DJ Nate DJ NateDa Trak Genious
This is the union of two talents. It’s possible they don’t know each other in person, and they certainly don’t share surrounding, status, friends, or least of all cultural interests. They’re opposite poles of the same spectrum of dance music. But their paths have finally crossed, so that something very big can come about, one of the greatest albums of this year without discussion. On one side we have Mike Paradinas, Planet Mu head honcho, a bloodhound for rarities who, thanks to his infallible nose, was the first of the A&Rs rummaging through the freshest electronica capable of seeing the potential of the new Chicago scene we call juke. The first whiff of this came to him via YouTube, with the audio and videos that started documenting a dance scene –footwork– in which Nathan Clark, a fresh-faced producer ( look at that boyish face!) who at the same time was obsessively putting his tracks online on Imeem, was one of the main characters. The second talent in this story is, of course, Nathan, aka DJ Nate: his sound is pure riff-raff, broken material that prolongs a lineage, ghetto-house (with a sprinkle of gangsta-rap and grinded R&B), that has never been interrupted but will never come to the surface of mainstream dance. “Da Trak Genious” is therefore an impeccable and vital document that brings us closer to a fascinating reality, located in the closed underground of the American Midwest. This sound is not radically new, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a breath of fresh air for electronica. It’s the first label in a long time that doesn’t refer to something that’s an appendix to established genres, without adjectives like “minimal” or “step”. It’s simply ghetto, dirty, about survival, autarchic (and it’s about time).
The album is in fact a collection of 25 pieces selected by Paradinas from all the chaos of uploads on different websites. The boy is prolific because tradition wants him to be, and his scene demands it. Juke still is an evolved version –with some faster stretches and some slower- of the old ghetto-house that had the Dancemania label and slick DJ Funk as its main names. The Dancemania records, as those who have ever had one in their hands will remember, had three or four tracks per side, raw and with more or less no cleaning-up done to them; there was brutal sexuality, with perverts’ voices and sharp breaks that have their origins in electro. Ghetto-house was a tool to transform booty fat into curd. Juke, as a more evolved version, is also music to dance to, but instead of the sexual element there is a competitiveness. Footwork can be explained as another evolution –of jazz dance, with intricate passes and foot movements, via breakdance– and it can be put on a record, certainly, but its natural place is the street. If you hadn’t thought about it yet, the album title is “Da Trak Genious” because Clark’s music is based on the track as it’s understood in Chicago: a skeleton of stripped rhythms in which the economy of sounds is vital. A snare, a sample –of accelerated voices, piano, Lil Wayne, like on “3 Peat”– which is all the footwork addicts need to start their duels of movement coordination. It’s music that only makes sense in competitions (and sometimes in the mix), which, when listened to on its own and on one’s own can be repetitive and plain –from the selection of “Da Trak Genious” there are few tracks longer than two minutes; only the last one, “Poetry”, runs more than four, but that’s what they are for, and you can’t change that.
With this material it could well be that a new way of making dance music is born in the big American cities, and (who knows) it could also be the heads up for the return of Chicago with a new kind of house –rushed, with constant drops and frantic rises in the rhythm, with accelerated female voices and vocals of men affected by halitosis– which opens a new era of activity in the north after several years of relative draught. Its connections with hip-hop –the production owes a lot to southern rap what with the cascade of beats from the TB-808 and the moments of comatose deceleration, in the style of screwed & chopped syrupy– could be a good way to spread the message. Or possibly nothing will happen and, as has happened with other scenes that developed in very specific environments and based on in-breeding, juke will turn out to be nothing more than a temporary fad that will give us, in a very short time, a generous shot of novelty until the lack of surprises (a big danger: is there much room for development in what DJ Nate, DJ Roc, DJ Rashad and company are doing?) forces us to look to other places. Luckily, if such a thing would happen, we’ll always have Paradinas, who has the nose of a well-trained dog at the airport. And if juke takes off, we’ll also have DJ Nate who, at the tender age of 20, still has years to become whatever he wants to be. Right now he needs to position himself, and this orgy of primitive rhythms, emotional vocals and deprived rudeness only leaves space for enthusiasm. There are records that leave you cold, but this is not one of them.
DJ Nate - A+ Mayhem