If there’s a classic house track that Philly Mixtape fondly remembers spinning into the wee hours of the night, it’s the explosive, “You Don’t Know Me,” by legendary DJ, Armand Van Helden. The booming number is a dance force to be reckoned with, containing a thunderous beat, glorious flow and crisp vocals provided effortlessly by Duane Harden. If there are any of you music kids out there who aren’t familiar with this tantalizing tune and the musical mastermind behind it, music school is now in session because your ‘Rewerk Wednesday’ will be giving it up to the legendary Mr. Van Helden, who for over two decades, has made his name known in the club world…and beyond. It’s time to start paying attention…right now.
Until he began branching out on his own in the mid-’90s, the booming existence of Mr. Van Helden was actually an underground secret. It was when he began recording for such labels as Strictly Rhythm, Henry St., and Logic that is was then that he would go on to become one of the dominant names in dance music. As one part of the steady progression of top in-house producers Strictly Rhythm, Van Helden joined such dynamic DJs such as Todd Terry, Erick Morillo, Roger Sanchez, Masters at Work, and George Morel to record a multitude of explosive club hits. By the late-’90s, a buffet of romping remixes and fiery studio albums made Van Helden’s name the iconic one it is in dance music today.
Born February 16th, 1970, Mr. Van Helden spent his early years growing up the son of an Air Force man, spending his time in Holland, Turkey and Italy, all while getting lost in the music during his early teenage years. He bought a drum machine at the age of 13 and began DJing two years later, basing his style around hip-hop and freestyle. While attending college in Boston, he proceeded to moonlight as a DJ (don’t they all?), even though he had taken on a legal-review job after graduation, which he soon quit to begin working on production for the remix service, X-Mix Productions. Van Helden also owned a residency at Boston’s Loft, and within no time flat, the Boston hot spot became one of the most popular nightclubs in the city because of his sultry sets. After a short while holding things down at Loft, Van Helden played one of his production demos in 1992 for dance A&R guru, Gladys Pizarro, and soon his remix of Deep Creed’s “Stay on My Mind,” would not only deliver him his first dance smash, but it would lead him on his path straight to the top of all things dance music.
Later that same year, the iconic DJ released “Move It to the Left” by Sultans of Swing, his first single for Strictly Rhythm. While the banger was a moderate club smash, it would be overpowered by another SR offering, 1994’s “Witch Doktor,” which would become a huge dance floor fire all around the globe, all while introducing Van Helden to a larger club audience. But, it was his rewerk of Tori Amos’ “Professional Window” that caught the most groovin’ gasoline, and from that point, it seemed as if everyone wanted a piece of the Van Helden action, as artists like Dee-Lite, New Order, Rolling Stones and Ms. Janet Jackson all wanted a shimmering slice of Armand’s talents.
While Armand is certainly a rewerk force to be reckoned with, over his two decades funkin’ us up, his own-name singles productions scored all over the dance globe with smashes like “Cha Cha,” “The Funk Phenomena,””My My My,” and of course, “You Don’t Know Me,” all catapulting the DJ to greater ranks of funkdafied fame. These days, Mr. Van Helden is still going strong, doing his thing with DJ A-Trak as one half of the group, Duck Sauce (‘Barbara Streisand,’ you know it.) and just recently, the iconic DJ rewerked Sam Smith’ “I’m Not The Only One” into delicious deep results. At the end of the day, it’s dance floor legends like Armand Van Helden that make Philly Mixtape’s ‘Rewerk Wednesday’ that much more explosive. Trust us when me tell that over the few weeks, the fire on the floor will continue to burn nice and bright for all of us music kids….