Praise You: An eLBee BaD Tribute Mix by KILLA

At the beginning of June we learned of the sad passing of DJ and producer eLBee BaD. Real name Lamont Booker, or Monty to his friends, Booker was a prolific figure within the Berlin scene, moving to the city in 1993 and residing there ever since. But this wasn’t where his musical story began; Booker’s been operating pretty much since the foundations of house music were laid, putting out early house records via labels like Nu Groove, Red Heat and Bassment.

Though his humble approach has kept him somewhat shrouded from fame, by his own admission he was ‘never pushing to be seen, and surely not pushing enough to be heard’, tastemakers have long cited his music as an inspiration, which rightfully earned him the title ‘The Prince of Dance Music’ — one of the myriad monikers he’d go on to release music under.

He may be best remembered for his ventures into house music but Booker’s rich catalogue traverses everything from electro and breaks to Detroit tech, ambient and deep house, showcasing his versatility as both an artist and a music lover.

As a way to celebrate the impact of his life and music, and to honour his incredible contributions to this thing we call dance music, we asked friend and member of his Berlin family, DJ Killa to piece together a mix of material that traces his prolific output.

Alongside a written homage to their friendship and L.B’s curiosity, openness and humility as a producer and a person, she creates a sonic narrative that bridges the gap between his house and techno productions, peppered with vocal snippets that keep his spirit alive through the music.

This weekend KILLA and several other Berlin-based friends of L.B’s will be playing a live tribute stream on HÖR (18:00-22:00).

Stamp The Wax · Praise You: An eLBee BaD Tribute Mix by KILLA

Why does The Prince Of Dance Music mean so much to you?

Monty is a member of my Berlin family and so happens to be a wonderful musician and producer and one of the best DJs I ever met. Elbee Bad is a really badass DJ, selector, dancer and crowd-reader. 

We grew closer over the year and ended up hanging together regularly, either in the booth or cooking and chilling at home.

I also do some label work for Fiedel and they had several music projects in the pipeline, so he would also regularly send tracks over for feedback or come and pick up records.

Playing on the Killasan Sound system was on his bucket list, partly because it was connected in many ways to his personal Berlin history. Fiedel and I invited him to play for Wax Treatment a couple of years ago. Mark Ernestus was there, of course, and those guys hadn’t hung together for years. 
It was a very special, very magical night at the old Grießmühle and I feel very blessed I could be part of this particular bit of music history. It’s like an invisible badge of honor somehow.

Berlin is built on water and sand (or techno dust and tears depending on how you see it). People come and go, but those who stay in the nightlife bubble for long enough eventually all know each other – at least by name.

What makes an eLBee BaD record so unique?

Besides the fact that he managed to produce in so many genres, from house and hip-house to techno, tech-house, deep house, while keeping the L.B. Touch— the polyrhythms, the syncopes, the singing —there’s a whole range of characteristic signature elements he managed to carry through all genres. The releases on is own label, Larhon, also have this particular touch. There are some very unusual ways of producing that would not work for most but end up giving his work this unique flavour.

What’s your most sacred Prince of Dance record and why?

There are actually 2 records. Until very recently, it was ‘More True Stories Of House Music’ on RH, because it was one of the first records I bought when I finally stopped repressing my inner selector. I hadn’t yet made the connection between Monty, this awesome DJ with whom I had shared a smoke and a chat at parties, and The Prince Of Dance Music.

He came for dinner at the beginning of the year, and the record was still on the platter. He mentioned he didn’t even have a copy of it for himself, so I gave it to him even though he really tried to refuse taking away a personal fav’. It felt like the mills of Techno-House had ground us a small miracle.

This record is now part of his collection, so my new favorite ever since is the LaRhon47 ‘Amongst The Chaos (We Chillin!)’. He was super happy about the release, so he came by to drop a copy. I asked him to sign it, even though it’s a silly request. I’m gonna need something to show the kids when I’m a dance grandma sitting by the fire and telling them True Stories About Dance Music.

How did you approach this mix? What did you want it to say about The Prince Of Dance Music?

Monty only just went, so it was something of an emotional challenge to listen to his work without being overcome by sadness.

Then it fell into place because focusing on the music made it possible to work through grief in a constructive way. Everything had to happen within a week, so I only took records I had at home, lit up a candle, put a picture of him goofing around by the decks and did my best to pay my respects.

Monty’s techno side and the versatility of his tunes is criminally underrated because many people don’t move past the old-school hits and felt his sound didn’t belong into today’s big rooms, but that’s nonsense.

I tried to create a dance narrative bridging house and techno while adding several vocal snippets so that his presence keeps shining through the tunes.

I had to smile through tears as I remembered the story behind each record, it sometimes felt like hanging together through the music.

When did you first hear eLBee BaD’s music and what impact did it have on you?

I first noticed him when I heard him DJ at an after hour in Golden Gate (or maybe even Chalet). I was slowly losing the hope to have a proper dance to something that wouldn’t be generic tech or deep-house, when he took over.

There are many parties in this city but the opportunities to really shake it and get lost into a proper musical trip remain scarce. When you’re new in town, you make sure to remember the names of artists who know how to handle ravers on the dance floor.

He released under so many monikers and the trail goes back so far that I only clicked on the scale of his legacy when I started digging and DJing seriously myself.

Any standout memories from dropping an Elbee Bad track in a set?

I’m usually in the zone during a set. Dropping hits for clout doesn’t really leave long lasting memories… What I remember is the time I put the Victorious EP in my bag thinking I’ll surprise him and drop it if I see him on the dance floor during my set. The night goes on, I end up playing the track thinking he didn’t show up after all… I notice some commotion in front of the booth, look up, and there is Mr. Bad, freestyling to the tune. When he came into the booth to say hello, he winked and said “Do you know that this is also Villalobos’ favorite remix of that tune?” Then he gave me a huge smile and a hug.

We invited him to play at Wax Treatment and also for a Lecken Rave. We went on a road trip to play at Jubeljahre Festival with PAARTANZ and a few other friends… I’d make sure to have some of his tunes when we’d play at the same event.

Every now and then he’d ask me the name of something I played and whenever it happened I felt the Prince was awarding me an order of chivalry, lol. 

How has The Prince Of Dance Music impacted you as a producer and a DJ?

I haven’t released anything on my own yet but if I ever do, then I know I needn’t be afraid to incorporate punk, metal or rap influences. There are as many wizards as there are spells out there and everyone needs to find out what it is they want to channel.

L.B was one of the first established artists to trust me when I was still a baby DJ struggling with the equipment and crippled by impostor syndrome. He told me more than once to trust my ear and my gut and that the rest would follow. Behind the decks, he was a proper wizard and also the living proof that you can be really bold in the way you mix as long as you’re ready to roll with the punches, go with the flow and just own it.

One of my first gigs with “real DJs” was with him and Lenny Posso. For the closing party of the Bonobo Bar. They were both such seasoned professionals that I really wondered how I could possibly hold my own. There were a few trainwrecks that made me want to consider Hara-kiri as the only way not to lose face completely… Monty told me not to be so self-depreciating and that the selection was solid.

The last time I saw him work his magic was at a tiny Corona event for a friend’s birthday. I never thought he wouldn’t physically be part of the dance anymore when the clubs reopen. This is a huge loss for the Techno-House scene and for the Berlin scene.

What would you say is eLBee BaD biggest legacy on music?

Monty’s warmth, wits and energy were contagious. It always got me thinking of this phrase in Frankie Bones’ ‘Call it Techno’ anthem: “The people overseas / Catch it like a disease when they hear it / Call it Techno. Techno Bass”. He was able to win over all kinds of crowds, no matter how shitty the set up was.

He had this secret way of catching and polarizing the room’s vibe – whether behind the decks or freestyling with the crowd on the dance floor.

You’d lose him at party with really good music, but sure enough, when the lights come on for the last track, there’s a circle of every cool person who’s still at the party and you can’t see L.B. because he’s in the middle of that crowd, doing bit of rap freestyle or a dance routine. Monty really put his mouth where his money was, even though it never filled the bank the way it did for others. He WAS the message he carried through his music and he never stopped being curious and open about new music, new people, new collaborations. He was super humble, which doesn’t mean he wasn’t at the same time aware of his own talent and status in the scene.

People keep associating him with House music because too many producers play exactly the same style they produce in their DJ sets. Some of his productions are True House Legends, but as a DJ, he didn’t necessarily want to be confined to this one style. He was the Prince of Dance, the Prince of Techno-House and not just House. Eternal music has the power to transcend genres… and time… and death.

This weekend KILLA and several other Berlin-based friends of L.B’s will be playing a live tribute stream on HÖR (18:00-22:00).

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