DJ Jayhood KING

[Local Action; 2017]

Styles: Jersey Club, battle dance, footwork, ballroom
Others: DJ Joker, DJ Tameil, DJ Unique, DJ Tiga

In writing about phenomena like Jersey Club music, it’s best to start from the assumption that I don’t know what Jersey Club is. I maybe know what it sounds like (the bedsqueak sample, breakbeats and staggered kick patterns, frequent reference by way of sampling to hip-hop, R&B, and pop songs), but to attempt to pin down an essence is to overshoot one’s powers of perception and to fictitiously place myself inside a story that I am at most a peripheral witness to. Here is what I know about DJ Jayhood: he is from Newark, which is the birthplace of the style, and despite not having won the same level of exposure as other artists in the genre, his work has been massively influential and formative to the style.

KING is hard to pin down as far as dance music releases go, playing equally as a debut album, a historical archive, and a mixtape. Many of the tracks here date back to the late 2000s or early 2010s, the mostly localized era of Jersey Club before DJ Sliink saw international touring success and before the genre was pulled into the intersecting worlds of club culture and institution-backed arts. Jayhood’s most popular YouTube upload to date, the DJ Joker-featuring “Hand On Ya Hips” (also collected here on KING), dates back to 2011 and features a homemade dance video in which Jayhood debuts his new track to a spontaneously gathered crowd of fans by playing it through his Nokia brick cell phone.

Genre originator DJ Tameil even sees co-production credits on one track, and the samples featured most prominently throughout the record have since become the quintessence of the genre. Tameil makes the best case for the import of the oeuvre on KING while trading verses with Joker over the rattling, obscenely rowdy “BBMG Anthem”: “Y’all use the same sounds/ Same kicks/ I made them shits/ Get off my dick!

From listening to the songs compiled on KING, Jayhood’s first proper LP-length release, it’s evident that despite being a maximalist in terms of sampledelia, the producer’s most obvious influence on the genre is the incisive knack for wringing a sample’s essence into a distilled form. By introducing something even as maudlin as Timbaland and OneRepublic’s “Too Late” to a production context immune to self-seriousness, Jayhood is able to let the melancholia latent within the source breathe and self-actualize.

The question, then, is how Jayhood’s work holds up in light of how rapidly the genre has evolved in the hands of a software-emancipated second wave — artists like UNIIQU3 and DJ Sliink — as well as under the less purist adaptations of non-Jersey-based newcomers experimenting with the genre’s drum patterns and archetypal samples. His tracks don’t sparkle with the sheen of a sound designer’s, rather they bear the evidence of having been assembled from drum machines and MP3 stems and then whittled down into pointed incisors into movement and emotion.

Many of the tracks are as didactic as they are playful: Adolf Joker tells the dancer (the listener) to move left, right, left, right, or else to go crazy, or he simply re-states the origin of the music: “Jerrssseeyyy! “We Can’t Be Friends” counterposes the cartoonish rhythm of the infamous bed-squeak sample with the solemn melancholy of vocal samples delivered from beyond the veil of a long-gone relationship: “We go way way back,” and then, finally, “We can’t be friends.” The implicit story of lost love finds a kind of sad denouement in the absurdity of the juxtaposition.

Elsewhere, Jayhood’s tracks are populated less with pop music ghosts and more with the actual voices of his Jersey community: the kid-friendly classic “Skip To My Lou” features the eminently sassy voices of Lil Divas in the City, and Ms Porche raps a hookless verse over the menacing “What I Tote ‘09.” Because of the array of eras and ideas collected here, to say that KING resounds as a coherent portrait of DJ Jayhood seems erroneous; rather it is a sketchbook of materials and processes that are often brilliant to witness, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always affirming.

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