Musician, El Michels Affair
Founder, Big Crown Records
Jul 13, 2021
When Leon Michels first sat down to make a record with the Mighty Imperials in 1999, he was just 16. That album, “Thunder Chicken,” was a pitch-perfect homage to the super heavy funk sound of James Brown and Meters, with Michels on organ.
While putting the finishing touches on “Thunder Chicken,” Michels began touring and recording with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, a relationship that would last seven years. By 2004 he was recording under the name El Michels Affair and releasing eclectic homespun funk like “Sounding Out the City,” which he put out on his own label, Truth & Soul Records.
The success of his new sound landed him a touring gig with members of the Wu-Tang Clan, an experience that would inspire him to record the Wu-Tang instrumental homage “Enter the 37th Chamber,” which itself would ironically be sampled by the likes of Ghostface Killah, Jay-Z, J Dilla, J. Cole and more. Michels also helped found The Menahan Street Band, co-produced Aloe Blacc’s smash LP “Good Things,” and received a writer credit on Adele’s Grammy-nominated album, “19.”
In 2016, Michels co-founded Big Crown Records with Danny Akalapse, which has churned out a dizzying array of sophisticated funk, soul and other sounds, many produced by Michels himself. In 2020, he released a fourth album under the El Michels Affair moniker. “Adult Themes” is “the soundtrack to an imaginary movie,” according to Michels, and it is the perfect, lush backdrop for your own grown-up evenings, however you define them. In March he dropped “Yeti Season,” which takes a hard turn into Turkish-influenced pop and funk.