Sound Field

S2 E3 | FULL EPISODE

Why Is Jersey Club Music Everywhere?

Jersey club is a style of dance music created by Black DJs from New Jersey. Like many other dance genres the music production used to be dominated by men, but today the women of New Jersey are helping to push this genre to new heights. Our host, LA Buckner gets introduced to the world of club music by UNIIQU3. Also, icon DJ Tameil talks us through the historical roots of the Jersey club rhythm.

AIRED: January 06, 2021 | 0:15:47
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TRANSCRIPT

(city noises)

(Jersey club beat)

- That kick pattern.

Yeah, you know the one I'm talking about.

(upbeat music)

That's a staple of the Jersey Club sound,

a sound that's gone viral across YouTube and TikTok,

making the whole world shake their hips.

You've probably heard the Jersey Club remixes

that have gone viral online.

(upbeat music)

Or maybe you've heard Jersey Club's influence

in top 40 hits like Level Up by Ciara.

♪ Level up ♪

♪ Level up ♪

♪ Level up, level up, level up ♪

If you've been on TikTok, then you definitely know this song

by Jersey native, Cookiee Kawaii.

♪ Throw it back, throw it back ♪

♪ Back, back, throw it back ♪

This sound originates from the Black DJs

of the Newark club scene, and even though online data

shows that more women are listening to Jersey Club than men,

the music production has been historically male-dominated.

Recently, however,

there's been a rise in women producers

making club music.

But before we get into that story,

let's rewind a bit and talk about

where Jersey Club came from.

Sound Field went to Newark, New Jersey,

to meet the dancers and producers who make this music

and to find out what makes this sound so contagious.

(upbeat music)

♪ I'm gonna leave it on the dance floor ♪

(crowd yelling)

So where did Jersey club come from?

On the surface,

it's a hybrid of the original Newark club sound

and the Chicago house sound.

The Jersey sound was birthed in the 80s

at the legendary Zanzibar nightclub

in Newark, New Jersey

by musical icon, Tony Humphries.

Humphries' music blended electronic beats

with soulful melodies,

becoming a staple in the nightclub scene.

(upbeat music)

But it wasn't until the early 2000s

that it became the Jersey club sound you recognize today.

- It came a time where

the Chicago records stopped coming.

So I was like, yo, I need something fresh.

- DJ Tameil,

a pioneer in the club scene would travel to

Music Liberated, a hotspot for local DJs in Baltimore.

- We constantly went and bought vinyls.

So I would just read all the credits, all of the names,

you know, the numbers,

I called the number on it.

The first guy I got in touch with was this guy

named Bernie, rest in peace to Bernie.

But he was like one of the biggest labels down there.

They would take all of the B-more producers,

artists, and this and that.

And you know, he'll put their records out for him

and he owned his own record store.

So, you know, when I would call him

he would just introduce me to different people.

- It was there that he met Baltimore DJs,

like DJ Technics and Rod Lee,

who gave him the blessing to take the Baltimore style

back to Newark.

(upbeat music)

I would just roam around here,

find everybody,

kick it with them.

You know, we produced tracks together.

We had no idea that it was going to turn into this

right here.

- It was this blending of styles

that gave birth to brick city club music,

which quickly became popular across the state of New Jersey.

Listen to the kick pattern

in Teena Marie Theme by DJ Tameil.

(upbeat music)

After Tameil,

more and more Jersey DJs began making their own club hits,

and gaining millions of plays online.

DJs like Slink, Montana, and Lilman

(upbeat music)

Then in 2009,

women began to move from the dance floor to the DJ booth.

That's when UNIIQU3 hit the scene.

This is UNIIQU3.

The queen of Jersey club,

a producer, artist, and DJ

who's propelling this 135 BPM genre

into a global phenomenon.

(upbeat music)

♪ Everybody say woo woo ♪

♪ Woo woo ♪

- So in your own words

how would you describe Jersey club music?

- Jersey club music is your morning coffee,

it's your afternoon red bull,

it's your late night espresso shot,

it's rambunctious in your face party music.

- And what was it like for women

in the club scene when you got started?

- Right. Well, when I came up, it was super male dominated.

We had a couple of women, come and MC on tracks,

like Ms. Porsh.

She was one of the first women I heard on a club track,

and I was just like, yo, this is hot.

We need more of this.

We need girls DJing too.

I'm a part of the second generation of club music.

There wasn't really a blueprint for me to look up to.

It was very, just dude behind the DJ booth

and all the girls would be,

you know, dancing,

shaking it to the left and the right.

Not a lot of female representation

other than on the dance floor.

(upbeat music)

Can you let me know who were some people

in the Jersey club world that you look up to right now?

Who really inspires you?

- Queen and Kia.

- Top two.

- Yeah. And I really don't know no other dancers.

Male dancers, that's all I know.

And those are the only two females.

- So, and how come, you know,

you think that there's not enough girls

in the Jersey club culture representing.

- They don't get enough opportunities, in my opinion.

- Right.

- They don't get to go out there and show their talent

like they want to, in my opinion.

- Not like the boys do.

- Yeah, the boys y'all out there.

Thinking they're all that.

And you know, some girls,

men don't know, some girls can go out there.

And just steal the spotlight, just saying.

(upbeat music)

- I just feel like females,

maybe they don't see other UNIIQU3s.

Like who do you think you have to look up to

To be like, I can do it.

But now that there's somebody like Uniique3

and other female DJs out here doing it.

Maybe they can be like, you know what?

I don't have to be shaking my booty in front of the camera.

Maybe I can be behind the scenes, making the music

that's making people shake their booties.

(upbeat music)

- There are more women now taking over.

Basically when it comes to, like I say, UNIIQU3,

she's one of the main girls.

Cookiees out here.

She's doing her thing.

It's just before there were all men, that's it.

It's all men scratching.

And now you just feel way more comfortable.

(crowd talking)

- We have something so unique in our state

and within Jersey club,

like there's no way that it shouldn't be on the big screen

or mainstream or anywhere like.

UNIIQU3 done started it,

Slink done started it.

Everybody done just took it further.

So it was like the best part about it is

the fact that a female

is even taking it even further on top of other females.

So that's just the dopest part about it.

And it deserves to go everywhere.

Everybody listening, tune in on SoundCloud to DJ UNIIQU3.

and Cookiee Kawaii,

everybody! So.

(laughing)

- In Jersey, the ecosystem is composed of

four working parts.

Music, dance, business, and community.

So what exactly makes a Jersey club song,

a Jersey club song?

You remember that kick pattern?

(beat music)

This rhythm is an essential ingredient

in the Jersey club sound,

and it was inspired by Baltimore club.

- Oh, all of that stems from, I don't know,

can I say that on here?

Okay. Well it was a record called Dikkontrol.

(upbeat music)

My partner Technics, which, you know,

I highly look up to just,

I got a lot of respect for him,

like how people got respect for me.

And he blew my mind when he told me.

He was in a DMZ DJ battle in 1993

and was juggling records

back and forth and did that beat on the turntables.

They went back to the studio

and recorded it and it became a club beat.

But that one record we stuck to,

and we just took that kick pattern

and just kept going with it.

You know? So we just built from there.

- Another thing that Jersey club is famous for

is their use of sampling.

- You know, anything we can sample, we will use it.

And that's what Jersey club is.

I mean, Jersey club, B-more club is sampled bass.

The bed squeaks,

which everybody thinks is a bed squeak.

Lil John explained that,

which was mind blowing for us

because we always thought it was a bed squeak.

It's not a bed squeak.

(upbeat music)

Lil John explained that it's a rocking chair.

But it sounds like a bed spring.

But you know, we ran with it.

It's still a bed spring to us.

(upbeat music)

♪ Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me ♪

- As the music continues to evolve,

its sound has become more aggressive.

Today, club tracks

switch up their four, four beat pattern

every eight to 16 bars.

Then there's the vocals,

usually chopped up samples of top 40 tracks,

along with column responsible pools

from independent artists or the DJs themselves.

- The way that we chop up our vocals

are so clever because at the end of the day,

it all has to lead to making somebody dance.

I just usually try to find the best cadence.

♪ Hands up, ♪

♪ I'm gonna do my thing. ♪

Yeah. It came from a freestyle,

so I think I was just like,

spitting in my mic saying different stuff,

getting warmed up.

And I was like, man, this kind of sounds dope.

♪ Back let me get it on the dance floor ♪

♪ Stand back i'mma leave it on the dance floor ♪

♪ Stand back, stand back, stand back ♪

- Another important part of Jersey club culture is remixing.

And Jersey producers have even helped other artists

Go viral through their club remixes.

- We find these records and we make them cross over.

So a drill trap record that you wouldn't hear

at a certain demographic party,

you could play it now,

because what we do is we transform it

into something that's relatable to a wider audience.

(upbeat music)

- But it's not just remixes,

Jersey Club Producers are also

putting out original dance music

that's played at clubs and festivals around the world.

- Even though Jersey club is known for its remixes

We have a plethora of original Jersey club content

from you know, even UNIIQU3, you know,

being one of the curator for the first ever

Spotify Jersey club playlist.

There's a lot of original content on that playlist.

(upbeat music)

- There's only one rule at Jersey club parties,

and that rule is simple.

Everyone must move to the beat.

There are even step-by-step instructions in the music.

So there's no excuse to be standing still.

The use of call and response dance instructions,

and the evolution of the Jersey club sound

naturally gave weight to organize dances.

- So I, so if you want to talk Jersey club, right?

A lot of times we're talking DJs,

talking producers, we're talking the artists, right?

But we don't exist

without the cornerstone of what Jersey club was made for,

which is the dancer, right?

It's the reason why Jersey Club was popular.

When nobody knew what Jersey club was,

when they were in their dorm rooms,

and it had no title to the genre,

they were playing patty-cake.

They were playing footwork, percolator,

all these things because it made you move.

It was something to dance to,

and dance is universal.

- The reason why people respond that way is because

traditionally in Africa, it's a call to call and response.

So when the person bangs the drum,

the person dances.

The purpose of us dancing back then,

in those times were to call upon our ancestors.

So the call is the,

(patting)

and the response is the dance.

- As the dance culture surrounding Jersey clubs

spread throughout the state,

new DJs began to emerge with their dance crews

known as street teams.

The dance moves that premiered alongside the music

became the highlight of the parties.

- Like how did you make the running man?

You know what I'm saying?

Like, like, like that's just so creative and it went viral.

You know what I'm saying?

It was on Fortnite.

It was on Ellen.

You heard it here first.

Like that's a whole viral dance.

Like how did you come up with the running man?

- It's not like I sat home and you know,

was like, you go left over right.

Though the terminology that people use today is labbing.

So when you're labbing, you know what I'm saying?

You just start coming up with stuff

and you just start doing stuff.

And it's like a groove.

You know what I'm saying?

And that groove is what people latched on to.

You know what I'm saying?

(crowd yelling)

- Jersey club isn't just music and dance.

It's energy, life, and community,

creating a safe space for the young people of New Jersey.

- It takes the kids off the streets in my opinion.

It saves a lot of people.

There's a lot of gang violence where we all come from.

Irvington, Orange, East Orange, Newark,

a bunch of gang violence, a lot of broken families.

So kids try to,

it's like an outlet for a lot of us is like, love.

We get love from everybody.

And everybody's so in tune with it.

So it saves, it literally saves everybody.

It brings happiness.

- I started off as a rough kid, went gang banger.

I did basketball, gang bangin' and basketball

was my only thing, my option.

Dancing kind of saved me

and I've been through real life stuff.

So my way to cope was dancing.

It became more spiritual,

11 years later I'm here still doing it.

(crowd yelling)

- These days, it's easy to see

how the women of Jersey club are helping

to push the genre into the future.

But back in the early 2000s,

there was a legendary DJ who laid the groundwork

by lifting club music to new heights.

Can you tell us how much K-Swift means to you?

- Rest in peace K-Swift, Baltimore club queen,

the club queen period.

K-Swift meant so much to me,

but there was definitely a big void when she passed away.

- K-Swift was a legendary DJ from Baltimore.

Her tragic death in 2008

left behind a hole in the local music scene.

- K-Swift was like the face for B-more Club.

Wherever she went, you know,

people just followed her,

and they loved her for what she did.

You know, she was phenomenal.

- She was a woman, a black woman

that was carrying the torch to bringing Baltimore club music

and East coast club music in general to new heights.

- Her death took a toll on a lot of people, man.

I feel like, you know, after she passed away

I mean the city as a whole, you know

as far as playing club music, it kind of just fell apart.

Everybody just kind of lost his steam.

Like, you know,

like that sucked the life out of everybody man.

- Me and my home girl,

TT the artist from Baltimore,

she's Baltimore's club queen,

and I'm Jersey club queen.

We doing our best to try to represent

K-Swift and a bright light and,

you know finish the work that she started real tall.

Just as K-Swift's legacy inspired the musicians of today,

today's artists are already inspiring the next generation.

- When I first saw Maji, like I was so in awe

I was like, look at this young girl killing it.

I never saw that in my whole life.

After that, I just, you know, made it my business.

Like I have to work with this young girl.

(upbeat music)

♪ Slow it down, slow it down, slow it down ♪

♪ Slow it down, down, slow it down ♪

♪ Slow it down, slow it down, slow it down ♪

♪ Down, down, down ♪

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