Benji Espinoza knew everyone. Benji Espinoza knew everything. He was a walking director and encyclopedia of Chicago house music history.
A lot has been lost today as we just learned from friends that Benji Espinoza has passed away. We are confirming more information about this and will pass on more news as it becomes available.
Benji Espinoza was a co-founder of Chicago’s legendary imprint DJ International Records and Quantum, DJ International’s distributor where they gave work to quite a few struggling and aspiring DJs (among them was Bad Boy Bill). He had a hand in the circulation more hit house records than probably any man alive and he possessed an uncanny recall of years, dates and details for many he merely owned. Benji knew more about both Chicago house records and the Italo, cosmic disco and other records that influenced Chicago house and were played by Chicago house DJs in the ’80s than any person I have ever met.
Benji Espinoza wore just about every hat in this industry but most of all he was an A&R man in his bones. Even this year, he would email me promos he thought I would like. These weren’t records he was paid to promote. These were records by friends and sometimes complete strangers that he thought 5 Mag should cover. I need to emphasize that: Benji Espinoza was so in love with the music that he would try to drum up press for records he had nothing to do with.
I can tell you that in 15 years of covering this industry, I’ve never known anyone else who has done this. That’s how much he loved this.
Back in November, he asked me if a certain label had us on their promo list, I said they’d never done so and his reaction was priceless. “Wow!” he said, and I swear he almost shuddered. “That’s just horrible!”