How Louie Vega Introduced DJ Sneak's Sound to New York City

Oct 8, 2022

Melisa Yuriar

3 min read

Hailing from Chicago, the acclaimed Puerto Rican-born selector DJ Sneak has a unique history with the city that never sleeps. When he made his first trip to the city in the 90s, the young DJ was still in the early days of his music career.

Sneak was a well-established part of the Chicago institution Gramaphone Records. A buyer at the popular record store, he regularly sold vinyl to industry titans like Green Velvet, Bad Boy Bill and worked alongside Derrick Carter. He became highly sought after for the procurement of white labels and exclusive cuts and had his own network of record shops throughout the country that dealt in the fiercely underground house music sound.

Helping run the record store by day, he led a double life as a budding DJ and producer by night, honing his own dynamic sound throughout the ’90s

“I was a buyer, so I bought from all distributors on the East Coast,” said Sneak. “I knew everybody’s names, everybody’s numbers…The education was really amazing.”

He continued networking and producing and eventually landed one of his biggest early releases on Green Velvet’s Relief Records, the Blue Funk Files EP, in 1996.

On his very first trip to New York, Sneak spent his time in the studio, dropping off records, and visiting the offices of foundational New York record label, Strictly Rhythm. His first day there, he met several artists he had worked with consistently as a distributor, which included Todd Terry (one of his inspirations for flipping disco records), Francois K, and Danny Tenaglia.

“I met them all in one day, and the next day, I was at Sound Factory Bar, and we’re all hanging out… I’m with Kenny [Dope], Roger [Sanchez] and Louie [Vega] is playing and I hear ‘Show Me the Way’…one of my favorite tracks I’ve made,” recalled Sneak. “He played that record eight times in an eight-hour period…I said, ‘Oh my God. Louie Vega is playing my fucking record.”

Acclaimed DJ and producer Louie Vega introduced Sneak’s unique sound at the famed New York club for a room full of industry icons.

“I went up to where he was playing and thanked him…I said, ‘Louie, thanks for playing my record man, I made that.’ He said ‘Oh man, I love that song… it’s so raw.’”

Later, Sneak’s genre-bending mixes and live sets would earn him continued support from Vega, Kenny Dope, Todd Terry, and a plethora of venerated New York DJs. “It was a Strictly reunion that night…and for a Chicago kid that had never experienced New York underground, I was blown away.”

The works and creativity that were a byproduct of New York nightlife and the scene inspired Sneak to continue producing original, dynamic records that would eventually become his claim to fame.

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