Multi-instrumentalist Leon Michels was a teenager playing in the Mighty Imperials, the Meters-inspired house band for Brooklyn label Soul Fire, when he started El Michels Affair, a more flexible retro-oriented act that pulls from vintage, groove-oriented funk, soul, Afro-beat, and jazz. El Michels Affair began in 2002, when they made their recorded debut with the "Easy Access" 7" single. As Michels involved himself with a multitude of other pursuits, including membership in Menahan Street Band and the Expressions, a long-term affiliation with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, and session work with artists ranging from Dr. John to Lana Del Rey, the musician kept his Affair operational with a handful of albums and over a dozen singles and EPs scattered into the late 2010s.
After El Michels Affair established themselves with singles on Soul Fire and Daptone subsidiary Misty, the founder of the former label sold his studio and equipment to Michels, who, along with partner Jeff Silverman, started the Truth & Soul label. El Michels Affair's Sounding Out the City, released the following year, was the label's first full-length. Later that year the band backed Raekwon at a live event, which sparked a tour with the rapper and other Wu-Tang Clan members. Additionally, El Michels Affair started a series of instrumental singles that re-created Wu-Tang classics and collaborated with Raekwon on a new version of "The PJ's," originally produced by Pete Rock. This activity culminated in the band's second album, Enter the 37th Chamber, released in 2009 on Fat Beats. Several short-form releases, including an Isaac Hayes tribute, preceded another Wu-flavored set; Return to the 37th Chamber was issued in 2017 on Big Crown, another label co-founded by Michels. ~ Marisa Brown & Andy Kellman