I’ve always struggled with asking for help. Our community is showing me differently right now and I am truly amazed and grateful. The least I can do is feature you and be continue to watch random acts of kindness unfold, as god intends ...
I will never claim to know everything. The other day after my set at the darling, I had conversation with a younger jedi DJ ACE D and was reminded of the disconnection from the youth, as it pertains to Chicago Djs and House music.
There are those who have found a way to under credit, under reference and straight out slander djs who play a variance of sounds, whether they intentionally dawn the title as OPEN FORMAT. This is unwise for several reasons. If you look at two of the founders of Chicago's House Music SOUND, you will find their roots firmly planted as OPEN FORMAT. Ron Hardy played a variance of sounds that defied categories. He beat people into submission, to the point that it didn't matter what or HOW he played. Though I never witnessed his set first hand, (you know what that means to the "house head" lmao) whether you drank the water / punch or not, you know what you ended up doing regardless instead of siting the genres, during his set. Frankie even sited the tune "It's a Shame" by The Spinners as being in heavy rotation BEFORE the term HOUSE started bubbling over. What was the BPM for it's a shame, again? Yes we can say that they were vested in a particular section of tempos and tones, but you cannot say that ALL of these were set to a 4 on the floor beat, (from a beat machine) of tracks crafted by legendary Chicagoans after them.
I have played and now made mostly danceable MUSIC, because I love to dance and want to encourage others to feel like I felt when experiencing Lil Louis, as a youth (relieved and renewed). Some of my open format comrades and I have (mostly) been shunned by many "HOUSE MUSIC" promoters and djs simply for playing music that wasn't ACCEPTED as HOUSE, though their foundations stemmed from the same place. (Funk, Disco, Jazz, Soul, World Music, Rare Grooves, Electro etc.) Yes Hip Hop seems to be a divider for many claiming their allegiance as HOUSE HEADS (back then too), even though some may recall the woogie roots and slander of those "back in the day", for wearing "GAY" clothing and listening to "weird" music. It's funny to me in hindsight, as the standard HOUSE HEAD gear of baseball caps and jerseys were uncommon for people who llistened to "House" before and during that period.
Why mention it now? Because I more than ever pride myself in being a skilled conveyor of good music regardless of genre. I want to leave a legacy that doesn't snub or isolate others who seek GOOD MUSIC and specifically the craft and culture of djing. I want those who wish to make a career of this art to be able to garner the interests of those who are willing to book and compensate them based on their talent, drive and business acumen.
Last night I was asked to provide the soundtrack to a space that is less than a year old. The Darling is in the West Loop community, with one of my other favorite spots to play Booze Box. The Darling is an incredibly well thought out venue. Owned by a British woman, who spent time vibing at Funky Buddha during its hey day, Everything from the space and all of it's furnishings, it's menu, staff and most importantly its musical tone, speaks to specificity and intention. I probably started falling for this space when I first saw it 's SM trail, gaining buzz on Insta last fall. I was curious about it, but never ventured. Yes I could stand to be a little MORE adventurous. (it's coming though;) The specificity of the musical tone will have you understanding why you should make way to experience it. If you love underground / unknown past, present and future; soul, funk, disco, jazz, soul and thoughtful hip hop, You will most definitely TREASURE "this darling". The menu is a piece of art designed, with thoughtfully clever food and drinks, worthy of partaking in. Kate is an amazing mixologist and conversationalist. She made my guest very comfy and I can only assume based on the good time I had playing there, that they had a good experience (lol). I stayed after my set and had trouble wanting to leave! I'm thinking I need to go and hangout again before I leave the city, as I haven't felt so drawn to a space to kick it in a while...
Thank you to my jedis who came to hang out and vibe with me, during my "debut" at this space and one of my final set before parting. The hope is I will be able to play here when I'm in town, because The Darling feels so good!
Photo Credit Dametria Euwens and Patrick Jones
Last week on Thursday, I had a car accident. After several visits to the hospital and bed rest, I have come to several conclusions about SM. What needs to happen to and FOR me going forward is below. Listen if and when you have the care and time ....
One morning in early October I had a quick dream. I was playing vinyl in one of the venues I attribute with my culturing as a dj. The owner was across the room. We smiled at each other and I woke up ... SMILING. It radiated so deeply that spirit told me to text him. Unbeknownst to me, he was “retired”. Upon closing the doors of The Shrine, the former Owner of 2 other legendary Chicago venues and I continued to communicate.
Joe Russo and I had lengthy conversations, in which we exchanged concerns about the current climate of Chicago’s nightlife. I have (personally) spent a few years lightly consulting and continuing research on angles of the hospitality industry and thankfully, our convo confirmed the many needs.
Last year carried a lot of ups and downs for me. My businesses came to a screeching halt. A car accident crippled my mobile hair styling business and slowed my dj servicing down as well. I painfully admit, I have occasionally battled with depressive moments, but these almost took me out. Gratefully, my faith in those on high and accessing my ills and desires, lead me to continue. I started receiving new work in areas I hadn’t dj’d in, in years. This summer I’ve had the pleasure of speaking on a few panels and mentoring a few aspiring jedis.
One special opportunity has presented itself, months after communicating with Joe, he decided to move to ATL. Rock Steady is his latest venture in West Midtown and I have been offered a longstanding position. I am now preparing to relocate. I am excited and nervous, all at the same time. In preparation, I have been releasing tons of records and other momentous items, to ready myself for my new chapter. Even with the recent wins, I am unable to fully fund my relocation and could use a bit of help.
I am reaching out to my loved ones, patrons and encouragers to support my effort of reestablishing my life and brand of all things Fathom Dj, in ATL. If you have stood with me during my entrepreneurial journey, I humbly ask for your support in the form of a monetary contribution, if you are able.
If you who have utilized my hair or dj services, come to any of the events or venues I've spun and or purchased my originals, I truly appreciate you and your ongoing support. I'm looking forward to sharing updates from my new city and all the ventures that shall come, with you!
With love, grace and #cozmickisses...
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.
Of course this was the "holiest of holy house music weekends" in Chicago. And of course I had people assuming I would be there. Congrats to the Chosen Few for a whopping 25 years of festivities. From my peeks via fb it looks like they had a phenomenal turn out and fun was had by those who attended.
Then there's what happened after, the original was mixed and mastered by my jedi
Pap Spencer and I (guess I can give myself a little credit). (libra humbleness) We had a powwow and Pap pulls out a copy of “The Country Preacher". A Jesse Jackson album full of speeches. He randomly selects the first speech on the album and it struck me. It resonated so hard, that we mixed and mastered it 4 times to improve the sound quality. I searched for a digital copy of this album and even desperately sought to rip the speech from youtube, to increase the quality of sound, to know avail. Of course, I have a theory brewing because when It's played via smart phone, the sound quality of the speech regardless to copy ends up distorted.
To make matters even more interesting, I had a conversation last night with Douglas Kerr (aka DJ P'nut). He's had his FB live sessions muted when playing Jesse Jackson speeches..
So regardless to how it sounds on your mobile devices, this version is worthy of owning and playing, as it speaks to a period when we could "trust" him. His message was loud and clear and as inspiring now as it was in the 70's. Take it for a drive...
when i come to the jam
know who i am
aint bout the flim flam
no i dont give a damn
about where you been
or what you rocking
when the tunes hit
we'll see whats popping
though i did slow up
to be more precise
catch a close up
or maybe get a glimpse
but the game got pimps
i stay exempt
and stand in the light
fame got glimmer
but my glow just right
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