House icons Masters At Work dropped something special with 2001’s ‘Work’, an unforgettable mix of boisterous soca rhythms, full-force house energy and a swaggering, sassy topline courtesy of Denise Belfon. Over twenty years later and ‘Work’ is primed to be discovered by a new audience with a fresh version of the track from Kevin McKay, the producer/DJ behind ‘Gimme Gimme’ and a reimagined take on Missy Elliott’s ‘Work It’ which hit #1 at Beatport in 2021.
Taking inspiration from classic rhythm bangers like ‘Jingo’ and ‘Give It Up’ by The Goodmen, Kevin created a monster rhythm for Denise’s vocal, creating the kind of irresistible heavyweight club anthem that’s already earning a big reaction from the likes of David Guetta, John Summit and Fatboy Slim. The new 2022 version of ‘Work’ is out now via Kevin McKay’s Glasgow Underground label.
The idea emerged earlier this year when Kevin McKay and Armând were playing at Night Tales in Hackney. Armand mixed the ‘Work’ a cappella with a pulsating house cut and the dancefloor erupted. Inspired by the reaction, Kevin made his own edit and, after months of searching for who owned the track’s rights, tracked down its producer and co-writer Pupa Nas T (real name Anasta Hackett). He immediately admired how Kevin had given ‘Work’ an invigorating new lease of life.
Kevin says, “"It is such an iconic vocal that I had to make sure the beat was as good as it could be. Knowing Anastas is a drummer, I was so happy when he told me he loved the track.”
Pupa Nas T adds, “Since the first release of ‘Work’ in 2000 I have heard countless remixes and versions done by some really great musicians and beat makers. Kevin McKay's version is the best that I have heard! The beat is pumping and keeps you dancing non-stop. This is the same approach that I used when I created ‘WORK’ in Trinidad & Tobago.”
It adds a fascinating second era to the deep history behind the song. The New York-based Pupa Nas T was already a celebrated drummer on the reggae and dancehall scenes when he headed to Trinidad & Tobago in 1998 to work with The King of Soca, Machel Montano. Step-by-step, Pupa Nas T became immersed in the island’s culture and joined the famous Caribbean Sound Basin as an in-house producer and engineer.
It was there that he met Harkness Taitt, the writer behind the song’s unforgettable declaration, “Work! What you waiting for? Work! Put your back in it!” The song came together before fate guided them to Denise Belfon. Already a soca powerhouse, Denise put down her topline in one take. When your first take sounds that good, you don’t need a second.
‘Work’ first saw the light of day as part of a vinyl compilation issued by JW Productions. Shared by underground DJs on the New York scene, it was eventually discovered by Louie Vega who dropped it to an insane reaction at Masters At Work’s set at WMC in 2000. Just as Kevin McKay would do two decades later, Louie Vega eventually got in touch with Pupa Nas T to arrange Masters At Work’s release of the song in 2001.
Now two very different versions of ‘Work’ have ignited two different generations of dancefloor decadence. With a killer vocal and a classic tune, it’s clear you can’t keep a good song down.