Feature: On the Floor with Chicago’s Juke DJs

Chicago’s Dan Ryan Expressway has been undergoing heavy repairs for the past few years, and the construction makes rush hour a slow crawl at best. Traffic got so bad that the Illinois Department Of Transportation sent drivers to avoidthedanryan.com to find alternate routes—but if you’re only discovering that from a flashing billboard while inching your rental towards the blocked-up exit on Diversey that MapQuest gave you, it doesn’t do much good. Fortunately, DJ Nehpets is just kicking off his 7PM slot on Power 92 with the sampled Too $hort hook from Shawnna’s “Gettin Some.” $hort Dog’s cut-up I was gettin some (OOH), gettin-gettin some (UNNH) starts off the same way it’s stuttered out of car radios all spring, but by the time he gets to She’s the type of girl who makes ya toes pop, the original song’s syrup-drip bassline has been replaced by a hyperactive, insanely fast 150 BPM handclap and three or four different kinds of synthesized bass kicks doing the sabredance on your car stereo. Gettin some… is electronically morphed into Gettin… on the floor… and juke! and repeated over and over, until Nehpets mixes into the next song, another frantic, uptempo jam with a relentless chorus of Pop, pop, drop, drop and rap interludes during the verses. For the next 20 minutes, Nehpets will run through at least a dozen more tracks like these, a combination of remixes, club chants, and hybrid originals featuring MCs and singers over ratcheted-up, electronic house beats. By the time he goes back into normal-speed Juelz, Ying Yang Twinz, and announcements for Power 92’s Spring Fling, you still haven’t reached that exit. But you just juked the hell out of a stalled Ford Focus.


It’s easy to forget that house music is inherently an urban art form. Despite the fact that in the rest of the world, house was both appropriated by shirt-averse white folks and almost completely overshadowed by mainstream hip-hop, the sound was born in Chicago hoods and never really died out there. At some point during the mid ’90s, the Chi’s traditional 120 BPM jack-your-body house started shifting into a much harder, faster strain that didn’t even have a real name. Some called it booty for commercial purposes, but most of its fans and practitioners called it ghetto (or just “tracks”). Early cuts by DJ Funk, DJ Milton, DJ Slugo and others on local independent label Dance Mania established an oversexed, raw aesthetic that not only sweated up the dance scene, but gave it a sonic blueprint: bounce, bounce, hit, hit, repeat. It caught on heavy at basement parties and teen events in the years that followed, and by the time Southside DJs Gantman, Puncho, and Tone released their “Let Me See You Juke” on vinyl, there was a definitive name for what both the moves and the music had become—ghetto house was now simply juke. “When we would be at parties, we’d hear girls like, ‘They jukin in there’ or ‘We gonna go get our juke on,’” says Puncho. “I remember just looking at Gant like, Let’s make a track.” Their crew released a successful series of mixes called The Juke Hour, just as other DJs were flooding South and Westside Chicago malls with popular juke tapes of their own. Even radio began to take notice, with WGCI’s Mike Love playing quick snippets of juke on his “workout” segment every day.

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POSTED January 26, 2007 2:19PM IN MUSIC TAGS: , , ,

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