Imagine this…you turn on the radio, your iPhone, or click onto your favorite music app on your iPad and are greeted with a Japanese American rapper singing, “I’m in my own little world little boys little girls, get down pretty baby, that’s how we get down.” Couple this infectious chorus with a groovalicious 60′s beat and you know you’re listening to MoWo, short for Mocean Worker. MoWo creates the kind of beats you want to be listening to. For this particular song, which happens to be my favorite on his current album Candygram for MoWo, he joined with Bay Area rapper, Lyrics Born, and jazz saxophonist, Mindi Abair.
This song made me want to dig a little deeper and find out who this artist really is. Thanks to the power of Twitter, I simply tweeted to @MoceanWorker and voila! We had a call set-up for the next day to chat. Yes, MoWo is one of the artists who actually runs his own social media. Nice to know.
Before getting on the call, I did some intense studying of his background. I was pleasantly surprised to read that Adam Dorn (his real name) is the son of the late famous jazz and R’n'B producer for Atlantic Records, Joel Dorn. My first thought was MoWo had quite the advantage being in this musical environment of artists coming in and out of his father’s studio. Surely, he must have been given a break to get his career going. Keep reading because what you’ll read is there was almost “NO NEPOTISM” here. MoWo worked his tail off to start, promote, and nourish his music career. No free ticket was given to him.
After about a two hour phone call, I was clearly convinced that Adam Dorn is one of the hardest working sons of famous producers that I have ever read about or knew of. One would think he was handed the silver spoon, the tea cup and the saucer. Well, yes, in a sense he was but this came with 20+ years of hard work and pleasing a dad who expected nothing short of excellence.
Adam, who grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was surrounded by music his entire life. He remembers every jazz and R’n'B artist you can think of, staying over his father’s house and setting up shop for a week or weekend. Joel Dorn signed such big acts like Bette Midler and Roberta Flack. You get the picture. FAMOUS artists would be in and out of his house on a consistent basis. His older brother, David, was a good guitar player so, being the younger brother, he had to do something to keep up. Adam decided to play bass. After playing in bands during his high school years, his father decided it was time for him to start working in the studios. So, he spent his last two years in high school working in studios in New York. During his junior year, he mustered up the courage to send a fan letter to Marcus Miller, famous jazz musician and bassist, who worked with trumpeter Miles Davis, singer Luther Vandross, and saxophonist David Sanborn. In the letter, Adam wrote, “I’m the best bass player and the best white dude you’ll ever meet.” This was a pretty confident 15 year old…wouldn’t you agree? About one year later, Marcus Miller responded and asked Adam to come intern for him. Looks like Adam was not only confident but smart, too. His tenacity granted him opportunities like this because simply, he went for it.
Fast forward three years and Adam decided it was time to hang around people his own age. Up until that point, he almost exclusively socialized and worked with adults. He was craving an environment of his own peers so off to the Berklee College of Music he went. Having spent 3 or 4 semesters at Berklee, his itch for the Big Apple returned and so he went back. From this point on, Adam spent some of the most interesting years of his music career producing domestic and international records and french pop records. French pop records??? Where did that one come in? Yes, it was Adam’s time in France which led to the birth of who we now know as Mocean Worker. This was around 1994 in the Daft Punk era. This is when he discovered drum and bass, commonly referred to as “Dubstep.” Although, the music MoWo creates now, he refers to as “Breakbeat Jazz.”
Some MoWo career highlights include Chris Douridas, a well-known DJ on Los Angeles’ top indie radio station, KCRW, playing his album, Home Movies From the Brain Forest. Due to Chris playing his album, MoWo sold several thousand copies. Another personal MoWo triumph came when his record label decided they didn’t like his fourth album, Enter the MoWo, and weren’t going to put it out. MoWo released it himself and it turned out to be one of his most popular albums which was licensed in a ton of movies. Lesson to be learned – record labels don’t always know best. And finally, his music has been played on a Lincoln Mercury commercial, on CSI, on movies Devil Wears Prada and Bourne Supremacy…just to name a few. Mowo said getting his music placed is not easy. Out of the 100′s of requests submitted to him, about 15% actually come into fruition. Does this make YOU want to get into the music business?
Let’s talk about his sixth and current album, Candygram for MoWo. This is when our phone call started to get really sentimental because the album is a dedication to his late father. Adam described his father as one of his best friends. The person he would go to when making his albums for advice or just to hear what he had produced. The interesting album title was a twist off the quote, “Candygram for Mongo,” from the Mel Brooks movie, Blazing Saddles…who would have guessed? The 14th track titled, “JD”, are his father’s initials. Adam…the album is fantastic and your father would be proud!
Working on this post made me appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes for a musician (no matter who he is related to) to make it in the music biz. It takes such strength to keep going. In MoWo’s case, he not only has the strength but he’s got the talent to back it up. Candygram for MoWo is available on iTunes and Amazon.com. Two words, “Buy it!”
My Own Little World (featuring Lyrics Born & Mindi Abair)