The Notice Networks

intro

For anyone who has ever asked: Who is Moe?

We all know Moe as the branding expert behind nightlife & entertainment design companies MoeKnowsBest and Miami Design House, as well as the founder of and the brains behind The Notice Networks, and the co-owner of Cypher Circuit, but with his web presence comprised solely of his design work and network of websites, only a select few know the full story of how Moe came to Know Best. This chronicle of Moe introduces the man behind the work; think of it as your inside hookup to the behind-the-scenes story of how Moe got to where he is today. For anyone who has ever asked, "Who is Moe?": Keep reading as we detail Moe's personal history in weekly installments.

Chapter 1

setting the stage

Most people don't set foot into a nightclub until they are at least a teenager, if not older, but not Moe. Moe has been on the scene since before he could walk or talk. Moe's father was a saxophonist on the national circuit who played most notably with Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and in the bands Full Hand, Spyro Gyra, and Special Effect. Moe spent his early childhood in the nucleus of the scene, interacting with reggae greats, both at home and backstage. His family's life was totally immersed in the culture at that time, centered on all the different gigs, practices, yardie parties, etc.

Moe’s family lived in Rocky Point, Long Island, until Moe was two, when they moved to a six-bedroom house in Port Jefferson, Long Island. They converted one of the living rooms into a permanent recording studio, and rented out their extra bedrooms to touring musicians and artists. Their home became a revolving door of reggae greats who would visit or stay with them while in town for the New York stop on their tours. Moe was constantly around artists and musicians, who showered him with meaningful attention. It was like having dozens of aunts and uncles coming and going all of the time, stopping often to offer encouragement and advice; nourishing the type of personality that would learn to thrive in a maelstrom of chaos and creativity.

Moe learned to play the drums by the age of five and was encouraged to play them in the studio whenever he pleased. When he was jamming on the drums, he was easy to keep track of, but when he was nowhere to be found, his mom would often discover him in Al's room. Al Anderson was Bob Marley's lead guitarist, who played with Full Hand when he wasn't on tour with The Wailers. Although at the time many of his friends and acquaintances noticed that Al seemed very depressed, no one knew that he had just returned from a trip to Germany to stay with Marley in a cancer clinic. He hardly talked to anyone, but even during those dark days, Moe always cheered him up. They hung out together and played on Al's guitar. Al developed a close personal relationship with Moe, whom he always called "Buddy."

When Bob Marley and The Wailers played the Apollo Theatre in 1979, Moe’s family was given free tickets for all four nights. They attended every show, but usually watched from backstage. His mom recalls that, "One night after the show, Bob sat in a corner in his obscenely crowded dressing room, looking really tired (no one knew he had cancer at the time). He reached out his arms to Moe and sat him on his lap. Bob looked happy for a minute."

Moe may not personally remember all of the details of this time in his life, but the influence it had on his future endeavors is undeniable. These experiences set the stage for everything he would go on to accomplish. Moe’s formative years gave him a taste of the energy, power, and adrenaline of the nightlife scene at large.

Moe's mother was an academic who was studying biology at StonyBrook College when Moe was born. She went on to become an Assistant Professor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, and the Associate Director of the Graduate Program in Genetic Counseling at Northwestern University. Her esteemed research work has been published in a variety of respected medical journals.

Moe's parents’ uniquely differing personalities, talents, and intellects have shaped how Moe tackles what life throws his way, providing the balance necessary for him to be successful in the myriad of endeavors he's pursued. Moe has been blessed with the distinctive intelligence of his mother, and the charismatic personality of his father, and this combination has made him the person he is today.

Chapter 2

Street Kid Entrepreneur

Sure, the moniker MoeKnowsBest is a reference to Moe's position in the nightlife and entertainment industry, but it's also an homage to the graffiti tag—MOES—that he had back in his New York street-kid days of tagging, rapping, and breaking.  

While in his teens, Moe lived in Smithtown, Long Island—a nicer part of the Island—where families were well off and living the American Dream. But Moe's family wasn't well off, and was only there because they had nowhere else to go. Moe's parents had split and his mother married Moe's stepfather, Bill, and had another son, Moe's half-brother, Alex. Money was tight, so the four of them moved into Moe's grandfather's house. The living situation bred tension and animosity, resulting in an unhealthy atmosphere for everyone involved. To add insult to injury, Moe found himself the only black kid at a school filled with privileged white kids. 

Moe met and befriended Coal Cash, another outcast. This was the beginning of everything; meeting Coal was a major catalyst in the adventures that followed. Like Moe, Coal wasn't accepted in the traditional sense at school—a world where jocks were cool and rock music ruled—so instead of trying fit into something they were not, they bonded, said fuck you, and built their own brand of cool, comprised of the things they liked.  

Moe's interest in drawing was a constant throughout his life. He spent his time sketching in black books and covering Long Island in graffiti tags and murals. He was arrested for illegally painting at age 13—and since he enjoyed painting so much, his mother thought a long summer of painting houses in the hot sun with his Uncle Justin was an appropriate punishment for the arrest. At the time Moe protested, but looking back I think he appreciates the summer he got to know his uncle and the ins and outs of his painting business.

Moe may have acted unaffected, but he wanted the same sneakers and haircuts as all the other kids. Without the luxury of being able to buy the status quo, Moe took control of the hand he was dealt, saved his dollars, purchased his first set of buzzers, and gave himself a haircut. Almost immediately his friends wanted in. Moe became the barber for his circle, hanging out, drinking 40s, smoking weed, and cutting hair in his grandfather's garage after school and on weekends. He carved his first business from minimal knowhow, willing guinea pigs, and a creative leap of faith. He was willing to take a risk, a model that would prove consistently successful throughout his life.  

But then Moe did something no one else had thought of: he intuitively applied his drawing skills to his fades, using the clippers to cut graffiti-style designs into his friends’ hair. No one had seen anything like it. Soon there was a line at the garage door every Saturday for $5 haircuts, and his first business was born. His custom designs became so popular, he was scouted by local barbershops. Too young to get a barber’s license, Moe declined and continued working out of his garage. He could finally afford the Jordans and Hilfiger, Polo, and Nautica gear for himself. What would have been seen as an unfair shortcoming to complain about to most kids was taken as an opportunity to innovate by this young entrepreneur. Had he simply been handed a weekly allowance for a haircut, he would never have built bonds chilling with his crew after school at his grandfather's crib, nor would he have changed the game of cutting hair in the scene. 

Applying his artistic talent to something even more illicit than graffiti, Moe mastered the art of chalking IDs, giving his crew a serious advantage over other kids their age. Moe became the go-to guy for this service; its popularity rivaled that of his barber business and won him a certain clout and cred in the scene.  

By 16 Moe and his friends were taking the train into Manhattan to frequent nightclubs Limelight, The Expo, Concrete Jungle, Palladium, and Runway 69, and hanging at Caffeine in Long Island. This was Moe's first taste of the club scene since the early days backstage with his dad, and he knew he wanted to be involved for life.  

Moe and his crew could get down on the dance floor with house dancing, but when they were introduced to the breakdancing scene in the clubs, they knew this had to be their next move. This was before the days of YouTube, when a simple search yields thousands of breakdancing videos in seconds. Back then, your only option was to get your hands on a VHS copy of Beat Street and watch the five minute B-Boy battle scene on repeat until you learned all the moves, which is exactly what they did. 

 Moe knew the bubble of high school was insignificant and created a world for himself outside those walls. By age 17, he was attending hip-hop events, tagging graffiti, rapping, and breakdancing. His crew founded Influential Flavor, of which Moe, Coal Cash, Lenny Lipinto, Bobby Peachtree, and Justin Pandel were members. The crew made regular trips into the city, threw parties—sometimes during school—and painted graffiti murals around the Island, making a name for themselves among the OG hip-hop heads repping Long Island.  

Moe built an identity on the successes of his haircutting and chalking businesses and the discipline he learned mastering breaking, and the name it won him around the Island. He was unsatisfied with the state of his life and the options it offered, but instead of sitting around crying about it, Moe created the world he wanted to live in, while bringing like-minded people along with him. He’s relied on this model throughout his life, earning the wealth of personal and professional respect and success that followed. 

Chapter 3

Making Something from Nothing

After living their entire lives in New York, Moe, his mom, and his brother, Alex, packed their belongings into a U-Haul and drove to Pittsburgh, PA. His mother started a new job and his brother was still in middle school, but Moe, newly 18 and accustomed to the New York culture, lifestyle, and pace, felt lost, bored, and completely disconnected. He fell into a deep depression after the move. His mom recalls that he didn't get out of bed for weeks.  

After those few weeks of nothing, Moe started filling his days practicing breakdancing moves in his bedroom. It was his only connection to life back in New York. The confined space—similar to that of a typical breaking circle at the club—taught him control. He experimented with new moves and perfected staples, bringing a level of purpose back in his life, but it only satisfied him to a point: Moe was hungry for social involvement.  

When he finally emerged, Moe ventured out to the Pittsburgh clubs to test drive his new moves. He was excited to be back in an environment that fed his soul, but disappointed with the state of the scene. Compared to what he was used to in New York, Pittsburgh was lame. This didn't help with his depression, but Moe kept at it, exploring different brands of Pittsburgh nightlife.  

Moe met Ian Robinson and Alex Gray in a breakdancing circle at Club 168. They were part of crew called the Jedi Monks, and were responsible for putting on the party that particular night. Alex's first impression of Moe: cocky asshole. Alex recalls Moe walking in acting like he owned the place and dominating the circle, even though it was Alex's crew who put on the event. Moe, still an outsider to the scene, didn't know the details of the social dynamics, and was there just being himself, having a good time, and getting down. To make matters worse, Moe nearly kicked Alex when he was breaking in the circle. Needless to say, the situation escalated, things got heated, and they did not get resolved that evening.  

But the scene was small, so small that almost every time Moe went out to dance he ran into Alex and his crew. Over a short period of time Moe and Alex realized they had a lot in common, put their first meeting aside, and joined forces. They built what grew into a lasting friendship, remaining close to this day. Moe was invited to be the fourth member of the Jedi Monks, of which Ian, Alex, and Oli were also members. These kids were deep in the scene and had the inside connection to a lot of what Moe was craving.  

Ian brought Moe to "The Block," a single street block in East Liberty with a New York vibe, where veteran hip-hop heads sold clothes and incense, spit rhymes, and painted graffiti. It was there that Moe met Akil Esoon, the self-proclaimed Yoda of the scene, who gave him insider information on everything from where to hang, to who to trust, and who to stay away from.  

Ian shared his bootleg breaking videos with the Jedi Monks. Remember this was pre-YouTube and online video browsing, so bootleg tapes were the best resource to hone one's skills and discover new moves. As do many other students of the culture, Alex, Ian, and Moe have fond memories of sitting around a TV sketching in black books and getting hype watching low-quality bootleg breakdancing videos together.  

Inspired by Ian's Breaking bootlegs and the five-minute battle scene in BeatStreet, Moe set out to produce his own B-boy video magazine, Footwork. He got his hands on a camera, videotaped different elements at a variety of venues, and spouted his knowledge in front of the camera, used for introducing the different sections. Moe hooked up dual VCRs and edited the raw footage to create the magazine. In its final form, Footwork features the Pittsburgh B-boys circa 1996, showcasing the different dance styles and variety of talent in the scene, with footage of both battle circles and practice sessions in the studio. Moe personally recorded all 100 copies by hand, using the same VHS to VHS setup, then got his hustle on, selling every last copy. Footwork not only gave Moe purpose, it established and validated his place in the Pittsburgh breaking scene. No longer an outsider or newbie, Moe was now on the tip of the tongues of many of the players in the scene.  

Moe threw his first Pittsburgh event, Who Got the Props, at the Highland Park Reservoir. It shone a light on the four elements of hip-hop and featured a B-boy showcase. Although Moe doesn't remember this event as being particularly successful, I think he's just being hard on himself, because every attendee I spoke with recounts the great time, with some expressing that they saw it as a turning point in the scene. I chalk it up to the exceedingly high standards Moe holds himself to, in tandem with coming of age in the heart of 1990s New York hip-hop culture. This kind of event was something happening in New York, but Moe was the first to bring it to Pittsburgh. People were hungry and loving what Moe was bringing to the scene, and the efforts he was making to mold it.  

In pursuit of broadening awareness of breakdancing and hip-hop in Pittsburgh, Moe taught breakdancing classes at the Jewish Community Center, including historical teachings on the four elements of hip-hop. He took over as leader of the Jedi Monks, changing their name to Influential Flavor, the name of the Coal Cash crew he belonged to back in New York. Moe was bringing the true New York hip-hop experience to Pittsburgh, and people were about it.  

Besides performing in and hosting B-boy battles in Pittsburgh, Influential Flavor took to traveling to Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, to participate in the battles in those markets. At the invitation of the Ill Style Rockers, Moe joined a six-day Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tour, which consisted of hosting assemblies at elementary schools to teach kids about the four elements of hip-hop, and evening breakdancing performances at colleges. He continued to tour with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame over the next five months, while also organizing and hosting destination battles in Pittsburgh, where he drew all the best regional talent.  

Let's put something into perspective here: Moe had only been in Pittsburgh for about a year. Almost everything you just read happened between his 18th and 19th birthdays. Moe went from not knowing a single person in the city to producing Footwork, throwing Who Got The Props, and leading Influential Flavor, building them a regional reputation with personal invites on tours—while simultaneously organizing and hosting destination battles in Pittsburgh. It's a lot to accomplish in a year, but Moe was just getting started.  

Chapter 4

Making Something Good Great

Moe caught the attention of George Haritos, the owner of Zythos, a bar in Pittsburghs’s Southside, who hired Moe to dance at his bar. Working as a dancer at a 21+ bar at 19 opened a lot of doors for Moe—mostly doors to other 21+ clubs—but it also opened Moe's mind to a new world of possibilities and opportunities. Like most clubs, Zythos was packed over the weekends, but dead on weeknights. Moe approached George to ask if he could throw a hip-hop party on a Thursday. George agreed: the club wasn't doing any real business that night anyway, so what did he have to lose?  

Moe booked DJs Crown Boogie and Drastik and got the word out. The venue was packed at double capacity for most of the night, and George was so impressed he made "Hip-Hop Thursdays" a weekly party Moe organized and hosted. The party’s success afforded Moe a chance to get in with a number of other club owners in Pittsburgh and host events at their venues, too, including Moe’s most successful party: 1999 at Metropol. This was the one that, to this day, people still bring up, describing it in a dreamy, nostalgic way when trying to illustrate Moe’s influence and the fun he was bringing to the city. This was the moment Moe knew he was onto something.  

Moe's eye for spotting up-and-coming talent gave him an edge. Moe gave DJ Nugget his first gig, and to this day Nugget credits Moe with starting his career. Moe booked DJ Bonics, now Wiz Khalifa's DJ, for some of his earliest gigs. Moe booked Atmosphere, The Arsonists, and Mr. Complex early in their careers. Moe was hired to manage street promotions for 50 Cent's first tour with Aftermath. He partnered with Joker Productions to promote a Wu-Tang Clan show at Club Laga, and also brought Redman and Method Man to play the club, marking their first appearances in Pittsburgh.  

Metropol, Rosebud, Club Laga, Area 51: you name a major club in Pittsburgh, Moe was organizing shows there. He controlled every aspect of his events, from copping the right talent to play at the right venues, to designing the venue lighting to create the perfect vibe, to curating the proper staff and guest list. Moe had his hand in all aspects of his events, from inception to execution, and it was these details that set them apart from other nightlife in the city. Moe was setting a new bar in nightlife and entertainment in Pittsburgh, while simultaneously creating his signature brand within the scene, and it wasn't going unnoticed.  

Moe caught the attention of Pascal Morganti, a representative at Camel/Salem. She wanted Moe to work club promotions on her team, but he couldn’t due to Salem's strictly 21+ policies. On Moe's 21st birthday, Pascal called to offer him a job. Working promotions for Salem gave Moe a bigger events budget, which gave him the freedom to bring bigger acts to Pittsburgh. Moe brought such artists as Wyclef, Beenie Man, Biz Markie, and Tony Touch to Pittsburgh—for many artists is was the first and only time they’d perform in the city.  

Now that Moe was 21, the fun really got started. Because of the success of his Salem-sponsored events, he was quickly promoted to events coordinator, at which point he hired fellow street-team promoter Kevin Peindl to work as his production manager. Moe and Kevin's working relationship was so fluid they joined forces to produce events independent of Salem, most notably the 4 Elements events. The 4 Elements events featured performances and competitions highlighting all 4 elements of hip-hop: MCing, DJing, B-boying, and graffiti. These beloved events quickly developed a cult following. Everyone wanted a chance to perform, and this platform gave them that opportunity. The 4 Elements unified a once fragmented scene into a supportive community. The positive working relationship behind and success of these events solidified Moe and Kevin's friendship, and after their stint with Salem, Moe and Kevin continued working together.  

Moe personally handled all the promotions for his events. Remember flyers? Yeah, I know I keep harping on this pre-Internet, pre-social media reality, but anyone who was there knows how truly different life was back then. The logistics of properly planning and promoting an event were calculated and deliberate. It wasn't just sending mass texts, and reposting flyers by pushing buttons on a phone. It was designing and printing physical flyers, then building a street team to hit the pavement and literally spread the word.  

Moe assembled a street team to join him on a nightly circuit, stopping by all the major clubs and hitting all the cars parked in the Strip District. We're talking walking around, handing out flyers, engaging with potential clients, winning them over with charm, and convincing them to spend their night (and dollars) at your event.  

Moe's first flyers were black-and-white Xeroxes, standard at the time. But after seeing the full-color, intricately designed (sometimes die-cut) card-stock flyers handed out at raves, Moe wanted those same full-spectrum, high-gloss art pieces to promote his events. He searched out the person behind them and found Mark the Printer. Moe hired Mark to print the same high-quality flyers for his events, and soon after, glossy full-color flyers became an industry standard in the club scene. (You know, probably just a coincidence.) When the volume surpassed what Mark could handle, Moe sought out HotCards, a gang-one printer in Cleveland, Ohio, to print his flyer designs. The flyers were delivered via Greyhound bus from Cleveland to Pittsburgh, and Moe would pick them up at the bus station on the weekly to distribute. When the volume outgrew what Greyhound was willing to ship, Moe hired a driver and rented a U-Haul to make the twice-weekly trip to Cleveland and back. Moe was designing, printing, and distributing all of the flyers for his own events, and when word got out that he was the man behind them, the copycats lined up. Moe was the connect for anyone who wanted in within the Pittsburgh market, and soon he was designing and printing flyers for a growing client base. Client demand continued to grow, until it surpassed what HotCards could manage, at which point the owner offered Moe his own HotCards franchise. Moe ran the franchise out of the Penn Garrison in downtown Pittsburgh.  

Moe's name was ringing out, and he was building a reputation in the city. He developed and promoted events that he was genuinely about; he identified what was missing and filled the holes with cool events that built and solidified the culture and community, in doing so developing the Pittsburgh scene into something he was proud to be a part of. No bitching, no complaining, no "well, back in New York..." Pure grind, and a focused drive with solid results, that were noticed, recognized, respected, and loved.