Posts Tagged ‘soulful house music’


January 28, 2018



Friday nights in January beckon bone-numbing chills, but tonight’s warmth is piped through an immense boombox sandwiched between storefronts on the “Edge” of downtown. What scenes as more than a weekend get down serves two-fold. Proceeds collected at the door will donate to the MS foundation-courtesy Real Chicks Rock -and a born-day celebration for one of Atlanta’s own.

Downstairs, in the belly of the beast-The Music Room-gracious hugs are exchanged for small talk. Already, the bar is lit; house heads, the LGBTQ com, millennials, and baby-boomers, are in swing at thirty minutes till midnight. Love and happiness dance in the air. To the fable of Julie McKnight’s “Bittersweet Love Affair.” “It’s All About Me,” she croons over the Jay “Sinister” and Louie Vega instrumentation. The lyrics are candor this party is all about a certain special someone.

A she-entourage huddles behind a black curtain that drapes the DJ stage. “Haaaaaaappy Biiiiiirthday,” voices belt in harmonious charm that stirs into Stevie Wonder’s soulful rendition. The party’s second music selector, Tora Torres eyes the women singing and honoring the party’s queen Debbie Graham. A.K.A. DJ Deb smiles graciously, before she bows to blow out the single candle on the black & white iced cake that will be sliced and circumnavigate to dancers with feet in mid-shuffle and flaying arms, drunk girls stumbling in stilettos posing for selfies and the, there-always-has-to-be-that-one, girl who whispers a request into the ear of DJ Minx. “We don’t play that here,” Minx mouths.

DJ Deb knows how to throw herself a birthday bash. She invites only the best. Her crew. Her family. Her sistas. Known to slay dance floor’s across the world. The Kingston, Jamaica native provides the she-power for Atlanta’s soulful house music market. Her love for reggae, disco, soul, and classics keeps her in-demand, but her love for house music and the diversity within the genre makes this party a must-attend. Those in the know, arrived early, for Deb’s birthday set, and are ready for an Atlanta/Detroit beat down.


Detroit’s Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale stands tandem her laptop, with purpose and poise to bring heat. Onstage, her crew sports black tees with the “Godfather” logo replaced with the moniker the “Godmother of House.”

Her moniker she proudly has worn for 30 years. To have Detroit’s undisputed first female DJ play adds grandeur of delight. To say music is in her majesty’s blood is understated. The “Godmother of House” is music.

“Beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes, lamb, rams, hogs, dogs.” It’s not often that you here Pastor Shirley Cesar rapping over a four-on-the-floor. It takes gall to play the viral smash #younameit challenge to house heads. But this is how the “D” gets down. The “Godmother of House” does not back down from any challenge. Besides the Pastor Shirley Cesar never sounded so defined.

It’s “Yellow Bodack” that causes jaws to drop and fists to fly. Cardi B rapping, “Look I Don’t Dance Now, I Make Money Moves” over Sunburst Band’s “Journey to the Sun” elevates the sonic. When the Dennis Ferrer Remix is allowed to play in full, feet dance off pings and pongs that leap off metallic rungs. As drums fuse into soul-claps and electronic sputters churn gospel chants. Karizma’s, “Work it Out ,” that samples the fore-mentioned and Dr. Charles G. Hayes and the Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer Choir’s, “Jesus Can Work It Out,” brings the bang. The room explodes. This is peak time music for a peak time crowd.


Days ahead of a recent major awards show, a university published a music report that detailed the lack of women representation as music producers and women songwriters in the music industry. The numbers were dismal if not disgusting. Only now imagine women working in the house music/electronic music genre as music DJs, music producers, and music songwriters and the numbers are far lower, significantly depressing. Although, women are at the forefront as recording artists, primarily vocalists, barely as rappers, their musical contribution behind the scenes go unsung. Hence, Jennifer Witcher, she envisioned change. Inspired by Detroit’s DJ/producer boy’s club, the Detroit Music Institute; Jennifer sought representation as a female DJ. Years later, she crafted Women On Wax . Formed in 1996, a collective of Detroit female DJ’s who graced the decks to show their skills were par, if not better than the boys. In 2001, Women On Wax now a recording label showcased top-tier talented female vocalists and distinctive music releases many of whom resided in the Motor City. Ever since, Jennifer A.K.A. DJ Minx has become a titan in the house/techno world as a calling card for the rights and representation of women DJs/producers/songwriters.

Where the “Godmother” leaves her soul on the dance floor; the “First Lady of House” takes her mass of huddled warriors into subterranean funky beats of powerhouse bliss. Track after track delivers jolts, almost to the chagrin of ringing eardrums as the volume increases to an uncomfortable pitch.   Minx, like her hometown Detroit, has a sound that’s raw. There are grooves. The beats go deep. The beat goes hard. Minx plays for keeps.

The Connection-Behind the Groove triumphed with its all-star lineup of black girl magic. A rarity these days on DJ rosters. Local and global representation for DJ’s who are woman are all too lacking on massive fronts. #Powertothepoles and #metoo marks a watershed moment in this wrinkle of time. #Timesup!!!-For the invisibility of women in the electronic age of music. Women. Seize the moment!  The decks are yours to narrate your grooves.

We applaud you. 

Words: aj dance



February 16, 2015




The Silent Slayer

23:09 PST

A gentle breeze ripples the hair on heads. The night’s wind smells of salt and water. An air of pretentiousness walks by, laughter and faint dialects speaks volumes through calmness. Ahead, pulsating “uhmps, uhmps, uhmps” is the only cue pointing towards the venue’s glass door.

“People hang out here?” A Middle-Eastern accent asks from the front driver‘s seat of his UBER registered vehicle. The bearded face turns his attention back to the GPS attached to the dash cam. “This is the address.”

At the mighty front door sits a burly body with a “fuck off” silence. He points guests into the warmth. After a name check on the prepay list, the moment arrives.

There lays 6000 square feet of industrial space, dimly lit of browns and golds, as shadows pace back and forth. Making out the figures of ball cap covered heads bopping up and down at the main bar is languid. The libation station is packed with a steady stream of thirsty patrons. Liquid gold flows from flasks and the cash register rejoices with rings. After all it is Valentine’s Night and what better companion than a strong drink. Most entertaining is a rapper-esque wearing a fedora and three-stripe tracksuit, sans gold chains, cutting a couple standing hand-in-hand, in line. He embraces the bartender and orders a round. To their right, his dance crew performs a moving version of warrior 3 across the wooden floor. Observers yell “yeah” with violent fist pumps. A dance circle has formed. Already?!?  

Additional pockets of writhing bodies contort around the peripheral of tribes; bearded men and blonde babes stare at a lanky lad beat matching on a performance stage. The room is immersed in a forward house number matched with a groovy melody that pulls additional arrivals towards the center sanctuary. The four-count switches moods. James Jasper’s “Sneaky” is a whacky number with scattered wobbles of bass throwing dancing feet for a loop.

Onstage stands a mid-size frame next to the DJ. The second guy hastily grabs the music controls. His demeanor appears distant, determined and focused. Who is this guy who appears hell bent for world domination?

 23:30 PST

That sho don’t look like no Kerri Chandler, but the records he plays sounds like Kerri Chandler. Was that not “Out To the Boonies” bouncing from the EAW subs? Kerri sho’ don’ slimmed down. He sho’ got a head of full of velvet black hair. Dang, Kerri got slanted eyes, now??? A closer inspection reveals the guy standing on stage, pulling vinyl from sleeves, wears a black jacket, black tee, and black trousers.

Future Internet research¹ reveals, the smartly dressed DJ is Mike Servito. The silent slayer is widely known at his current residency at Brooklyn’s Bunker Parties and for his guest spots at Honeysuckle San Francisco. A native Detroiter, the streets of the Motor City is where he first listened to “Planet Rock” before Michael Jackson. Growing up, Mike Huckaby’s and Derrick Carter’s genre blending techniques influenced the impressionable youth to play vinyl and mix music. Through the years, at times, the on-and-off DJ has laid down his turntables and vinyl for other pursuits. You might turn the heart away from the music but you cannot take the music out of the heart, best describes Servito’s return to his love, playing music. In today’s EDM driven force, Servito is a rarity, he feels at home playing other artist’s cuts than producing his own works and he knows his music, he adjusts the music to whom he opens for, be it techno, house or acid.   He is a quintessence of diversity.

Tonight, the music time travels back to the Midwest, Lil Louis’ “Club Lonely,” to the East Coast, Ceybil’s ”Love So Special.” Sevito has done his homework, and he is surely stealing some of Kerri’s heat. The all vinyl vintage sound showcases some of the best digs of soulful house paired with vocals this side of the Bay.

San Francisco swings, albeit not always to a soulful house sermon. Unless you follow the flock of Father Farina, Saint Miguel or Deacon Harness. Even then the soul speaks a funky singsong with a west coast jump. However, a glance around the premises reveals Generation “I” feels more at home with soulful sounds than one expected. They have been trained, very, very well. Two hours into the event, no one stands and shoots the shit, thumb-pecks texts, or spew cancerous venom into nostrils while standing on the dance floor. 

Several feet up in the air, on a platform, there stands a technician working the sound. Down below, onstage, for the past twenty minutes or so, another sound technician shuffles around the DJ and his record crates and edges in front of the shiny hardware parked at the drop of the stage. His hands cautiously plugs and unplugs wires into the receivers of 1200s and 2000s. “Ka, Ka, Boom!” A soul-stirring bass line on St. Etienne’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” shatters the sound barrier. The Masters At Work Dub ignites cheers and approvals from the ever-growing crowd.   The technician’s keen eye stares across the boards, the sound is ripe and ready for….

As You Like It Presents: KERRI CHANDLER bounces across four 9×12’ screens configured as one giant monitor. Onstage appears a familiar wide smile underneath a black skully.   Servito poses for a selfie with the party’s headliner. The legendary DJ applauds.  Indeed, Mike has done his job all too well. Just how the people can muster enough energy to endure the future chaos remains a mystery.

¹Rothlein, J. (2014, June 2). Mike Servito: The Late Shift. Retrieved February 5, 2015, from

Words by aj dance


February 15, 2015



Part II: Kerri Chandler

The Kaos Conductor

01:30 PST

Right off the bat, Kerri Chandler comes out swinging, he scores a home run with “Make My Heart,” featuring New Zealander vocalist Latrice Barnett. The befitting tribute scores a nod to San Francisco resident, DJ/producer Jay-J who stands onstage, alongside his buddy Kerri. The Kiko Navarro Mix is a proper demassify to West Coast house music, the game changer that ignited the world over during the late 1990’s to early 2000’s.  

The thumps of funkin’ four-counts continue its reign. A choppy drum loop builds over a swooshing backdrop of heart pounding jabs. The warped vocals mutate from white noise to crystal clear. “Girl I must warn you.” As fingers snap, feet shuffle, and shoulders swivel from left to right, the bodies in motion have no clue what is about to strike. Without warning, the music disappears from underneath fancy footwork. A drum machine drops a kick: Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison” explodes into view, only to disappear like a thief in the night. The crowd yells, having realized they been hoodwinked, by one of the greatest “Hip Hop On a RnB Tip with A Pop Appeal” anthems of all time. Hands hit the knees, the body has to rest, slowly breathe in and breathe out-is it time to change T-shirts? -the heart pounds for life.  

Research shows within the first month of life a baby’s heartbeat can beat between 70-190 beats per minute. The resting heart of an adult can beat between 60-100 beats per minute. As a person ages, the heartbeat slows down. This is true for many soulful house music parties. Ever been to a house music party where the majority of the crowd is approaching the mid-century mark? The older the DJ, the slower the BMPs: the older the crowd, the slower they dance.

Not so for Kerri Chandler, or the music he plays. The forty-something years young with a full head of hair, purpose is to make the heart beat faster and for people to dance harder. He believes in the thump. His definitive anthems rings with beats that pound at 124 to 125 BPMS, take “Hallelujiah” and “Rain” respectively, sadly the two anthems not played at this party.

Let’s be real, thumping four-on-the-floors are the lifeblood of house music.   Without the essential four counts-that are not only heard through ears but rattles the heart-one is playing funeral music. A not so fun experience that puts people to sleep. Perhaps, an eternal sleep from the house music scene. And to think why a younger generation has not gravitated to soul filled house music.

Not so in San Francisco, where hipsters and yuppies rule against the age of reason. After all, gentrification is an ugly word. However, young people purchasing and renovating an old space, turn club in a blight area pays off. It shows on the faces of the young-in the twinkle of their eye and in the sparkle of their pearly white smiles-as they dance, blow money on drinks and whatever guilty pleasures arise. In an underground club that sits in the upcoming design district, money is no option. Of course this is no five-star resort hotel advertising bottle poppin’ ballers in VIP, but a more justified experience of a soulful get down to underground music. This is where Asian techs, college preps, bearded hipsters and drunk girls come to party. On the menu, the house special: A happy family poo-poo platter.    

There is no division-no black section in the rear or white section up front. Better yet, in Saint Frank, there are no Asians over hear, no Latinos over there, with whites dotting all points in between. There is no division of age. Grey hairs dance amongst floppy bangs. This is the face of the 21st century smart club, where alcohol sales stop at…

02:00 PST

The room goes dark. One look left and to the right reveals the venue’s two bars are closed with shades drawn over the countertops. No more spirits for this crowd, unless the kind from the music.

As Angie Stone’s “I Wasn’t Kidding,” plays cricket’s chirp. The sea of nameless faces appear unfamiliar with the Scott Wozniak and Timmy Regisford Shelter Version, partly because these youngsters were gawking at MySpace and listening to Kanye West on their 5th Generation iPods ten years earlier when the remix was conceived. However, Kerri gives it to the babes, by playing classics they need to hear.

Classics like, “Ba, da, da, da, da, dah…Ba, da, da, da,” sings a band of trumpets, “Thump, thump,” A drum speaks. A lo-fi bass line drives the groove to discotheque. Teddy Pendergrass sings “You Can’t Hide from Yourself.” The energy in the room shifts to organized chaos. Dancing bodies feel the need to shed their skin and run around the room spiritually naked. Patrice Rushen’s “Looking For You” brings a smile to the face of a nearby, nearly sleeping security guard. On the Joey Negro Extended Disco Mix the sudden sounds of chords surprises. A riff of keys play over an instrumentation of sparse drums that is not in the original mix. Look onstage. Kerri is playing a Korg. Live!!!.

“Kerri is killing it!”

“Who?!?” asks a young man with a vacant expression staring at the stage.

“Kerri Chandler. He is Kerri Chandler!”

Kerri ‘Kaoz’ Chandler was born into a musical family. His father, especially, fed his musical palette and trained his musical ear by giving him a start at playing music in a Jersey nightclub. That opportunity led to additional DJ gigs and stints in New York’s various music scenes from soul to rap. After a tragic experience, Kerri turned his full attention to producing house music. His productions forged the blueprint of futuristic underground sounds back in the early 1990s, a time when semi-house producers copycatted their way onto the charts. The Kerri sound: brass horns, bubbling bass lines, cowbells and steady buildups are instantly recognizable around the world yet they are sacred to the soul. How one produces a vast music catalog from jazz to video games and yet remains true to his morals is the tale of folklores. He is an in demand, must-have DJ/music producer/remixer who plays frequently around the globe than in his backyard.   

“San Francisco it has been a long time.” He lowly announces minus a Jersey accent.  

Horns blast over a four-count that shakes the floor. “Atmospheric Beats” slowly builds to a towering crescendo of jazz house. The soul-stirring classic introduces the next song with a similar tempo. The System’s “You’re In My System” breaks the beats for a solo opener of Rhodes keys. When the song breaks for a spoken rap, the crowd applauds with handclaps. “You’re In My Soul, I Just Can’t Get Enough of Your…” Rightly spoken, the people can’t get enough of the ‘Kaoz.” Cajmere’s “Brighter Days,” (Underground Goodies Mix) ignites more screams. If that is not enough, the vocal version drops as vocalist Dajae leads the crowd singing “Lift Me Up.” As Sunday morning handclaps and gospel wails uplift spirits, Johnny Corporate’s “Sunday Shoutin’” takes the dancers to church. A young lady shimmy shakes in a solid gold sequence dress as if she has the Holy Ghost. Sporadic bursts of energy, allows the body the ability to house dance to harder-tinged anthems and relax on more mellow tracks. Surely, Kerri is beat driven and unapologetic, but he too knows when to give his audience a breather as on Veja Vee Khali’s “Spiritual Elevation.”

If there was ever a DJ’s DJ, Kerri is that guy. “I’m so honored to see so many people. My friends are here beside me,” speaks his calm yet resounding voice. “They come from Leeds, NYC, and Florida.”

A real legend gives honor to whom honor is due. Mr. V, standing next to Kerri, speaks, “Jus Dance,” into a microphone over a deep masterpiece that drops knees to the wooden floor. One dancer shoves his back and then his head onto the wooden floor and lays prostrated for an even deeper experience. Piano keys and a sassy sax swirl through the soundscape, making this not only one unforgettable moment but one of the deepest tracks played thus far. San Francisco’s house pioneer, David Harness, who is in the house, is honored with his interpretation of Black Coffee’s “JuJu.” The Harlum (short for Harness and Chris Lum) Mix beats are jacked up on steroids, making Afro-house fun to dance to.  

 04:00 PST

As the music should abruptly end, blinding lights should flood the floor, and security should all but assault guests to exit through the back door, Kerri continues to conduct the Kaoz like a philharmonic director gone mad. There is no stopping this guy. With a wave of his hand he directs the beat to bellow on “Hallelujah,” but his right palm shuns the vocals of Shirley Ceaser. He instructs the cowbell to chime on “Bar-A-Tyme.” Then he commands, “You will obey every word of Kerri Chandler,” as “Bar-A-Tyme,” morphs into a killer monster. “Your every will is not your own.” The twenty-five bodies left dancing agree. Their bodies washed in perspiration.

“Kerri turn it down. Turn it down” Mr. V interrupts. Victor Font takes note of the chaos and puts on the brakes. “Yo San Francisco, it’s been a minute.” V turns around. “Kerri, turn it down.” The volume drops only a half notch. “Yo San Francisco, its Valentines Day. You got to show some love, to the man, Kerri Chandler.” Mouths cheer and hands clap. The music gains momentum into a filtered fury.

Mr. V continues, “Yo lets give Kerri a present. Kerri I want you to play your favorite song of all time. It don’t have to be house. It could be RnB, soul or whatever.”

After a second, chiming bells and a mid-tempo four count stumbles into the sound scape, “The Blackness,” announces a tenor.  “This is my favorite song,” says Kerri. At 4:30 pst, Sound of Blackness’ “Optimistic” (Never Say Die 12” Mix) ushers a dancing body of the club on an very unforgettable night.  Hallelujah!   

Words by aj dance