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El Michels Affair


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When Leon Michels name first appeared on a record, he was 16. That release was Thunder Chicken, and the group was his high school band, The Mighty Imperials.
The record was essentially an homage to The Meters, at the time it was near pitch-perfect for the budding retro-soul scene. While that release was an early step for Michels, aspects of it have almost become trademarks of his work: a unique raw-yet-disciplined approach to his sound and songwriting, and a soulful genuineness that has a sense of humor one minute and a sense of solace the next.
Leon would soon be touring and recording with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings while preparing for his first full-length record, Sounding Out the City, which was released under the moniker El Michels Affair in 2005. The lo-fi warm recording aesthetic and bottom heavy production alongside the immediate success of EMA’s debut release lead to playing a show with Raekwon of Wu-Tang fame. That show went over so well it lead to a tour with El Michels backing multiple members of the Wu-Tang Clan. It was these shows that ended up laying the groundwork for the release of El Michels Affair’s second full-length, Enter the 37th Chamber, which eventually introduced them to a worldwide audience. The band’s fanbase went through the roof. Almost in a domino effect, a huge range of hip-hop artists sampled Michels’ songs, from Ghostface Killah, Just Blaze, and Jay-Z to J Dilla, J.Cole, and Travis Scott.


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