and have the opportunity to invite not only the people who are on the CD—the place opened with Jimmy Cliff. To be able to have a setting where Jimmy Cliff will go, “Yeah this looks fun to perform,” in a tiny little room for 40 people. Having Snoop Dogg in here was a giant thing. That’s way more than a radio thing. For Paul [Salmon], Serge [Becker], and Matt [Goias] and all the partners of Miss Lily’s to have created a place where those guys come to them and say, “Hey we’re doing this thing, we really want to do it here because of the way it looks, the way it feels, the whole environment.” That’s the overall accomplishment of the whole thing.
A little more down to the music: to be able to have Konshens on the radio, and Rob Kenner, who has a show, and does a lot of the interviewing of people on here. We’re all really sound system dancehall guys. That’s what we grew up on, what made us love it. So to have Konshens come and do a little freestyle, we’re not just gonna give you just instrumentals of your own songs to rock over. We’re gonna do it the way it would have happened in 1992, like throw some random dancehall rhythms at you because that’s something that’s becoming a lost art in rap, as far as throwing a beat on and freestyling on it.
The Jacking for Beats formula.
MG: I’m not gonna put on your song and you sing your song for me on a radio show. That’s what concerts are for. Hip-hop gets that from reggae, from ’70s sound system shit.
What would you be doing right now if you weren’t doing Radio Lily?
MG: I’d probably be sitting home attempting to make original music. My work process of that is very slow. I need to sort of be like, ‘Okay, lemme turn the computer on; nah maybe I’ll read the newspaper for a while; watch some TV, go back to it.’ I’m not a musician in a way like, ‘Time to make a beat, okay let’s go!’ Made a beat. One of my productions is on here, Vybz Kartel “Whine Song” and that’s gotta be over two years since I did it. He’s been in jail well over a year.
So if I wasn’t in here doing Radio Lily stuff on a daily basis, I’d probably be sitting home working on music, trying to figure out a way to sit on a beach.
CLICK THE NEXT PAGE BELOW TO READ ABOUT SPIKE LEE PASSING THROUGH RADIO LILY, MAX GLAZER SPINNING ON BBC RADIO 1, AND HIS FAVORITE DUBPLATES OF ALL TIME.