“The music finds the people and the dance moves follow after” Uptown Vinyl Supreme on Their Dance Party as a Social Movement

As the members of Uptown Vinyl Supreme trickle separately into our socially distanced Zoom interview, each member’s arrival leads to a palpable and communal energetic shift. The collective has not performed together since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but on October 10th two days after our interview the group celebrated their 5th anniversary. The Bronx-based four person DJ collective and community organization is comprised of Sunny Cheeba, Brujx Boogie, Buddy, and Josh Hubi and has been a mainstay of uptown culture for the last half decade. UVS pays homage to the analogue and vinyl roots of music, party, and dance culture with a retro DJ style of strictly playing vinyl records. Uptown Vinyl Supreme has proven themselves to be not only ambassadors of Hip-Hop, Latin, and dance music, but also cultural ambassadors with a love for community and history. 

UVS’s throwback style of mixing records live on vinyl mirrors the original concept of Hip-Hop in the 1970s. A moving group, aside from “First Saturdays” at the Bronx Beer Hall, the collective’s mobile library made it possible to transition during COVID-19 as shows moved to an online streaming platform. Their dedication to the physical tools used in the South Bronx block parties that invented Hip-Hop is just as strong as their dedication to the struggle of BIPOC throughout the world. UVS is inherently Pro-Black and Pro-Latinx with the mantra “Vinyl To The People” which is a reflection of the class struggle inherent to the Bronx and Hip-Hop, and in the lives of Brown and Black Americans. Whether it’s reminding people about the destructive nature of both major political parties in the United States, condemning colonialism and Christopher Columbus, or reminding BIPOC of spiritual connections outside of Christianity, UVS places socio-political issues at the heart of their movement. UVS’s constant and intentional choices to uplift, educate, and raise awareness are imperative in a time where marginalized and BIPOC communities are heavily under attack due to systematic racism manifesting as police brutality and lack of government relief during the pandemic. For every fire mix posted, there is a shout out to fellow artists such as director Raquel Cepeda and her latest work La Madrina: The Savage Life of Lorine Padilla.

More community than collection of artists, UVS has lended their voice and platform in collaboration with others to create healing workshops, facilitate educational classes, and support other non-musical native Bronx artists. This emphasis on socio-political consciousness is found in their works and personas. When the group acknowledges that “access to our own joy” has been limited due to the inability to perform in live packed out shows, we see the harmful impact that COVID-19 has caused in the community from businesses to artists. As other places in America set up funds to protect artists, NYC is considering cutting MTA services while raising prices. 

UVS’s street-cred cannot be denied. From SummerStage to “First Saturdays”, the group is frequently collaborating with Hip-Hop historical icons such as Pete Rock, Marley Marl, Bobbito Garcia, and more. These actions not only give credence to the Bronx as the originators of the Hip-Hop genre, but highlight the group’s ability to bring people together in community gathering, one that is often lost in the streaming age. Since my first UVS show back in the now defunct DIY venue The Meatshop run by one of NYC’s top promoters Luke McCanna, the group has only developed their style and showmanship over the years, adapting to different venues and audiences with ease. 

Art by Darby Oehl

Check out our interview below where we discuss the group’s beginnings, why vinyl matters, how social issues have always been at the core of their work, and more. 

GSC: Who are you and how do you identify?

Sunny: I’m Sunny Cheeba and I identify as a multi-dimensional being. She/her pronouns.

Brujx Boogie: Brujx Boogie. Pronouns they/them. And I also identify as a Caribbean born spirit.

Josh: I am Josh and my pronouns are he/him. I identify as an everlasting, never stopping, spinning record.

Buddy: Just Buddy, just Buddy. Say whatever you want. Just here at this time trying to do something good. Figure something out. Peach Snapple though, is delicious.

GSC: How did y’all find each other and what made you decide you wanted to start this collective? 

Sunny: I feel like I saw pieces of people who I really started resonating with through music, through vinyl collection specifically. At the time, 2015 and before that, I was hosting open mics and music showcases called Live From Underground with a friend when we saw a need for an afterparty. That’s kind of the first time I was able to play out and I invited Buddy. It’s funny because Brujx Boogie was there and was like “I’d love to play with you all one day, i just got my records back from storage and turntables and everything.” We’re all like in this groove together, the musicians, things that we were into at the moment. And one day I was like, “Yo, I wanna throw a party where people from uptown don’t always have to travel.” I felt like for a long time we had to travel to the city to find these spaces where they would resonate with people. I was like, “let’s do that here, we could do a little time machine; Buddy bring your records, and I’m bringing these beat up Stantons I just got a couple months ago.” Brujx Boogie picked up his records. It was such an incredible night and the feedback we got was so powerful. People kept asking when’s the next one, and we’re still here five years later because people keep asking, “When’s the next one?” 

And it’s funny because Josh and I went to middle school together, but after we graduated middle school we kind of went our separate ways. We live in the same neighborhood and he happened to be on the 1 train going past 231st, when he heard the music outside from Mr. McGoo’s where the party was. He decided to walk outside of the train instead of going home and stumbled into our first party. We invited him into the crew a year after, and that’s how we all fell into the same vibe. 

Josh: Our [five year] anniversary is October 10th. That’s very exciting.

GSC: In the past 5 years as a collective, what accomplishment are you most proud of?

Brujx Boogie: I think for me honestly, and this might be cheating, I think the proudest moment is the fact that we’re a group for five years, a collective for five years. That’s a milestone. But we didn’t even plan it like that, it planned us.

Sunny: I was thinking the same thing! I was gonna say consistency. The fact that we have not only been like, “We wanna play these records out, let’s play these songs,” but it has built into so much more than that. What are we saying with these records? What are the spaces that we’re occupying? Are we holding space for people? How are we creating opportunities for people? How are we bridging gaps between older generations of DJs with younger generations that are able to see this in their backyard? And I just think the evolution of the first party and what it has grown to become. I’m sure there’s so much more to learn and so much more to do, but I think consistency is the biggest thing. I think this is the longest I’ve stayed committed to anything in a long time, and just being who I am. *laughs* 

Josh: Every time when we’re throwing these events, there’s this moment where I’m on stage and I kind of stare out onto the dance floor and I see everyone kind of dancing. Everyone is so beautiful and I think of those moments looking out upon the crowd. We are achieving our goals of bringing unity and expression through music. Those are my proudest moments. I think I always have my proudest moment in that particular moment at any of our events. 

Buddy: Sunny kind of said in another way what I was kind of thinking. You said “proudest moment” and I thought “the past five years, can that be a moment?” I can’t man, there’s just so many. It’s infinite. So many wonderful moments. Look what they did, look what you did, look what we did. Like Brujx Boogie said, here we are still five years in. I can’t say anything more specific than everything.

Photo by Shaira Chaer

GSC: I know you hate when people come to shows and don’t dance. What goes into creating an environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves physically? 

Josh: I think for me it is allowing myself to be vulnerable. I always go up there with the intention of, “Okay I had whatever day I had, but I’m gonna make sure I allow those to feel it’s okay to kind of be vulnerable in spaces like this.” When I play that’s the intention that I give out to my crowd. Like you said, not all the time people dance or reciprocate, but I just don’t focus on that. I try to focus on what’s the intent and what’s the energy I’m putting out there. The music finds the people and the dance moves follow after. But that’s me.

Sunny: For me I feel like everytime in the beginning of our parties, there’s nobody there really and a couple people wander in they look out like, “Hmm I don’t know, there’s no one really there.” In that moment I feel like I open myself up to open up others. I use myself as a channel and I go out and dance. I feel like for me, vibrationally I was blessing the space in some way and letting it be known that you can be who you are. I’m out here dancing alone with a tambourine just doing the most, letting you know that you can take up space too. I feel like being vulnerable myself allowed other people to be vulnerable with all of us at the same time.

Brujx Boogie: I don’t know if that’s a quote that we hate when people don’t dance but we appreciate when people are authentic and sometimes they’re not dancing. But you can see on their faces when they’re not dancing that they’re present and that’s a beautiful thing. You kind of see the surprise on their face, the love on their face, and just the feeling. I think jumping off of what both Josh and Sunny said, that’s what music and our jams are. Liberation through music. It speaks for itself, it dances on it’s own. We’re just the ones there putting the pieces together, plugging it in. Let it do what it do.

Josh: Each of us are a piece of that puzzle. There’s elements in each and everyone one of us and when you put them together in a space you get that feeling. That feeling that if you typically don’t dance, you start to dance. And we’re not UVS if it’s not all of us.

GSC: How has the energy shifted in this new outdoor mask show? It’s harder to see the face to read expressions so what’s the energy like now?

Sunny: We haven’t done a UVS party outside yet. Like I spun a show separately, somebody booked me in Harlem once during this. Everything else has been online and recently they’ve been doing some stuff outside. But we haven’t thrown a Uptown Vinyl Supreme Jam outdoors yet. 

Buddy: The first ever outdoor jam that we’ll be performing at is this weekend. But even that we’re guests. It’s not our show. The last time the four of us played together outside was March 7th and that was when things were starting to slow down. That was at the Beerhall. We’ve spun once together since, which was a SummerStage event about a month and a half ago, but that was online. We haven’t done anything face-to-face with anyone in seven months and one day. 

GSC: You’re probably feeling that urge, like you really want it more than anything. How successful was your Hip-Hop Summer School 2017 program? What made you want to step into the role of educators?

Sunny:  A friend of ours had come up to me because at the time they were working at Bronx Council on the Arts and they mentioned there were grants available for artists and people who do amazing things. She came to me and was like, “What you’re doing is incredible. In what way can you guys take what you’re doing and kind of amplify it?” I had come to the crew saying there were grants available for artists to utilize. What could we do or what do you guys see us doing? The first thing that came that Buddy said immediately was Hip-Hop summer school. And the rest of us were like word. What are the kids doing in the summer and how can we take these tools that we have learned and give them to our youth who are the same age as the Hip-Hop pioneers were when they started? It’s like giving them that rich history. Hip-Hop is a worldwide phenomenon, but it started in your backyard with these tools and we kind of grew on that. It was incredible. It was amazing feedback. The kids loved it. I’ve really been itching to do that again. We have the blueprint. It’s just something that needs to be worked on and also getting funding for it which is also a lot of work. But the success of the first one just shows the possibilities of what can happen.

Photo by UVS

GSC: I was talking to an artist the other day, and she’s from Indonesia. She was telling me how they take their students to see art places. And we made Hip-Hop but we don’t really teach our students about Hip-Hop and its history in school. It’s like the biggest cultural touchpoint worldwide but we don’t talk about it in schools. 

Brujx Boogie: I think that’s gonna start changing soon. I’ve seen folks integrating Hip-Hop into lessons slowly. But I think the other part of your question was how successful was it? Just based on those students themselves, we got to see them a few years later and they were growing up. From very short young adults to teenagers almost taller than us. Some of them are still in the community and we don’t know exactly what they were doing, but we know they were exposed to these tools. It was amazing and incredible and I would measure the success based on who was there, like a who’s who. We had Easy Mo Be, like say no more when it comes to Hip-Hop. Produced for Biggie and Miles Davis. 

Sunny: Coke La Rock, the first cat that was MCing with Kool Herc.

Brujx Boogie: Talk about success. The fact that those elders who are still here with us were there with those young people. I don’t think anyone can measure that. There’s not any amount of money that a company can put on that.

Sunny: It’s like bridging the gap, which I feel is definitely in the work that we’re doing. Especially with these ancient records. A lot of these records are older than I am. It’s all about bridging the gap.

I’m sure there are limitations to working strictly with vinyl. What has been the most affirming part of working with analogue and avoiding digital DJ sets? Is it the blood, sweat and tears of just carrying all that literally?

All: *laugh* No.

Josh: It’s so heavy! I like to come with a ton of records for no reason. I could play three out of three big crates. I don’t know why I do this to myself, but I do it because for me it’s the physical attachment to my music. To be able to hold and feel and to play to records that are near and dear to me which is something I can’t emulate on compressed audio. I could hold a CD but it’s not the same. It’s digital. It’s engraved zeros and ones. I don’t like that too much. But vinyl, it’s etched in waveforms. The music is in there. Magnify it big enough you’ll see the waves. The music is there. It’s like “Shit, I’m holding music.”

Sunny: Yeah, I’m an analog girl living in a digital world.

GSC: I love that. It’s like you’ve got a piece of history.

Josh: Sunny has this great analogy that she’s an archeologist. Can you go into that? When you explain that it’s amazing. Like she’s restoring a piece of history. I love when she says that because that couldn’t be closer to the truth.

Brujx Boogie: I think there’s another part to it. I agree with all of that. There’s a pioneering DJ from Detroit named Theo Parrish. I don’t know much about them out there, like their life, but I remember checking them in an interview. I think it was with Red Bull Music Academy. They were really dope because they were talking about vinyl in a digital age. And they were like inspiring or pushing folks to do their homework. He said you can have a computer and can listen to every single song in the history of mankind, so to speak. That’s not really true because not everything is digital. But you have access to so many songs and he says, “What are you gonna do with that?” He put it a the way in the sense of limitation, but limitations allow you to be more creative. It sounds ironic but think about Hip-Hop. There were limitations early Hip-Hop faced like you have no access to resources let alone digital. You had no digital. You had your parents’ records, you got these turntables, or sometimes your parents’ turntables. After the blackout, you had turntables that magically appeared off of trucks. But I wind up picking Select Records, and I know I’m limited and I can’t bring everything with me. I’m getting older and my back is done so I can’t bring everything with me. So you wind up with a select bunch and it’s just so beautiful. And like Theo Parrish says it too. He says, “try to do your best to get out of the way of the records. It’s the records want to be played.” Back to what Sunny was saying. This is ancestral music, the music wants this for itself. We’re just vessels so to speak.

Photo by Buddy

GSC: You’ve worked with Marley Marl, Prince Paul, Pete Rock, and other legends. How do you find and build relationships with the DJs you have performed with? 

Sunny: It was a plug. Someone around the circle had a plug to one of their old booking managers who just kind of told them about this random vinyl party that happens in the Bronx. And they’re just like, “Word? Okay.” That’s really how it happened, a plug.

Josh: For me I let the party and the music speak for itself, and it has a beautiful way of finding those who play with us just naturally. It’s like a sponge. They just come and it ends up always working out.

Sunny: Also Buddy’s like our personal social butterfly. He has been around and has met so many incredible artists who know an artist who knows an artist. So Buddy has definitely helped get a lot of people who we’ve had in the past. But Buddy didn’t wanna spill the tea.

Buddy: It’s too good, the secret sauce. 

GSC: How have the protest movements of 2020 inspired the collective and how do you see UVS’s relationship with social protest? 

Brujx Boogie:  I think before the 2020s protests, because we’re five years old, 2015 was our origin story. The party started like Sunny said out of necessity. We were finding what we needed here. I was making the comment the other day that that’s a social issue, for us not to have access to our own joy. To our own liberation, to our own safe spaces. I didn’t see it that way when we first started but folks would come up to us literally and I remember questioning, not even questioning but thinking “Dancing and jamming is dope, I’m glad people enjoy it but is it really deeper than that?” And people would come up and tell us what ya’ll are doing, ya’ll don’t even know how powerful what ya’ll are doing is. I think collectively we are at a place in history where there is so much information, it is the information age and also the aquarian age, so much information and really breaking down structures, societal structures, undoing so much, decolonizing, calling out things for what they are. I know for me it’s been a really beautiful ride, sometimes bumpy. I think as of recent too, nuances and political tensions have come up. But I feel like through the music you kind of find records, I find records, that sort of let me know that music has always been that. Music has always expressed all of the things that we go through, whether it’s joy or protest. For me it’s been a trip through how we’ve evolved, and we’re still evolving.

GSC: How have y’all been taking care of your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and racial uprising?

Brujx Boogie: Art 4 Wellness for one. Some homies of ours, @320bodyart. It’s a duo, a couple. Evan and Katori from Yonkers. Buddy you went to high school together right?

Buddy: He was a couple of grades ahead of me, I was in high school and he was probably in his early 20s just from around the way. We reconnected actually at an art show about five years ago. 

Brujx Boogie: Evan and his partner Katori came into our lives collectively because they volunteered to come to our jams and do body art and energy work. Reiki work. I think it took our jams to another level. It was already going there but I think it ushered in the spiritual level of art and how we self care. We weren’t doing it for self care. We didn’t even know. Fast forward to this year when everything went nuts with everything. Covid and quarantine. They created alongside another friend of them something called Art 4 Wellness Wednesday. We offered to spin while different artists got on the Zoom. So we’d be spinning and be the soundtrack for their art making. It was a way of checking in with folks that you don’t know. Folks that you do know. For me it was huge because I knew every Wednesday I would have an ability to either play or be at a digital gathering where we checked in on each other. Might have not been explicit all the time, but my mental sanity was walking the line during that time.

Josh: Same here and that definitely helped kind of rebalance myself and allowed me to get from going hour by hour to day by day to week by week. So that definitely helped. 

Sunny: Yeah it was beautiful. It was a very vulnerable space. A very brave space. It allowed people to really share how they were taking care of their mental health. We could really create something beautiful or just create because you’re going to go crazy if you don’t. And just all being digitally together felt powerful. It was interesting that it was a time where I could connect with people while I was still playing music. I could see what someone was creating or hear what they said and play a song after that connected with it. And that felt really fun, it was on the fly. I already do things all the time that are freestyle, but that was super freestyle. What are they saying, what is the next question, what are they feeling, or what’s the next question? And try to tap into that. I’m recovering from a surgery right now so mental health has been coloring, making tea, listening to a lot of music, and making playlists. That’s what’s been keeping me in good spirits.

Photo by Shaira Chaer

GSC: What do you remember most about the UVS x sLUms x Crumb show at the Meat Shop on Crotona? Since that’s how I first discovered y’all.

Sunny: I definitely remember a few bands played before us. There was a rock band and people were moshing. Growing up I was mostly a Hip-Hop head,so I never went to any rock shows so that was beautiful to see. Just different energies. No matter who was in that room or what kind of music they listened to we were able to dance together afterward and they received the music the same way we received their music. I specifically remember playing “I’ll Be Good” and I had a friend with me who was passing me my records. I don’t remember who it was but I had a record person that night. I specifically remember playing “I’ll Be Good” by Rene Angela and when that dropped, because it’s a sample of “I’ll Be Good” with Jay-Z and Foxy Brown, hearing the original I remember seeing people’s faces like, “Oh what’s that?” And it’s like “mhmm.” 

Buddy: I just remember the acoustics. That’s it because of the space. Like where we were set up it was the entrance and there was a staircase going upstairs. There was a backspace I remember. There was a little outdoors. I just remember how things sounded. 

Brujx Boogie: I’ve always been inspired by the punk scene and growing up I was very much a Hip-Hop head, but also hearing about all these things that used to go on in New York like underground scenes. For me that felt like the most, not that others aren’t DIY, but that felt the most punk. That could’ve been any year New York City. You’ve got this group on the mic mc’ing, these vinyl records. Like where was that? I haven’t been to something like that ever. I thought that was really fresh, really unique. 

GSC: Luke will love to hear it. 

Sunny: Shout out to Luke. He’s the one who plugged us in for SummerStage. I never thought this group would end up on a stage. From the basement to the stage, literally. I appreciate that he was impacted by us and felt the need to put us on.

Follow them on IG to keep up with uptown’s best social activist dance party. Photo at the top of the article by Shaira Chaer.

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