Photo credit: Tyler Curtis
Vince Lawrence of Chicago, IL is an American dance music producer, businessman and is one of the leading innovators of the genre of music called “House music”. Industry insiders recognize Lawrence as co-author of “On and On”, the first recording officially designated “House music”. He worked with Jesse Saunders in the initial creation of Jes Say Records, designing its logo by hand. He served as Head of Marketing and was the lyric writer for “Funk U Up” (the first House track to ever make it onto the Billboard charts), “Undercover” by Dr. Derelict, “Real Love”, and many other songs released in the label’s heyday. He also co-authored “Love Can’t Turn Around” which featured Daryl Pandy, which reached #10 in the UK Singles Chart in 1986 and started the House music revolution in the UK. He organized Trax Records, a Chicago House label. He is the founder of Slang Music Group, which has received numerous gold and platinum awards for their contributions. As founder of Slang Music Group, Vince has evolved from artist and producer to entrepreneur and marketer, creating a unique symbiosis between music and brands.
As a remixer, he worked on Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, John Legend, R Kelly, and others. Vince composed soundtracks for major brands and was contributing composer on one of the most successful daytime talk shows in history. Vince has directing, writing, production and music supervision credits for work in film.
Above all, he is a veteran of the street with an intuitive understanding of what youth culture craves – be it style and music or consumer products that he telegraphs to the street through soundtracks for advertising or non-traditional “under the radar” field marketing programs. Vince Lawrence’s intimate relationship with pop culture and lifelong love of music have evolved into a unique insight that is eagerly sought out, from the trend hunters of Madison Avenue to the likes of pop stars the world over.
“LEGACY: From Soulful Horns to House Music”, a new documentary that tells stories of hidden figures in the history of Chicago’s Black Music, was directed, produced, and narrated by Vince Lawrence. These stories shed light on individuals whose musical contributions changed the world. It broadcasted in Chicago on WTTW on Friday, November 13, 2020.
Many South siders are working to bring aid to the homeless youth of Chicago by raising funds and awareness for Covenant House Illinois (CHIL), a place of community, safety, and trust for youth experiencing homelessness and trafficking, and participated in SLEEP OUT: CHICAGO, on November 19, 2020. “We’re stepping up and answering Covenant House Illinois’ challenge to spend a night sleeping on the street so that, one day, homeless youth won’t have to”, according to the website.
The Sleep Out is not about pretending to be homeless. It’s an act of solidarity with the 4.2 million young people who experience homelessness each year. It’s a decision that we, as a society, can’t stay indoors while so many youths remain outside.
“One thing I firmly believe in is that in the midst of all our accomplishments, we should always find ways to give back to our families, society and the community. What we put in is what comes out”, says Vince.
GO BANG! Magazine: How did you first get started in music and what about it attracted you?
Vince Lawrence: My initial connection in music came via my dad, Nemiah Mitchell aka MITCHBAL. My father is a songwriter, having worked with people like Eddie Thomas (Curtom Records) and others. He started his own label in the 70s and put out a few 45s before I aided him in discovering new culture centered around 12 inch singles and dance music.
GO BANG! Magazine: As a resident of Chicago, the home of House music, you are recognized as one of the pioneers. What influence, if any, do you feel you have brought to House music and how has House music influenced you?
Vince Lawrence: While not wanting to “take credit” for this and that as many people do, I can say that I did help bring people together socially around the thought that we could express our creativity through music and by making actual records that we could play at parties and on the radio. I always try to encourage people to pursue their dreams using whatever tools they had available.
I helped a lot of guys get their first recordings created by collaborating as a songwriter, musician or producer. Early days, I worked with Jesse Saunders, Marshall Jefferson, Byron Stingley, Wayne Williams (Dr. Derelict), Chip E., Victor Romeo, Duane & Co. and others. As a remixer, I along with Slang Musicgroup team members have worked with Beyoncé/Destiny’s Child, Whitney Houston, Donnell Jones, R Kelly, Charles Jenkins, Sisqo, Joe, Michael Jackson, John Legend and others.
I have always worked to elevate others by teaching, advising or providing employment. There are many great artists, producers, engineers, managers and such that began their careers as part of our team.
GO BANG! Magazine: You’ve had the opportunity to travel around the world, in the name of House. How would you describe House’s acceptance in other countries, in comparison to here in the States?
Vince Lawrence: Outside of the US there seems to be less distinction between House music and other forms of R&B. I think that we Chicagoans separate or dance friendly Black art forms from the rest. It seems that this is a new phenom did not seem to occur in the past. For example, Harold Melvin and the Blue notes is thought of as an R&B group, despite having created “disco classics”. The sum total, that’s the difference in the US and with American Black listeners in particular.
GO BANG! Magazine: Over the years you’ve morphed and accomplished great success as a producer, remixer and businessman. You’ve worked with many icons in the music industry. How does it feel to be requested to remix songs from artists of this caliber?
Vince Lawrence: I am honored to be invited to creative circles with great artists such as this. There are no words for the way it feels when you have the opportunity to participate in this way as a fan. My connection to music started as an admirer, in the audience, listening and enjoying. A remix invitation feels as if I am being invited behind the curtain, backstage to share in the creation of the show.
GO BANG! Magazine: After working with such high ranking artists over the years, are there any other artists, current or classic, that you would love to work with?
Vince Lawrence: I have listed these in no particular order:
Lianne De Havas
Jeremih (he visited the studio but I did not produce)
Fat Joe (he visited the studio but I did not produce)
If anyone can connect me, please reach out!
GO BANG! Magazine: As the original House generation matures, if it’s not passed down to the next generation, it will die out. What are your thoughts on the future of House music and the House culture?
Vince Lawrence: I honestly am saddened by this question because it seems so localized. House Music as Black music is not dying. Beyonce makes a whole album full of music that if it weren’t Beyonce, people would call House Music. Check FIND YOUR WAY BACK from her latest record if you need perspective, but the thought of this dying out is a myth. The discounted self-image expressed when we fail to recognize how our art has traversed the globe and come back dressed as pop star cultural exploration surprises me. Local people only need to decide to stop sitting in the stands and get in the friggin game. The discussion of stuff “being passed down” or not is also a false narrative. If people want to make records, I have always been here, people engage me as a producer all of the time. Think about it, you “found” me and it was not hard. We are the originators. The new generations find the paths that we laid down before. Those that are truly interested will actually participate. These “next gen” conversations are not about getting anything actually done.
GO BANG! Magazine: You’re the founder of Slang Music Group and you’ve received numerous gold and platinum awards. Please tell our readers about these awards, about your company, and plans for your company’s future.
Vince Lawrence: Slang is a multi-featured music and sound house that produces national Gold & Platinum award winning recording artists and delivers modern sounds to the ad industry seamlessly. Our producers have worked with many best in class artists and continue to do so. Our mix engineers are some of the words best, working with the greatest talent. Examples: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1IKd1PFQdStInJKsmaZMFq
Along with music for television, film and commercials, members of Slang Music Group have also been working with burgeoning new talent from all over the world. We create content presentations for both the boardroom and the web. This year we launched a library of economical, easily licensed music for use in creative projects. www.Slangmusicvault.com was developed in hopes of creating new collaborations with creatives everywhere. We have created thousands of high quality music tracks for this purpose. Hopefully someone out there has written perfect songs for some of them. In 2021, Slang Music Group is evolving, creating original long format and digital content for television and theatre.
GO BANG! Magazine: Recently a new documentary titled “Legacy: From Soulful Horns to House Music” premiered here in Chicago on WTTW on Friday, November 13, 2020. You directed, produced and narrated it. I viewed the show, as did many others that I know. Tell us what inspired you to bring that to the public, what your mission was, and if you achieved your goal.
Vince Lawrence: I grew up amongst Chicago’s music elite. I was raised on stories of the “amazing feats of music” described by people like Kanye West. I bear witness to miracles when I say that Black Chicagoans have, generation after generation, created art from nothing that changes the landscape of music worldwide. These amazing people hail from housing projects and streets that people say are impossible to survive, yet they thrive…and create. I owe a piece of my existence to my parents and these greats. My film shines a light on what they have done through the lens of how they affected me specifically. By acknowledging all of this, I hope to pay it both back and forward. These men deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and get life awards from places like the Grammys. I plan to submit this film as part of my effort to see this done while these gentlemen are still alive.
GO BANG! Magazine: More recently, on November 19, 2020 you participated in “Sleep Out: Chicago”, which brings attention to the youth homeless and trafficking population. Please explain how you feel about this tragic population and how you participate in this much needed cause.
Vince Lawrence: I grew up here. When I found out that 4,000,000 youth are homeless in the US, I was stunned because I couldn’t recall seeing homeless youth. But then, I found out that I had seen youth homelessness, I just didn’t know it. You see, it’s not just sleeping out on the street. It’s couch-surfing, sleeping in a car, or trading your body for a warm bed…that’s youth homelessness. And it happens because you age out of foster care, or tell your parents you’re gay, or your mother looks at you one day and says “I don’t want you no more.”
So, I’m supporting Covenant House Illinois starting on “Giving Tuesday”, December 1st to raise money to help thousands of Chicago youth overcome homelessness. Facebook is matching donations on “Giving Tuesday” from 7AM Central until their budget is exhausted. Please go to my FB Fundraiser and donate. Let’s show our youth that House music fans know they matter and they are not invisible. Please give on “Giving Tuesday” to my Facebook Fundraiser for Covenant House Illinois.
These days, there are so many kids displaced. Any effort to create a chance for our city’s youth is everyone’s responsibility. I am simply a man with a hill to stand on… Shouting! You can shout too, everyone can. Small contributions combined and repeated actually help.
GO BANG! Magazine: On November 19, 2020, you participated in a virtual panel event presented by Eric Williams and The Silver Room. It featured you and the legendary House music producer Marshall Jefferson. It was moderated by Duane Powell. It was titled “Chicago Created House Music.” Its purpose was to discuss everything House: including how it started, how it’s been and where it’s going. I tuned in and enjoyed every moment of it. The Silver Room has had a major influence on House culture over the years. What are your thoughts on The Silver Room’s contribution and influence on culture, and more specifically House culture?
Vince Lawrence: My relationship with The Silver Room is perhaps a little different. When I look at that group, I don’t see a business, I see people dedicated to Black positivity. I have watched Eric and his team grow their business, start a festival and share their thinking on the inter webs. I commend Eric for creating a platform to share these stories, while helping artisans extend their brands, personal or otherwise.
GO BANG! Magazine: When others in the entertainment industry reach the level of success that you have, some of them go “Hollywood” and become arrogant and cold-hearted. You seem to have not gone down that path. How have you maintained your level-headedness and why is that important to you?
Vince Lawrence: I have been lucky to have the opportunities that I have. I see every day that creatives struggle, hoping that one day they can make any sort of living doing work they love. I realize how lucky that makes me. I don’t take any of this for granted, not for a nanosecond.
GO BANG! Magazine: What are you working on now, that our readers should be on the lookout for?
Vince Lawrence: I continue to create great music for records, film and TV. I have two new films in development, LEGACY hopes to become a series and find its way into more homes via streaming platforms and such. I have new records (and a bunch of old ones) coming out via arrangements with UNITED MASTERS as well. www.slangmusicvault.com continues to be a resource for creatives spanning many genres and art forms We are also working to develop a great set of tools to help DJs all over the world to become the best version of themselves.
GO BANG! Magazine: The COVID-19 pandemic has caught the world off guard. How are you dealing with it?
Vince Lawrence: I accept this as the current reality. COVID has killed too many friends and friends of my friends. That stated, I have been working “remotely” for many, many years. My clients are literally all over the world. I have a great studio set up in my home and tools to connect to anybody anywhere. COVID presents an opportunity to refine those efforts and reach out to more people who now have to get accustomed to communicating and collaborating in this way. I won’t let this stop me; actually it’s a chance to grow. Can you imagine all that time we were wasting commuting for meetings even? When COVID is gone, who wants to go back to that?
For more information on the Sleep Out, log onto:
You can follow Vince on ALL social media @vingoslang and on the Slang Music Group website: https://www.slangmusicgroup.com/ and http://www.slangmusicvault.com
Pierre A. Evans is a freelance writer of Entertainment, Music, Art, Culture, Fashion and Current Events, and previously for SoulTrain.com, NDigo.com, ChicagoDefender.com, EmpireRadioMagazine.com, and UrbanMuseMag.com, an author, singer/songwriter, actor, model, poet, dancer, and DJ. He is also the Owner of Pinnacle Entertainment Productions and the Owner/Publisher of GO BANG! Magazine. Follow him on Facebook @Pierre Andre Evans, Twitter @Playerre, and on Instagram @Pierre_Andre_Evans.