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95 NORTH

Doug Smith and Richard Payton began their musical partnership in a DC-based hip-hop collective known as Trigon. While making a few inroads (opening for De La Soul and Chubb Rock), the group never did quite get the break they needed to succeed. Arising in the summer of 1991 from the ashes of Trigon, Doug and Richard began indulging their love for house music by writing songs and working on tracks in the cramped basement of Richard's DC home. The duo managed to land a single deal ("Shattered Love") with venerable New York label Strictly Rhythm Records less than six months from the time they started. That was only the beginning. With early champions of their sound such as Tony Humphries, the late John Robinson, DJ Disciple, DJ Dove, Roger S., Little "Louie" Vega, Sam "The Man" Burns, DJ Mandrill, Oji & Pope, etc., 95 North's music began to slowly rise to prominence in the NYC house scene and abroad. While their early Strictly Rhythm singles served as the foundation for their success, it wasn't until their release of "Hold On" by Sabrynaah Pope on King Street Sounds in 1994 (supported by Louie Vega) that they finally came into their own. They then followed it up with their now classic rendition of Earth, Wind & Fire's "See the Light" on defunct NYC label Choice Records, as well as "The Journey" on Shelter Records (which has the distinction of being the first record ever remixed by Body & Soul resident Joe Claussell). It wasn't long after these successes that Europe began calling. They eventually found themselves touring all over Europe, playing everywhere from the Ministry of Sound in London to Angels of Love in Italy. The combination of Richard playing on keyboards while Doug spun on the decks proved to be a hit everywhere they played. They also established two residencies DC, one at Red and the other at The Sanctuary at Vicki's. Remixing offers began pouring in as well, and soon they were remixing everyone from Jody Watley to George Duke to Crystal Waters to Kathy Sledge to Dru Hill. They were even commissioned to co-write and produce songs for Crystal Waters' self-titled album on Mercury Records. One of those songs, "Just a Freak", ended up being the theme for the major motion picture "Double Team" starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dennis Rodman. The duo continued to blaze the dance music world with an array of stylistically varied dance tracks, ranging from the full-on gospel brilliance of "Alright" by Mijan, to the loopy underground classic vibe of "Who's Hoo?" on Henry St., to the off-kilter "Odyssey" on Groove On Records, to the way-ahead-of-its-time "Elevation" on Large Records. They produced the jazz-funk classic "Bassline" on Emotive Records (championed by Ron Trent and Louie Vega), which was one of the few house records done in three-bar cycles instead of four-bar cycles. Or, as another example, "Forever Underground" which made use of vocal samples from Gang Starr's "Moment of Truth" LP. 95 North finally received a taste of mainstream success in Europe with the release of their biggest single "Sunday Shoutin'" on 4th Floor/Defected Records, done under their "Johnny Corporate" moniker. Supported by everyone from Pete Tong to Louie Vega to Tony Humphries to David Morales to Roger S. and beyond, "Sunday Shoutin'" remained a dance floor staple for the better part of a year and went on make it to the number 45 position on the pop charts in the UK. After Doug and Richard took a break from music in 2003 (other than a couple of records by Richard in 2005 and 2006), in 2012 Richard picked up the mantle again with "Ay-Tu-Bah" on the revived 95 North Records label and he has been releasing titles since then as well as remixing for other labels. Says Richard, "Music has been a blessing for us and we are eternally grateful to our fans, families, and God for all of the love and support we get"
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