Benji Espinoza, the co-founder of influential Chicago house label DJ International Records, has died, according to a report in 5Mag.
Founded in 1985 with Rocky Jones, DJ International Records put out many important early house records, including the first house music compilation and, later, international house music anthem ‘Promised Land’ by Joe Smooth.
DJ International Records kicked off with ‘Music Is The Key’ by J.M.Silk, a Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley alias. Soon it was putting out records by house music architect Chip E, including remixes of his seminal ‘Jack Trax’ EP. In 1986 the label put out ‘The House Sound Of Chicago’, a compilation album that featured Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley’s ‘Jack Your Body’, Farley ‘Jackmaster’ Funk & Jesse Saunders’ ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ featuring Darryl Pandy, Marshall Jefferson’s ‘Move Your Body’ and more. The comp had a huge impact worldwide, and helped some of these early house anthems become hits across the globe.
In a recent Facebook post, Espinoza described how he first signed Larry Heard to DJ International, ensuring that Fingers Inc. ‘Mystery Of Love’ became an international hit.
Tributes have come from throughout the house music community, from artists including Joe Smooth, who wrote on Facebook: ““R.I.P. to one of the important people behind the global growth of ‘House Music’ and a great guy!”
In his post on Facebook, Chip E describes Espinoza, in all-caps, as was his style, as a “MASTERFUL MARKETER OF NOT ONLY DJ INTERNATIONAL RECORDS BUT OF HOUSE MUSIC AND THE CITY OF CHICAGO.”.
Chicago’s DJ Heather wrote on Twitter: “Sending love to the close friends and family of Benji Espinoza. In peace may he rest”