John "Jellybean" Benitez


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JELLYBEAN

Clubland. The word itself has so many meanings and definitions. It describes a cultural tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation since the 1920’s, but is mostly recognized for the past three thriving decades.

Clubland is the Ground Zero alternative for the inner city populations. A place where they can go to escape the stress and routines of everyday life. It is our playground and our way of life. It is our heart beat. It’s reflections are like beams of light that bounce off the mirror ball.

Each reflection of light is like the reflection of a soul of those who have forever left their mark in Disco (Electronic Music). Each reflection tells a story. Today the mirror ball reflects some light on a story. We begin with one word, Jellybean

Many have heard the name , others the sugar coated stories that go with the reputation and image that the music industry has given him and quick to recognize. The world hears stories about the super producer who has remixed and produced compositions for many such artists as  Paul McCartney to Billy Joel among the many other celebrities as well as television and movie soundtracks he has also worked on.

John "JellyBean" Benitez, though many successful people can relate to his success, more of the ordinary people could relate to his life. Raised in the South Bronx by a single mother, Benitez grew up no different than any other inner city youth. Facing the same obstacles and temptations other youth faced , as he grew older he began to see more and more of the friends who surrounded him turn from herb puffing junkies to heroin addicts who never got to see the day of his success.

After having attended De Witt Clinton and John F. Kennedy High Schools and dropping out , in order to escape the world that surrounded him, Benitez relocated to Manhattan with his older siblings

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It was there in Manhattan were he received his first inspirations to become a DJ after attending one night at Manhattan’s Sanctuary. As time past, Benitez took two turntables and built his own lil panel. While spreading the word about his experience , he convinced certain clubs to pick him up after he submitted demos of his mixing skills. By the late 70’s Jellybean was already spinning in the top clubs of New York during the peak of that decades Disco era. The legendary Galaxy 21, Studio 54, Les Smouches, and Infinity among others. Besides spinning at these clubs, he also was spinning at the original WKTU in New York.

As the 1970’s Disco era came to an end, the thriving underground dance would resurface within two years of the 80’s decade . The early 80’s HipHop movement took a strong toll as New York would be its capitol. Within this many different clubs as the Roxy and Roseland were responsible for delivering the sound to the youth of that time. Already known for production and remixes for early E-Funk records such as Rockers Revenge "Walking On Sunshine" along with other remixes for the first batch of Freestyle records under the belt of producer Arthur Baker, he also was the main DJ at the Funhouse. The Funhouse   like Roseland, would be one of the first Latin-HipHop clubs ever to exist packing in New York's large Latin youth which was a predominant number of Hispanics along with a reasonable number of African Americans and Italian Americans.

It was exactly the time when he spun at the Funhouse that some crazy girl made her way to the DJs booth and was able to slip in a demo tape into the tape deck while the crowd was still dancing. Their   reaction was unbelievable. This is the point in history that Jellybean Benitez met Madonna and the course of history changed forever. Their friendship grew into a serious relationship that lasted for at least two to three years. Eventually in that time Jellybean would produce "Borderline" and "Holiday". The success of these tracks  not only put him and Madonna on the world map, but also became one of the major records to put disco back on the radio after a long time of there not being any.

After sky-rocketing into the music Industry those early years, Benitez decided to go with his first solo album. Here while still rooted to the post Freestyle scene , Jellybean came out with two early Latin HipHop records. "Sidewalk Talk" which featured Madonna on Vocals and "The Mexican" , who both turned into major break-dancing jams and could still be heard to this day in Electro TripHop sets. As the 80’s decade continued, Jellybean would become one of the major forces in the movement of that era. He would later produce The cover of "Dancing On The Fire" provided by India as well as "Mirage" . He would be a legend along side Lil Louie Vega, The Latin Rascals, and the long list of Freestyle producers.

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As the 90’s decade began to move in, Jellybean , like many other Dance music producers began to experiment with the House sound. By 1990 he would release his second album entitled "Spilling the Beans", which would be very popular in other markets. After the success of that album, like many others, he never returned to the Freestyle scene. As years passed and the 90’s began to be in full swing, he has kept himself busy building an empire besides the continuation of landing movie soundtrack deals and deals with television shows.

By the Disco boom of the mid 90’s , Jellybean came back into full swing to the Dance community equipped with his own Label ,Jellybean Recordings, publishing companies, and assets worth over 17 million dollars (and growing). Already causing an impact on the Dance scene while his label delivers scorchers like Pulse’s " The Lover That You Are" feat. Antoinette Robertson, as for others on his label like Karel and Daryle D’Bonneau.

Besides being one of the supporters of Ellyn Harris and the Committee for The Advancement Of Dance Music (CADM) , who basically put Dance music as a Category in the 1998 Grammy’s, he has another quality that many do not recognize. Like many Freestyle producers of the 80’s decade , they created opportunities for young Hispanic youth to get a break in the music Industry. Jellybean has not forgotten his roots. With all the success he already had, he also now opened his H.O.L.A Records. H.O.L.A. (Home Of Latino Artist)  a label he opened to continue to give opportunities to young inner-city Hispanic youths.

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Out of this label he hoped that it would serve as a voice as many young talents as R&B singer Veronica, The Sweet but ruff Hurricane G, the reggae Espanol/R&B of Reign, and the Latin-HipHop /Meren-house kings of Proyecto Uno, would call the label home and put it on the map.

Although JellyBean has had every type of music that young Latinos have mastered, he however has had no Freestyle artist on his label yet. A genre that has more Hispanic roots musically than all other forms of Music found on the H.O.L.A imprint . He has been able to capture the image of Latin Hop-Hop on all his artist, however he has not captured the Sound of Latin HipHop of the Late 90’s as a new generation of Latino’s and Latina’s start singing over Electro HipHop beats and mold the new sounds into Latin oriented sounds that compliment and can equal the level of the now classics that all began the same days JellyBean began his Freestyle career. The genre that turned him into a legend.

 

As the decade begins to shift into a new millennium and major record companies continue to pick up material from DJ’s who sample the now classic "Mexican" as for other classic Electro records, it is not known exactly what will be the next move for Benitez and his labels as other labels already have begun to take interest in picking up Latin HipHop artist again. Until then no one knows what could happen, but if ever the day comes that Jelly Bean decides to go back to his roots, which now he is not far from, he might be the one to discover and blow up the next artist who could have the traits of Lisa Lisa, Lisette Melendez, and Jocelyn Enriquez combined. A move that will not only be a major impact for a new generation of Freestylers or the Dance community, but a move that would be the sole purpose of what he intended his label to be, a voice.

Jellybean, like many others, has the opportunity to do so much. But whether or not he chooses to take interest in a Latin HipHop direction (which would be so easy and so close), he can never be striped of the contributions he has left in the past.

Like a mirror ball, the ball rotates and shines another beam of light, replacing the previous one. When will the world see another Jellybean is not known . That’s  for those  who live in the present to live and witness. Until then they can remember one of the brightest reflections the mirror ball of life has ever reflected on the walls of the Discotech of life we live in. That is the light of Jellybean. A man who has risen from the bottom and now stands at the top. A man who can claim that he did see it all. A legend in Freestyle and Dance music. A reflection of light at his own right.

by: Jonpito


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