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It's a muggy Wednesday night in Plantation, and reggae is blaring through my car speakers. It's a tad scratchy, as local station 101.1-FM isn't an above-ground frequency, but the signal is strong enough that I can clearly hear the inimitable voice of selector Gary Enforcement.
Enforcement's been a staple in the local reggae scene for 25 years. Tonight, his pirate broadcast is jamming the latest hits from Elephant Man, Ninja Man, Lady Saw, and... and... the signal cuts out.
It's an all-too-familiar problem for lovers of underground stations like 101.1-FM, where the signal is strong one moment, then you turn a corner and it's practically gone. Generally, I would change the channel, but Enforcement is deep into a killer set that's worth the extra effort. Thankfully, 101.1-FM, which is based somewhere in Hollywood (we won't help the FCC out that easily), is better found at its principal location, www.daoneradio.com, and once I pop open my laptop and walk into a Whole Foods Market to pick up a free signal, Enforcement's back on and still killing it.
It's surely a sign of the times that an old-school DJ like Enforcement is using his new-age sensibilities and shifting from the grueling club circuit to Internet radio. As the digital era continues to engulf all things music-related, Enforcement says he's glad to grow with it.
"Internet radio gives you worldwide coverage," says Enforcement, who has been on daoneradio.com for the past 14 months. "People from all over the world hear the music and then hop on the chatline and give feedback. I'm comfortable doing it, and I can set a vibe and play whatever I want. It feels like the right move."
I've been talking to Enforcement lately as he's having a party this weekend celebrating his 25 years in music. It's hosted by radio personality Papa Keith, and a slew of Enforcement's industry friends are spinning records and performing in his honor.
Gary Enforcement, born Gary Mudie, was one of the toughest and most versatile Caribbean DJs of the late 1980s and '90s throughout South Florida. Well before he started tearing up dancehalls as a one-man sound system and cutting dubplates, Enforcement built a reputation for blending the hottest reggae, rap, and dance records.
"Back then, I mostly did rap — the Fat Boys, Run D.M.C., then eventually Lisa Lisa and Johnny Kemp," Enforcement recalls. "I actually started out playing disco. Whatever it took to make people dance, I played it."
He spent ten years as resident DJ for Stingers Lounge in Miramar, once the area's premier Caribbean nightclub, and even worked at former 2 Live Crew frontman Luther Campbell's short-lived nightclub as its chief reggae selector.
"I remember, in my era of music, there were a lot of gangs around," Enforcement says. "I've seen shootouts while I was DJing at some of those places. You come in through the door, and here comes gun shots. Those days were like the Wild Wild West. It wasn't just guys... even the ladies were shottaz back then. I've seen a lot of shit."
Over the years, Enforcement also started working calypso and soca into his sets, something he's recognized for even more than his reggae prowess.
"Gary reaches out to all Caribbean people, not just Jamaicans," says a daoneradio.com co-owner, who uses the alias Dennis Quine. "He's versatile and has a wide range of music that he plays. He can do a soca party when the average Jamaican DJ just does reggae and dancehall. To me, he's recognized even more around that environment, which says a lot."
A local DJ who's learned from Enforcement's mixing of genres, even though the two have never met, is DJ GQ. "When I moved back here from Jamaica in '95, it was all Gary Enforcement on the scene," GQ says. "He represents uptown and downtown music. Not like these hurry-come-up DJs that don't know the songs. He really knows his old-school joints, and that's why people respect him."
One of his advantages is that Enforcement has been collecting records practically since he was born. His father, Harry Mudie, was a producer and for years ran a Miami record store out of a flea market off 183rd Street. It's something that rubbed off on the younger Mudie, who now has a vinyl collection most reggae aficionados would envy.
"People consider me a veteran in the reggae industry, but it's 'cause of the music that I hold," Enforcement says. "I'm talking music from the '50s, '60s, '70s... ska and mento, even. Sometimes 45s cost a lot of money, but I'll buy them to add to the collection."
With two generations of vinyl in his house, you'd be shocked to hear he rarely plays it anymore during his sets. He switched to CDs several years ago and is now in the process of ditching his discs in favor of Serato, a digital program for DJs. He's been dumping all of his music into Serato and estimates that within a month, he will have totally made the switch. It's just another example of this supposedly old-school DJ continuing to stay ahead of the curve. "It doesn't make me any less of a purist," Enforcement says with a laugh. "But I gotta keep up with the times."
For his upcoming party, his friends will undoubtedly roast him, but don't look for him to step behind the turntables.
"I think after 25 years in music, I can take one night and enjoy myself and let my buddies do all the work," he says. "At this point, I've earned it."