I feel inclined to tell you, I better understand why Chicago struggles. It's based on a few very loud themes. (cue Minnie Riperton) I came to this earth different and under the gaze of what Chicago sees as Chicago, I have never fit. Everything about Chicago screams conservatism ie politics. The history of our entering Chicago via Mississippi speaks to our need to fit, in short. Now even a genre, that was created of pure love (imo), is tightly gripped in a choke hold by the same business / politics.
A few years ago I got clapped at for questioning why there were no women on the bill for CFP's event. There was quite a bit of dialogue (on fb) around that post, so it was highly viewed, probably furthering the nails in my "coffin". Times have changed, my assumption is folks are scared to say anything (in sm) that might rock the boat, they seem desperate to stay in. My questions never come from a place of mess or that's not what i intend. I also make sure to define my thoughts in the comments, as to not be misunderstood. The popularity game is even stronger now. We have seen tons of shit storms over the years mostly from Chicago djs. Now You can't get anyone to give an UN-produced thought. What I gathered from the safety dance is people don't want "trouble".
I had an interesting conversation via inbox, with a Chicagoan who attended the ATL Weekender this year. I witnessed a few live sessions myself to see if my theory was any different than before. I decided to hunt a little deeper to reference mixes from SOME of ATLS djs. My mix findings (mostly outdated) pretty much confirm what I have felt all along. I didn't stop there. I decided to ask FB questions about ATLs Djs and it's evolving event. Well lets just say my intuition was screaming, as Chicago people gathered to wait and watch, instead of adding their thoughts to the post. I wasn't asking for a comparison to Chicago's dj's or CFP to HITP.
My expectation for Chicago Djs playing this event, would be to get looser and step out of "the Chicago norm" tunes, when addressing other peoples markets musically. This doesn't mean not representing. It means that "we" might represent some of Chicago's underground producers and push the narrative of unknown or under referenced music a bit further, for the sake of our music and it's djs / producers. I heard wonderful unknown tunes from the many Atlanta djs all weekend, so the assumption would be that our djs and those from Chicago, were vibing off of their tunes. Unfortunately I didn't hear anything new or different from the streams I witnessed of SOME of our home team. I get first hand, that you can almost perfectly blend music that you play ALL THE TIME. I also get the idea of presentation and performance, but then there's the idea that ATL knows the same tunes you reference all the time, because THEY ONCE DID TOO. You easily get people hoping up and down and while it looks good, you never thought to push them or be the difference? People HERE used to allow the dj to take them on a journey, because they trusted us. What I continue to see from ATL is a level of receptivity from the crowd that says enlighten us, take us higher. It's in the body language and look of the dancers and audience. We all are, of course at a point where people don't take risks on djs they haven't heard of and don't have the attention span to learn new and different music. So what happens when "the populars" (here) are all playing singalong top 40's of house and you're supposed to be underground, but follow THAT lead? All the producers and editors have to wait 10 plus years (let it fall lady alma) for one of our creations to "pop", because you're scared. No it doesn't have to be fresh off of traxsource to be in rotation, but it does have to be different than the 1000's of dj who seek to do nothing more than repeat someone else's set. It's exactly why rare grooves, disco, and vinyl "SEEM" to win overseas. One of the reasons why I was drawn to house music is because I was lead to believe that there was creativity and freedom of expression. Though I know, we are in a period where people pleasing for likability far outweighs breaking new music and challenging a group of people to be educated and grow.
I wouldn't dare to think that ATL is more of an international city than Chicago is, is it? Does ATL win because they have a city that created a respected music industry, that included a variance of soulful genres and artists? Donnie, India Arie, Outkast, Usher, TLC, Indigo Girls, Cee Lo, Arrested Development, Anthony David.... umm this could get long! How about that fab Moodys record store that keeps a stock of underground goodies and heavily aids those seeking soulfulness. Or is it the ever growing amount of venues that HOST nights specifically geared toward SHOWCASING soulful house, afro beat and other underground sounds and bands. All of these things lead me to believe that a better experience would be had at The Weekender, than the same djs and sounds that flood our few venues and many festivals here based on, you guessed it politics. All these things lead my inbox to be flooded with dialogue that suggests, my sound is more like theirs, than my own city.
I once again am led to wonder, where I should be if not Chicago?
Photo credit Demetrius Williams of Usual Suspects Photography.
when i come to the jam