If there were a DJ equivalent to the late, great Cuban bandleader Mario Bauza, it would have to be Miami's DJ Le Spam. Like Bauza, Le Spam is renowned for bringing the sound of Cuba to folks who might never have heard it before.
In Bauza's case, it was in New York during the Twenties and Thirties. In Le Spam's, it was here in Miami in 1994, when the man got together with a few player pals and they began calling themselves Spam Allstars. And though the DJ wasn't yet a DJ (he played guitar), and though the Allstars came out swinging in a city that was no stranger to the sound of Cuba, he and his group can still be credited with concocting music that was utterly without precedent.
But Le Spam didn't just jump to the head of a lineup. Before there were Allstars, he wielded the six-string for a Haitian roots band called Lavala, as well as for Cuban-American crossover Nil Lara, just after the local favorite inked his deal with Capitol. And while the former exposed Le Spam to Haitian sounds such as rara and compas, and the latter put him up close and personal with Cuba's classic guajiro, his encyclopedic appreciation for all the world's sounds really came from one place: a record store.
I mean, of course, Michael Dean's legendary Yardbird Records, a now-defunct Hallandale emporium that specialized in everything ever pressed on vinyl. Everything cool, that is — from 45s of rare Miami soul to 12-inches of the latest in Miami bass. The shop also stocked every school of jazz ever waxed, every wail of blues ever captured, and represented every country in the world.
Le Spam religiously hung out at Yardbird and bought everything he could afford. His purchases not only had a heavy influence on how the Allstars sounded, but also gave him the best record collection in town. So when Miami Light Project called in '99 and asked him to spin a fundraiser, the man was more than a little ready.
The rest, as they say, is local history. Le Spam ditched the axe and started spinning behind the Allstars, kicked it pirate-style on the wily Beach Radio, and spun in every joint that had two turntables and a mixer, from the now-defunct Beehive on Lincoln Road to the equally defunct Piccadilly Garden in the Design District. He has spun at Circa 28 and also in the same space when it was both Slack Lounge and a dive bar called Two Last Shoes. And, of course, he spun before and after Spam Allstars' sets at Hoy Como Ayer, back when the Thursday-night party was called Fuacata! (and the band was nominated for a Latin Grammy). In fact he spins there still, whenever the band is not on one of its many, many road trips.
It's what Le Spam spins, though, rather than where, which gives the DJ his uniqueness. Yes, he's partial to what's sprung from Miami, but he'll drop a track from anywhere as long as it's rare. So if you're down for the kinda dig that knows no boundaries, DJ Le Spam is your man.
DJ Le Spam's current top five:
1. "She's Blowing My Mind," The Soul Agents
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2. "Can't Tek Mi Landlord," Ron Lepki
3. "Is It Funky Enough," Communicators and Black Experience Band
4. "My Heart Is Closed for the Season," Bettye Swan
5. "Serato Trainwreck (Bleeding Ears Remix)," DJ Gotnovinyl and MC MP3