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.
You’re not the only person of your generation of DJs who’ve produced or executive produced a few records. Some people come to mind like Funkmaster Flex and Cipha Sounds.
MG: Wait, I’m offended, what’s my generation? [laughs]
I’m kidding. I’m saying the Stretch Armstrongs, your contemporaries.
MG: Old people who are still relevant. [laughs]
Exactly! Those guys! Somebody who sees the bigger picture, instead of someone who focuses on the mechanical part. Rick Rubin, Mark Ronson are icons for that. Are you comfortable being in that position?
MG: Yeah. Being in here supervising the radio, I really enjoy that. I really enjoy making music even though it’s not something that’s the most fluid and natural for me that can be frustrating. But I get a great enjoyment of being able to be distilled and focus some attention to the specific areas that I really love and enjoy. I get it.
But I think what you’re talking about is the bigger picture of trying to avoid the word curation, because it’s way over used. Making people aware of the thing that I have the passion for, there’s no like, check [box]; okay that was done. I guess maybe, and I would imagine not for a Rick Rubin. Rick doesn’t go, “Mission Accomplished.” Or Russell Simmons, “Mission Accomplished, made rap the most successful popular music in the world.” I don’t think that way.
You have to find new ways to re-invent yourself.
MG: But Caribbean music is getting it together— the proper presentation of it. Like back in the days it’s like, ‘Let’s go down Flatbush [Ave] and buy mix CDs,’ and there’s 500,000 mix CDs. A lot of people want some sort of filter, one that can be trusted. I’m not someone who trusts someone else’s filter. But at the same time, whatever you’re into, if I need to play some electronic dance shit, I have my guys that I go to.
It’s gone to the point now where I’m using this app as my filter. This app is my music authority. I don’t know who made that app.
MG: The human interaction. I’ve worked in record stores for years and that was a big part of it. If someone brings you a record, you should know three more records that, that person will like because of what they brought you. People come in here all the time. It’s obviously based around West Indian things. The first thing you literally do when you walk into Miss Lily’s Variety is you walk into a radio station. So you have, for all intents and purposes, some sort of expert at your disposal when you walked in.
And everyone’s very open to sharing that information.
MG: I want to! There’s nothing more I want than to tell people about the nerdy things I know about reggae music.
What’s one random nerdy fact that you shared with someone recently?
MG: There’s so many. For me it’s less sharing facts. It’s more like, I nerd out when crazy, weird, reggae things happen. So while Tarrus Riley and Johnny Osbourne are performing, Dean Frazier is here, who is the most famous horn player in the history of Jamaica. He’s the guy who played horns on a gazillion records from the ‘60s until now. And he’s Tarrus Riley’s band leader. We nerd out about weird stuff like that.
MG: Spike Lee walked in, saw him coming in from across the street. In the window of the radio station, we have our random On Air light on. He’s in full Knicks garb, from head-to-toe. He just came from the game. They must have won. He looks in the window, gives the thumbs up. I’m thinking he’s going into the restaurant next door. He walks straight in and he’s like, “Hey man, what’s going on? Hey, this looks familiar.” Yeah, Do the Right Thing, of course. That’s the whole idea. You invented this! Well you didn’t “invent” it, but he was like, of course, and then disappears. It’s that kind of weird nerdiness.
Spike Lee coming in here is really important, not just for the cache of the restaurant.
MG: It’s not a name dropping thing.
Of course not. So, aside from East Village Radio, which you did before Radio Lily, did you have any previous broadcasting experience?
MG: I guess I started being around it just being friends with Cipha. Before Cipha was ever on the radio on his own, when he was sort of Funkmaster Flex’s intern, we always spent a lot of time together. I’ve gone to Hot 97 with him a few times, but was never like a regular on that team. Through Cipha I met Tim Westwood, and the first thing I ever did on real radio was with Tim Westwood on BBC Radio 1. When I worked at Fat Beats we would do an every Friday call-in—it was like a New York report. And then I would start going out there. We would do the Radio 1 rap show live from the BBC Radio 1, which is wild as far as radio entities go. It was pretty wild and Westwood was the OG-est of OGs. So that was probably my first real in-studio radio stuff, with Westwood and the BBC. For years of doing that, we’d go out there a couple of times a year, do Tim’s show with them, DJ live on air.
Also at that time, through Tim I met Marley Marl, and Marley was doing early internet radio which was Future Flavas online, which was super-super early internet radio.
Wow, I didn’t know that. I was only familiar with the AKA.coms and 88HipHop.coms of the world.
MG: I don’t know if the Future Flavas show became Future Flavas online or he took that to Hot 97. But I guess that was very early on as far as internet broadcasting. We would go to his house and do live radio shows for the BBC from the bedroom of Marley Marl’s house. We used to bring Joell Ortiz up there before he was Joell Ortiz. Before he was Joell Ortiz he was Quik. I got to sit in radio situations when guys were really legendary in doing it, which was really fun and interesting so that was the start of my radio stuff.
Then it’s gotta be coming up on five years we started doing the Federation Invasion Podcast, and sort of figured out podcasting that me and my partner Kenny Meez started. So we were like, we’ll do a podcast every week. We’ll alternate—you do one this week, I’ll do one that week. It’s not live radio but it took the same principle in putting every show together, like a one hour radio show. What I learned in radio doing that, and also did a radio show—which I still do for Scion A/V—which is the sort of cool marketing and music of Scion.
As far as your reputation, you’re not known as Max Glazer a.k.a Rihanna’s DJ, or Sean Paul’s DJ. That’s just a part of your résumé now. Did you ever think your name would stand alone?
MG: If it’s me and Kenny working on something together, if it’s got my name on it, if it’s got Federation on it, I look at those as the same. I look at that as it’s got my name on it and vice versa. Those things stand together.
I just try to do the things that I want to hear, with the people I want to hear, presented in the ways nobody else is giving it to me. In the world that I and Federation live in, being 100% dancehall and reggae, and having feet in different worlds, and getting a little more attention outside of the hardcore of the dancehall world, for some hardcore dancehall things, I take that pretty seriously in wanting to present things that I think not are gonna become the next Ricky Martin, for lack of a better example.
You’re very self aware. What are you most critical of?
MG: The thing I’m most critical of is that I’m not gonna go home and make music tonight when I leave here. That’s the thing that everyday that I’m thinking, I need to be doing this, I need to be doing that. My criticism is that it’s not actually happening [laughs]. I’m real critical in here about Radio Lily because it’s not just me playing music. It’s not just Federation Sound playing music. I’m supervising a lot of it and helping to structure it and build it. With what I do with Federation in here is a part of another whole. Personally Federation and Max Glazer is the whole. Now we’re taking the whole and putting into this much bigger pond and how to make everything interact with each other.
Makes sense. Do you have a favorite dubplate of all time?
MG: I have a bunch that I play, that every time I play them I say this is my favorite dubplate of all time. But I have favorites. I have a Buju “No Respect” on the Answer Rhythm, which is the original rhythm. Something about that: one, it’s Buju and it’s just crazy on the nerding out about music level. It’s just crazy to hear Buju Banton say your name on some nerdy little kid music shit listening to Buju in 1994, and sort of his iconic level. The ones that are my favorite, I know when I play them I get reactions. But they’re favorites to me because of my specific and not personal connection to the artist. Another favorite is the Spragga Benz medley. One, I recorded that myself. At this point I know Spragga quite well, but if I just forget that I know this dude as an artist and I think about what I listen to growing up and what got me into reggae. Again hearing a Federation dubplate from this guy that like is so iconic and formative to reggae and dancehall, and just my personal investment in it.
That deepens your connection to it.
MG: Yeah, those are the ones that I have a special love for. The first Sean Paul dubplate that I got. And Sean is a person that I worked with and deejayed for over ten years now and know quite well, which again I find weird. I remember getting this CD with Sean Paul dubplates from his manager, and just being like this is the craziest thing that’s ever happened in Jamaica. This is insane, I have dubplates from Sean Paul, holy shit! Those are the ones with that personal connection to.
MG: I might be old enough to remember it. There was a McDonald’s theme that was cut on a vinyl record?
Yeah, like the size of a 45 on a sheet. You could like get it in a magazine or something. I know this very clearly, you could Google it.
MG: I don’t doubt you! First I would nominate Mr. Vegas because he spent the most time here. I think he’s the most familiar with the menu. He’s got that sing-jay style and I think he would hit it pretty spot on.
What if Vegas can’t make it?
MG: Interestingly enough, my one and two choices not in that order, I would have to go with Beenie Man after that. We actually have an amazing Beenie Man freestyle where he talks extensively about his meal in Miss Lily’s live on the microphone while mixing himself down on the mixer. It’s not a reading of the menu, but it’s a post-meal rap-up and assessment of his dinner, and the attractiveness of the wait staff via song in a sort of 1980s sound system style.
That’s like the suggestion box that speaks for itself!
MG: I’m glad I started with an answer and it lead me to the real answer.