A niche genre of dance music is now rising as the influence for some of the biggest names in the industry. How did this massive change occur, and how do its originators feel about it?
One of the benefits of going to boarding school is the opportunity to escape the cultural bubble that you grew up in. I took advantage of this opportunity and became friends with people I never would have met if I had gone to school in southern New Hampshire. One of those friends was a DJ from just outside of Newark, New Jersey. The first time I heard one of his sets, I was struck by the the music he was playing. It wasn’t house or hip hop, it definitely wasn’t pop, but it sounded like all three mashed together, like someone forgot to unloop a vocal sample and threw a drum loop underneath. I asked him, “what is this stuff?” He responded with two words: Jersey Club.
Fast forward four years, and the strange sounds of this genre have begun to penetrate mainstream dance and pop music. Artists such as Trippy Turtle, who is currently touring with EDM heavyweight Dillon Francis, owe a large part of their sounds to Jersey and Baltimore Club. Though it may seem like it, Jersey Club didn’t come out of nowhere. The style originates from Baltimore Club music, which mixes classic hip-hop breakbeats with old-school house (think Felix Da Housecat and Frankie Knuckles, not Swedish House Mafia). There is usually a vocal sample repeated throughout the song that usually originates from TV or YouTube. The songs are typically lo-fidelity with noticeable distortion and have very minimal arrangements.
When DJs began to play Baltimore Club at parties in Newark, the city latched on to the style and began to create their own version of the genre. They sped up the tempo from 130 BPM to somewhere between 135 and 140 BPM and put more emphasis on the rhythms, and Jersey Club was born. Some of the originators of the style include DJ Tameil, DJ Tim Dolla, Mike V, and DJ Black Mic.
Like Baltimore Club, Jersey Club music (also known as Brick City Club Music) uses a very minimal sonic palette. Most tracks contain a vocal sample, a sped up breakbeat, and a kick drum that alternates between duplets and triplets. Other flourishes can be added, but usually these are kept to a minimum. There are quite a few artists in the Jersey Club scene, many of whom are originally from Newark. Nadus, DJ Uniique, and DJ Sliink are all from the area and are key members of the Brick Bandits Crew, which acts as the beating heart of the genre. Many of the best artists in the genre are a part of BBC, and it is a group that is constantly expanding and adding fresh talent.
One thing in particular that distinguishes the Jersey Club scene from many others is the sense of community. The older artists, such as DJ Tameil, take an interest in helping to teach the younger generation how to hone their production skills.
“Jersey sticks together for sure,” DJ Sliink told me. “[There are] many different music groups in Jersey, but at the end of the day it’s all one sound. I enjoy watching the young dudes put out music, because it’s really a hobby that keeps them out of trouble.”
Now the big name DJs in Jersey like Sliink and DJ Fire are taking rappers under their wing. Dougie F is a rapper from Newark who is making a name for himself rapping over Jersey Club beats. Now, tastemakers and EDM heavyweights are starting to take notice. Diplo’s Mad Decent label released his song with DJ Fire, “Back Up On It” earlier this year.
It is this growing mainstream acceptance of Jersey Club that is drawing outside DJs and producers to the sound. DJs that make Jersey Club outside of Jersey such as DJ Hoodboi (who is also touring with Dillon Francis) and Ryan Hemsworth are frowned upon by some of the genre’s biggest proponents. The Jersey Club coming out of places like Los Angeles is much more melodic and clean. Trippy Turtle and Ryan Hemsworth prefer to sample entire songs for their Jersey Club remixes rather than just short phrases. The result is a Jersey Club-style song that focuses more on melody rather than chops and breakbeats.
“The sound is very clean but what draws people to Jersey is the urban and raw style,” says Sliink.
Though these DJs aren’t supported by some of the originators of the genre, they are some of the DJs responsible for helping to popularize the genre and make it palatable to mainstream dance music fans.
Another way these producers have modified the genre is through improving the audio quality. Though much of the original Jersey Club was made to sound lo-fi, this aspect of the music doesn’t mesh well with the crisp and clean productions of most modern-day dance tunes. Many of the newer producers have cleaned up their productions and given them a more full sound in order to prevent them from sticking out amongst more conventional dance music.
That’s not to say that Jersey’s talent isn’t also getting some mainstream recognition. RL Grime released an edit of Brick Bandits member Nadus’ track “Nxwxrk”, and DJ Sliink has collaborated with the likes of Flosstradamus and released official remixes for Chromeo and Danny Brown. The genre’s influence on up-and-coming artists like Trippy Turtle shows just how much its audience has grown, and it will only get bigger in the years to come. When I told Sliink that one of our writers was hearing Jersey Club consistently at electronic shows in Paris, he was proud.
“Jersey is everywhere, it’s crazy but it makes me and other people proud. Jersey Club becoming worldwide is a great look point blank period.”