Benji Espinoza, co-founder of influential Chicago house label DJ International, has passed away at age 57.
Friends and family of Espinoza posted social media tributes in his memory on October 22nd, and Terry Matthew of 5 Magazine confirmed the news shortly thereafter. Espinoza’s cause of death has not been disclosed to the public at the time of writing.
“R.I.P. to one of the important people behind the global growth of house music and a great guy,” wrote Chicago house DJ and producer Joe Smooth in a post to Espinoza’s Facebook Timeline.
“I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about him and he was always lovely and supportive,” wrote NYC artist Justin Strauss in a Facebook post. “He doesn’t get the credit he deserves for helping house music become the phenomenon it became. He was an important part of it. I’ll miss his never ending enthusiasm for the music he so loved and that great smile.”
Remembering Benji Espinoza
Through his work with DJ International, Espinoza left a lasting imprint on DJ and remix culture. After its 1985 launch, the record label gave a home to music by the likes of Ron Hardy, Marshall Jefferson, Adonis and Tyree.
DJ International remains active to this day. In August they released a posthumous single titled “Carefree (I Am A Star)” by the late Frankie Knuckles, whose early music also found its way into their catalogue. The track will appear on Jackmaster 7, a compilation whose release date has yet to be announced.
Visitation for Benji Espinoza will take place from 3:00-8:00 PM at Heritage Funeral Home on 3117 South Oak Park Avenue in Berwyn, Illinois. A chapel service will be held at 10:30 AM the following day at the same location.
This article was updated to include the details of Benji Espinoza’s memorial service.