Radio DJs Stretch & Bobbito Turn Producers for Debut Album ‘No Requests’
Released in January, the veteran New York DJs talk about collaborating with the M19s Band and singers such as Maimouna Youssef
New York veteran DJs Stretch and Bobbito – that’s Adrian Bartos and Bobbito Garcia – knew exactly why they would call their debut album No Requests. For one, it’s amongst the most common grievances to have someone make that entitled walk up to the DJ console and ask for a song to be played. Garcia says, “There was one time when this woman came up to me and she said, ‘Umm, can you play something like more funkier like, something funky? Danceable funky?’ I looked at her and I was like, ‘I’m playing James Brown, he’s the godfather of funk.’”
It gets a laugh from Stretch, and he adds, “She meant Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.” But he makes sure to mention that in the last decade, they’ve always been booked for doing what they do. Radio show hosts who introduced the airwaves to artists like Nas, Wu-Tang Clan and even Jay-Z in the Nineties, Stretch and Bobbito have so far put in more than two decades of work into joint outings such as the documentary film Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives, their N.P.R. podcast What’s Good with Stretch and Bobbito as well as individual projects. Stretch authored a book on New York City nightclubs and flyer art, while Bobbito dove deep into basketball culture and sneaker culture as a filmmaker.
Now they have No Requests, which released via Uprising Music (helmed by Latin jazz Grammy-winning veteran pianist-composer Eddie Palmieri) on January 17th. Bobbito says, “We feel strongly that the album is nothing short of any of the other projects that we’ve ever done together. It’s right up there and hopefully exceeds the accolades and critical acclaim that we’ve received for each of our other collaborations. That’s the goal.”
Watch the video for “The Mexican” ft Mireya Ramos
Fused together with top tier musicians who form the M19s band, No Requests – essentially a reworking of Afro, Latin, reggae and soul songs held close by the duo – includes guest vocals from artists like Maimouna Youssef, Mireya Ramos (who also adds violin), Jose Parla and Rich Medina. The M19s band, who have been performing at live shows in the U.S. with Stretch and Bobbito, are proper party-starters in their own right with drummer-percussionist combos, a horn section, guitarist, keyboardist and vocalists. Stretch notes that they became friends with the likes of Youssef very quickly and discovered “just how utterly lovely a human being she was in person” before getting her on board for songs like Chaka Khan’s “I Know You, I Live You” and Stevie Wonder’s composition “If You Really Love Me.” Stretch adds about picking out the band, “We wanted to make sure that that we would have the pleasure and joy that comes from forging friendships with people through music, similar to the friendship that Bob and I have had over music over the last 30 years.”
As much as they’ve been known to throw the best parties in the world, that was as DJs. “As you know, Bob and I are not experienced live music producers,” Stretch says. But in their process of working with the artists involved on No Requests, the duo had a “gratifying” experience after every show. On stage, Stretch and Bobbito introduce the band, work in some banter, offering elements of their podcast and radio shows. Once the band’s run through the record, Stretch and Bobbito get back on the decks to play records. “It’s a fun time and we hope to bring it to India soon,” Bobbito says.
True to their DJ spirit, Stretch says that the songs they picked for reinterpretation on No Requests are ones they have a deep connection with us and it’s not so much about thinking about “what people might want.” Bobbito chimes, “Thus the title No Requests.”
While Stretch and Bobbito have played in India in 2018 – one that they recall for the top-notch production, being offered home cooked food and an influential Bollywood actor amongst the crowd, of whom 95 percent were dancing – they’re keen to bring No Requests to India as well. The year 2020 also marks 30 years of their radio show, which will be marked with a concert and release of archival audio “in an unprecedented manner.” As always, the attitude towards the work is the same, one that perhaps is what keeps the bond between the duo strong as ever. Bobbito says, “We have other projects on the horizon. We don’t jump into these roads half steppin’ you know? We’re both sprinting towards the finish line now with equal pace.”
Hear “If You Really Love Me” below. Stream the album here.