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Erick Morillo is a Colombian-American DJ, music producer and record label owner. Having produced under a number of pseudonyms, including Ministers De la Funk, The Dronez, RAW, Smooth Touch, RBM, Deep Soul, Club Ultimate and Li'l Mo Ying Yang, Morillo is best known for his international work in house music, in particular for the label Strictly Rhythm, and the 1993 hit "I Like to Move It", which he produced under the pseudonym Reel 2 Real, and which was featured in commercials, movies and ringtones. His label Subliminal Records has produced the #1 Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play hit "Fun" by Da Mob, and won the Muzik magazine "Remixer of the Year" award in 1999. Subliminal also brought attention to artists like Eddie Thoneick, Carl Kennedy and DJ DLG. He is a three time winner of DJ Awards "Best House DJ" in 1998, 2001 and 2003 and a three time winner of "Best International DJ" in 2002, 2006 and 2009 receiving a total of 15 nominations in all from 1998-2010.
Erick Morillo was born in 1971 in New York. He spent most of his pre-teen years in Cartagena, Colombia, where he lived with his family, and grew accustomed to salsa and merengue music. He moved back to the United States at age 11, living with his mother, Elisa, and sister, Sheila, in an apartment at 1406 Bergenline Avenue in Union City, New Jersey. Influenced by other genres such as reggae, and hip hop, it was also at age 11 that he began DJing weddings for friends and family. He attended grammar school at Saint Joseph and Michael's School, a private Catholic school, graduating in 1985. He graduated from Emerson High School in Union City in 1989.
"Muevelo" and "I Like to Move It"
Morillo took a studio engineering course let at the New York City's Center for the Media Arts, and began DJing at local clubs, in places like the Love Sexy music lounge on Hudson Street in Hoboken. While working at a club in nearby Weehawken, Morillo met Latin reggae star El General, with whom Morillo became friends. The two collaborated in 1991 on the single, "Muevelo", a mixture of reggae, house music, and a sample of T99's techno single "Anasthasia" that became a surprise hit, and went platinum.
As his remixes became familiar in Latin clubs, Morillo branched out through his friendship with New York house veteran "Little" Louie Vega, whom he met through then-unknown singer Marc Anthony, with whom Vega had worked on the seminal 1992 house anthem, "Ride on the Rhythm". According to Morillo, Vega advised him to "focus on vocals". Morillo's next big song came in 1993, when New York's premier house label at the time, Strictly Rhythm, released his "The New Anthem"/"Funky Buddha" 12. The song did well in the charts and in clubs, garnering attention for Morillo. Later that year, Strictly Rhythm released the Real 2 Real's second single. "I Like to Move It". The song, which has been described by Mixer as "part Euro-cheese, part pop A&R man's wet dream", became a staple international dance hit for both Reel 2 Real and Strictly Rhythm. It made Morillo a millionaire and thrust him into a globe-trotting life that included weekly trips to Europe to tape MTV Europe in between stateside promotions. In response to the song's success, Morillo recorded the full-length album Move It!, which was released in 1994, and spawned several singles that did particularly well in England. This was followed with a 1996 album from which another several singles were released, most notably "Mueve la Cadera" ("Move Your Body").
From Reel 2 Real to Subliminal
Despite being believed to have made over $2 million from Reel 2 Real, Morillo feared that his financial success may have hurt both his creative drive and his street credibility. Wanting to create respectable house music, he produced "Jazz It Up", launching it under the label of the Erick Morillo Project, in order to ensure street credibility. The song did well, and boosted his confidence. He and Louie Vega collaborated as Lil' Mo' Ying Yang and released the 1995 single "Reach". Morillo intended a third album for Reel to Real, but his relationship with the Mad Stuntman soured, which derailed the project. Searching for a way to reinvent himself, Morillo attended The Forum, a self-help seminar in New York City, where he gained insight into finding happiness through things other than wealth and his frantic work schedule. The seminar also enabled him to escape his creative rut by helping him analyze his past and set future goals, one of which was to become a successful global DJ. He abandoned the Reel 2 Real alias in 1996, and concentrated on DJing, becoming a favorite in Ibiza, Europe and Australia.
Finishing his relationship with Strictly Rhythm, Morillo took the advice of Strictly Rhythm owner Mark Finkelstein, whom Morillo calls "a fair person and a business mentor", and decided to distance himself from R2R's pop past by launching the Double Platinum management company in 1997 with fellow DJs and producers José Nunez, Harry Choo Choo Romero, Carlos Sosa (aka DJ Sneak), and Junior Sanchez, and his own imprint, Subliminal Records, which is based in Weehawken. Morillo describes Subliminal's sound as "ghetto music", which is branded with European-designed record sleeves, "but with class". Its first single was 1998's "Fun", which featured Chicago diva Dajae's, and drew positive response via test pressings and buzz across the Atlantic. However, Dajae refused to sign the contract with Subliminal, and vocalist Jocelyn Brown was brought in to re-record the vocals. Brown's collaboration with Subliminal is known as "Da Mob", and their version of "Fun" became a #1 Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play hit. Soon after, however, DJ Sneak left the group for Toronto to start his own management company, and Junior Sanchez united with Roger S. to start one of their own. The remaining trio of Morillo, Romero and Nunez formed the finalized core of Subliminal, and are also known as the remix team The Dronez. With Subliminal, Morillo managed to find the balance between "underground" respectability and financial success. The trio won Muzik magazine's Remixer of the Year award in 1999. Subliminal also brought attention to artists like Eddie Thoneick, Carl Kennedy and DJ DLG.
In late 1999, Morillo completed a U.S. tour and his club night, dubbed Subliminal Night, is credited with single-handedly resuscitating New York City's ailing club scene, a feat he accomplished by signing up Danny Tenaglia, Darren Emerson, Bob Sinclar, Derrick Carter, Tiger Tim Stevens, Mark Farina and Tony Humphries in guest spots. Morillo has also hosted various other club nights across the globe, such as his mid-week Subliminal Sessions parties at Champs in New York. When they were evicted from that venue, the Sessions relaunched at Centro-Fly. Commenting on his socializing with promoters, Morillo says:
"I party with the promoters I play for. A lot of DJs don't like to do that; they play the party, go back to the hotel and then get ready to go home. Not me. I don't deny it! For me a DJ is someone who brings a vibe. If you don't party, then how do you bring that vibe?"
Morillo has hosted various other club nights across the globe, such as the annual Crobar party in Miami (ULTRA), and his legendary Subliminal Sessions parties at Pacha in Ibiza, which was named "Best International Club" of 2002 and "Best Ibiza Party" of 2001 by Muzik magazine. Ibiza is also where Morillo was crowned "Best International DJ" in 2002 and "Best House DJ" in 1999 and 2001 at the Pacha Ibiza awards. He has been known to play up to 30 jobs a month in locations including Greece, Malta, Amsterdam, London, Madrid, Belfast, and Russia. According to Morillo, his most memorable job was on Ibiza's White Isle after the September 11 attacks: "I was playing the closing party of the Space Terrace straight after September 11th. I ended the night with Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York". People were crying and waving American flags, everybody was singing. It's my most emotional memory as a DJ."
In addition to his MTV UK appearances, Morillo hosted MTV Ibiza for two years, presented the UK's Dancestar Awards, and starred in a seven-part Channel 4 series documenting his world travels as a party DJ.
In 2004, he released his first album under his real name, My World, which features collaborations with such artists as Sean "Diddy" Combs, who collaborated with Morillo on three tracks, including the dancefloor hit "Dance I Said". The label has also spawned other labels, such as Sondos, Subliminal Soul, Bambossa and SUBUSA. The label was distributed by Strictly Rhythm until that label ceased operations in 2002. Today, Subliminal is independently distributed, although Strictly Rhythm reopened its doors in 2007.
Morillo drew attention in June 2013 when he failed to appear at a June 6 show in Long Island, and then on June 12 when he had to be escorted off stage 45 minutes into a set, due to "erratic behavior." According to reports, Morillo appeared to be dazed when he began his set, and his condition worsened after he began it. At one point, he vanished from view, leaving a single loop playing over and over. Morillo later stated on his Twitter page, "The time has come to take a break and refocus my attention on my health and well-being."