Talent is important, but a thoughtful marketing plan is imperative. Booking top DJs does not guarantee your event will be successful. There are many other factors that are involved in getting dancers on the dancefloor. Having a solid marketing plan that includes press, social media, and advertising is key. I always say, “The set-up and clean up crew is more important to an event than the superstar DJ.” It takes more than just one person or one thing to create a successful event.
As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing liL Ray.
For over 30 years, event producer / dj liL Ray has been a cornerstone of New York City’s House music culture — renowned for producing the annual Clubhouse Jamboree, the longest running outdoor House music event of its kind in New York City. It’s unbridled enthusiasm, diverse musical selection, and an unmatched atmosphere transcends borders. liL Ray’s Jamaica Frenzy brings the heart and soul of New York City’s legendary House music culture to the vibrant shores of Jamaica. Jamaica Frenzy is dedicated to delivering an exceptional event that seamlessly combines the energy and vibrancy of House music culture with the laid-back charm of Jamaica. With world-class performances, extraordinary production, and a commitment to a diverse and inclusive atmosphere, Jamaica Frenzy promises to be the ultimate destination party experience.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Kingston. I spent most of my childhood in Jamaica, as well as summers in New York City. I finally migrated to Brooklyn in August of 1979.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always loved being around music and good parties, starting with my father’s record collection. This continued when I went to American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts, and immediately became the reggae DJ on college radio station WAIC from 1981 to 1985.
Later, I started producing parties and functions for many of the organizations at the school. I’d travel from college to New York City and attended Paradise Garage, where Larry Levan and the Garage changed my outlook on partying and music. Upon graduation, I returned to New York City where I started rocking parties with Hector Cruz’s group House Nation. And later, I started hosting my own.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There are many interesting stories to choose from since my career in House music spans over 35 years. Some of the most rewarding stories have to do with creating Clubhouse Jamboree, where for 30 years we’ve brought together top House music talent and feed over 1,000 people for free at each event.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am currently working on Jamaica Frenzy, an all-inclusive House music vacation experience, in Negril, Jamaica, from May 2–7, 2024. This will mark the 3rd year we will be returning to Jamaica for this event. Our first round lineup was just announced, and includes Musclecars, Ali Coleman, Del from Philly, Nutritious, Patrick Wilson, Harry Fletcher III, Ameer Brooks, D.J.S., and myself… with more to come. Jamaica Frenzy is a special event that’s near and dear to our hearts because it’s dedicated to delivering an exceptional experience that seamlessly combines the energy and vibrancy of House music culture with the laid-back charm of Negril, known for its miles of sandy beaches in western Jamaica. With world-class performances, extraordinary production, and a commitment to a diverse and inclusive atmosphere, Jamaica Frenzy is the ultimate destination party experience!
By the way, you can save on your package by using promo code FRENZYSGL24 for $100 off single occupancy or FRENZYDBL24 for $200 off double occupancy reservations. We hope you join us.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I’ve mingled with the “Who’s Who” in the New York City House music world — from Larry Levan to David Mancuso to Timmy Regisford to Tony Humpries to David Morales to Louie Vega, DJ Spinna and many others. I am honored to call many of these artists my friends.
I have many stories which range from driving Larry home after gigs, or Larry helping us lift speakers and install the sound system for our House Nation parties. One time Larry was under the booth mentoring Victor Rosado as he opened the night, handing him vinyl to play while everyone asked, “Where is Larry? I thought he was the DJ tonight!” only to have Larry appear out of what seems to be nowhere and take over from Victor.
I recall playing music at a backyard party in New Jersey with Tony Humphries when he saw that rain was about to fall, and asked me to get Chaka Khan’s “Clouds” out of the crate. He dropped it at the perfect point to create magic. Working the lights at Club Shelter with Timmy Regisford and sharing some memorable moments together is another highlight of many….
Oh, and I have so many memories from parties I organized with DJ Spinna, Karizma, and Quentin Harris at Miami’s Winter Music Conference. One year, DJ Spinna was supposed to play at a major club downtown, but the club was closed down early by the authorities, so Spinna showed up at my party in Miami Beach, and held up his CD book as I was heading to the booth. Of course, I stepped aside and gave him the decks….more magic ensued.
There are so many magical memories and stories over the 35 plus years I have been involved in House music in NYC that I could fill a book.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?
I draw inspiration from many places, life situations, and people I meet along the way. For example, I decided to really start producing events after going to a party at a friend’s loft space in Brooklyn in the early 1980s, and recognizing details that needed improvement. I said, “I can do this, and do it better.”
After years of attending Winter Music Conference, and spending quite a bit of money while not getting a great return on our good time, I was inspired to look at how I could offer a meaningful trip with great talent in an exotic location … .and give people a better experience for their hard-earned money. This is when The Jamaica Frenzy was born.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve always tried my best to give back to society. Clubhouse Jamboree is an opportunity for me to give back to the Brooklyn community every year. Six years ago when the Caribbean was hit with two category five hurricanes, I organized a donation of goods, through Clubhouse Jamboree, Redness Events, and the Brooklyn Crown Heights Lions Club, and was successful in shipping over 30 barrels of goods to the island of Dominica and US Virgin Islands.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started?”
- You will love creating musical experiences so much that it will take over your life.
- God will put total strangers in your path to get you where you’re supposed to be.
- You don’t have to wait for your business plan to be perfect to start. You just have to start and the business and the journey will guide you.
- Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.
- Talent is important, but a thoughtful marketing plan is imperative. Booking top DJs does not guarantee your event will be successful. There are many other factors that are involved in getting dancers on the dancefloor. Having a solid marketing plan that includes press, social media, and advertising is key. I always say, “The set-up and clean up crew is more important to an event than the superstar DJ.” It takes more than just one person or one thing to create a successful event.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d like to inspire a movement that gives back to those who have less than most. There’s an organization called United Mission of Goodwill that sends doctors and other medical professionals to Jamaica, Haiti, and other Caribbean countries. They are a transformative medical and surgical missionary outreach and educational group that improves the health and wellbeing of underserved individuals in developing countries with limited access to healthcare, by delivering high quality healthcare through safe surgical procedures at no cost to the individual. One of my goals with Jamaica Frenzy is to not only bring quality House music events to my birthplace of Jamaica, but to also find a way to help this amazing organization, and others like it, bring quality healthcare and services to the underserved people of Jamaica.
We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you for the opportunity!
liL Ray of Jamaica Frenzy: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.