Archive for January 26, 2014


January 26, 2014




“I’ve never been here. Hardwood floors. Great sound system, although the music is turned up a bit loud. Oh, they have mirrors too! I feel like I’m sixteen years old again. Dancing in a mirror. I like this spot!”

Mixx is the upscale lounge/nightclub that hosts Sugar Groove’s fourth Saturday night soirees. Step outside onto the bamboo/Zen covered heated patio. “Cough. Cough.” The air reeks of cancer. Hmmm, but the smoking patio is where your favorite libations are served by the shirtless. Cancer? Or Sex? Perhaps both.  Back indoors, the smoke-free facility is the place where Sugar Groove needs to be. Look up. The upscale video lounge plays a variety of Sugar Groove’s founder, DJ Swift’s visuals from house to hip hop.


Beware of the silent DJ. He disappears into the crowd. His face shows here and there, but never twice in the same place. He rarely utters words. He does not boast or advertise his skills. Beware he is the most deadly Minister of Sound. His DJ set is no warm-up, but the real deal. Look up. The mysterious figure parked in the elevated DJ booth plays like he has a point to prove. He pounds the beats hard. He warps the mids. The music he plays announces that he too can hang with the big boys. This DJ does his research before his gigs. He knows to play Native Sons & Inaya Day’s “City Life” (Piano Dub) and when to play Shaun Escoffery’s “Days Like This” (Deepah Dub Re-Rub). His DJ sets connects with the sparks of dancing hearts. He is Atlanta’s best secret, Andrew Marriott.



A black fur coat and black shades struts the outer limits of the dance floor. “I didn’t know we had prostitutes here.” Straight from a Blacksplotation film, the shadowy dressed figure hops onto an elevated platform. The crowd gathers for a close-up. Sexuality oozes from her mouth and into the microphone that curls from her ear to her lips. However, no one hears a word. She kneels down, closer towards the floor. A DJ flips her microphone on. It’s a swift and smooth move. “Freedome” she moans. Cheers of support sound from the crowd. Suddenly, her black fur and her S&M stilettos fall to the floor. Jaws drop. Body paint, duct tape and a thong seductively prance around onstage. This is Atlanta’s Kiwi. She is a work of art.



A minute has passed since Jellybean Benetiz has blessed the people with his presence in the city. Perhaps his day gig, radio show host on Satellite Radio’s Studio 54 station has kept him at bay from house music. Anyone remember Jellybean Soul? Aint Nuthin’ But a House Thing parties? Even his Facebook name changed from Jellybean to John.  Or maybe, the fact is that Jellybean is not too keen on playing short timeslots in soulful house music’s post-age of parties. Thankfully someone persuaded the NYC legend to grace the city with a two-hour solo set.

To title Jellybean Benitez a NYC legend is one-dimensional. Born in Bronx, NY of Puerto Rican descent, he started his journey of music over forty years ago. The young man dated a certain rising star before she became the goddess of pop music. Listen to a radio station to hear some of his production and remix credits from Madonna, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, to Whitney Houston. Even film scores and television talk shows aren’t immune to his Midas touch.

It is his Midas touch that he is about to lay on the crowd at Sugar Groove.  The music starts off encompassing the elements of jazz house. The tempo of the four-on the-floor escalates. Orchestra strings twist and warp in the air. This is house music dancing towards hard-house.

“Years ago, I heard Jellybean play in Miami.” One dancer recalls. “He played all classics. One-hundred and thirty five beats per minute is so refreshing to hear tonight.” Certainly so, DJ Jellybean surprises, although for some elder heads privy to hear classics or disco he disappoints.


The tempo cools to a balmy 125 beats per minute courtesy of a cowbell on the Frankie Feliciano Ricanstruction Mix of Matthew Bandy’s sleeper “Wish.” Josh Milan’s signature vocal does nothing to ignite the crowd. Actually throwing into the mix Josh’s former group Blaze, works. Dancing bodies notice. Mouths sing “Brand New Day.” The “Little Louie” Vega produced classic is instant brand recognition. A barrage of afro-house dialect steers its global influence into the sound sphere. The tribal sounds fall somewhere between seductive, playful and temptingly sexy. One afro track is steamier than a singing wife and her rapping husband’s hyper-sexed performance on a televised music-award show. In the club, one body is pinned against an orange wall as a dancer humps against his groin. The term afro-sex is coined.

The 5”5’ (1.65 meters) DJ stands on the tips of his toes to see the crowd beneath him. The observance is painstaking, a gesture Jellybean appears to be much uncomfortable with. “You know I’m not a fan of elevated DJ booths.” One dancer notes. “A DJ needs to interact with his/her audience.” Rightly so. Sadly, elevated DJ booths seem to be a mandated-city ordinance for gay clubs.

The line between the secular and sacred further blurs. The music disappears as Gospel House King, Kenny Bobien wails, “The Only Way.” At this point, Jellybean throws his arms into the air and claps his hands to the Ralf Gum’s Artistic Soul Spiritual Touch Mix. His wife notices. She follows suit. So does the crowd. This is church. Jellybean is the Minister of Sound, Mixx is the sanctuary, the people are the congregation and tonight’s message is house music.

Four-on-the-floors give way to an R&B groove courtesy of Kings of Tomorrow’s “Fall For You.” April’s sultry vocals have the crowd waiting at the “red light.” Downtempo R&B turns into the quiet storm on Ralf Gum’s monster, “Take Me To My Love” assisted by Monique Bingham’s vocals.

It is Shaun Escoffery’s “Days Like This” (DJ Spinna & Tickla Mix) that pulls dancing feet back onto the floor for peak-time performance. Fist pumps slash through the air. Mouths wide open yell “Days Like This.” While Jellybean has the crowd’s attention he steps it up a notch and plays the newly reigning anthem from Louie Vega starring Duane Harden on “Never Stop” (Sunset Ritual Mix).

Stand on the elevated platform and gaze across the intimate setting. There goes “that guy.” The guy who pops into the DJ booth, shakes hands with the DJ, who he doesn’t know, and then proceeds to mack on every, available or unavailable, honey in the room. Excuse me, who are you? New faces shuffle amid familiar visages. Couples pose for photos. In the background, sculpted pectorals and six packs course the room. Hold up, is someone doing the Nae Nae? For better or for worse, the face of the city’s house movement is changing.


LED effects plaster greens across the floor. Greens morph into reds that spin around in a dizzying slideshow. The room starts to spin. The beats bang harder. The music speeds faster. DJ Swift plays kamikaze. The music crashes into the waves of deep house to proper house. No one is left unscathed from Justin Timberlake f/Jay-Z to Kiko Navarro. For virgin ears the music lends much to process. However, DJ Swift’s loyal listeners bombard the dance floor as the venue empties. All the while Jellybean never leaves the DJ booth, a place he appears to feel at home. As he assists DJ Swift on the controls the two serve a feisty Latino assault.


Jellybean Benitez is the real deal. A deadly Minister of Sound. Stand back. He has no need for an entourage. If he so chooses, he can hide in a crowd. Neither does he wear out his welcome. He maintains a quiet and ordered spirit. He is not braggadocios. He subscribes to the notion that the music he plays speaks from his heart. And his audible voice spoke loud and clear as he delivered another soul stirring experience. His gut instinct proved right, to capitalize on the contemporary instead of yesteryear’s trivia. As much as his job is to take people on a journey, two hours was entirely short of time. Although he is better fit to explain his absence away from the house music world. One fact reminds true. The people miss him. Mr. Benitez, please don’t stay away for so long.

Visuals & Words by AJ Dance

Calendar 2014

January 1, 2014