I Love My Job: The West Philly DJ Behind Philly’s Popular Friends & Fam Party
Matthew Law has created one of the greatest parties Philly has ever known. Here’s how he did it.
West Philadelphia native Matthew Law has built a popular brand most recognized for its feel-good parties that attract some of the most open-minded music fans around. His five-year-old Friends & Fam party, in particular, is a unique nightlife experience that emphasizes originality in its back-to-back DJ sets. It’s not just about new school or old school, Law says, but about representing a wide variety of sounds — not just dumbing things down for partygoers. Anyone who’s been to a Friends & Fam knows it’s a vibe — one that’s been described as “Superdope on steroids,” “electrifying,” “consensual booty rub,” “sweat,” “dance therapy,” “freedom,” and even “church.” Here’s Law on what it took to build the platform and what’s next.
I grew up in… West Philadelphia at 51st and Catherine. The part of West Philadelphia that’s currently absorbed by University City.
My parents taught me that… you never stop learning and artistic freedom is a lifelong process.
I’ve always been drawn to music because… when my mom was in labor with me, my dad played music from the record player to help calm her down. Apparently, I was born to Fats Waller’s Ain’t Misbehavin’. So I’m naturally jazzy and funky. I can’t really help it.
The first party I ever DJ’d was… after I got my turntable. I was 16 and threw a house party when my mom went away one weekend. I made sure there was no drinking in the house. [Laughs] It was mostly a place to play my records.
The place I enjoy traveling to on tour the most is… Paris. My mom was in a theater troupe in the 70s, so when I go out there, I get to see all her friends from those days. And the gigs I play in Paris are really great.
Something most people might not realize about what it takes to be a DJ is… I still don’t know how many people treat it like a real art form. But just like any other artistic endeavor, it takes time, effort and discernment to create a unique voice. To really stand out, you have to take that time to figure out what you want to say.
DJ culture is… thriving.
I created Friends & Fam because… it was necessary for my immediate DJ community. I tailored it for the DJ community I champion, which is open minded music heads. I created it for them and also for the extended family I built through my previous events, like Superdope, when I used to go by DJ PHSH.
The hardest part about launching Friends & Fam was… my lack of business sense. Five years ago, when I first started out, I was winging it. Like, we weren’t putting up any flyers. It was just me promoting and pushing it on Instagram. We would get 250 to 350 people, which is a great start. But it wasn’t until I linked up with my business partner that we really built out a full Friends & Fam team. And we brought it to 500 plus and then moved to a bigger venue.
Friends & Fam is unique because… on one side it is the music. Myself and the guest DJs understand that we’re creating a timeless experience. This means we are representing all schools. So it’s not old school or new school. We speak to the span of music knowledge that I think is important for the current partygoer. We don’t have to dumb it down. On the other side, it is really about the people that come to the party. Everyone’s really respectful and inclusive, and willing to let go to the music without intruding on anyone else’s space.
Growing theFriends & Fam brand involved… growing the team and getting to know my colleagues. That was a huge step, in addition to moving into our new venue Warehouse on Watts. Moving forward, we’re going to get back to traveling again. We’ve done it in Miami and New York over the years. We are also going to keep pushing out original music and remixes and more clothing. We’ve made a few logo tees over the years.
The perfect Saturday night party is one that… has no requests. That means a lot. It means everyone is present and not solely thinking about themselves. It means they’re joining into the conversation instead of trying to control the narrative. It also means they’re really letting go and being respectful of the space. Nothing is worse than the person that comes up to tell you what they want, yet behind them everybody is doing the electric slide to Beyonce’s “Before I Let Go.” Like, this is not your time; this is our time.
Being an entrepreneur is… a constant process.
I’m inspired by… my mentors like King Britt, Rich Medina, Sunny James. That’s my Mt. Rushmore. These are people who didn’t just put me on. They didn’t just give me the fish. Also, lately, I’ve been inspired by chefs. I’m obsessed with chefs and people who do the work to understand food as a culture. And, Donald Glover. Everything he does is an effortless extension. I like how he protects himself to continue to make great art.
My most significant career accomplishment to date is… pretty personal, actually. Two friends of mine met at Superdope in 2009 on the dance floor. Then a few years later I DJ’d their wedding. And then last year, they brought their three-year-old daughter to an event I was doing at Spruce Street Harbor Park. She was dancing while I was playing, and I felt like I created a space for them to create new life. I don’t want to take credit for them meeting but it’s about creating that type of community.
My favorite thing to do in the summer is… sit in Clark Park or on Penn’s campus with an iced coffee and a book.
To anyone looking to become a DJ I suggest you… take some real time to practice alone before you start playing out. This will help you develop your own taste and style so you don’t end up being the “gotta play what the people like” kind of person. There are a lot of DJs out there who let the clubs dictate their thought process, but you have to be able to say something more
One skill I’m still honing is… consistency.
Some of the best music out right now is… Daniel Caesar’s “Case Study 01,” Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s “Bandana,” “Patience Riddim” by Blue W3rd, “Broad Street Bella” by Queen Jo, the project “Realms” by Kingsley Ibeneche, and King Britt’s “Believe EP.”
I typically start off my day with… a fresh cup of coffee — I grind the beans myself — and Up First on NPR.
One of my favorite things to do in Philly is… walk. I just walk to so many places, mostly by myself. Philly is a walkable city. It helps me think so much. I have to move my body to be able to think sometimes.
The best piece of career advice I’ve ever been given is… treat people that go to your event as friends, not customers.
In five years I see myself… creating more original music and continuing to travel the world DJing. While balancing that, I want to build a more solid foundation in Philly, starting with buying a home here by next year.