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Organist and drummer Leon Michels was hardly more than a high-school student playing in the Mighty Imperials, the Meters-inspired house band for the Brooklyn label Soul Fire, when he decided to start El Michels Affair, teaming up with bandmate and bassist Nick Movshon. The two began recording music that pulled from '60s and '70s funk, soul, Afrobeat, and jazz, eventually growing to a nine-piece live outfit and releasing the single "Detroit Twice" on Daptone's Misty imprint. In 2004 the founder of Soul Fire sold his studio and equipment to Michels, who, along with partner Jeff Silverman, decided to start Truth & Soul Records; El Michels Affair's 2005 Sounding Out the City acted as the label's inaugural full-length. Later that year the band played with Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon at an event, and they got along together so well they decided to do instrumental reworkings of Wu-Tang beats for what they called the Shaolin Series (Pt. 1 includes "C.R.E.A.M." and "Glaciers of Ice" while Pt. 2 covers "Duel of the Iron Mic" and "Bring the Ruckus"). El Michels Affair also collaborated with Raekwon on a new version of "PJ," originally done by Pete Rock, for a track called "PJs from Afar," and even toured with the Clan in 2007.