Pick 'Em Up: Kilbourne, TR!CK$ & UNiiQU3

Kilbourne x Albyy - "The Hand Clap"

I've been following Kilbourne ever since I heard her amazing work with Abdu Ali on his Already EP.  Kilbourne calls New Jersey home but is currently based out of New Orleans.  I just love the way she styles her club music - it's hype but not so aggressive that I feel like I'm gettin' shot up outside the club.  And such is the case with her collaboration with Albyy on "The Hand Clap".  Pulling the vocal sample from Hurricane Chris' track of the same name, "The Hand Clap" is such a classic demonstration of that signature Jersey energy.

TR!CK$ ft. L'Entranger - "All Alone"
 

TR!CK$ is another Jersey-based producer who is starting to make some waves in my world.  "All Alone" allows that super energetic Jersey style to completely carry a sexy R&B vibe from the vocals here.  I'm especially loving the varying manipulations he made to the vocals - pitched up here, pitched way down there, and chopped so expertly throughout.  This is the way you craft a Jersey club track that's fit for dance floors all around the world.

UNiiQU3 ft. DJ Kiff - 69 (If I Fuck)

Bow down to UNiiQU3!  She's a certified Jersey Club Queen and she's running the show in New Jersey and beyond.  This week I stumbled upon an older track of hers that I had on repeat for a hot minute - "69 (If I Fuck)" with DJ Kiff.  It starts out subtle, almost like it could easily transform into a dope footwork track, but instead it introduces this insanely cool bubbly bass that I can't get enough of.  It almost doesn't even sound like it's a Jersey club track - maybe a hybrid of Jersey and Baltimore - which is great because anything that fills the abyss between the two styles is really something remarkable.

Pick 'Em Up: Blastah, Imaabs & Sugar Shane

Blastah- Give It Up To Me

I constantly have my ears open for unique productions of club music and "Give It Up To Me" grabbed my attention immediately.  Located in Lisbon, Portugal, Blastah seems to have created his own personal blend of Baltimore and Jersey club in this track.  A classic club beat drives the track while blasting gun shots, bed squeaks, and chopped up vocals accentuate its every unique twist and turn.  "Give It Up To Me" has a comforting way of feeling very familiar while feeling so brand new and rejuvenating all at the same time.

Imaabs- Grafito

"Grafito" is a whole different monster here.  It feels very dark and industrial as an ominous whirring and sounds of "machinery" add intriguing textures to the production.  Imaabs, of Santiago, Chile, seems to thrive in mystery and darkness here as he blends warehouse techno with the hyperactive stylings of Jersey club music.  Techno is usually pretty hit-or-miss for me but I'm so impressed with the way Imaabs expertly integrates that signature bass you'll only hear in Jersey.  If you're feelin' this style, you can hear more on Trax Couture World Series Vol. 2.

Sugar Shane- Kill That Bitch (Promnite Remix)

Sugar Shane's "Kill Da Bitch" in its original form is already a certified club banger, but Promnite's remix elevated the track to critical mass.  If Sugar Shane's stinkeye and super sass in "Kill Da Bitch" wasn't enough of a beatdown, New York-based producer Promnite kicked the joint into overdrive.  "Kill The Bitch" takes on a future club sound at light speed with hints of vogue, heart-pounding bass, and a pitched-down chant that urges you to "go for the kill".




Pick 'Em Up w/ Stoop Girl

I remember being in middle school, listening to 92Q, and recording Baltimore Club classics onto cassettes from artists like Rod Lee, Ms. Tony, and of course Scottie B.  I was a half-white/half-Panamanian girl living in the suburbs while all my friends were bumpin' Backstreet Boys and Linkin Park so of course I was the fucking oddball in the crew.  And it's not that I wasn't interested in that kind of music, but it's always been Baltimore club that has stuck by me even when I went through weird musical phases of my life, like that one time in high school I was really into trance music and that other time I couldn't stop listening to ska.  UGH.  For me, Baltimore club music was never a phase.  It's one of the only genres of music that consistently moved me.  I just have a pure, unwavering love for club music of all shapes, sizes, and wavelengths.  

So, hey, I'm Casey (also known as @stoopgirl on Twitter) and welcome to a brand new series on True Laurels, "Pick Em Up", that will explore all avenues of club music.  When I'm not here kickin' it with Lawrence and his truly exceptional zine, you can find me over at my own blog,Cool Breezy.  Anyway, let's go: 

Swagson- Bring It Back Up

Lately, I’ve been trying to tackle the question of whether an artist has to physically reside in the city of Baltimore to make proper Baltimore club music.  Are they truly capable of translating the very tangible aggression of these city streets into gritty, raunchy club music?  The answer remains inconclusive, but Baltimore club music can feel very exclusive sometimes.  However, I discovered an incredible exception to the rule with Swagson’s “Bring It Back Up”.  I mean, wow.  The horns are blowin’, our signature what!s are expertly sprinkled within, and engaging vocals from Baltimore’s very own Rye Rye are sampled masterfully from her hit, “Shake It To The Ground”.  

Would you even believe me if I told you that Swagson is based out of Germany?  Apparently Swagson is a part of a crew called REALMSIX, an anonymous collective of producers making electronic club music from every corner of the world.  But I swear I can hear this shit bumpin’ right out of the cracks of the sidewalks on North Ave.  So, believe it, man.  I’m 100% fucking with it.  So maybe you gotta be from Baltimore to make authentic club music; maybe you don’t.  I’ll let you decide.

Kilbourne- Jellybeans

This one will rattle the damn bones out of your skin.  You should really prepare yourself for “Jellybeans” from Kilbourne’s latest EP, Satisfaction.  In typical Jersey club fashion, “Jellybeans” borders daringly on sensory overload with alarming sirens, repetitive what!s, and gunshots galore – but I love every second of it.  For me, “Jellybeans” stands out amongst a lot of other Jersey club that tends to become a blur after a while.  It sounds clean, not distorted, and I can pick out every intricate sound within the production.  And it’s fucking fast – music that is bound to move every wallflower out onto the dance floor in the club.  Fresh off the Motivational Tour with Baltimore’s own Abdu Ali and Schwarz, Kilbourne is definitely someone you wanna keep up with.

DJ Juwan- Dance Sing

It’s back to basics with DJ Juwan.  To be honest, I don’t know too much about this guy.  I heard he’s from Baltimore and he’s only like, fifteen years old.  But I’ve never seen an actual picture of his face so who really knows.  It’s very mysterious to me.  But what I do know is that he has fully embraced the classic sound of Baltimore club music.  For real though, his productions sound like they were made back in the 90s during the heyday of Baltimore club music.  Case in point here with “Dance Sing” in which DJ Juwan structures the song around the classic Baltimore club break beat and introduces a vocal sample every now and again.  (By the way – does anybody know where this sample comes from?  I know Cajmere used it in “Do Dat Dance” from 1991’s Underground Goodies Vol. II, but it’s killing me not to know more).  Anyway, it’s very minimal and that’s what I love about it.  Today, it’s very easy to get carried away with an abundance of samples and textures in music but sometimes it’s the simple beats that get us moving.

UNIIQU3: Gunning For Club Kween

Today marks the release of True Laurels Volume 5! Below, read the issue's feature story on rising Jersey Club DJ and producer, UNIIQU3 and be sure to follow her on SoundCloud. Buy Volume 5 HERE

Photo: Ryan Lyons

Photo: Ryan Lyons

I’ll admit, I’m a bit late. Growing up in Baltimore, the only club music that ever existed to me was what came from my hometown. With Blaqstarr, Miss Tony, Rod Lee, K-Swift and all the other club legends being spoon-fed to me on the daily, I never felt the need to look elsewhere for similar music. But over the past year, with club music seemingly getting some of its best press since Diplo infiltrated the Baltimore scene, my curiosity for different variations of the genre has definitely elevated, leading me to dig deeper into the catalogues of Philly and Jersey artists. And while I’ve enjoyed the contributions that artists like Sliink, Nadus, Dirty South Joe and others have added to the culture, no one has gotten my attention like Jersey Club’s leading lady, UNIIQU3. So far this year, she’s been selected for Red Bull’s Music Academy in New York, played at Afropunk, and released a comprehensive history of club music with her mixtape, The New Klassiks. What could easily be looked at as an out-of-nowhere come up has actually been a life-long dedication to music from the Newark native. “I started off with music and the arts at a very young age,” UNIIQU3 tells me over the phone. “I play the piano and I was in dance classes where I was being exposed to classical music and ballet which were completely different from what I’d been hearing on the radio, obviously.” Eventually, UNIIQU3 branched out to auditioning for Broadway plays like The Lion King but didn’t take long to give that up as it was taking away from her everyday kid activities.

Her comfort with performance is still in full effect, though. At this year’s Afropunk while doing impossible vocal chops and repeated claps over radio hits during her set, UNIIQU3’s charisma illuminated through her designated corner of Commodore Barry Park. She was feeling it. After almost every track dropped, she’d look out into the sea of people going nuts, let out a smile of pure joy and get right back into her no-bullshit gameface—Kanye on The Kris Jenner Show style. Reflecting, she says, “I usually do mixes off the top of my head. I don’t like to plan stuff because it’s takes the feeling away from it. Everything is spur of the moment and that’s why it’s special.” In comparison to vocal artists whose emotion, or lack thereof, is almost instantly detectable, DJ’s and producers can sometimes come across as worker bees—people so meticulous in the arrangement of sound that picking up on their emotion is always an afterthought and a real challenge--for me, at least. That’s not the case with UNIIQU3, though. What’s so infectious about her work is the evident, close-knit connection she has to club culture. In a short interview with Fader earlier this year, Fade To Mind producer, super DJ and Jersey-native Total Freedom spoke on his fondness of UNIIQU3 by saying, “She clearly works hard but nothing about the way she’s out there seems forced or corny.” And that’s spot on as her hustle seems to be genuinely from the heart. While on the phone she tells me about an all-female club collective she started right out of high school called Vixens who would dance to her music and shoot over-the-top themed videos around Jersey: “Every DJ had a dance crew in Jersey,” she says. “Sliink had his dancers and rappers. Brick Bandits had dancers and I was the only girl so I’m like, ‘Damn. I want something too!’ I went on Facebook and blasted that I was having auditions at this youth center. I got mad girls to come out.”

And while being a pillar of the female community within club culture is a priority for UNIIQU3, she’s not limiting herself when it comes to bringing people together for the genre’s advancement and preservation. In April she released The New Klassiks—a collection of her favorite club tracks, both original and with her own spin on them. For Baltimore Club legend Rod Lee’s “Give Em Some Room” which was originally featured on K-Swift’s 2005 compilation, The Jumpoff Volume 3, UNIIQU3 chops his vocals to unrecognizable pulsing burps and couples them with claps she calls “sexy”. She makes similar manipulations to songs by DJ Dwizz, DJ Techniques and Jersey Club pioneer, DJ Tamiel. She spoke passionately about the tape while we were on the phone: “Jersey Club is like a new thing to the world--not to us--but people are really just starting to get hip and I was just over talking about the whole appropriation thing. I realized that it’s happened to every genre of music, you know? The black people who actually created the music are living in poverty and people from elsewhere are making all the money from it. But I felt like instead of making a Facebook status about it or addressing it on social networks, I could approach the situation by making a mixtape that teaches people who started it and my perception of what the future of club is.”

Clearly, the club compilation is not a new thing for a DJ/producer but the leadership that UNIIQU3 assumes isn’t common, especially in club music’s place of origin, Baltimore. So naturally, one is forced to look at her role as one that’d make the late K-Swift proud: a young female DJ, endorsed by her hometown’s dominant club music collective (she, Brick Bandits and Swift, Unruly Records) and branching out to other cities where club music is created. “Jersey is different from Baltimore because when I was just starting out all we saw was Tameil taking things to the next level and getting booked in Paris,” she says as she reflects on her journey. “That was crazy but it’s a lot different than seeing someone making moves that’s only two or three years older than you. Jersey’s younger generation has that now with me, Sliink and Nadus.” And UNIIQU3 is just starting to get into the full swing of things. Earlier this year she quit her part time job to fully pursue music and she’s already gearing up for a tour in Australia while putting together an EP of original content set to release in early 2015. Her push to become the queen of club music--while sure to be a long, challenging journey--seems to be within arm’s reach.

Photo: Ryan Lyons

Photo: Ryan Lyons

-Lawrence Burney