Rich Medina

2022 Grand Marshal

Rich Medina is an elite international DJ who, in the thirty-plus years since he spun his first record, has turned his young love for music into a celebrated career as a platinum-selling record producer, recording artist, poet, journalist, and Ivy League lecturer.

Rich is, first and foremost, the quintessential DJ-in-residence. His legendary Lil’ Ricky’s Rib Shack began its unprecedented nine-year run at APT in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District in 2001, quickly becoming a destination for the likes of Puff Daddy, Lord Sear, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Prince, and music heads from around the world. In the midst of APT’s heyday, Rich was courted by Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest) to partner on a new Friday night weekly at Santos Party House. That partnership, Open, launched in 2005 and played to capacity crowds throughout its four-year run. Rich has been on a non-stop world tour ever since, establishing outposts from New York to Miami, Pittsburgh to Paris, and a host of international cities in between.

But it’s Jump N Funk that stands as Rich’s proudest and most significant achievement as a DJ. Rich established JNF—the original North American Afrobeat party dedicated to the iconic Fela Kuti—in 2001 to raise the global awareness (and dance-floor potential) for Afrobeat. In fact, Rich’s efforts set the literal and figurative stage for the award-winning Broadway and worldwide run of “Fela!” Today, 17 years on, he’s presented JNF at more than 25 cities worldwide and watched with incredible personal pride as Fela and African dance music have risen to the prominence they deserve.

Rich’s capacity for artistic exploration pushes past the boundaries of the DJ booth. He’s been featured as a poet and vocalist on records by the likes of King Britt, Phil Asher, Antibalas, IG-Culture, Nathan Haines, SoulDynamic, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Osunlade, amongst others. He’s collaborated as a music producer with a wide range of labels and artists, including Jill Scott, J Dilla, Platinum Pied Pipers, Martin Luther, DJ Mitsu The Beats, Bobbito Garcia, Blue Note Records, Sy Smith, Kindred Spirits Records, and Concord Music Group. And when muMs da Schemer (HBO’s Oz) needed a DJ to provide the soundtrack to his autobiographical one-man show, A Sucker Emcee, which was mounted at NYC’s Labyrinth Theater for a six-week run in 2014, Rich was the obvious choice. Rich also released his first full-length LP, “Connecting the Dots,” in 2005 on the Dutch label Kindred Spirits. And his voiceover work includes three features for EA Sports, including NBA Live ‘18 (2017), and narration for a series of Pioneer DJ videos

Besides its sheer breadth, Rich’s work has always possessed a well-honed cerebral edge. A passionate hip-hop educator and advocate, he’s been a member of the advisory board of the Cornell University Hip Hop Collection, the most extensive hip-hop archive held by any organization in the world, since 2012; and he is currently the musicologist-in-residence of Philadelphia’s renowned Barnes Foundation as well as Africana Studies artist-in-residence at Lincoln University (Pennsylvania). He has lectured extensively on art and culture at the Foundation, as well as TEDxPhilly and the Music and Africana departments at Cornell, where he’s been a guest professor for the annual summer program since 2016. And Rich has been contributing to major music publications for well over a decade—among them The Fader, Wax Poetics, and Complex.

Rich kicked off his storied career at the tender age of 12, when he played his first party in Lakewood, N.J., his hometown. And though life took him from there through Cornell—where he graduated with honors—a season of semi-pro basketball, and Fortune 500 experience at both Procter & Gamble and Abbott Laboratories, there’s never been any doubt where his heart resides. That heart belongs to a man who holds the cultural bonafides of being a card-carrying member of Rock Steady Crew and Universal Zulu Nation. It belongs to an aficionado who’s collected more than 50,000 pieces of vinyl over the decades. It belongs to a visionary of musical storytelling. It belongs to an artist who has built a compelling narrative on his own terms. It belongs to the singular force that is Rich Medina.

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