DJ Roc ‘The Crack Capone’ (Planet Mu)
Reviewed by Albert Freeman Source: (Halcyon)
With a steadily increasing amount of UK-based buzz directed towards the Chicago Juke House style and increasingly major UK artists seeking to emulate this sound in their productions, forward-thinking UK label Planet Mu goes the full monty with an album’s worth of productions from Chicago-based DJ Roc, an established legend in the Juke scene. As the UK scene has steadily diversified and fragmented over the previous few years, the always-hungry trendsetters there have been seeking to define new horizons, with UK Funky, Purple Wow, Future Garage, and more all vying for ascendancy and the increasingly mainstream-rave sound of conventional Dubstep falling off in critical notice. Recently on the tips of a few notable tongues has been Juke, a Chicago based ghetto house style that may be accurately compared to the more widely known Ghetto-tech movement centered in Detroit and notably represented by DJ Assault. Such previous luminaries as Headhunter and Ramadanman have even gone so far as to make tracks that imitate this style, at considerable cost to the authenticity of their already-established voices in the UK dance culture. Needless to say most ideas are best heard at their source, and this is exactly what Planet Mu has provided here with a full platter of original Chicago Juke produced by one of its original masters.
Dubstep has already been notably compared to and cross-pollinated with Crunk, and listening to some of these tracks one might wonder if had Juke somehow made the journey from the Chicago ghetto to Brixton sometime earlier in the decade. Either way, from the first bars on this record, the draw for established Dubstep producers is clear. Aside from the notably low production values and lack of much bass in the recording, the drum patterns here are often dead ringers for those used in Dubstep, albeit with an added abundance of wrong-footed kicks that power the fast-paced Footwork dance style associated with Juke in Chicago. Even more surprising is the appearance of reggae vocals in a few tracks, drawing the resemblance even closer. With the individual tracks mostly clocking in under three minutes and often being rather fragmentary in nature, possible highlights here are really too numerous to note, but suffice to say that most tracks share a common interest in broken kick patterns and repetitive, sample-based construction.
Glaring similarities aside, these tracks won’t be misfiled under Dubstep by the genre’s UK faithful anytime soon. With the abundance of familiar drum sounds from classic Techno and House drum machines such as the 808 and 909, this music is much more firmly rooted in the American tradition of dance music than the notably computer-based production that dominates the UK. Likewise, the tunes themselves are too short to bear out the indulgent breakdowns common in most Dubstep productions. Even as producers across the pond seek to mimic the authentic sound of Juke, the real deal’s vocal samples are too noticeably delivered in a familiar American ghetto vernacular replete with boastful claims of superiority and brash warnings to rival crews that recall Hip-Hop’s streetwise battle ready origins and place these tunes squarely in the purview of some dark, dingy basement club or block party on Chicago’s south side, not London’s west side.
While fast tempos predominate, short sections of half-time tempos driven by sparser drum programming are also evident, and the overall feelings of the tracks on The Crack Capone range from Dancehall Reggae to moments that more closely approximate House and Techno.
By sidestepping the new crop of UK-based imitators and going directly to the source of the style, Planet Mu confirms the often-repeated maxim that the originators of a particular style are the ones that best absorb its complexities. That is to say that on The Crack Capone, the music, despite its rugged, low-fi ghetto origins, is not without depth in some places. Although the manipulations used to change the elements are simple and familiar, (changing the pitch or speed of a sample, changing the drum patterns,) the ingredients add up to a greater variation than what has been achieved by the current UK producers aping the style. Thusly does Planet Mu demonstrate that there is some substance behind the UK Juke craze while it sends the UK producers back to their drawing boards for ideas. From whichever side of the equation you view this release, Planet Mu has certainly unearthed something unusual with DJ Roc, and, in a refreshing way, has shed some light on some underground American dance producers who may finally get the recognition they deserve for their work; no matter the surprising angle from whence it comes.
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