At the end of 2022, we asked for your help in deciding which sounds will leave a lasting impression on 2023 and you didn’t disappoint. With genres as varied as UKG, Nu-Funk and Baile Funk, global music is in a wonderful place.
In the fifth part of our ongoing spotlight of the genres that mean the most to you, we’re across the USA for a history lesson on Jersey Club. Across the States because, though Jersey began on the streets of Newark, New Jersey, it carries multiple cities in its DNA. The sound originated from Baltimore Club music, borrowing elements from Chicago House and Hip Hop and pioneered by DJ Tameil, Tim Dolla and the Brick Bandits crew in the early 2000s. Instantly recognizable thanks to hard kicks, chopped samples and its signature ‘bed squeak’ sound, many producers found their calling in Jersey Club, making tunes that would build an entire community around them. Connection became a big part as DJs and dancers joined the party and spread the sound throughout the country, especially in cities such as Philadelphia which would develop its own Club sound.
Today, Jersey Club has found new life as international artists have used its vibrations to score commercial hit singles, most notably in 2022 with Lil Uzi Vert’s ‘Just Wanna Rock.’ Not to mention its incredible popularity on TikTok. But the core values of Jersey Club - community and experimentation - remain. This is evident in the popularity of Jersey Drill, an exciting new sub-genre in the movement.
We linked up with four big names in the genre to find out more about its history and connections with other regions. Traps N Trees (pictured top right above) is a Philadelphia-based producer creating all things Club; Baltimore producer HI$TO (pictured top left above) is known throughout the scene for his ‘Psych’d Out’ sound; New Jersey’s SJAYY (pictured centre above) is an accomplished beatmaker in his own right blending Jersey Club and Hip Hop, and Kayy Drizz (pictured bottom right above) achieved fame for their viral track ‘Skinny Girlz’ in 2017. We caught up with them at Hangtime Radio’s recent music showcase where they all performed, available now on Mixcloud. Scroll down for their views on all things Club.
What are the origins of Jersey Club?
Traps N Trees: Club music starts with the youth and it always has. From Jamz Skating Rink in Philadelphia with DJ Sega to now where kids are meeting up at Level Up Philly to get away from the gun violence. That was one of the main things about the Brick Bandits; not only are we teaching the kids how to make music, but keeping them out of the streets. This is really like battling, because Newark, New Jersey was like the trenches back then. If you didn’t have something to keep these kids busy, bad things would happen. So that’s what [Jersey’s] all about. The thing is, a lot of people lose things in translation. Ever since the Lil Uzi record dropped people have been arguing who ‘invented the hips.’ Jersey and Philly have been going at it. What gets me upset is that we're at a point in club music where every city has borrowed something from another city.
HI$TO: Look at the history of club music and what it was. If we really want to talk about borrowing, when it comes to club music, think about the early 1990s when Baltimore took the Chicago sound and made it its own.
Traps N Trees: DJ Technics said it. He said, 'it was house music but we made it loud and ignorant and sexy.' Fucking and fighting in the club.
What’s the connection between Jersey Club and the club scenes in Baltimore and Philadelphia? How exactly are they linked?
Kayy Drizz: Jersey Club music derived from Baltimore club music. I look at them as cousins. From my experience of working with Baltimore natives, it's more than just breakbeats and simple kick patterns. Everything evolves at some point and there are some talented producers from the Baltimore scene who have been pushing a different sound than what most people are used to. I’m hearing more 808 kicks in the production, their signature “what” sample. Jersey Club is known for the ‘bed squeak’ sample and the BPM is slighter faster, ranging from 134-140. But with the sound evolving and newer producers coming into the scene, they’ve pushed the boundaries to over 140 BPM and most Jersey music is made specifically for dancers to dance and battle to. Philly Club music is known for its faster BPM, horns and sirens back in the day but is now becoming more known for artists rapping or singing over instrumentals similar to Jersey Club.
Traps N Trees: There’s different eras for different genres. With Baltimore, you had the 130 BPM classic ‘Dance My Pain Away,’ the Rod Lee records, the Technics records. Then the kids came up and started making the faster stuff and the OGs didn’t like that, so there’s that disconnect. Like, ‘why are they playing these records at 145-150 BPM?’ The older people didn’t digest the fast stuff very well, but the dancers did. That 145 BPM era came and you have Rip Knoxx, Matic, more 808s, and they started making that ‘Rock Off’ style, where you see the Crazy Legs dance move. They refined the sound in my opinion.
How do you feel about the commercialization of Jersey Club and its rise in popularity on TikTok?
Traps N Trees: It’s a great thing, but I feel like sometimes listeners lose the translation of the Jersey sound, and they see it more like TikTok music. People forget that a lot of the biggest songs on TikTok are sped up versions of Jersey Club songs, made just for TikTok.
HI$TO: And they don’t really credit the artists like that either.
Traps N Trees: Yeah. A lot of that stuff you can’t play in the club, like it’ll clear the floor. Like you can’t play dance battle shit at a nightclub, it won’t work. People are gonna be like, ‘what do we do to this?’
HI$TO: If Paradox (a famous nightclub in Baltimore) was still open, it would work.
Traps N Trees: It’s Roblox club music. I hate to say it. If I brought the Roblox club music out, you know there’s an exception. And I will say there’s an exception for fast club music, so don’t take it as ‘oh he hates fast club music.’ I make fast club music! But there are good fast club music producers and there are bad ones. Well, not bad. They do it for a different platform, and they do it for the battle circle. They do it on bluetooth speakers.
HI$TO: What he’s basically saying is, it’s like there are people who are true to whatever tempo, whatever samples, they’ve been out here, they know what it is. They know what the dance is for, but am I going to make this track for TikTok? No, hell no! I’m not going to do that for y’all. As a producer, I talk to all my peoples, the dancers and everyone in the best way that I can, and that’s how I judge everything when it comes to my production.
Traps N Trees: When I get in the lab, I ask myself, ‘am I going to make a booty bounce joint or will I make something higher tempo that people can dance to?’
HI$TO: Yeah! It’s like you got a gauge of it, in a sense.
Traps N Trees: Because now the lines are so blurred. They don’t understand that Jersey took the speed from Philly. Well I say Baltimore did it first, but Philly perfected that speed and then Jersey took it back after all the Philly things happened. There was a big falling out in Philly Club and a lot of people don’t know about that.
Kayy Drizz: Ever since Cookiee Kawaii blew up with her hit song ‘Vibe’ through TikTok, more and more people want to hear more of what Jersey has to offer. People are making dance challenges to songs and it pushes the songs into the algorithm, helping producers and artists get their music out there and then becoming viral. There are songs such as my own ‘Skinny Girlz’ that was made way before TikTok’s time and is now known literally across the globe. Big celebrities such as Coi Leray, Fetty Wap and Lil Uzi Vert have found interest in the Jersey Club sound and hopped on tracks, pushing the sound even further. I’m loving how they’re reaching out to producers from Jersey to produce their records instead of other producers outside of the state and I would love to see more. I’m on edge to see who’s the next name to blow up with a big record.
A sub-genre that has fast become popular within Jersey Club is Jersey Drill. Where do you think it fits within the general culture?
SJAYY: I think it [Jersey Drill] came at the right time. It came at the perfect time. I wish Pop Smoke was still around because he probably would’ve had a record. It happened when it needed to happen, and people were rocking with it the way that it is. So, I think it’s perfect. With Jersey Club you can get more R&B, or just a beat. But Drill is like, ‘this dude toting a gun. He might jump your ass after the show.’ You never know.
Jersey Club has an incredible dance culture closely linked to it. How does it relate to the music?
Kayy Drizz: To be honest if it wasn’t for the dancers, we would have a harder time pushing the sound. The dances create a visual to the songs which gets people's attention. Jersey dances have gone viral and now you see everyone and their mother and their mother’s mother rocking their hips, getting the Running Man going (one of our signature dances) and hitting the Tang. I’m a big fan of dance battles, especially Krumpin’ back in the day. Seeing dance crews link up and battle it out like Link Up Tuesdays is another way of expressing the Jersey Club sound. Teams such as Lab Sisters and Lab Brothers have been holding it down with the battles and content for social media. Seeing the dances evolve over the years is honestly inspiring, especially to see the youth getting more and more involved. I remember the Patty Cake, Sharp Bounce, Running Man from my era and now seeing more dances come to light displays the range of Jersey Club. Some of my favorite dancers to watch are Fendi Kyy, Nayy Boogs (Favv Nayy) and Kia just to name a few. These ladies have been going hard for the culture and deserve all their flowers. I would love to work with them one day!
Traps N Trees: Buzzefx is a name that gets really lost in translation, Skorch Flamez, Wham, Level Up Philly, they’re helping get kids off the street. As far as DJs that we’re listening to in Philly, the younger kids are listening to a lot of the South Jersey stuff. I call South Jersey 'diet Philly' because it is. We listen to Power99, you know we listen to all Philly stations. We’ve listened to Diamond Kuts and DJ Sega all of our lives. As far as the younger kids, they listen to a lot of Leak the DJ, RetroJ, Dre Cannon, South Jersey names. And then, as far as the older people, we’re listening to the older kids. DJ Dwizz, Get Em and 2Live don’t make music as much anymore but they’re like GOATs for us. Swizzy Mack was a big name, RaEazy is really killing it with the hardcore style Philly Club. People overseas are eating that up too.
HI$TO: For Baltimore, not to sound like I’m in my own thing, but I would like to say myself. But at the same time, who I really want to give a shout out to is Midnight Club, Petty Penguin, Kade Young, S.Dot, DJ Beast. I want to give a shout to Ducky Dynamo. She’s been doing her damn thing and I just want to say that this is the first year that Baltimore Club music actually had an inaugural day on Juneteenth this year. Ducky was a part of that and I really admire that. And shout out to Unruly Records for doing all that too, they’re still doing the damn thing. There’s a lot of people I want to bring up, but everybody is really pushing the culture forward.
SJAYY: There’s a lot of people out in Jersey doing their thing. Kids that are 15 years old to grown adults who are in their 30s. If I gave you a shoutout list, I’d probably be here till the morning. But, listen, there are people who are getting it right now: Jiddy Jid, SBF is crazy, he doesn't get a lot of recognition but he’s definitely one; Gutta is very in the cut but he’s got a lot of production out that people don’t know about, but it’s his name on it. Of course you got, DJ Sliink, Uniiqu3, Nadus, who are still touring and doing their thing. DJ Tray, he got on OVO Sound Radio recently. Shout out to all the producers. All of Jersey is really doing their thing.
What do you think lies in Jersey Club’s future?
Traps N Trees: I think the mainstream is going to take Jersey and run with it for a good two years before they move onto the next trend, but as far as nightlife and culturally on dancefloors I think it’s here to stay. I think the clubs will play a lot of the danceable lower BPM stuff, we have been seeing people play the club with Techno and Footwork for years. They are basically cousin genres. We’re going to see more dancers, and the club music dance culture is still going to be where to find really deep club head cuts. I’m sure we’re going to see every genre also try and do their version of club music. Jersey’s here to stay, but as far as mainstream I think they are going to soak it up like a sponge, throw it to the side and go to the next trend. Billboard Top 40 culture has always been that way.
Kayy Drizz: The future of Jersey Club music looks very promising. I can see the culture becoming even more mainstream to the world, the actual producers/pioneers from Jersey producing more hit records for the big artists that are dropping Jersey Club records throughout platforms and getting properly credited/compensated for our work, talent and craft. Vocalists and artists becoming the next big mainstream artists and Jersey Club becoming the next genre everyone wants parts of.
SJAYY: I think the future of Jersey Club music is undeniably destined for greatness! It's becoming a household sound. It's a sound that you might walk into the living room and see your loved ones dancing to, the go to party-starter at any main event, and now more than ever it's every artist's first class ticket to a hit record. If Jersey Club was an airline company then we definitely went from Spirit to Fly Emirates! Anybody can grab a seat too!
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